Updated: Mar 3, 2019
Do you leak?
I’m not talking about your bladder. I’m referring to your gut. Leaky Gut Syndrome today is known as the disease your medical doctor can’t diagnose. It’s a dangerous and hidden cause of chronic illness that medical science hardly recognized until recently and which still isn’t taught in medical schools. It can masquerade as fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, digestive symptoms, weight problems, and other serious conditions including chronic pain…It’s been found in association with chronic diseases including: asthma, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, cancer, and heart failure. It’s insidious, it’s elusive and it’s also treatable.
Many doctors and healthcare practitioners are more surprised than you are to learn about this condition. This isn’t something they learned about back in medical school. Researchers actually discovered it by accident in the 1980’s and we have even developed several tests for it, but it’s not talked about at the prominent clinics or leading universities. It’s likely suppressed by the pharmaceutical industry because it does not have a drug to cure it. The food industry hates it because it would severely damage their profits by limiting their food choices. But it is very real, and, in time, it is treatable.
Hippocrates once said that all diseases begin in the gut. Crazy statement? What we are actually finding out is that the more we learn with all our modern scientific tools, the more we realize just how correct he was. The gut is considered our second brain, it is also considered 80% of the immune system, so it’s not surprising that it might affect most of the autoimmune diseases.
Leaky gut is a condition that occurs due to the development of gaps between the cells (enterocytes) that make up the membrane lining your intestinal wall. The gaps occur primarily due to the disruption in the gut flora which creates imbalance between the healthy and unhealthy flora. Eventually, these tiny gaps allow substances such as undigested food, bacteria and metabolic wastes, which should be confined to your digestive tract, to escape into your bloodstream where they act like foreign invaders within your body -- hence the term leaky gut syndrome.
Once the lining of your intestine is compromised, there is a flow of toxic substances "leaking out" into your bloodstream. Your body begins to experience significant increases in inflammation (root of all disease), and eventually, your immune system may become confused and begin to attack your own body as if it were an enemy (autoimmunity). Depending on where your body attacks itself, depends on the symptoms you experience.
Most of us think that leaky gut syndrome is associated with only inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, or celiac disease, but even healthy people can have varying degrees of intestinal permeability leading to a wide variety of health symptoms -- and this can be influenced, if not caused by, the foods you choose to eat.
What we are finding is that other diseases, which also have inflammatory roots, may have their humble beginnings in the gut. Diseases such as MS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and perhaps many as yet undiscovered connections.
In the United States, we're told that grains (especially whole grains) are an important part of a balanced diet, necessary for obtaining our daily requirement of healthy nutrients and fiber. But we know now that this is not true. A growing number of experts, including Dr. Loren Cordain, a professor at Colorado State University and an expert on Paleolithic lifestyles, say that humans are NOT designed to eat grains, and doing so may actually be damaging to your gut.
The problem is that grains are a poor source of vitamins and minerals compared to fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. And ironically, we're often told that whole grains are the best for our health. They are not. The high-fiber bran portion of grain – a key part that makes it a whole grain -- actually contains many anti-nutrients that cause our health problems. There is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that grains, as well as legumes, contain anti-nutrients and other problem substances that may increase intestinal permeability. This includes things such as gliadins and lectins.
Gliadin is the primary immunotoxic protein found in wheat gluten and is among the most damaging to your health. Gliadin gives wheat bread its doughy texture and is capable of increasing the production of the intestinal protein zonulin, which in turn opens up gaps in the normally tight junctions between intestinal cells (enterocytes). In reality all gliadin (the protein from gluten) should be eliminated from the diet.
In celiac disease the body will make antibodies to gliadin after it is digested, resulting in severe autoimmune damage to the delicate, absorptive surfaces of the intestines. It does not, however, require full blown celiac disease to suffer from the adverse effects of this protein. In fact, it is likely that our intolerance to gliadin and related wheat protein is a species-specific intolerance, applicable to all humans, with the difference being a matter of the degree to which it causes harm (i.e., the disease that manifests).
This helps to explain why research clearly shows gliadin increases intestinal permeability in both those with, and those without, celiac disease. It also points out how little the medical world understand about this condition since they only bother testing for celiac disease and often tell patients that since they are not celiac, they can continue to eat grains.
Lectins are a key mechanism through which plants protect themselves against being eaten, and are found in highest concentrations in their seed form -- which makes sense, considering that survival of the plant ensures the continuation of the plant.
