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The Truth About Leaky Gut

Are you wondering where all the inflammation is occurring in your body maybe you've heard that leaky gut might be causing some of the chronic inflammation you are experiencing?  In this article, we look at the truth about leaky gut and its role in chronic inflammation and chronic inflammatory diseases.

If you want to know the truth about leaky gut, keep reading. 

Understanding Leaky Gut

The truth about leaky gut is that the conventional evidence for its role in health and disease broadly speaking is limited but growing.   Despite this limited evidence from conventional medicine, there is plenty of empirical  and even clinical research supporting the role of leaky gut in a wide range of health conditions.  The most broad reaching of these conditions is a general term referred to as chronic inflammatory diseases.  The picture (and video) above shows what happens with leaky gut.  There is normal tissue to the left and as inflammation in the digestive tract progresses there is leaky gut.  What we want to look at is the case for leaky gut being related to other inflammatory diseases outside of the digestive tract.   

The basic idea of leaky gut is as follows.  Inflammation occurs through and via the immune system.  The digestive tract is closely connected anatomically and mechanistically with the immune system.  This relationship and connection is what the scientific research focuses on.  When we look to connect leaky gut and digestive issues to other global issues, this is the first place that we usually look.   Before we look at that research, let's look a little bit more at what is meant by a leaky gut. 


Leaky gut is a simple way to describe a complex process by which the digestive tract barrier is not working the way it should.  In this process there are potentially immune stimulating proteins from inside the digestive tract lumen that can pass unencumbered into the body.  These proteins can be microbial proteins, food proteins, and from other sources.   There are many health conditions where there's really no debate about whether or not this happens.  These include things like, celiac disease, irritable bowel disease (like Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis), and even IBS.  The debate about leaky gut or increased gut permeability is not a debate about whether or not it happens at all.   The question is whether or not it is occurring in systemic conditions that are seemingly unrelated to the digestive tract but also have an inflammatory component. 

The process by which leaky gut occurs is there's breakdown of this mucous defense layer.  In addition the proteins that hold the digestive cells together breakdown.  This leads to an increased permeability and the immune stimulating proteins can leak through through.  The activation of the immune systems can cause allergy and inflammation.  There are multiple mechanisms by which leaky gut occurs.  All seem to exploit the tight junction protein that hold the intestinal cells together and prevent penetration of these immune stimulating proteins.  One of the proteins that hold the tight junctions together is called zonulin.  Elevated blood levels of zonulin have been associated with many chronic inflammatory diseases.  Included among these are celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, ankylosing spondylitis (an autoimmune condition), obesity, autism, depression and even chronic fatigue syndrome.  While high zonulin in the blood is only associated with these chronic inflammatory diseases, other studies have confirmed this association with other measurements of leaky gut.   Still there is not a consensus on how to measure leaky gut or increased intestinal permeability. 

Whether or not we can say this association as an actual causation is still not clear.  However, given the proximity of the digestive tract to the immune system and the accumulating evidence between leaky gut and chronic inflammatory diseases, it seems likely that there is more than just a casual association.  I am also reminded of the quote by Hippocrates "all disease starts in the gut."  It seems there is accumulating evidence in support of this wise saying.  The main point though is that leaky gut can affect more than just your digestive tract.  Oftentimes can affect multiple areas of your body.  Digestion and leaky gut are definitely related to a lot of immune, inflammatory, and autoimmune disease.  I see this kind of thing frequently.  For instance, with autoimmune diseases treating the digestive tract and finding an underlying trigger often improves or resolves chronic inflammatory diseases like autoimmune diseases. 

If you think you might be suffering from some of these things you can have a blood zonulin test done and it may help you understand what's going on in your body. 

That should give you a better understanding of the truth about leaky gut.  If you have questions about the content in this article, please ask it in the comment section below.

If you want a customized plan on your leaky gut or chronic inflammatory issues, click in the link below to get started. 

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