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Home > Nutrition Therapy > The Gut-Brain Connection

The Gut-Brain Connection

The Gut-Brain Connection

Leaky Gut Syndrome or Hyperpermeability

Leaky gut is a surprisingly common problem. The definition of Leaky Gut Syndrome involves the digestive tract which has tiny porous openings between the cells (called tight junctions) so that nutrients can be absorbed from our food. If the porelike structures open too wide, toxins from the gut can flood into the bloodstream, overwhelming the liver and causing allergies or any of dozens of other ailments. This is known as hyperpermeability because the lining has become too permeable (porous). It’s also called leaky gut syndrome because the gut begins leaking larger food particles and toxins from the gut. Normally all these pores in the gut lining open and close whenever nutrients are absorbed from our food. It’s only when the pores open too wide that leaky gut is said to occur.  The molecules of food and toxins “leaked” through the GI lining may eventually affect systems throughout the body by aggravating inflammation in the joints, triggering food sensitivities, causing “brain fog” or hyperactivity.

Managing hyperpermeability is definitely preventive medicine. Reducing this toxic load on the liver and the body can prevent illness or improve its outcome. Leaky gut is an example of a general process that can lead to disease, rather than being a specific disorder. This condition is far more typical than many healthcare professionals realize and is often overlooked. Resolving hyperpermeability can produce very real benefits.

Leaky gut (or hyperpermeability) is associated with a wide range of general symptoms, such as fatigue, bloating, diarrhea, feelings of toxicity, memory problems and difficulty with concentration and poor tolerance of exercise.

Hyperpermeability can be a causal factor in:

·        Attention deficit disorders

·        Symptoms resembling autism

·        Food allergies and intolerances

·        Malnutrition

·        Multiple chemical sensitivities

Certain conditions trigger leaky gut and then are made worse as oversized molecules seep into the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. These include:

·        Allergies – Food sensitivity can induce leaky gut. The offending food stimulates an allergic reaction in the gut lining that increases permeability. The leaky gut then allows the passage of additional oversized macromolecules that the immune systems perceives as invaders and are tagged “different”. This causes additional aggravation of the leak in the gut lining and further allergic responses. Unless the vicious cycle in interrupted by avoiding the offending food or blocking the allergic reaction, the process will continue to tax the reserves and the functions of the liver, the immune system, and GI tract.

·        Overgrowth – When potentially harmful flora take over leaky gut can occur, allowing bacteria and bacterial fragments across the small intestinal lining. This can overstimulate the immune system and further aggravating the leak. Clearing the overgrowth can break the cycle by removing the bacteria that are translocating across the gut lining. It’s also important to increase the beneficial flora, stopping the immune reaction. Overgrowth of Candida albicans is sometimes a factor in ADD and autism. The candida overgrowth and other species of yeast, particularly in children, is due to overuse of antibiotics and sugar in their diet, and can lead to the formation in the gut of abnormal organic acids, which are neurotoxic and have been associated with both attention deficit disorders and autism.

·        Digestive System Overload – consequences to the central nervous system and brain function, attention deficit disorder, difficulty with concentration and memory, coordination, headaches

A number of brain conditions have been linked to increased permeability. The elevated toxins that leak into the system from hyperpermeability can produce symptoms that range from spaciness and brain fog to attention deficit disorder. Many children with ADHD have increased gut permeability. In the most extreme hyperpermeability can cause disorientation resembling autism. In some cases these disorders are also linked to specific food sensitivities such as gluten intolerance. And a number of stresses can be affecting neurotransmitter production, and specific allergies may directly affect the nervous system as well. Recent research links some allergic responses with brain chemistry and reactions in the receptor sites.

The 4R Support Program

A comprehensive approach to normalizing gastrointestinal function is referred to as the “4Rs”, involves four basic steps: Remove, Replace, Restore, and Repair.

“Remove” focuses on eliminating the pathogenic bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, allergens, and toxins from the gastrointestinal tract.

“Replace” replenishes enzymes, hydrochloric acid (HCI), or intrinsic factor (B12).

“Restore” refers to restoring the beneficial bacteria that are commonly found in a normal digestive system that may be missing from a dysfunctional one. It is an important step in restoring healthy function to the gut. A variety of supplemental resources may be considered helpful in this phase, including cultured and fermented foods and supplements containing live beneficial bacteria.

“Repair” addresses intestinal permeability through the use of nutritional supplements known to be critical in intestinal function.

·        Nutrients used to heal the GI mucosa: vitamins A and C, B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyrodixine), the amino acid L-glutamine, and the mineral zinc

·        Support the immune functions of the GI tract with vitamin A to nourish antibody production

·        Continue to avoid allergens and irritants and foods that trigger allergies such as dairy products and wheat

Nutritional therapy is especially useful in managing chronic conditions on a day-to-day basis. Nutrition offers the opportunity to strengthen the body by replenishing depleted resources. In this approach I use the same raw materials that the body uses:

·        Foods

·        Vitamins

·        Minerals

·        Amino acids

·        Flora

·        Fiber

·        Water

 

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