By Louanne Saraga Walters, MS, HNFM
Myth or Medically True?
Leaky gut. Two words that describe a condition that researchers believe may be at the very heart of dozens of diseases and conditions today.
Over the last several decades, studies in human and animal models have positively linked leaky gut to the development of:
Further, studies show leaky gut is directly associated with causing a myriad of conditions that set the stage for disease;
From Naturally Protective to Excessively Harmful
Intestinal permeability is something that happens to all of us as part of our daily biological functioning. It’s a natural process of our immune function allowing our bodies to sense or ‘taste test’ potential antagonists so we can develop a defense against them.
However, when that permeability is too much or that leak happens too often, our immune systems go into a chronic overdrive which can result in overstimulating our defense system causing systemic inflammation - meaning inflammation throughout our bodies.
Decades of research show us leaky gut is not a myth, and intestinal permeability is not an irregularity. But if our gut, our intestines are too permeable, too leaky, that becomes a problem. Some medical professionals prefer to use the more scientifically descriptive terms: increased intestinal permeability, hyper-permeability, or “leaky gut syndrome” to designate the difference between a gastrointestinal system working as it should versus one working overtime as a result of dysfunction.
We are seeing more “increased intestinal permeability” or leaky gut as a “syndrome” today than we were fifty, fifteen or even five years ago linked to greater and greater incidence and prevalence of disease - meaning more people becoming sick and a greater percentage of the population being sick. The World Health Organization reports:
Cardiovascular disease is now the #1 cause of death globally claiming 31% of all deaths. And yet, as the World Health Organization reports, “Most cardiovascular diseases can be prevented by addressing behavioral risk factors” - with unhealthy diet and obesity at the top of the list.
The facts are sobering, and yet we’re seeing these diseases increase year over year. Why? Because we are not really addressing the underlying cause of these diseases - leaky gut.
So what is it, and how do we “get it” ?
Simply put, intestinal permeability is when the lining of our intestines becomes compromised. Our gut lining has a significant job: it’s meant to allow the good things like nutrients and water to pass through into our blood stream while keeping out the bad things like toxins and allergens. It does this with a complex biochemical system within the cells of the wall itself and between the cells which make up the wall that act like gates. But when we consume foods with ingredients our bodies don’t want - trans-fats, antibiotics in conventionally raised animals, pesticides in various fruits, vegetables and grains, certain chemicals or food preservatives, or even repeated small doses of a food we may not even know we are sensitive to, like gluten — all of these act like little missiles against that gut lining, eventually causing cracks in the gut wall and forcing protective gates to stay open. Over time an increasing amount of bad things get through.
Our bodies are amazingly resilient and have a detailed immune response that jumps in to try to handle the leaks. We may find ourselves sniffling and clearing our throats after meals in response to our immune system fighting to remove what got through. This may develop into abdominal cramps and bowel issues, or eventually, disease. What type of disease and when it appears is entirely personal involving three things - our individual genes, our environmental influences, and how far developed our leaky gut is. The stages of these three key factors can manifest into any numbers of diseases as we’ve already seen.
Because we are so individualized, it’s very important to understand both the role our gut plays in our health, and how choices we make can compromise it.
Intestinal Permeability: Causes and Strategies and Leaky Gut: What You Need to Know Now will launch in September!
Living my WellnessME.Life is our quarterly newsletter, compiled of separate blog posts created by Louanne and Sharon Saraga Walters and contributed by esteemed healthcare practitioners, colleagues and friends with a holistic (interrelated, synergistic, systemic) view of wellness.