No Gut, No Glory!


Have you noticed the rising incidence of chronic disease surrounding you and ever wondered…. What are we doing wrong? Why are the disease rates rising…..? Why are we the most infertile, overweight and chronically ill humans to walk the earth? Why do conditions such as allergies, depression and auto-immunity seem to increase in incidence year after year? Why will 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women be diagnosed with cancer this year? And why, in the last decade have heart disease rates increased over 18 precent (2)? Even more alarming is thatdepression affects over 2.1 million people in Australia and the numbers just keep on rising (1). So… What is driving it? There is emerging evidence that the dramatic rise of these diseases is not due to genetics or random chance but instead might be due to changes within our current environment. One HUGE element to consider is the health of your gut: your internal environment. Leading researchers are now suggesting that maintaining the integrity of the gut lining is instrumental for preventing the onset of several chronic conditions. The following is a brief list of conditions that are linked to poor gut health (there are over 600!!):

  • Infertility
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Fatigue
  • Acne
  • Celiac Disease
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Narcolepsy
  • Schizophrenia
  • Autism
  • Depression
  • Huntington’s
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Hypothyroidism

For an extended period of time, within alternative medicine, ‘leaky gut’ has been considered the main culprit for a wide range of human ailments, a theory that has been largely ignored by the western medical fraternity. However, the tide has turned with a recent explosion within the literature regarding ‘intestinal permeability’ (fancy name for leaky gut) and its association with disease, and in particular auto-immunity. Dr Alessio Fasano published some ground-breaking research that suggested autoimmune disease could have intestinal permeability as a PRE-CONDITION and that, in fact without it, the disease might not even manifest (5). Interesting stuff. Even more interesting is that it was found through rat research that any increase in permeability led to a DIRECT increase of auto-immune disease symptoms. This explosion in gut research is compelling, however this concept is not actually new, after all it was Hippocrates himself who said some 2000 years ago that “… all disease begins in the gut.” Well that’s awkward. Anyway now that we have finally caught up… lets get down to business. So leaky gut…. The what, the why and the how….  1) What is Leaky Gut? You are a big donut. Just a body, around a hollow tube, that runs all the way from your mouth to your butt. Now the lining of this tube separates you from the outside world and this is crucial because there is stuff that you definitely WANT to keep out, like pathogens, toxins, large proteins and, of course there is stuff you WANT to come in, like…. nutrients. Now 75% of your immune system is comprised within this tube lining and this is your main defence from the outside world. Leaky gut is when the intestinal cell junctions become compromised, and the normally restricted net is loosened, thus allowing greater access of undesirable particles straight into your blood stream (3)!   2)   Why do you get it? There are many lifestyle factors at play but the main culprits are emotional stress and food, with grains playing a leading role. There is a protein called zonulin which when activated increases the ‘leakiness’ of your gut, basically telling your intestinal cells to open up and let stuff in. Now this is works just fine until our friend GLIADIN comes into the body and activates zonulin release … artificially triggering your gut to OPEN UP. Gliadin makes up part of the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, barely, and rye, a substance that is highly intolerable to people with celiac disease. Dr Fasano found that the rats with the highest permeability, meaning most ‘leakiest’ also had the highest rates of intestinal levels of zonulin, all of which resulted from exposure to gliadin (5). In short, if you are eating lots of gluten containing grains, you have compromised this normally tightly regulated system! 3) How to fix it! So this gets a little more complicated but here is the dumbed down, abbreviated version…. (Please listen to the podcast for more info on Itunes : Vitality Hackers for more)

  • Stop eating gluten containing grains
  • Identify other food triggers unique to you
  • Reduce emotional stress
  • Remove infections like parasites, bad bacteria, candida
  • Put good bacteria back in – fermented foods, probiotics
  • Consume a nutrient dense diet – vegetables, meats, good fats
  • Increase Omega 3 fats intake – fish oils (anti-inflammatory)
  • Decrease Omega 6 fat intake – Vegetable oils, Grains – (pro-inflammatory)
  • Repair the Gut lining – bone broth, glutamine supplementation

Now if you are really broken, you might need to consider a GAPS style approach whereby you avoid any products that will further inflame your gut lining. Now this includes avoiding raw vegetables, fruits, nightshades and especially the non-starchy, fibrous vegies like broccoli and cabbage. This is trickier, so I would seek out a health care provider that is well versed in repairing your insides like an integrative general practitioner! I would also encourage you to read GAPS by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride which you can get at ! In summary, your gut is where you digest and absorb your nutrients, and the bacteria that reside within your body can determine your health status. The lining of your gut is your main immune defence from the outside world, so make sure you look after it with proper stress management, adequate sleep, a reduced or gluten-free diet and a high consumption of nutrient dense foods like fermented vegetables, liver and bone broths. Remember, changing your lifestyle will always be the only way to avoid chronic disease, so keep informed, eat well, move often and live long. Until next time, Keep that gut plugged! Dr H 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) A. Fasano : Zonulin, a newly discovered modulator of intestinal permeability and its expression in coeliac disease THE LANCET • Vol 355 • April 29, 2000 1519