I’ve been studying for my boards the last few weeks. No, I’m not still in med school. Retaking board exams—as well as completing educational credits in the interim—is something every doctor has to do every 10 years to maintain his or her certification. The idea is that we never stop learning—which is so important when you’re in a field where so much changes, so quickly.
One topic that’s not taught in med school (but will be soon, as traditional medicine is finally catching on) is something called “Leaky Gut.” It’s a non-traditional medical approach taught in anti-aging medical programs and it’s a condition I see a lot in my practice at Refresh Wellness. I’d like to spend a little time today talking about this very real, very common disorder.
Q: What exactly is leaky gut?
A: Leaky gut is another poor choice of medical terminology. It is the mechanism by which the body’s stomach lining, which is one-cell thick and extends from anus to brain, becomes disrupted and irritated by food, exposures, reflux and more. When this barrier is broken, the body now “sees” normal food ingestion particles or antigens as foreign. The result is new allergies, food sensitivities, autoimmune problems or metabolism issues to name a few.
Q: What does autoimmune mean?
A: Autoimmune means that your body fights things that are normal, thinking they’re really foreign material.
Q: What causes leaky gut?
A: Leaky gut can be caused by preexisting reflux, food allergies or sensitivities, pesticides or other toxic exposures, underlying asthma, or hormone abnormalities or changes.
Q: Are the causes for autoimmunity the same as leaky gut?
A: Though they are not mutually exclusive, often times autoimmune and leaky gut go together. The reasons above (that cause leaky gut) often create autoimmune phenomenon and the cycle perpetuates each other. Leaky gut gets worse as autoimmunity gets worse and autoimmunity is worse when leaky gut is worse.
Q: What if I have leaky gut? What are my treatment options?
A: Leaky gut is treatable. I like to call it the “eczema of the stomach.” Calming the gut is key and we do that with calming glutamine powder drink preparation, by avoiding the “dirty dozen” food groups, and taking appropriate probiotic and immunoglobulin supplements (I call them oral allergy shots). All help to rebuild the gut lining and blunt the autoimmune response.
Q: How does stress play a role in leaky gut?
A: Stress creates immune overdrive or an increase in acid reflux, which worsens leaky gut and causes brain dysfunction, as it’s the same lining. Inflamed brain is generally caused by gut lining inflammation and not usually the other way around. I like to say, “heal the gut, heal the brain.” Our moms were right, we are what we eat.
Q: Why have I never heard about this before?
A: Unfortunately, leaky gut isn’t taught in med school but the science is real and traditional medicine is finally catching on as is apparent with the decrease in antibiotic use, probiotic recommendations, wide use of gluten free and anti-inflammatory diets as well as alternative gut therapies now relatively common for ADHD, autism, depression, anxiety and other brain dysfunction. As I stated initially, the gut lining goes from anus to brain, which creates a gut-immune-brain reaction.