Intestinal hyperpermeability, or “Leaky Gut” results from a damaged lining of the small intestine. This can cause undigested bits of food, toxins and bacteria to “seep” through the digestive track and straight into the blood stream. These objects entering the bloodstream cause an autoimmune response in the body and can lead to hormone imbalances and a weakened immune system because the damaged intestines cannot produce the necessary enzymes for proper digestive function.

Leaky gut occurs when the tight junctions in your intestines become too loose. Although the most common culprit of leaky gut is gluten, several factors are thought to contribute to this condition including toxins in the foods we eat, chemicals, medications, and bacterial infections. Symptoms of a leaky gut can include inflammatory and allergic reactions like migraines, irritable bowel, eczema, psoriasis, chronic fatigue, food allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and more.


A recent study published in Frontiers in Immunology showed a connection between multiple diseases and intestinal barrier dysfunction including Alzheimer’s disease, ALD, cancer, and several autoimmune disorders like Type 1 Diabetes, Lupus, Hashimoto’s or Grave’s Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hepatitis and others.


Once the damage has been done to the intestinal wall, various foreign bodies are pouring into the blood stream including bacteria, toxins, viruses and even tiny pieces of food. The immune system creates inflammation in an effort to fight off the perceived threat. Without treatment, more and more toxins enter the blood and eventually the immune system gets overworked and starts to work less efficiently, targeting healthy tissue cells because of molecular mimicry, or mistaking healthy cells for foreign substances.

Which autoimmune disorder is developed largely depends on what cells are being targeted. For example, if the immune system turns on the thyroid gland, the patient will likely develop Grave’s disease, or Hashimoto’s. Unfortunately, many physicians will focus on treating the symptoms of the auto-immune disorder and over look what might be causing it. Leaving the source, leaky gut, untreated can cause the auto-immune disease to progress, or even cause the patient to develop a secondary auto-immune disorder as the immune system locates a new target.


Conventional medicine tells us autoimmune diseases are irreversible and those diagnosed with the disease will need medication to manage the symptoms and suppress the immune response. Unfortunately, many of these pharmaceutical medications cause troublesome side effects which include depression, fatigue, weight gain, increased risk for infection, and even suppress the body’s ability to fight cancer.

While treating the symptoms of the auto-immune disorder, functional medicine takes necessary steps to restore the gastrointestinal system back to optimal health as well. By effectively treating leaky gut, many patients have been able to reverse autoimmunity and restore their health. With a treatment path which includes healing the lining of the GI tract, the integrity of the intestinal wall can be restored, and the immune system can return to normal functionality.


A few of the things you and your functional medicine practitioner may do to combat leaky gut syndrome include:

· Starting a Journal – understanding what you eat and how it is affecting your digestive is the first step. Being honest will help your physician start to pinpoint the root cause.

· Process of Elimination – through a set process, you might start removing causing irritants like alcohol, NSAIDs, sugar, diary, gluten, and artificial ingredients and preservatives.

· Dietary Changes – your physician will likely help you develop a diet plan including whole foods, non-starchy vegetables and lean proteins. Omega-3 fatty acids can help calm inflammation and improve tight junctions in the gut.

· Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes – supplementing your digestive system can help digestion start to perform better.

If you suffer from an autoimmune disorder and would like to learn more about how restoring gut health may help you reduce or completely reverse the effects of the disease, schedule an appointment today!

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