“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS)
In the last 50-100 years the food quality has drastically changed. What was once nutritious can now possibly be contaminated with herbicides, antibiotics, hormones, fluoride and mercury and other toxins that have no business being in our food supply. It is understood that most disease begins in the gut and a healthy gut contains a healthy micro-biome. We’ve only recently begun to understand the extent of the gut flora’s role in human health and disease.
Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) is also referred to as intestinal permeability and is a major gastrointestinal disorder that occurs when openings develop in the gut wall or intestines. Once this protective epithelial lining is breached it opens up the gates for the harmful toxins to pass through and into the circulatory system. Once this occurs the body unleashes its defenses in the form of inflammation and immune related symptoms. This inflammation can occur in any part of the body and usually where ones weak link happens to be, i.e. the heart, brain, joints, etc. As a result, LGS can lead to many inflammatory and immune-related symptoms including but not limited to(Bauman 2015):
- Food allergies and food sensitivities
- Over 300 currently identified autoimmune conditions
- Inflammatory bowel diseases including Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
- Chronic abdominal pain
- Bloating and gas
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Chronic joint and muscle pain
- Poor concentration
The root cause of LGS is inflammation of the protective gut lining and is usually instigated by one or more of the following:
Contaminated food and water
Unhealthful consumption of alcohol
NSAIDS such as aspirin, Motrin, Ibuprofen
Birth control pills
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
Inadequate hydrochloric acid in the stomach
Proteins and lectins found in grains and grain containing products
Hypochlorhydria—Inadequate secretion of gastric acid (HCL) by the parietal cells in the stomach wall is an undervalued, under-recognized clinical component of digestion -related health disorders.
Inadequate hydrochloric acid may influence the development of diseases such as food allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, acne, rosacea and asthma. The ability to produce HCL decreases with age, and more than half the population over the age of 60 has insufficient abilities to secrete HCL. With low HCL food (mainly proteins) cannot be properly digested and is left to rot in the stomach and small intestines. Chronic reduction of HCL has many predictable deleterious effects on the GI tract and digestion and promotes bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
When the gut’s intestinal lining becomes eroded, the otherwise selectively-permeable membrane of the small intestine cannot function properly and allows poorly digested proteins to enter the bloodstream. They can then be treated as foreign invaders or antigens by the immune system, initially resulting in allergies and/or food sensitivities and potentially becoming autoimmune disorders.
Many people diagnosed with leaky gut turn to antacids and medications in hopes of relieving symptoms. However, these conventional treatments often prove to be ineffective and somewhat toxic. Antacids, for example, neutralize or decrease stomach acid, and as mentioned above, most people already have low HCL levels. So taking an antacid can be counter-productive. In reality, antacids hinder adequate digestion of proteins as well as important nutrients like vitamin B12, which can in turn lead to a host of neurological conditions like senile dementia (Bauman, 2015).
In addition to antacids, people with leaky gut also commonly turn to NSAIDS (non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) in hopes for a reprieve from symptoms like inflammation and arthritis. There are negative side effects associated with the use of NSAIDS, including a high incidence of upper gastrointestinal complications including ulcers, lesions and hemorrhage. Health issues associated with the use of NSAIDS are estimated to result in 103,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths per year. Thus, one is encouraged to choose more natural forms of support for challenging leaky gut symptoms such as supplements and inflammation-reducing foods that help the body cope with headaches, inflammation, etc. (Bauman, 2015).
Some experts believe that it’s not just gluten, but all grains, that can cause digestive problems, from rice and pasta to quinoa, oats and whole grains. The reason for this is because all grains contain lectins (or similar molecules), which are difficult to digest. They can damage the intestinal lining, allowing proteins to enter the system and leading to an attack by the immune system, as mentioned above (Wolf, 2010).
The bottom line is that anything that damages the gut lining, from bacterial and viral infection to grains and dairy, can predispose one to health issues including leaky gut, autoimmunity, multiple chemical sensitivities, and allergies to otherwise benign foods (Wolf, 2010).
What to do – The 4R Protocol
Remove– common dietary irritants such as processed and refined foods, grains, legumes, dairy, refined seed oils, hydrogenated fats, soy, GMO foods, sugar and soft drinks. If these foods have already been removed, try also removing alcohol, nuts, seeds, coffee and eggs as a next step.
To go even a step further, there are FODMAPS to contend with. you might consider nixing all five forms of FODMAP carbs (lactose, fructose, fructans, sugar alcohols, and galactans) for up to 4 weeks to see if it helps. If FODMAPs are the culprit, you’ll probably begin to feel better quickly. (Webmd). (See attached educational handout).
Repair– The 3 main nutrients to combat LGS:
Eat adequate amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber in starchy vegetables or fruits like sweet potatoes squash, flax seed, leafy green vegetables, some fruit, almonds, celery, apples, seaweed, cilantro and plantains. Some soluble fibers also act as a prebiotic and promote increased production of short chain fatty acids to provide food for the beneficial bacteria. It is best to start with 5g per day and increase to 25-30g per day over time (Bauman 2015).
Supplement with Vitamin C– Vitamin C is the body’s most important antioxidant, is necessary for overall cell health, and is the first line of antioxidant protection in the body (Murray, 1996). It is particularly potent in the presence of bioflavonoids, which have been shown to protect vitamin C and preserve its action. They also work together to help protect against inflammation by reducing allergic reactions, which is important for improving overall digestion 500-1000mg three times a day. (Bauman, 2012).
Zinc is essential to good health and has an extensive list of benefits because it is involved in so many enzyme and body functions. For example, Zinc is important for it’s support in immune function, inflammatory conditions and healing mechanisms of the gut, to name a few (Bauman, 2012).
The best-known source of zinc is oysters, but it is present in relatively high amounts in other shellfish, fish and red meats. It’s also found, though in lesser amounts, in plant foods such as whole grains like oats and whole wheat, legumes, and nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, pecans, brazil nuts. However, the zinc is less bioavailable in plant foods due to the phytic acid compounds that make the zinc less absorbable. Zinc supplementation for general health support is 15 to 20 mg, but therapeutic dosages range from 30 to 60 mg for men and 30 to 45 mg daily for women (Murray, 1996).
Although the recommended general health dosage of zinc is 15-20 mg, therapeutic dosages can range from 30-60 mg for men and 30-45 mg daily for women. Day one of my meal plan contains 12.9 mg of zinc which is below the recommended dosage for general health. I would supplement with an additional 15 mg and perhaps increase over time. Good sources of zinc in my meal plan are brazil nuts, beef, shrimp, pumpkin seeds, pecans, seaweed.
Other recommended foods and supplements to combat LGS:
Omega-3– Eat adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to balance out the naturally high amounts of omega 6 in the standard American diet. Fermented cod liver oil (Green Pasture brand)
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) supports healing mechanisms in the gut and is one of the major nutrients found in foods that help the body deal with stress. It is recommended to take 250-500 mg 2-3 times a day. It’s better when used with Vitamin B6, but the entire B complex is necessary when supplementing because they work synergistically. Foods rich in B5 include all animal meats and organs, nutritional yeast, egg yolks, broccoli, oats, seafood, legumes, mushrooms and sweet potato (Bauman, 2013).
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant, which is necessary for overall cell health. It’s also an immune stimulating vitamin that helps to ease fatigue and is an important supplement for leaky gut. 400 – 800 I.U. of vitamin E are recommended daily, preferably as mixed tocopherols or full-spectrum E. Foods abundant in vitamin E include leafy greens, nuts and seeds and their oils, organ meats, wheat germ, whole grains, seafoods and sea greens (Bauman, 2012).
L-Glutamine is an amino acid that is critical to cellular health, muscle growth and protein syntheses (Murray, 2005). L-glutamine also contributes to rapid replication of healthy cells that line the small intestine, and studies suggest that it might also protect against damage from NSAIDS. It is suggested to supplement with L-Glutamine between 5 – 10 grams daily (Bauman, 2012).