We are mostly exposed to lectins from grains, beans, dairy products and nightshade plants, such as potato, tomato, and chili peppers. However, bread wheat has a prominent role to play in lectin-induced adverse effects, due to the fact that it is a relatively new form of wheat, and contains wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) – a particularly resilient and problematic lectin, considering it is not eliminated through sprouting and is actually found in higher concentrations in whole wheat.
Studies indicate that these WGA’s have the potential to contribute to a wide range of adverse health effects, including gut inflammation and damage to your gastrointestinal tract. These studies include the fact that WGA’s are pro-inflammatory. This means they stimulate the synthesis of pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines in intestinal and immune cells, and have been shown to play a role in causing chronic gut inflammation and leaking.
Wheat germ agglutins are also Immunotoxic. They have been associated with thymus atrophy in rats, and anti-WGA antibodies in human blood which has been shown to cross-react with other proteins, indicating that they may contribute to autoimmunity. WGA appears to play a role in celiac disease that is entirely distinct from that of gluten, due to significantly higher levels of IgG and IgA antibodies against WGA found in patients with celiac disease.
These WGA’s can also cross the blood brain barrier through a process called adsorptive endocytosis. This process ends up pulling other substances with it which can cause more damage. WGA may attach to your myelin sheath and is capable of inhibiting nerve growth factor, something important for the growth, maintenance, and survival of certain target neurons.
WGA’s are also excitotoxic--Wheat, dairy, and soy contain exceptionally high levels of glutamic and aspartic acid. Excitotoxicity is a pathological process where glutamic and aspartic acid cause an over-activation of your nerve cell receptors, which can lead to calcium-induced nerve and brain injury. These two amino acids may contribute to neurodegenerative conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer's, Huntington's disease, and other nervous system disorders such as epilepsy, ADD/ADHD and migraines.
These products are also cytotoxic, meaning they are toxic to your cells, capable of inducing either cell cycle arrest or programmed cell death (apoptosis). Along with being cytotoxic, they disrupt endocrine function which may contribute to weight gain, insulin resistance, and leptin resistance by blocking the leptin receptor in your hypothalamus. It also binds to both benign and malignant thyroid nodules, and interferes with the production of secretin from your pancreas, which can lead to digestive problems and pancreatic hypertrophy.
WGA’s cause Cardiotoxicity—they have a potent, disruptive effect on platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1, which plays a key role in tissue regeneration and safely removing neutrophils from your blood vessels.
Finally these WGA’s adversely affect gastrointestinal function by causing an increased shedding of the intestinal membrane, reducing the absorption surface area. Not only does this reduce nutrient absorption, but it also accelerates cell loss shortening the gut villi.
The highest amounts of WGA is found in whole wheat, including its sprouted form, which is touted as being the most healthful form of all ... The traditional ways of addressing many of these anti-nutrients is, in fact, by sprouting, fermenting and cooking. However, lectins are designed to withstand degradation through a wide range of pH and temperatures. WGA lectin is particularly tough because it's actually formed by the same disulfide bonds that give strength and resilience to vulcanized rubber and human hair.
One of the most common ways we consume grains is in the form of cereal, many of which are marketed to kids and adults alike as "healthy foods." But cereal is anything but healthy, not only because of the grain it contains but also because many (particularly those for kids) contain excessive amounts of sugar.
A new report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed that many popular children's cereal brands contain more sugar than snack cakes and cookies. For instance, one cup of Kellogg's Honey Smacks, which is nearly 56 percent sugar by weight, has more sugar than a Twinkie, while a one-cup serving of 44 other children's cereals analyzed contain more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! Cookies.
So, sugary children's cereals are a double-edged sword, assaulting your fragile gastrointestinal tract with both damaging sugar and grains. Please do your kids and yourself a favor and try a healthier breakfast instead.
As you might suspect, leaky gut can cause digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas and abdominal cramps, but it can also cause or contribute to many others you may not know, such as fatigue, skin rashes, joint pain, allergies, psychological symptoms autism and much more.
It's a vicious cycle because once your digestive tract has been damaged, it allows various gut contents to flood into your bloodstream where they wreak havoc on your health. The key to preventing this lies in altering your diet to eliminate the offending foods -- including sugars and grains -- as well as introduce healthier ones that will support a proper balance of bacteria in your gut. To restore gut health, and prevent leaky gut from occurring, eating traditionally fermented foods is essential and I believe a closer look at eating paleo is necessary.
That said, although a strict Paleo diet is necessary to provide the Sulphur’s from the vegetables, we also need to repair our leaky gut. In my opinion repairing your leaky gut has a three step process: