Leaky Gut Syndrome has been receiving a lot of attention lately. It’s a serious and debilitating condition strongly linked to Candida overgrowth, as well as a number of many other digestive disorders such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease.
Leaky Gut Syndrome is also thought to be a cause of certain food sensitivities and allergies. Many people find that their gluten or dairy allergies improve after a successful treatment for Candida.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Very simply, Leaky Gut is the inflammation and weakening of the intestinal walls. The lining of your gut is naturally permeable, as this is how nutrients pass from food into the bloodstream. The term ‘leaky gut’ is actually a case of ‘increased intestinal permeability’, in which various substances are allowed to pass through the intestinal wall.
Although the gut walls are supposed to allow a certain amount of nutrients through into the bloodstream, it’s when the ‘bad stuff’ gets through that we have problems.
Health Conditions Associated With Leaky Gut Syndrome
A number of serious health problems are linked to leaky gut syndrome. Although many aren’t necessarily caused by leaky gut, it’s entirely possible that the instability of the gut lining has led to the development of these conditions.
- Gastric ulcers
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis)
- Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
- Celiac disease
- Esophageal and colorectal cancer
- Frequent infections
- Acute inflammation
- Chronic inflammatory conditions (such as arthritis)
- Thyroid disorders
- Obesity-related metabolic diseases (fatty liver, Type II diabetes, heart disease)
- Autoimmune disease (lupus, multiple sclerosis, Type I diabetes, Hashimoto’s)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
Signs That You Have Leaky Gut Syndrome
If you have any of the following conditions, it’s very possible that some degree of intestinal permeability is to blame.
When your intestines are leaking food particles into your bloodstream, your immune system goes on hyper-alert trying to protect your body from all these ‘foreign invaders’. This means your immune cells are constantly producing various antibodies to fight off the invaders. As a result, your body can become even more susceptible to antigens in certain foods, such as gluten and dairy. Studies have shown that, in children especially, allergy sensitization is higher than in adults and food allergens may increase intestinal mucosal permeability due to weakening of the tight junctions in the intestines, leading to allergies.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Increased gut permeability appears to be a common symptom of those with both irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. It’s also been suggested that those with Crohn’s disease have a higher incidence of also having leaky gut. This may be due to the damaging effects caused by chronic inflammation on the walls of the gut.
Much of the research surrounding the causes of autoimmune diseases has highlighted the effects of a protein called zonulin. Zonulin plays a major role in the function of intercellular tight junctions, particularly in terms of tolerance and immune response. It’s been found that many autoimmune disorders can occur when zonulin pathways are deregulated in those with genetic susceptibility. Foods containing gluten can activate the zonulin signaling pathway whether there is genetic susceptibility or not. This causes the inflammatory cascade that then leads to increased intestinal permeability.
Inflammatory Skin Conditions
Skin problems are a major sign that all is not well in the gut. Acne and psoriasis are particularly linked to intestinal permeability. The skin’s main function is to act as defense system against invading toxins and chemicals. Studies show that inflammation in the intestinal lining can impair the integrity and protective function of this defense barrier. This in turn can reduce the antimicrobial peptides produced in the skin, increasing the severity of infection and inflammation. This link has been termed the ‘gut-skin connection’.
Mood and Behavioral Disorders
Leaky gut has also been linked to certain neurocognitive disorders. Some research has shown that the inflammatory response caused by intestinal hyperpermeability can trigger a release of certain chemicals in the brain such as pro-inflammatory cytokines that may increase the risk of depression. One study in particular reported on the way in which a poorly-functioning immune system and dysbiosis that lead to leaky gut can also result in the production and absorption of neurochemical compounds and/or neurotoxic xenobiotics. Other theories suggest that even autism may be linked to problems in the gut microbiome, particularly during a baby’s first year. In recent years, more and more research is showing a strong association between leaky gut and autism.
What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky gut can occur for a number of reasons, but it is very often the result of a Candida overgrowth or some other form of gut dysbiosis.
Candida albicans is a yeast that lives naturally in the body, usually without causing any trouble. However, when Candida cells adopt their fungal form and begin to grow hyphae – the long branches that grow out of the fungus – they can wreak havoc on the gut. These branches invade the cells in your intestinal lining, creating inflammation and permeating the membrane that prevents harmful substances from leaking out.
If these openings become sufficiently large, they allow all kinds of toxins and undigested food particles to pass from your gut and into your bloodstream. The immune cells in your blood quickly identify these particles as foreign substances – simply because they’re not meant to be there! As a result, these immune cells alert the ‘headquarters’ that there’s a foreign invader in the body. Your immune system responds by acting to neutralize what it perceives to be a threat to your health. It does this by ‘attacking’ the invader – which can lead to massive inflammation and damage to the surrounding tissues. While this is meant to protect you, it also causes systemic inflammation.
