Part of this article was originally written in Spanish by Dr. Domingo Carrera Moran
Leaky Gut Syndrome is a newly diagnosed pathology characterized by patients presenting the following symptoms: headache, fatigue, diarrhea, abdominal swelling, food intolerance, difficulty losing weight, and joint pain without an apparent cause. When presenting such a non-specific clinical picture, it is a difficult pathology to diagnose.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky Gut Syndrome is an alteration of the wall of the small intestine that causes substances and microorganisms to cross this barrier and enter the bloodstream.
In a healthy person, the mucosa of the small intestine has an extended surface of between 400 and 600 square meters. It is the greatest protective barrier of the human body, even before the skin. Unlike the skin, which has several layers, the intestinal mucosa only has a protective layer, called enterocytes.
What causes Leaky Gut?
This protective layer of the intestinal mucosa is covered by a protective mucus where there is first a layer of bacteria (the microbiota) and underneath a layer of immunoglobulins A, which serve as protection and defense. Enterocytes are linked to each other by intercellular junctions that are selective proteins that allow the passage of nutrients between two enterocytes selectively, not passing molecules that are larger than 50 Armstrong in size. There are nutrients and minerals that can pass through the enterocytes. They are the transit routes of transcellular or paracellular substances and select what happens and what does not to the bloodstream. If there is something affecting these junctions or enterocytes, undesirable substances such as heavy metals, toxins, bacteria, viruses, and food additives can pass into the bloodstream. Depending on the system to which these undesirable substances have arrived (nervous, hormonal, immune, articular, etc.) the patient may suffer different symptoms.
How do you treat Leaky Gut?
One of the causes of the intestine becoming leaky is the stress of modern life, which causes inflammation in the intestinal lining. This stress can cause lower defenses, eating an inadequate diet, lack of sleep, etc. Although among the causes of permeability are also pathologies of the intestinal wall, such as ulcers, Celiac Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, gastritis, food intolerances, and irritable bowel, among others.
To combat Leaky Gut Syndrome, the first action is to identify the cause and treat it. The patient should also try to reduce stress, exercise, drink plenty of water to act as a cleanser, improve sleep hygiene and do everything possible to improve the state of our immune system. This last point can be achieved through food.
Foods that help relieve Leaky Gut
- Natural prebiotics such as yogurt and kefir
- Products rich in zinc: dark chocolate, oysters, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts
- Foods with high levels of non-essential amino acids such as L-Glutamine and L-Arginine: chicken, turkey, lean pork, spinach, nuts, and fresh cheeses. They are also present in veal, seafood, almonds, lettuce, cucumber, onion, garlic, asparagus, and lamb.
- Coffee, tea, alcoholic and carbonated beverages, and medications that affect the intestinal lining should be avoided, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen.
- Xyloglucan: Polysaccharides, which are prescribed and supervised by a medical professional, helps with Leaky Gut Syndrome by forming a protective film to protect the intestinal mucosa from the aggressions of pathogens.
- Not only with a good diet and good dietary guidelines can we restore and regenerate this barrier, but there are plant extracts, amino acids, minerals, and vitamins that can help us achieve an optimal condition of the intestinal barrier.
Currently, there are many people with transitory gastrointestinal problems due to different causes, such as stress, diet change, antibiotic treatments that destroy the intestinal bacterial flora …; but there are also chronic disorders such as intestinal permeability. All the symptoms associated with these gastrointestinal disorders have a direct impact on health and quality of life.
The walls of the intestines are made up of cells called enterocytes and proteins that bind these enterocytes. Digestion and absorption of nutrients take place in this intestinal epithelium with microvilli on its surface. This selective mucous barrier acts against microorganisms, macromolecules that come from digestion and toxicity.
When there is intestinal permeability, the proteins that bind the enterocytes to disappear, and perforations are created through which substances such as undigested food, toxins, drugs, and unwanted microorganisms reach the bloodstream (these substances can affect different body systems, such as reproductive, respiratory, hormonal, immune …) and cause inflammation not only in the intestinal tissues but in many other tissues.
Surely we have friends or family with more than one of the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome. Many of these cases end up developing diseases that affect the intestine in some of its sections and inflame it punctually or chronically: irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis, and Chron disease.
Other cases, and according to their symptoms, are related to food intolerances and allergies, inflammatory bowel diseases, intestinal candidiasis, skin eczema, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, joint pain, migraines, insomnia, flatulence, and irregular menstruation, among others.
On the other hand, there is a very close relationship between the intestine, the brain, and the microbiota. Through immune, neuronal and hormonal mechanisms, it is necessary to achieve a three-dimensional balance in its regulation.
How do we maintain and regenerate the gastrointestinal barrier?
Glutamine, zinc, beta carotene and quercetin (bioflavonoid):
They stimulate the production of proteins that bind enterocytes. Glutamine is also a source of energy for the specific epithelial cells of the small intestine, improves intestinal permeability and morphology of the intestinal mucosa. To obtain a good effect, it must be administered orally and improves its function when combined with leucine and arginine.
Aloe vera, N-acetylglucosamine, and N-acetylcysteine (NAC):
Anti-inflammatory action. Aloe vera pulp extract is advised to be free of aloin, which produces a laxative effect. Arabinogalactans are polysaccharides from the larch tree capable of strengthening the immune system since they improve the intestinal microbiota by increasing the concentration of bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus.
Vitamins C and E act as antioxidants, protecting cells against oxidative stress.
Among the vitamins of groups B, B2, and B3 help to maintain the intestinal mucosa in normal conditions. Vitamin B1 and B6 contribute to energy metabolism.
Selenium, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, zinc, and vitamin C contribute to the proper functioning of the immune system.