I first heard the term “Leaky Gut” about 8 years ago, when a friend confided in me that she had been diagnosed with this funky condition.
I thought it sounded disgusting and sort of sci-fi, and I didn’t look into it any further until I was faced with my own diagnosis of MS…and leaky gut.
So what the h&%# is leaky gut, and what does it have to do with MS and autoimmune?
There are 3 things that will happen before you actually develop an autoimmune disease.
1) You have to have a certain genetic predisposition or weakness in a particular area (joints, nerves, intestine, pancreas….). Not much you can do about that.
2) When you are exposed to one or many or repeated environmental trigger(s),your immune system misfires and attacks that weakness, rather than try to eliminate the “trigger” as it would in a healthy person.
Where your weakness lies will determine which autoimmune disease you will develop.
If the predisposed weakness is in the brain, then you develop MS; the joints, rheumatoid arthritis; the pancreas, diabetes; and in the intestine, you develop celiac disease.
For most autoimmune diseases it is still unclear what exactly will trigger an attack or episode, except for celiac where we know it’s definitely the gluten that’s the problem. We have a pretty good idea on the stuff that is likely to trigger the other autoimmune issues (such as stress, antibiotics, yeast, gluten, to name the known causes). I wrote about those in more detail here .
3) You have to have a leaky gut.
Under normal circumstances, the intestine is totally impermeable and has a complex system that works to absorb nutrients from the foods we eat into the bloodstream.
You can think of your intestinal lining’s single layer of cells like a tiled surface held together by a sort of grout that keeps unwanted, undigested food particles, molecules and elements from getting into the bloodstream. Food must be digested all the way down to the most simple particles in order to be allowed to cross the cell wall and eventually into the blood stream.
An immune response occurs if antigens (undigested particles) leak across because the ‘grout’ has been damaged, and the intestinal barrier has been breached resulting in leaky gut. Because your immune system malfunctions when you have an autoimmune disease, it will turn on itself instead of working to eliminate the invader. This is how food intolerances develop too!
Next week… Find out what you can do to maintain and restore a healthy gut.