Quercitin is a powerful antioxidant to help with inflammation and DGL (deglycerized licorice) to to promote the repair of mucosal lining of the gut.
Gamma-oryzonal is a growth-promoting substance as well as a potent antioxidant. Found within plant cells, is an important supplement for leaky gut and has displayed mild anti-inflammatory effects. In addition to helping with menopause and elevated cholesterol levels, gamma-oryzonal is used to aid the treatment of a broad range of gastrointestinal disorders. The usual dosage of gamma-oryzonal for therapeutic purposes is 100 mg three times daily (Murray, 1996).
Chamomile is a common nervine, which is an herb that calms and strengthens the nerves. This mellow herb is also antimicrobial and promotes healthy digestion as well as healing for a variety of health issues. For example, chamomile is helpful for leaky gut, IBS, dysbiosis, hypochlorhydria, mouth sores, insulin resistance and malabsorption. Chamomile also helps normalize and heal gut mucosa. It is generally used in a tea form,
and like all herbs and formulas, it is best to rotate every 6-8 weeks to allow the body to experience a variety of healing compounds (Bauman, 2012).
Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis) is an herb indigenous to the eastern woodlands of the United States and is considered one of the most effective natural antibiotics and infection-fighting herbs. It may offer relief for those suffering from leaky gut, but should be used for short periods of time because over time, it builds up in the mucosa of the body, causing irritation and inflammation. It would be suggested to take capsules of Goldenseal for 3 weeks, then stop for 3 weeks, then repeat if necessary. Also important to mention is that it has been severely overharvested and consequently is quickly becoming an endangered species. It is important to only purchase cultivated goldenseal as opposed to wild-crafted (grown in the wild) because of the extinction threat (Gladstar, 1993).
Drink herbal teas like peppermint and licorice root to aid in repairing the mucosal lining of the digestive system.
Drink adequate amounts of purified water to prevent constipation and dehydration.
Reinoculate with Probiotics- This term literally means “for life” and is a term used to describe healthy or friendly bacteria. There are at least 400 different species of microflora in the human gastrointestinal tract, but the most important ones are Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium infantis and Bifidobacterium bifidum. These friendly bacteria produce a variety of substances that inhibit or antagonize other bacteria and can be found in fermented foods such as yogurt, cheese, miso, sauerkraut, kimchee, kefir, fermented vegetables and tempeh. As a supplement, probiotics are extremely safe and are not associated with any side effects (though they are negatively affected by alcohol and antibiotics). The dosage of a commercial probiotic supplement is based upon the number of live organisms. The ingestion of 1 to 10 billion L. acidophilus or B. bifidum cells daily is a sufficient dosage for most people (Murray, 1996).
Reintroduce- Eat one of the eliminated foods at each of your meals on day 31 after the elimination and note any changes to your mood, energy, mental clarity, digestive function and your skin. Repeat the reintroduction of one eliminated food every three days to discover which are causing problems and which are not. Reintroduction of gluten grains is not recommended.
Bauman, E. (2015). Therapeutic Nutrition Textbook, Part 1. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College.
Sanfillipo, Diane (2012) Practical Paleo. Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing
Wolf, R. (2010). The paleo solution. Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing
Gladstar, R. (1993). Herbal healing for women. New York, NY: Fireside
Murray, M. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.
Murray, M. (1996). The encyclopedia of nutritional supplements. New, York, NY: Three Rivers Publishing.
Douillard, J. (2013, Jul). The gut brain bug connection. Life Spa. Available at: http:// lifespa.com/the-gut-brain-bug-connection/#.UffhtxxEBwc
Multiple authors, N. (2004). Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach. Gig Harbor, WA: The Institute for Functional Medicine.
Campbell-McBride (2010). GAPS – Gut and Psychology Syndrome. United Kingdom: Medinform Publishing