Leaky Gut Syndrome: Part 2

After my post about Leaky Gut Syndrome, I had an interesting exchange with a reader:

“Did you, by any chance, read this article in the August issue of Scientific American, concerning celiac disease and leaky gut?

“Later in the article, it is mentioned that the medical profession had treated the concept of leaky gut with skepticism, but now it is known that there is such a thing, and how zonulin can change the permeability of the small intestine.

“Concerning my own history, which may be relevant, I have a long history of inhalant and food allergies; took allergy shots for 40 years. Since 9 months ago, when my doctor put me on the following regimen, I have been virtually allergy free for the first time in memory, not only to foods, but to inhalants like pollen, dust, mold, etc., and was able to quit the allergy shots – which weren’t doing that much good anyway. Also, I have not experienced any asthma attacks during the past 9 months (which is unusual). My whole life has been spent with a Kleenex in hand because of a constant nasal drip, but not anymore!

“The regimen is prescription enzymes, Pancrelipase 20000 3 x day, plus HCL (650 mg) with every meal (3 to 5 caps depending on size of meal). You start out with 1 HCL and then work up gradually to determine your limit because you don’t want to overdose and burn your stomach. Unfortunately, the enzymes are not vegan. [Note: “Pancrelipase” sounds like it would only digest fat, but it also contains enzymes to digest protein and carbohydrate.]

“The whole point I find interesting is how my chronic allergies could be so tied to poor digestion, and possibly a leaky gut – which I was told I had by alternative therapists in the 60’s and 70’s. The “real” docs just put me on allergy shots.

“Also, my main food allergies were dairy and eggs (found by RAST test done by “real” doctor) and were making me constantly ill, so I gave them up. It was so easy to become vegan after that.

“It’s a shame about the animal source enzymes, probably the only non-vegan thing I’m doing though – except for feeding my cats meat (yuck!).

“One other thing about the enzymes and HCL: For a long time I thought I was gluten intolerant because of digestive problems (bloating, gas) whenever I ate wheat. Now, gluten products don’t bother me at all! So I wonder if a lot of the gluten intolerance craze is really a problem with poor digestion?

“The HCL alone works for digestion, but the digestive enzymes seem to be crucial in reducing allergic inflammation, like stuffy sinuses, asthma, runny nose, etc. None of the plant enzymes I have tried are as powerful.

“I started taking the prescription pancreatic enzymes 1 week before I started the HCL regimen. My head cleared up immediately upon taking the first enzyme capsule, and stayed clear, with no more nasal drip. It appears that I no longer have any inhalant allergies. I feel wonderful and more energetic because I can finally breathe. I’ve had no asthma or any other allergic symptoms during this time. It’s unbelievable considering my vast allergy history.

“All the plant enzymes I have tried before would cause my head to clear up for just a minute or two on a few occasions, but did not have lasting effects on my usual allergies. I have not yet experimented with megadoses of plant enzymes, however – so that might be something to try in the future.

“I was shocked to find that I can take as many as 7 HCL capsules during a large meal with no burning at all! That must mean I produce almost no HCL. My husband, on the other hand, experiences burning with even 1 capsule – so his HCL level is apparently normal. It’s very important to start with only 1 capsule and then work up, because you could do some serious damage with HCL. [Note to readers: You should only use HCL under the guidance of a physician.]

“Since being on both of these supplements, I seem to be digesting everything better and no longer worry about gluten or any other foods except [a couple brands of soy ice cream].

“Unfortunately, here is another glitch. I take Solaray Betaine HCL with Pepsin 650 mg. From what I can tell, the pepsin is not vegan either – darn! I don’t know if the HCL alone (if you can find it) would be as effective. More and more, I like VO’s stated philosophy of not sweating small non-vegan ingredients. Surely, if we are all vegan in the future, pancreatic enzymes, lipase, and pepsin will be able to be humanely synthesized.”


The article referred to above from Scientific American suggests that many autoimmune disorders might be triggered by an underlying case of celiac disease and/or a leaky gut. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by eating gluten and related proteins in some grains. The article says that about 1% of people have celiac disease, although most do not know it.

Zonulin is a protein that is released by intestinal cells and causes the gaps between intestinal cells to be more permeable and allow undigested proteins to seep through, where an immune response will be mounted against them. Many people with autoimmune diseases have unusually high levels of zonulin and high intestinal permeability. In cases of celiac disease, gluten causes an increase in zonulin.

Alvine Pharmaceuticals is in the process of creating digestive enzymes that break down gluten fragments that are normally resistant to digestion. I do not know if they could be considered vegan.

The author of the Scientific American article, Alessio Fasano, co-founded Alba Therapeutics which is working on a drug, Larazotide, that inhibits zonulin. They are currently conducting clinical trials.

2 Responses to “Leaky Gut Syndrome: Part 2”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Dear Jack Norris,
    This is a very interesting post to me, as this person seems to have experienced problems similar to my own. I’ve had a chiropractor and a natropath suggest I didn’t have enough HCl, and I’ve had MDs put me on acid *reducers* for the same symptoms. Talking with the MDs I’ve learned that the idea of low HCl is somewhat controversial in the medical community and few gastroentrologists take that idea seriously. What’s your assessment as a nutritionist/dietitian?
    p.s. Thanks for your blog and your great website.

  2. Jack Norris RD Says:

    I tend to think that low stomach acid is a problem for some people. A quick Google search did not bring up anything from a mainstream medical source, but I was already aware of this information from the National Academy of Sciences’ Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline (1998):

    “Because 10 to 30 percent of people older than 50 years are estimated to have atrophic gastritis with low stomach acid secretion (Andrews et al., 1967; Hurwitz et al, 1997; Johnsen et al., 1991; Krasinski et al., 1986), they may have decreased bioavailability of B12 from food.”

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