Getting to Know Leaky Gut Syndrome

The analogy of the dots is back again. Backtracking for a moment, a number of the same “dots” (factors, conditions, symptoms) appear to be linked with both obesity and gut dysbiosis, or imbalance of the microbiome.

They include diet, mental/emotional health, birth control pills, stress, addiction, immunosuppressants, allergy, metabolic syndrome/diabetes, chronic inflammation, gestational influences, C-sections, broad-spectrum antibiotics, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. Also, a lot of these things are connected with gastrointestinal hyperpermeability, also known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Is this all meaningless coincidence?

Leaky Gut Syndrome — Is It a Thing?” was the question asked here recently, and it probably the basis for a fair amount of misunderstanding and even misdiagnosis. Why is increased gastrointestinal permeability a problem? For one thing, it’s like shooting up with a very dirty needle, injecting horrible crap directly into the bloodstream. Here is one of the many brief descriptions of LGS:

In a properly functioning gut, only food that has been completely broken down can enter the blood stream… When particles pass from the inside of the gut into the blood stream, they are screened by the immune system into “friend” and “foreigner.”

The immune system goes into defense mode, calling its armies to action. Once alerted to the foreign substance, the immune system is quick to activate when encounters that particle again. This causes inflammation and allergic responses — which can in turn cause more dysfunction of the tight junctions, and a more leaky gut.

It has become clear that for the most part, our interior microorganisms can’t be simplistically categorized as “good” or “bad.” An ostensibly bad bug can become the hero who saves the day. A bug with a good reputation can turn bad under the wrong conditions. It all depends on circumstances, the most importance variables being diversity and balance of the populations.

Tori Rodriguez wrote this for Scientific American:

The digestive tract and the brain are crucially linked, according to mounting evidence showing that diet and gut bacteria are able to influence our behavior, thoughts and mood. Now researchers have found evidence of bacterial translocation, or “leaky gut,” among people with depression.

Research psychiatrist Michael Maes did blood tests on a bunch of depressed patients and found that 35 percent of them had LGS, based on the unauthorized molecules and lifeforms floating around in their veins. Bacteria that are “displaced” — circulating through the body causing inflammation, rather than confined to the gut where they belong — have been firmly linked with fatigue, mood disorders, and depression (which no doubt lead to a certain amount of obesity.)

Leaky Gut Syndrome has been associated with a huge problem of the modern age, cognitive decline, through the bacterium Helicobacter pyloriH. pylori has an extremely complicated lifestyle, some aspects of which Childhood Obesity News has outlined.

May Baydoun, a staff scientist at the National Institute on Aging, says:

Some laboratory evidence indicates that H. pylori cells can escape the gut and sneak into the brain. There the cells aggregate with the amyloid proteins characteristic of Alzheimer’s and instigate the buildup of plaque.

Research in this field is in its infancy, but some things are known. We saw, for instance, how morphine can provoke the gut bugs into angry response. The microbiome leaps to the body’s defense to protect it from toxins. But the motley crew of organisms can only do good work if its constituent members remain in the GI tract. If they escape through interstices in the intestinal lining and get loose in the bloodstream, all bets are off.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “‘Leaky Gut,’ GMOs, and Why You Should Care,”, 10/18/2012
Source: “Gut Bacteria May Exacerbate Depression,”, 11/01/13
Photo credit: amenclinics_photos via Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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