Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome is a phenomenon that may, or may not, actually exist. The theory is that things (such as antibiotics, infections, and inflammation) can damage the cells that line the intestines and weaken the “tight junctions” between the cells. This causes there to be small gaps between the cells and, thus, particles that the cells would normally prevent from entering the bloodstream get through. This, in turn, causes the body to mount an immune reaction against these particles which are viewed as foreign invaders.
A leaky gut has been implicated by various nutritionists as one of the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome — another syndrome about which little is known with certainty.
Wikipedia.org has a concise explanation of leaky gut syndrome. Most interest has been about its relation to autism, but that is not my focus here.
It is my own personal theory that allergy tests that measure immunoglobulin G (IgG), and find that someone is “allergic” to a host of different foods, are sometimes merely uncovering a leaky gut in someone who is not actually allergic to all or most of those foods.
So what does the research say? Not much. There has been very little published on leaky gut syndrome. I could find only one clinical trial (1).
The purpose of this trial was to see if they could get immunoglobulin A (IgA) and M (IgM) levels to go down in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. To do this, they used a dietary regimen, but their purpose was not to actually test this regimen, and they, therefore, give very few details about it; they merely say:
“All patients followed the leaky gut diet and took glutamine, zinc and [N-acetyl-L-cysteine], in combination with other [natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidative substances], which were given according to the immune and biochemical status of the patients, i.e. L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10, taurine and lipoic acid (in case of carnitine and/or coenzyme Q10 shortage); or curcumine and quercitine (in case of systemic or intracellular inflammation).”
They described their “leaky gut diet” as a dairy and gluten-free, low-carbohydrate diet.
Their study found that some people’s IgA and IgM levels were reduced on this regimen. They also found that a younger age at onset of chronic fatigue, a shorter duration of illness, and a younger age of the patient led to a better outcome.
It’s important to note that there was no control group and so it could be that patients were merely responding to the care and attention they were receiving or from a placebo effect.
This blog post is just to get something started on the subject. As more research comes out, I will post updates.
1. Maes M, Leunis JC. Normalization of leaky gut in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is accompanied by a clinical improvement: effects of age, duration of illness and the translocation of LPS from gram-negative bacteria. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2008 Dec;29(6):902-10.