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Leaky Gut

Leaky Gut Cat iconIt sounds awful, and microscopically it is. It's one of the reasons many of us become gluten-intolerant. So just what is leaky gut?

Leaky gut is still somewhat of a mystery, but simply put, it's when "something" has created microscopic holes in your digestive tract (stomach, intestines, etc) thereby allowing undigested proteins to enter the bloodstream where they become the enemy. Your body thinks of this undigested matter as a foreign invader and attacks it as such, creating antibodies against this new substance. When that happens, you become allergic to whatever has leaked through your system undigested. Among other items, gluten is one of the more common allergies or sensitivities developed this way.

You can test leaky gut through several methods recommended by a doctor. My doctor recommended an antibodies and antigen blood test. When my test came back, my doctor said that my results lit up like a Christmas tree. That's because I had leaky gut and I was becoming allergic to all sorts of food types like gluten - not good, especially if you want to be able eat the rest of your life.

For more information, see WebMD's Digestive Health Center

So you might be asking yourself, how in the world does someone get leaky gut and how do I prevent it? This is a big topic, but I'll try to be brief and give you some other research material in case your interested in delving into this matter further.

There's almost always an underlying issue that creates this problem. For some, they have a condition known as Celiac Disease that causes the problem where their body can't handle even a speck of gluten. This can be quite severe and most likely requires medical attention and guidance, as well as complete avoidance of all things that might contain even an extremely small amount of gluten.

Many of the causes of leaky gut can start with pathogens such as Heliobacter Pylori (H. Pylori for short), Parasites, or Candida overgrowth. NSAIDs can also pose a problem.

Heliobacter Pylori (H. Pylori)

It's estimated that over 50% of the world population has H. Pylori, a tiny micro-organism that can cause gastrointestinal problems, in their gut. It's more prevalent in developing countries, but just because you live in the US doesn't mean you are safe. It's estimated that around 1 in 4 people in the US have H. Pylori right now.

H. Pylori doesn't cause problems for many of the people that have it because their immune system is able to take care of it without any side-effects. However, if your immune system gets overloaded with sickness, other pathogens, or if the H. Pylori in your gut has grown uncontested then your body could start experiencing a leaky gut problem.

H. Pylori likes to live in the stomach where it will bury itself into your stomach lining, protecting itself from the harsh acidic environment in which it lives.

H. Pylori can be transmitted by saliva or by fecal contamination of food or water. Even the cleanest person in the world can get H. Pylori, so don't think just because you are OCD that you can't get it. Many people get it when they have food prepared for them, or in unsanitary water conditions.

H. Pylori can cause chronic gastritis, inflammation of the stomach lining, stomach ulcers, and even stomach cancer. In 1982 researchers found that its presence in the gut was correlated with stomach ulcers, and researchers have since concluded that it is H. Pylori, not stress that is the primary cause of ulcers. No doubt, stress creates a system where your immune system might be compromised, giving room for the H. Pylori to flourish.

Tests for this organism include a breath test, a blood test (not as accurate), and a stool test. One advantage of the stool test is that it is supposed to be the most accurate test, and it enables you to test for other pathogens as well as the make-up of your gut flora to see if you are well-balanced with good bacteria.

Once H. Pylori is found, and with the presence of gastrointestinal problems, most doctors will recommend eradicating it with a therapy of a couple of types of antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors (acid reducers), and beneficial bacteria or probiotics. Alternative therapies are available that you may want to try before fire-bombing your system with powerful antibiotics. Antibiotics can cause antibiotic-resistant strains of many organisms, including H. Pylori, as well as cause Candida overgrowth. I'm not a doctor, but everything I have researched has come to the same conclusion that you should only use antibiotics as a last resort.

In my case, H. Pylori was found in my system, and the doctor recommended getting rid of it to help prevent some of my stomach issues. She didn't go the normal route with antibiotics, which as I've said above can cause Candida overgrowth, but I was put on a regimen of brocolli seed extract. Sounds quite alternative, but there is apparently quite a bit of scientific research behind it, and it seemed to work for me. In my case, subsequent tests determined there was no H. Pylori after the month-long brocolli seed extract dosage.

Lastly, research has determined that Bismuth (found in Pepto Bismol) will help kill off H. Pylori to a degree. That doesn't mean you can take a shot full of Pepto every night and be done, because the concentrations to eradicate will be much higher than you can get over the counter. But that explains at least part of the reason that many people with gastric problems find relief when taking Pepto. Maybe it helps keep the H. Pylori population down and allows your stomach to recover somewhat before your gut becomes overgrown again with H. Pylori. And don't overdo the Pepto because that will cause a whole set of other problems.

Common over the counter treatments for H. Pylori include: Brocolli seed extract, bismuth (Pepto-Bismol), raw and unpasteurized Manuka Honey (honey from the tea tree plant), Mastic gum (a tree resin that comes in pill form), vitamin C, grapefruit seed extract, Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL - called the lining tamer - get it? - to promote healing of the stomach lining), Monolaurin, and Magnesium.

For more information, see:
H. Pylori on Wikipedia
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
Arizona College of Public Health's H. Pylori Transmission


It's estimated that 30% of the US population and 90% of the world population has some sort of parasite (microscopic or not) in their digestive tract. They can be as little as a single cell amoeba or they can be as big as a foot-long tape worm running down your small intestine. Bigger doesn't necessarily mean worse, but at any size parasites can cause all sorts of problems, especially digestive. It's important to rule them out if you are having digestive problems you can't overcome. Plus, just like H. Pylori, parasites can cause inflammation of the gut lining, perforate the digestive tract and can be a cause of leaky gut.

