By Dr. Scott Olson
You may have a condition called leaky gut syndrome and not even know it. Many people do.
Leaky gut may be the underlying problem that causes many diseases of the gut such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease and others . It may also be the root of a generalized inflammatory condition that may be causing allergies such as eczema, asthma and hay fever; and even such widely different diseases such as arthritis and heart disease .
Probiotics can greatly improve leaky gut syndrome, but to understand why this is so, you have to first understand what leaky gut is all about.
It Starts with Digestion
The cycle of leaky gut starts when you eat food. Food is broken down first by the stomach (with its hydrochloric acid) and then by the pancreas (with its digestive enzymes). What is left after the digestive process is the basic building blocks of life: the micronutrients and the macronutrients. The micronutrients are things such as vitamins, minerals, other nutrients. The macronutrients are classified into proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
In order for the macronutrients to be absorbed by the body, they need to be broken down into their smallest possible pieces. For proteins, this means that they are broken down into individual amino acids. Carbohydrates are broken down into individual sugars such as glucose, sucrose, fructose and others. Fats are similarly broken down into their smallest proportions.
The reason why these nutrients need to be broken down is that only the smallest of molecules can pass through the gut wall and into the blood. At least this is true under healthy circumstances.
The Leaky Gut
The gut is made up of millions of cells that allow only these small macronutrient molecules to pass into the blood. Usually, only broken down nutrients such as glucose and amino acids are let into the blood. Larger macronutrients, particularly larger proteins, tend to cause problems when they enter the blood stream. The body thinks that they are foreign invaders, and the immune sytem is turned on and attacks them.
It may not seem like a big deal that the immune system attacks these small proteins, but it is. The immune system uses a variety of tools to attack the proteins, but the one it uses first is inflammation. Inflammation has been known about for thousands of years and is described as redness, swelling, heat, and pain.
The cells of the gut are normally packed tightly together in order to allow only the broken down proteins into the blood. When inflammation occurs, these tightly packed cells swell and become loose. Much like wall tiles that have lost their grout, there is then space between the cells for proteins to escape into the blood stream. This is leaky gut: large proteins and other unwanted material leaking through the gut into the blood .
The gut can become leaky when we eat foods we shouldn’t, are exposed to chemicals, have the wrong kind of bacteria in our guts, or are under stress. Any of these conditions can cause the gut to become inflamed.
The biggest problem with leaky gut is that it creates an endless cycle where proteins cause inflammation and the inflammation only makes the leaky gut worse, causing more proteins to enter the blood stream.
Probiotics to the Rescue
Probiotics are small bacteria such as L. acidophilus, L. rhamnasus, B. bifidum and others that are actually beneficial to the body. These bacteria are the healthy bacteria and they have been shown in numerous studies to reduce inflammation and repair leaky gut .
These bacteria produce chemicals that are helpful to the cells of the gut and act as a barrier to help keep bad bacteria in check.
The problem with many probiotics is that they are not strong enough. You take them as a pill and they have to stay alive through your stomach and its hydrochloric acid and through the rest of the digestive process in order to make it to the lower gut. You must take a probiotic supplement that has over 1 billion active cultures just to be effective; and the more active cultures, the better.
So, whether you have inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or even arthritis, asthma, or heart disease, it would be a good idea to pick up some quality probiotics and start healing your gut today.
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- 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.
- Resta-Lenert S, Barrett KE: Probiotics and commensals reverse TNF-alpha- and IFN-gamma-induced dysfunction in human intestinal epithelial cells. Gastroenterology. 2006 Mar;130(3):731-46.
KAY'S NOTE: The purpose of "The Specific Carbohydrate Diet" taught on this website is to heal "Leaky Gut Syndrome" in order to help the body heal from a multitude of illnesses. Probiotics ALONE are usually not enough to complete the job. We also do no not recommend the bifidus strain of bacteria for those beginning the SCD; as they have been found to overgrow the intestinal tract in some individuals. PLEASE CONTINUE READING and educating yourself or contact me if you need one-on-one coaching in learning how to effectively adapt the SCD to your specific needs.