Leaky Gut Syndrome
By Kimberly D. Balas, N.D.
What is leaky gut?
Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) is a major cause of disease and dysfunction and is the root cause of many other health problems. At least 50% of chronic complaints, as confirmed by laboratory tests, have the foundation of LGS.
In LGS, the epithelium on the villi of the small intestine becomes inflamed and irritated, which allows metabolic and microbial toxins of the small intestines to flood into the blood stream. This event compromises the liver, the lymphatic system, and the immune response, including the endocrine system. It is often the primary cause of the following:
Inflammatory joint disorders including rheumatoid arthritis.
It also contributes to PMS, uterine fibroids, and breast fibroids.
It has also been linked with learning disabilities and behavioral problems in children, and with food allergies.
Leaky gut syndrome is often the real basis for chronic fatigue syndrome and pediatric immune deficiencies.
Antibiotics have been the primary cause, but non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are a major secondary cause. Antibiotics also damage the intestines by fostering the growth of Candida albicans and other pathogenic fungi and yeast. This overgrowth of yeast, more than any other factor, precipitates leaky gut syndrome. In a healthy situation, the small intestine epithelium maintains tight cell junctions, which contributes to the physical barrier involved in intestinal absorption. In addition to the physical barrier, there is an important chemical barrier within the mucus that contains immune agents which neutralize any toxins that come in contact with the intestinal lining.
Candida exudes an aldehyde secretion that causes small intestine epithelial cells to shrink. This allows intestinal toxins to infiltrate through the epithelium and into the blood. The secondary barrier-immune agents in the epithelial mucus-remain the sole agent for neutralization. Eventually, the immune system becomes exhausted by this continual challenge.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Many people have an erroneous belief that the candida itself enters the blood stream, allowing it to be deposited elsewhere, such as the brain. Unless the immune response is completely depleted, as in AIDS, candida is quickly destroyed in the blood. The real damage done by candida is to the intestinal epithelial barrier, allowing the absorption of serious toxic agents and chemicals, which then enter the bloodstream and affect numerous organs, including the brain.
When the integrity of the intestinal barrier has been compromised, intestinal toxins are not the only pathogens to be absorbed. The barrier, in a healthy state, selectively allows digested nutrients to enter the small intestine when all is ready.
With leaky gut, nutrients can be absorbed before they are fully digested. The body's immune response, through specific antigen-antibody markers, will tag some of these food particles as foreign irritants. Every time that particular foodstuff touches the epithelia, an inflammatory immune response is mounted which further damages the epithelial lining. What started as a candida irritation with shrinking of the cells has now been complicated with active inflammation every time a particular food is eaten. Food allergies are a common problem, secondary to candida, and if present, will maintain the leaky gut continuously, even if the candida is eradicated.
The most common food allergies are dairy, eggs, gluten grains (wheat, triticale, rye), corn, legumes (especially soy and peanuts), and nuts. There are seldom real allergies to meat, rice, millet, vegetables, or fruit, although an allergy to garlic is not uncommon. We have to distinguish a real allergy-that which causes a histamine inflammatory reaction at the site of the small intestine (SI) epithelia-from food sensitivity, which may cause uncomfortable symptoms, but is seldom damaging. Sensitivities are usually due to low stomach acid (PDA) or insufficient pancreatic enzyme secretion, i.e., poor digestion (Protease Plus).
In the healing of the intestinal lining, exposure to a significant allergen can sabotage the treatment. For example, one may be very good at restricting wheat, dairy and eggs, but then compromises the treatment by eating peanut butter.
The metabolic and microbial toxins that enter the bloodstream because of leaky gut end up in the liver, which has the job of detoxifying and discharging the poisons.
Under normal conditions, the liver is taxed just by processing the daily metabolic wastes created by cell and organ activity. Imagine the further load created by dumping serious intestinal toxins on a regular basis. There is a point when the liver becomes saturated; it cannot further detoxify the poisons, and the poisons (toxins) are allowed to enter the general blood circulation. The blood has sophisticated mechanisms for preserving chemical homeostasis, and will diffuse as much of the toxic chemicals and physical debris into the interstitial fluids as is possible.
From here the lymphatic system will attempt to collect and neutralize the toxins, but, unable to send the toxins to the liver, the whole body starts to become toxic. In this environment, microbes flourish, which can cause chronic lymphatic swelling, especially in children. Over a period of time, toxins will be forced into distal connective tissue around muscles and joints, causing fibromyalgia, or into the cells, which can precipitate genetic mutation and ultimately cancer.
First is at the site of the intestinal mucosa. As toxins and food antigens brush up against the mucosa, the immune system mobilizes to neutralize the toxins. Normally, much of this work would have been done by beneficial bacteria, but the friendly flora have been destroyed by antibiotics. For toxins that make it to the mucosa, the body will tag them with a chemical secretory IgA (SIgA), which attracts macrophages and other white blood cells to consume the toxins. It is not long before this immune response is overwhelmed and depleted. This can be measured directly with a stool or saliva test for the intestinal SIgA level.
The second stressor occurs in the liver and lymphatic system, which are also overwhelmed. This weakens the immune response.
The third stressor is a consequence of the second. As the immune response diminishes, more microbes (viruses, bacteria, and fungi) multiply, allowing for a state of chronic infection. What might be tagged as a viral infection, such as Epstein-Barr virus for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is actually an opportunistic infection taking advantage of a weakened immune system.
The most important organ in the production of immune agents seems to be the adrenal gland, and leaky gut syndrome slowly diminishes adrenal function. In the early and middle stages, there is actually an adrenal excess, as measured by excess cortisol output. Eventually, cortisol levels drop, and one now experiences adrenal exhaustion.
Candida flourishes when the terrain in the intestines favors it. Just killing candida is usually not successful, because the chemistry and vitality of the terrain has not been normalized, and candida returns. The terrain of the small intestine requires proper PH and electromagnetic resonance.
The idea that lactobacillus supplementation is all that is required after antibiotics is somewhat delusional; in fact most of the lactobacillus from supplementation does not survive in the intestine, due to poor terrain.
Leaky gut syndrome has various components, all of which must be evaluated and addressed.
First, ongoing irritants to the small intestine mucosal lining (fungus, food allergens, and NSAIDs) need to be identified and neutralized.
Second, nutrients and herbs are required to promote healing of the epithelial lining.
Third, and perhaps the key link, the liver needs to be supported.
Fourth, the lymphatic and interstitial fluids need to be detoxified.
Fifth, the immune and endocrine systems need to be balanced and supported.
And sixth, the stomach and pancreas needs to be supported, if necessary.
The therapy for healing leaky gut syndrome takes between four and eight months. Here are some of the products that may be helpful. Each case requires careful evaluation, selecting remedies appropriate to the individual's specific needs.
I have found Kudzu/St. John's Wort Concentrate very effective for leaky gut.
Spleen activator TCM
Small Intestine Detox may also be helpful.
Astringent herbs, such as yarrow, white oak bark and red raspberry can help tone the intestinal lining.
Herbs to eradicate yeast overgrowth and intestinal parasites may be helpful, including Candida Clear and ParaCleanse with Paw Paw.
Anti-inflammatory herbs like licorice and chamomile can be helpful.
Intestinal Soothe and Build will also help reduce gut inflammation and ease leaky gut symptoms.
HistaBlock can reduce allergic reactions.
Liver Balance TCM or Milk Thistle Comination to support the liver
Kimberly D. Balas has an N.D. from Clayton College and a Ph. D. in Bioelectrical Engineering. She is a professional iridologist with the International Iridology Practitioners Association and an instructor in NSP's NHC program.