Chronic low-level inflammation is often considered the foundation of disease. The big debate is where this inflammation stems from and how we can reduce it. Research the last 10 years has increased our knowledge on leaky gut and how it affects our health. Today we find a growing number of experts who believe that increased intestinal permeability might be the most important source of inflammation in modern societies.
The world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets, Dr. Loren Cordain, has studied the subject in depth. When Dr. Cordain and his team published their seminal paper on Leaky Gut and autoimmunity a decade ago, there was little information on the subject available. Since then, the amount of research on Leaky Gut has skyrocketed thanks to people such as Cordain, Dr. Alessio Fasano, Dr. Leo Galland and other scientists around the world.
What’s happening with our digestive systems?
Most of our immune system is located in the gut, and the gut wall is the main interface between us and the external environment. When the intestinal lining is working correctly it only allows properly digested proteins, carbohydrates etc. to pass through.
Anti-nutrients and other components in common food staples increase intestinal permeability and damage the gut wall. Lectins, saponins, gliadin, certain hormones and bio-active peptides seem to cause the biggest problems. These nutrients can be found in milk, wheat and other grains, potatoes, hot spices, legumes and alcoholic beverages. Sugar and other refined carbohydrates can also increase intestinal permeability by changing the gut flora. Birth-control pills, anti-acids and other pharmaceuticals have also been linked to increased intestinal permeability.
A disrupted intestinal barrier allows increased passage of unwanted food components, bacteria and viruses. Certain bad bacteria contain a substance in their cell wall called Lipopolysaccharide (LPS). LPS binds to cells lining the gut and increases synthesis of pro-inflammatory substances. This interaction immediately causes the immune system to become inflamed.
Chronic low level inflammation drives heart disease, cancer, type 2-diabetes and autoimmunity. Leaky Gut has also been connected to a variety of skin conditions, gastrointestinal problems, mental disorders and other ailments.
Gut Flora is vital in development of both the suppressive and aggressive part of the immune system. It provides energy for out gut epithelial cells, and the bacterial layer supports a healthy intestinal lining. A diverse Gut Flora is also needed for proper digestion. Antibiotics, a western diet and other factors can damage Gut Flora and therefore, promote Leaky Gut.
Prevention and treatment
Avoiding foods introduced with the agricultural revolution will be your best prevention and treatment against Leaky Gut. Foods that have to be processed or heated in some way to be edible usually cause issues. Some people will be more sensitive to certain foods while others can eat them in moderation.
Avoiding pharmaceuticals will also be important in preventing Leaky Gut. Probiotics from fresh plants and plant products, fermented foods and supplements will promote healthy Gut Flora and intestinal lining. Prebiotics, soluble fiber that feeds beneficial flora, can be found in onions, leeks and apples. Changing your diet will, in most cases, cause rapid healing of the gut wall. More severe gut dysbiosis and Leaky Gut will often need more comprehensive methods.
Sources for this article include
- The Paleo Diet Explained – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52A3ayfxfTs&feature=player_embedded
- Cordain L, Toohey L, Smith MJ, Hickey MS. Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis. The British journal of nutrition 2000;83(3):207-17.
- Fasano A. Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2012 Feb;42(1):71-8. doi: 10.1007/s12016-011-8291-x.
- Fasano A, Shea-Donohue T. Mechanisms of disease: the role of intestinal barrier function in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal autoimmune diseases. Nat Clin Pract Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2005 Sep;2(9):416-22.
- Gut. 2003 Feb;52(2):218-23. Early effects of gliadin on enterocyte intracellular signalling involved in intestinal barrier function.Clemente MG, De Virgiliis S, Kang JS, et al.
- Type 2 Diabetes and Endotoxemia – http://thepaleodiet.blogspot.no
Health-e-Solutions comment: Research indicates the gut is intricately involved in the immune process, noting that up to 80% of the immune system in located in the gut. Since type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, it is reasonable to conclude that proper nutrition plays an important role in the treatment and management of diabetes. The diabetic-alkaline lifestyle aims to eliminate problematic foods and increase those proven to be healthy and very low on the glycemic index – this is important for diabetes.