One of the most amazing capabilities of your immune system is the way that it remembers infections. That’s why you only get chicken pox once! However, once your immune system has neutralized and eliminated those “invading” particles in your blood, it remembers exactly what they were. This means that the next time you eat that food, you might find that your body (specifically your immune system) has a reaction to it. This is the underlying cause behind many food allergies.
You can see why the health of your intestinal lining is so important! Maintaining the health of this defense barrier is one of the goals of any good Candida treatment plan. In our Candida program we have included lists of foods and supplements that are designed to promote a healthy intestinal wall – both to prevent and repair damage.
How To Avoid Triggers For Leaky Gut Syndrome
Following the Candida diet means you’ll be avoiding many of the inflammatory, gut-weakening foods that can lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome. These are some of the major causes of the inflammatory response:
Foods That Cause Inflammation (Avoid These!)
- Processed foods (or those with contain additives, preservatives, and other man-made ingredients)
- Gluten. Some glutenous grains may worsen intestinal permeability. Switch to grains such as buckwheat, millet or quinoa, or consider dropping grains from your diet entirely.
- Corn (very difficult for the gut to break down)
- Coffee and caffeinated products
- Unfermented soy
- Highly processed vegetable oils (sunflower, safflower, canola)
- Refined sugar and carbohydrates
- Non-organic animal products
While we can’t always avoid stress completely, we can minimize its effect on our life. Some easy stress-relieving techniques include yoga and meditation. Just 15 minutes of meditation a day can help to switch your body from ‘fight or flight’ mode to ‘rest and digest’ mode, which activates healthy repair functions. Regular daily exercise also helps to relieve stress – even if it’s just a brisk walk.
Poor Gut Bacteria
Too much bad bacteria in the gut can lead to dysbiosis, which in turn can increase your risk of Candida. Probiotics are essential for restoring the balance of good bacteria in the gut, and are also shown to strengthen the gut lining against leaky gut. Take a quality probiotic supplement and/or add fermented foods to your diet such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi and natural yogurt. Try to avoid foods that claim to have probiotics but actually contain a lot of sugar.
Our air, food, skin products and even water can be filled with chemicals and pollutants. All of these things have to be filtered out by our body’s detoxification pathways (the liver and the skin). If these become clogged, more toxins build up – triggering more inflammation in the body. Although you can’t dodge all toxins, you can give your body a helping hand by drinking pure, filtered water, using only organic/natural skin care products and eating organic foods.
Three Steps To Heal Your Leaky Gut
When trying to heal an inflamed, damaged gut, the Candida diet is the best place to start. By adding a few gut-healing foods such as probiotics, and taking time out to ‘de-stress’, you’re on your way to fully repairing your intestinal lining.
Here are the steps to follow for improved gut health and recovery from leaky gut:
1. Remove the foods and lifestyle factors that damaged your gut lining
Healing can only begin when you cut out the inflammatory foods mentioned above (especially sugar and alcohol!) and be sure to include a gentle source of fiber in your diet. If it’s not possible to eat only organic foods, at least try to ‘eat local’ and reduce the amount of artificial additives in your diet.
Replace inflammatory foods with healing foods and supplements that will repair your gut. An anti-inflammatory diet is highly recommended.
2. Repair the gut lining with research-based supplements such as L-glutamine
One of the most important nutrients for healing leaky gut is L-glutamine. L-glutamine is an amino acid and one of the preferred energy sources used by cells lining the gut. When L-glutamine is absorbed by these cells, production of Immunoglobulin Type A is increased, boosting the defense system of the cells. L-glutamine also helps in the repair and integrity of the ‘tight junctions’ in the gut lining, reducing permeability.
L-glutamine can be highly beneficial to not only those with leaky gut but with IBS or inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions. A study published in the journal of Clinical Immunology showed that L-glutamine can help to modulate the effects of the specific immune cells (TH1 and TH2) that stimulate inflammatory cytokines. This in turn can reduce intestinal inflammation and reduce the reaction caused by food sensitivities.
Many nutritionists now recommend L-glutamine as an essential part of the daily diet. Good sources include bone broth (homemade is best) and supplements.
3. Restore the gut microbiome with probiotics.
Healthy intestinal microbiota are a major factor in the proper functioning of the intestinal barrier. These ‘friendly bacteria’ help to ward off harmful or pathogenic bacteria species and prevent them from colonizing the gut. They also help in the digestion and absorption of nutrients and in supplying epithelial cells with energy.
As your Candida clears up, you should find that your Leaky Gut Syndrome repairs itself too. The Ultimate Candida Diet program contains lots of advice on repairing your gut and avoiding inflammatory foods. Get started today!