Leaky Gut Syndrome

Food Allergies

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Lynn, a 27-year-old legal secretary, came to my ofice with daily dull headaches, which escalated into a migraine headache with nausea and vomiting at least every two weeks. She also complained of chronic sinus pain and congestion, dizziness, diffuse body aches, abdominal pain, excessive gas and bloating, food cravings, fatigue and depression.

These symptoms had been present for more than five years. She had been treated with a variety of prescription medications. At the time, she was taking Inderol, verapamil, prozac, imatrex, a multivitamin, Ginkgo biloba, B-complex, and lysine.

Lynn was suffering from hyperintestinal permeability, a medical term for what is commonly known as leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome is an extremely common condition but frequently overlooked by health care providers. Yet, the diagnosis and proper treatment of this condition can alleviate a multitude of pathologies and associated signs and symptoms.

Leaky gut syndrome is a condition wherein the intestinal lining is overly permeable, which allows toxins, including undigested food particles and biological pathogens to be absorbed from the gut into the blood stream. This invasion of toxins and pathogens triggers immune reactions in the body leading to inflammatory responses and compromises in health.

Leaky gut syndrome is an extremely common condition but frequently overlooked by health care providers. Yet, the diagnosis and proper treatment of this condition can alleviate a multitude of pathologies and associated signs and symptoms.

"A major task of the intestine is to form a defensive barrier to prevent absorption of damaging substances from the external environment," says Daniel Hollander, M.D., of Harbor-UCLA Research and Education Institute, and one of the nation's leading experts on inflammatory bowel disease.

This protective function of the intestinal mucosa is called permeability. Clinicians use inert, nonmetabolized sugars such as mannitol, rhamnose, or lactulose to measure the permeability barrier or the degree of leakiness of the intestinal mucosa.

Ample evidence indicates that permeability is increased in most patients with Crohn's disease and in ten to twenty percent of their clinically healthy relatives.

Permeability is also increased in celiac disease and by trauma, burns, and use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs (especially among aspirin users).

Signs and Symptoms

In general the patient with leaky gut syndrome will most likely present as a long-term sufferer of multiple complaints. The possible signs and symptoms brought on by leaky gut syndrome are numerous. We included here only the most common. Left untreated, sustained leaky gut syndrome may lead to: lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn's disease, rosacea, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis and other auto-immune diseases. Usually the patient will have a strong history of gastrointestinal complaints. The patient will most likely have multiple diagnoses from various other health providers and will have achieved little or no alleviation of signs and symptoms from previously prescribed treatment.

Symptoms Associated With Leaky Gut Syndrome:
•gastrointestinal disturbances
•diffuse joint pain
•mood swings
•memory loss
•muscle soreness
•skin lesions
•hair loss


The cause of leaky gut syndrome is thought to be an inflammatory condition of the intestinal lining. This may result from low gastric acid, inadequate digestive enzyme production, chronic constipation, suboptimal liver function, imbalances of beneficial and pathogenic bacteria, parasite infestation, overuse of antibiotics, steroid use, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antacids and any other prescription or over-the-counter medications that irritate the gastrointestinal tract.

Getting Lynn Well Again

Lynn's main gastrointestinal complaint was excessive bloating and gas after eating raw vegetables and dairy products. She also saw a connection between her headaches and ingestion of dairy products. Besides these, her temperature was slightly high (99.4 degrees F.); she suffered sinus congestion; had multiple areas of point tenderness throughout the body; and abdominal discomfort. She scored 179 on the signs and symptoms questionnaire used in Dr. Cook's office (any score over 50 is abnormal).

I advised Lynn to eliminate from her diet:
•dairy products
•cured meats
•artificial sweeteners

Doctors' Prescription

Lynn reported feeling much better within two weeks. Within three weeks, her score on the questionnaire dropped to 78; in five weeks, it was 48; and, at the end of three month, had dropped to a very 29.

Two months after beginning treatment, Lynn was able to wean off Prozac, inderol and verapamil. She no longer needed to use imatrex.

She remains off of dairy products and artificial sweeteners. She no longer has migraine headaches, depression or unusual digestive complaints. Her energy level is much improved. The diffuse pain and the chronic sinus congestion have significantly decreased.

This treatment is in keeping with what many health experts recommend for leaky gut syndrome patients. Patient care focused on five areas:

Elimination of any offending stimuli. The patient should be placed on the most hypoallergenic diet possible, being sure to avoid dairy products, simple sugars, caffeine and yeast containing foods.

Reduce intestinal inflammation. There are several natural methods available that work well. Among these are: slippery elm bark, deglycyrrhizinated licorice and various multi-ingredient formulas.

Restore nutrients to the gut. Supplementing with a high potency multi-vitamin/multi-mineral that is appropriate for the patient's sex and age can do this. Depending on the individual patient, additional vitamins and/or minerals may be needed beyond what the high potency multi supplies. I recommend the PhytoPharmica/Enzymatic Therapy line, available from health professionals and at natural health centers.

Enhance digestive function. Digestive efficiency can be greatly enhanced by utilizing one or more of the following: betaine HCL, pepsin, plant-based enzymes such as bromelain and papain and/or animal-based enzymes such as amylase and lipase. Also dietary fiber should be utilized to enhance motility, decrease constipation and to keep intestines free of toxins and debris.

Replenish beneficial bacteria. If there is a suspected overgrowth of unfavorable microbes and/or yeast, then in addition to the above five steps the patient may have to be supplemented with a natural antimicrobial such as garlic, goldenseal or citrus seed extract. Many times an overgrowth of unfavorable microbes will manifest itself in yeast infections, urinary tract infection or a subtle subclinical urinary tract infection.

Utilizing these treatment strategies is very successful in the treatment of leaky gut syndrome. Because of the complexity of treatment, patient compliance can be a problem. Therefore, patient education is also a necessary component of the treatment process.

comments powered by Disqus