Leaky Gut- The Cause or the Symptom?

It’s no surprise that a high-powered high monied marketing campaign has led to the resurgence of “leaky gut” as the cause of everything that ails you.

The original concept was helped along by the Paleo movement and by Paleo guru Dr Loren Cordain who is legendary in that community. Dr Cordain kindly took some time out of his busy schedule a few years back to talk to me. It was very enlightening and through him I met Dr. Stefan Lindberg another visionary.

The earlier work of Dr Cordain (once an exercise physiologist) focused on the immune system effects of certain dietary molecules found in grains and other standard food pyramid items. The concepts of anti-nutrients and auto immune diseases are among his contributions. Lately I see the good doctor’s name towards the end of most of the published studies suggesting that he is in a more supervisory role than a primary investigation role. Much of the work that comes out with his name on it now seems to beat up on the other non-Paleo food- milk and milk proteins.

I mention all this in the context of leaky gut because the more you read the more you see 3 things-

  1. There is a big difference between disease and health but often one is generalized to include the other. Examples of this include methylation patterns in diseases being applied to health and the behavior of things like the immune system and dietary molecules in people with Type 2 diabetes of inflammatory bowel diseases being generalized to heathy people.
  2. We really do not have a good definition of normal for many different things. As a corollary anyone interpreting results and trying to generalize them to non studied conditions should be really careful. I consider “healthy” a largely unstudied condition.
  3. Tracking the specific effects of individual nutrients is hard to do accurately and often yields disappointing results and more speculation.

Ok now you have the background of today’s point.

I think the laying of diseases and cures at the feet of “leaky gut” is far to premature to recommend the creation of an entire system of diets, nutrients and supplements. It has long been suggested that as we age our gut leaks because of “chronic low grade inflammation”. There is a well funded marketing machine out there that disagrees with me.

Personally, I have no doubt that the second thing is real- chronic low grade inflammation of the aged.

I am pretty sure I was the first to suggest that senescent cells created by telomere attrition were at least an important source of this progressive problem related to age, via the mechanism of the “senescent activated phenotype” or as DR Mike West calls it- Senstatic Activation. This coupled with other epigenetic events (not just methylation related!!!) probably results in the inflammatory phenotype and its resulted disease and repair-ability burdens we see in many people as they pass through middle age and beyond.

But I am less convinced that this inflammation automatically afflicts our gut as we age unless again UNLESS we have diseases like diabetes type 2 or inflammatory bowel disease which are by definition inflammatory (excess insulin in the early stages of Type 2 is not only unhealthy, it is inflammatory, globally in the body, and specifically at the source of insulin- the Beta islet cells).

This by the way, is the reason I now make a Sugar Balancing Formula. It is to give people a non drug (e.g. non metformin) alternative to the sugar problem that may await you if you ignore it.*

Its also worth mentioning that I cannot think of anything more anti-inflammatory than high potency fish oil especially when you are dealing with the whole body.

But there is one other thing I want to mention and that is the effect of probiotics.

While like so many things I have already mentioned the role of probiotics in the gut health is not fully expanded. But we know for sure that there is a healthy role for bacteria in the gut and we have some idea of what that requires: a pre-biotic, a probiotic and proper protections for both from stomach acid.

This is the main reason I waited so long to throw my hat in the probiotic ring. So much of what has come before was essentially worthless and I knew it.

Not so now!

Finally let me say that though I may change my mind if different or better evidence comes along, the hoopla and resurgence of leaky gut is just that-hype. At this moment I think it is a symptom of other inflammatory conditions that are best treated as I mentioned above not a cause of them (with the possible exception of inflammatory bowel disorders).



Here is a good review that is free to the public:
The gut microbiota and host health: a new clinical frontier

*Please note metformin is a drug that has use in diabetes. I am not suggesting you stop it or use my supplements in favor of it if you have that condition! Failure to specifically tell you this even if it seems obvious may constitute “failure to adequately disclose” information in the eyes of our dear friends at the alphabet agencies. Also note this a very open definition and as far as I know has not clearly defined legally anywhere. In similar fashion I suppose I should tell you that the products above are manufactured by me, otherwise you might not conclude what is obvious, and a “significant minority” of people (again not clearly defined what that means) might not make the painfully obvious conclusion and thus be deceived. If you think this is ridiculous so do I but yes, this is what it is coming to!!!

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