What Causes Leaky Gut?
The origin of many serious health conditions including autoimmune disease can be traced back to a condition called increased intestinal permeability, or better known as "leaky gut syndrome." You may be thinking, "How can my gut possibly be related to my (fill in the blank)? This is a very common question. Knowing how the lining of the intestinal wall functions will help you understand this process.
The lining of the small intestine serves as a protective barrier which separates the contents within the intestines from the inside of the body. This barrier consists of only a single layer of discriminating cells. This single layer of cells has the critical job of determining which proteins and nutrients to allow into the bloodstream while at the same time keeping out harmful food proteins, parasites, viruses and bacteria. These cells cover the villi, which are finger-like projections that protrude from the wall of the intestines. An important role of the villi is to secrete mucus where trillions of bacteria live. The mucus breaks the large food particles down into smaller ones, enabling them to pass through the protective barrier so they can enter the bloodstream. A healthy intestinal lining allows only small food molecules to pass through while keeping larger ones out. However a damaged and inflamed barrier increases the intestinal permeability, allowing larger particles to pass through to the bloodstream. The integrity of the intestinal barrier becomes compromised (leaky) when the surface of the cells are damaged, creating gaps between the tight junctions between the cells, thus allowing large food particles (such as meat and dairy) to pass through. If you're interested in seeing how this mechanism works, click on Dr. Michael Klaper's video From Operating Table to Dining Room Table.
There are several factors that play a role in damaging the intestinal lining:
- Infections, viruses and toxins - "Infections and toxins can cause gaps in this barrier and allow large molecules to pass into the blood."
- Dairy and animal products - "Dairy and other animal products causes inflammation of the intestinal surfaces and thereby increases the passage of dietary and/or bacterial antigens."
- Dietary fat and cholesterol - "Dietary fat has a toxic effect on the intestine of experimental animals, causing injury that increases the permeability of the gut allowing more antigens to enter the body. Feeding high cholesterol diets to young animals also increases their leaky gut.”
- Vegetable oils - "Vegetable oils, including those of the omega-3 and omega-6 variety, are particularly strong suppressors of the immune system...and are known to damage intestinal integrity. Suppression of the immune system prevents it from doing its work of removing invading foreign proteins."
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs - "All commonly used nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like Advil, Motrin, Naprosyn, etc.), are associated with increased intestinal permeability. While reversible in the short term, it may take months to improve the barrier following prolonged use."
- An overgrowth of harmful pathogenic intestinal bacteria and yeast.
Because harmful pathogenic intestinal bacteria and yeast can also injure the intestinal lining, maintaining the healthy bacteria is critical in preventing an overgrowth of bad bacteria. However, Dr. Klaper points out that "Modern life is an assault on our friendly intestinal bacteria." His video explains in detail how each of the following factors damage the beneficial bacteria:
- Chlorinated drinking water
- Soft drinks with phosphoric acid
- Coffee, tea
- Foods with herbicides
The combination of the above factors not only weakens the intestinal lining, it destroys the bacteria necessary which helps maintain a healthy and protective barrier.
Taking into account how the vast majority of Americans embrace a diet and lifestyle that fuels the growth of harmful pathogenic bacteria, kills the growth of beneficial bacteria, and damages the integrity of the intestinal lining, it's easy to see why so many are afflicted with chronic, degenerative conditions. If you'd like to watch Doctors Michael Klaper and John McDougall demonstrate the above process, click on the following short video clips:
Because whole natural plant foods change the intestinal microbial flora and heal the "leaky" tight junctions between the cells, many chronic illnesses respond favorably. If you're interested in learning more, see my article, How do our Food Choices Promote Autoimmune Conditions?
John McDougall MD Links
Michael Klaper, MD Links
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