Researchers are beginning to take a hard look at the role abnormal intestinal permeability (LGS = leaky gut), plays in a range of diseases — from autoimmune disorders to food allergies and even cancer. Characterised by abdominal pain, fatigue, inflammation, gas, bloating and intolerance to specific edibles, the syndrome can make life miserable.
Researchers believe LGS is caused when normally tight junctions of the intestinal lining become compromised and allow the passage of undigested food particles, toxic waste products, bacteria and viruses into the bloodstream. Autoimmune disorders can develop when these foreign particles travel throughout the body and activate the immune system, which mistakenly attacks the thyroid in case of Hashimoto’s, joints in rheumatoid arthritis or the intestinal lining with celiac patients.
Currently, over 80 different autoimmune diseases have been identified — and the numbers are rapidly rising. It’s estimated that 23.5 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disorder, with 75 percent being female. Incredibly, autoimmune diseases are now among the top 10 leading causes of death in American women under the age of 65.
Emerging research has found a majority of autoimmune disorders share leaky gut as a common root cause. In fact, world-renowned pediatric gastroenterologist and research scientist, Alessio Fasano, MD, believes three factors are always present in all autoimmune conditions: a genetic susceptibility, antigen exposure, and increased intestinal permeability.
“Besides celiac disease, several other autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, are characterized by increased intestinal permeability secondary to non-competent tight junctions that allow the passage of antigens from the intestinal flora, challenging the immune system to produce an immune response that can target any organ or tissue in genetically predisposed individuals,” Fasano notes in the February 2012 issue of Clinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology.
Contrary to the belief that once an autoimmune disorder is activated it remains ongoing, researchers have discovered that “the process could be modulated and possibly reversed by interrupting one of the modifiable factors involved in the autoimmune triad.”
Standard treatment for healing a leaky gut involves anti inflammatory and highly specialised and functional medicine orientated dietary intervention and addressing SIBO, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth — which has been implicated as the underlying cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and celiac patients unresponsive to a gluten-free diet.