Friday Author: Seth Kaplan
[As always, I am not diagnosing, prescribing, or selling cures to anything. What I write about is information that I have learned over many years of personal research and conversations with others.]
Remember Mom telling you to chew your food before swallowing? Well, she was right. We all know people who bolt their food without bothering to taste it or give the enzymes in their mouth time to begin digestion. So, next time you order that medium-rare T-bone, make sure you savor each bite by chewing it at least 20 times before swallowing.
Why? Because chewing your food well prevents leaky gut and that’s more important than you realize.
Leaky gut occurs when the impermeable cellular layer inside your small intestine becomes permeable. This allows toxins, bacteria, viruses, and undigested food pass into your body. Even your doctor finds leaky gut difficult to diagnose. If you do not learn about this condition, you will not be able to ask intelligent questions when the doctor examines you. Doctors will often treat the symptoms of leaky gut—the physical manifestations of an “invisible” cause—instead of the real cause. That usually means antacids, prescription medications and, in severe cases, surgery.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
Chewing your food well gives saliva time to act as a lubricant. It also lets the enzymes in saliva start the digestive process:
- Amylase, which breaks down starches in your food;
- Lysozyme, which breaks down the polysaccharides in the cell walls of any bacteria that may be in your food
- Lipase, which helps to digest fats; and
- Kallikrein, a group of protein-digesting proteases, whose specific job is to create bradykinin, a protein that helps blood vessels dilate.
There are, of course, many other forces that can lead to leaky gut. It is a long list, including stress, alcohol, caffeine, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Nsaids), antacids, environmental toxins, Candida and other overgrowths. Suffice it to say that our body’s systems are often sensitive to any sort of disruption.
Four specific factors that can lead to leaky gut include food allergies and sensitivities, malnutrition (often caused by a floral imbalance in the gut that prevents nutrient absorption; e.g., Vitamin B12), dysbiosis, and hepatic stress.
Signs and Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Once the “bad guys” escape through the now-porous gut lining, they can go anywhere in the body. The body’s defense systems see these “foreign” cells as invaders and attacks them, causing one or several autoimmune diseases. Again, it is a long list: Lupus, arthritis, psoriasis (one doc told me that 95% of all psoriasis is caused by leaky gut), Crohn’s, and many others. Symptoms of these can range from fatigue, joint and/or muscle pain to fever, skin rashes, and breathing problems.
Testing and Treatment
Your doctor may order a comprehensive stool analysis (although this approach has both false positives and negatives), a food sensitivity test, or an intestinal permeability test. Even with these approaches, making a diagnosis of leaky gut is subtle. However, once a diagnosis is made, the doctor may recommend the following:
- A balance of soluble and insoluble fiber
- Beneficial bacteria
- Digestive enzymes
- Essential fatty acids (EFAs) in the proper ratios
- Dietary supplements like a high-potency multivitamin/mineral, Vitamin D3, and an antioxidant formulation
- L-glutamine powder with gamma oryzanol
The Bottom Line
Since the gut contains 70-80% of your immune system, taking good care of it make sense. Cut back on or eliminate Nsaid use, alcohol, and caffeine. Get a thorough physical to eliminate things like lactose intolerance (which many people of Eastern European descent have) and parasitic infection. Your internist or GI doc will help in this regard. Make a list of questions or concerns to bring with you to the exam. Write down the answers.
And, of course, remember: Grandma was right about cod liver oil and drinking warm milk before bedtime. And Mom also knew that thoroughly chewing your food would help keep disease from your door.