What You Need to Know About Leaky Gut

  • How your gut may be slowly poisoning you
  • From headaches to heart disease, this condition has a connection
  • Discover the threats that can drill holes in your intestines

Ed Note: Today’s article is a guest post from Living Well’s Quality Control Manager, Jasmine LeMaster

Dear Living Well Daily Reader,

I’d been poisoned.

Not 20 minutes after eating lunch, I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. My mind slowed into a fog. I could feel the blood rushing throughout my brain, throbbing. My body became heavy, lethargic, and utterly exhausted.

Natalie Moore and I were a conference out in Austin, Texas, last week, and had just finished lunch. “I’ve got to go lay down,” I said to her, before slowly shuffling the quarter-mile back to my hotel room.

It took two hours, a nap, and a half-gallon of water to get me feeling normal again.

I knew I had been poisoned, and I also knew the culprit, because it had poisoned me before: my own gut.

I’d become familiar with this effect of intense brain fog, fatigue, dizziness, and lethargy after eating, as I’d been experiencing it for years, though I could never predict exactly what foods would cause the worst symptoms or what days the symptoms would hit.

After hundreds of hours of research, testing, working with specialists, and self-experimentation, I finally discovered the diagnosis: increased intestinal permeability, also known as a “leaky gut.”

For years, leaky gut has been dismissed by the conventional medical community. But those in the alternative health community have known about the impact of gut integrity on health for a long time. Relatively recently, the science has finally caught up and is showing that increased intestinal permeability is a very real condition, with a very real cause and effect on the body.

So what exactly is it, and why do you need to know about it?

Well, as I’ll explain in a minute, intestinal permeability may be the direct cause of and contributor to every major disease and syndrome. From headaches to heart disease, depression to autoimmune disease, leaky gut could have a connection.

So if you suffer from any chronic symptom, any disease, any condition, this article may be one of the most important articles you ever read.

Let’s dive in.

--What is leaky gut?

First, a bit of anatomy.

Intestinal cells are called enterocytes. In between each of these cells is a space called a “tight junction.” The spaces should be exactly as they are described — tight, only allowing the passage of select nutrients and electrolytes into the bloodstream. It is a very tightly regulated process in the body, keeping undigested food particles, gut bacteria, and toxins in the intestines and out of the bloodstream.

But in leaky gut, these tight junctions aren’t so tight, allowing not only nutrients but also whole food particles or proteins as well as bacteria and food waste to leak into the bloodstream.

Once these foreign particles get into the bloodstream, a couple of things can happen that lead to ill health and disease.

The first is that the immune system lights up, going into action to sequester and neutralize the foreign particles. This creates an inflammatory response in the body, leading to widespread inflammation. And depending on where the foreign particles end up, it can localize inflammation in the joints, liver, kidneys, or other organs.

Secondly, this immune response can trigger autoimmune disease.

Here’s how: Some food proteins closely resemble the protein structure of different organs in the body. If these food proteins leak into the bloodstream and the immune system begins to see these specific-shaped proteins as something it needs to attack, it can mistakenly mount an attack against any similar-shaped proteins in your body, including the proteins that make up your body parts and organs.

For example, it’s been shown that the shape of wheat protein (gluten) closely resembles that of proteins in the thyroid. That’s why gluten intake is highly correlated with Hashimoto’s thyroid autoimmune disease. Subsequently, many people find their thyroid disease goes into remission when they remove gluten from their diet.

Other autoimmune diseases that have been linked with leaky gut include Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, and asthma.

In fact, it’s now been shown that a leaky gut is a prerequisite for an autoimmune condition to develop. That is, no leaky gut = no autoimmune disease.

Additionally, evidence is suggesting that chronic heart failure is also directly linked to the translocation of bacteria and toxins from the intestines into the bloodstream. One study found that “heart failure patients had a 35% increase in small intestinal permeability.”

Increased intestinal permeability is also associated with metabolic dysfunction and weight gain.

Some of the more common, albeit less serious, signs and symptoms of a leaky gut include acne, skin rashes and rosacea, stomachaches, headaches, and fatigue, especially after eating.

Intestinal permeability has been correlated with increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier. That’s why symptoms such as headaches, brain fog, depression, anxiety, and ADD are commonly found in people with a leaky gut.

That why I firmly believe (and many in the scientific community share this opinion) that leaky gut is a major factor in, if not the direct cause of, every major disease and syndrome.

--The Cause

So what causes leaky gut?

Unfortunately, our modern diet and lifestyle are likely directly responsible for the increasing prevalence of this condition.

The biggest contributors include:

  • Consuming wheat, potatoes, paprika and cayenne spices, and alcohol
  • Medications like NSAIDs (ibuprofen and aspirin) as well as some antibiotics
  • Stress, both acute and chronic
  • Even dust mites have been shown to increase permeability!

Sugar and refined carbohydrates can also cause leaky gut by leading to insulin resistance in the gut cells. Then as the gut cells are not able to get the energy they need, they experience mitochondrial dysfunction and eventually die, resulting in holes in the gut lining.

Glyphosate (Roundup) is another big cause of increased intestinal permeability. It acts like an antibiotic, killing off bacteria in the gut and creating dysbiosis. This allows for pathogens that disrupt the tight junctions of the gut to take over

There’s also some indication that genetically modified foods may increase intestinal permeability as well. Specifically, Bt corn. This corn has been modified so that it contains a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis, a type of soil bacteria. This gene produces a protein that acts like a toxin to pests.  When insects eat the corn, the toxin explodes their intestines, causing them to die.

So it makes sense (though it isn’t proven) that Bt corn could have a harmful effect on human intestines as well.

In fact, the food industry can’t even use GMO-fed pig intestines for sausage casings anymore, because they are full of weak spots and holes and tear too easily.

So you can see, our modern-day living full of stress, pesticides, medications, and alcohol creates the perfect storm for the rising prevalence of increased intestinal permeability, and alongside it the rising incidence of ill health and disease.

So what can you do?

The first thing is to simply be aware of this condition. Listen to your body. If you notice symptoms that correlate with meals, you almost surely have some level of intestinal permeability.

And if you have an autoimmune disease or any other condition in this article, you might want to consider taking steps to protect, or repair, your gut integrity.

The first is to limit, as much as possible, the causes of leaky gut. Drop the wheat, potatoes, and spices. Reduce your stress. Reduce or eliminate sugar and alcohol intake, and stop taking OTC painkillers. Avoid pesticides and GMO corn as much as possible. (I know, I know… all of that is much easier said than done. But I’ve gotta say it!)

Then there are some specific nutrients that have been shown to be extremely healing for the intestinal lining and can help protect against and even repair a leaky gut, including bone broth, collagen protein, glutamine, and zinc carnosine. I’ve had success in improving my symptoms by adding all of these to my diet.


Jasmine LeMaster
Health Researcher & Quality Control Manager
Laissez Faire’s Living Well

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