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If you think you may have leaky gut or suffer from digestive health issues, please give Dr. Heintze a call today (425) 686-4498 for a health evaluation and consultation.

Leaky gut (aka intestinal permeability) is just that: a leaky digestive tract. After we eat food, it is broken down, and as it passes down our digestive tract and through our small intestine, key nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream by passing through the cells that line our digestive tract. One of the central functions of these intestinal cells is to tightly control what particles and antigens cross from the digestive tract into the bloodstream. The cells are held together by tight junctions. Think of these junctions as closely knit cheesecloth that allows small particles to get through but keeps out big particles.

Intestinal permeability refers to the loss of functioning or relaxation of the junctions that bind the cells lining the intestinal epithelium. The intestinal cells need the tight junctions to keep certain proteins from getting out of the digestive tract into the bloodstream.

Two things that can weaken the tight junctions and lead to leaky gut (i.e., letting some big particles through the cloth) are gluten and bacteria. These substances loosen up and open the tight junctions by the release of a protein called zonulin, making it easier for food particles, proteins, or other things to pass from the small intestine into the bloodstream. Zonulin loosens the tight junctions mostly as a protective mechanism for our body. For example, if there is a pathological bacterium in our small intestine, zonulin is released, triggering the tight junctions to loosen so water can enter the gut, flush out the bacteria, and destroy it in the blood.

The release of zonulin sets forth a cascade of reactions leading to intestinal permeability. Although this mechanism is great for protecting the body, constant loosening of the tight junctions in the small intestine creates an environment of persistent intestinal permeability that can increase the chance of food intolerance and may even open the door to autoimmunity. Leaky gut has been linked to several diseases, including celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, IBS, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

How to heal leaky gut

Treatment for leaky gut is very similar to treatment for IBS: remove triggers, repair damage, and reintroduce good bacteria. There are several therapies for healing the digestive tract and strengthening the tight junctions. One of these is quercetin, a flavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables, such as onions and apples. Quercetin has been found to support the integrity of the tight junctions by inhibiting the cascade that opens the tight junction bonds. Another dietary addition that can promote healing and integrity of the gut is bone broth. Bone broth soup is loaded with amino acids such as glycine, and it also provides collagen to help heal and replenish the damaged intestinal cells. Just as with IBS, probiotics, L‐glutamine, and stress management can help to heal the gut.

If you have questions about your health, please give Dr. Heintze a call today (425) 686-4498 for a health evaluation and consultation.

Dr. Heintze at Starting Point Acupuncture and Wellness, specializes in digestive health and has helped many people with “unexplained” digestive health issues find the root cause of what is going on. She has had advanced training in celiac disease and food allergy diagnosis. As a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Heintze is able to do a full health intake and exam as well as order any blood tests, celiac testing, or food allergy testing, if indicated. To schedule a consultation please call (425) 686-4498.

Sources:

Fasano, A. (2012). Intestinal permeability and its regulation by zonulin: Diagnostic and therapeutic implications. Clin Gastro Hepatology , 10 (10), 1096-1100.

Fasano, A. (2001). Intestinal zonulin: open seasame! Gut , 49, 159-162.

Fasano, A. (2012). Leaky gut and autoimmune disease. Clinical Rev Allerg Immunol , 42, 71-78.

Suzuki T, H. H. (2011). Role of flavonoids in intestinal tight junction regulation. Journal of Nutritional Biochem , 22, 401-408.

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Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Dr. Heintze Acupuncturist and Naturopathic Doctor

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