Parasites have been on this earth for millions of years and are everywhere, so it is almost impossible not to unknowingly come across them, no matter how clean you are. The key is the keep your digestive tract healthy, and a healthy body and digestive tract can help eradicate any parasites that may enter your system.

If you have some yet undiagnosed condition and possibly have traveled quite a bit, it's worth looking into parasites as a cause, or at least a factor. The best method for detection is with a stool test that you should be able to get through your doctor.

Treatments vary considerably, but for most common parasites there are drugs and over the counter combinations that can help eradicate them. Various over the counter or nutritional substances to help eradicate them include: Parasitin, Dr. Clark's Parasite Cleanse, raw pumpkin seeds, green Black Walnut Hull (can get in pill form), Wormwood (there's a reason it is called this), Clove (in pill form), Pau D'Arco Powder, cayenne pepper, and others.

For more information, see Wikipedia on Intestinal Parasites


Everyone in the world has candida (yeast germs) in their gut. The question is, is there candida overgrowth that leads to a condition known as Candidiasis? Many women experience yeast infections, and that's part of it, but the candida overgrowth we are talking about is in the digestive tract. An overgrowth of candida can create all sorts of problems for you including leaky gut.

Your gut has both beneficial bacteria and bad bacteria. The hope is that you have more beneficial bacteria to help keep the bad bacteria in check. Some people's problem starts weeks or even months after they have taken a heavy dose of antibiotics. Other than the possible side-effects, the main problem with antibiotics is that it indiscriminately clear-cuts your gut's microbial forest, killing both the good and the bad bacteria. When you clear-cut all of the beneficial bacteria in your gut, you then give a much better chance for the bad guys to take over. If you've taken antibiotics for any length of time, candida overgrowth could be a problem for you.

Yeast germs live and thrive on sugar, so when you eat the typical western diet full of starches and simple sugars (even fruit juice), you end up feeding the yeast germs and they could eventually outnumber the good bacteria in your system that usually keeps it in check. The yeast germs develop tiny spikes on them and can perforate your digestive lining leading to leaky gut.

Yeast overgrowth can cause all sorts of other problems like lethargy, mental fog, food sensitivities and more. Some people even have symptoms of being a little tipsy and not being able to concentrate. Why? If you think about how beer is made, you combine yeast cultures with lots of sugars and your by-product is alcohol. So when you have an abundance of yeast in your gut, and then you eat a typical starchy and sugary western diet, you are feeding the yeast and the by-product is alcohol inside of your digestive system. Some people are actually getting somewhat drunk from the inside, depending on the severity of their condition. Bizarre, but absolutely true.

Many doctors don't seem to think that candida is a big deal since everyone has it in their gut, but it's worth investigating if you are having problems you can't seem to get rid of — and there is plenty of scientific evidence to back it up. A great source of information is Dr. Crook's (what a name) book entitled, "The Yeast Connection." It describes in detail what Candida can do to you and how to get rid of it with a fairly strict diet. You can pick up the book at Amazon here: See details on the book here.

There are stool tests that can help test for candidiasis, although I have heard that many of them may be inconclusive. It's best to speak to your doctor if you think there is a problem, and hopefully your doctor understands the potential problem.

A common method of keeping candida overgrowth at bay is to avoid simple sugars and carbs (e.g. soda, pasta, white breads, etc.), as well as fruits and fruit juices. And take a good probiotic (in addition to any yogurt or kefir you are taking), especially after you take antibiotics or have surgery where antibiotics will most likely be used. And since it could take awhile to get rid of the problem, you may have to stick with a low sugar diet for a long time — even years.

For more information, see: Candida Albicans on Wikipedia

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID)

Other times, it may be the overuse of pain relief drugs that tend to be harsh on the digestive lining, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). These over-the-counter drugs include: Aspirin (Bufferin, Bayer, and Excedrin), Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin), Ketoprofen (Actron, Orudis), and Naproxen (Aleve). Other NSAIDs are available by prescription which include: Daypro, Indocin, Lodine, Naprosyn, Relafen, Vimovo, and Voltare. If these are taken often and over a period of time, they can damage the lining of the stomach, sometimes perforating the digestive tract, or weakening the digestive lining making it easier for pathogens to create leaky gut. Chronic conditions can also lead to anemia.

Leaky gut is a real problem for many people, but there's usually an underlying problem that creates the condition, whether it be Celiac disease, H. Pylori, Parasites, Candidiasis, or NSAIDs.

Having a very healthy lifestyle helps combat the problem to a degree and prevents further problems. Getting enough exercise, adequate rest, drinking plenty of water, limiting or avoiding simple sugars and carbs, limiting your intake of drugs like NSAIDs, washing produce thoroughly, cooking meats thoroughly, washing your hands after you have used the restroom, and washing before you eat all go a long way in helping your body cope with the problem and preventing further problems. Also, taking an over-the-counter supplement called L-Glutamine has been shown to help repair the stomach lining over time.

As always, if you are having acute or chronic digestive issues, a trip to your doctor is warranted.

I hope this article helps you in finding relief, and Good Luck!