Ulcerative Colitis Help and Remedy Ideas

Leaky Gut Syndrome

I thought it would be good to have a page about Leaky Gut syndrome on the UCer website because, although quite a few people have heard of it, I don't think it's clear how closely linked it is to autoimmune disease. Leaky gut treatments have also helped UCers, which makes it useful information.

Leaky Gut - Ulcerative Colitis

I'd seen Leaky Gut (also referred to as Intestinal Permeability) mentioned quite a few times in various forums and groups, but I never put it in the same bracket as Colitis. For some reason I had initially imagined it was a fad, but I always keep an open mind about anything which has been beneficial to UCers. So after reading up on it and listening to various talks, I discovered that it's very much linked with autoimmune disease.

As is often the case, there seems to be a resistance from the medical establishment on approaches outside of it's own remit, and this includes what has been labelled 'Leaky Gut'. Although treatments using the Leaky Gut theory and protocols have been successful for many, you will find articles saying that there's nothing to support this theory, or that not enough research has been carried out.

However, there appears to be a slow move towards a better understanding of the 'Leaky Gut' concept, with the prediction that it will become part of mainstream medicine in years to come. There's also the suggestion that research into cellular layers of the intestine could lead to better treatments of chronic inflammation - including the use of nutrition.

Functional Medicine

Interestingly there are an increasing number of highly qualified doctors that support the Leaky Gut theory. Some of these Doctors are involved in 'functional medicine'; a form of treatment that looks at different aspects of the patient's lifestyle in order to discover and treat the cause of their disease. This differs somewhat from 'conventional' medicine, which in many cases (especially autoimmune) tries to find a diagnosis for the symptoms in order to suppress them. It should be pointed out that this approach has been successful in relieving symptoms for many UCers having a tough time.

Without wanting to point at the elephant in the room, a little research into the pharmaceutical industry helps you understand why 'conventional' medicine works this way. However, this website is about helping UCers, so of you're interested in finding out more - there's loads of evidence to be found online.

I've heard a couple of times that those involved in functional medicine simply refer to autoimmune diseases like Ulcerative Colitis as Leaky Gut Syndrome or Intestinal Permeability. They believe Leaky Gut is the reason behind these apparently 'chronic' diseases, and not without reason - many patients have been treated successfully and credible research has been done on various functional medicine treatments.

I always feel that I should point out that all UCers are different, and I note that some don't have success using certain treatments or regimes. However, when you begin to understand how complex the gut is, it becomes apparent that different approaches can be taken, and that if one doesn't work, another should be tried - which is exactly how 'conventional' medicine works.

How it works

The intestinal walls are lined with a layer of cells that secrete mucus for digestion, protection and excretion of waste products. In the small intestine, at various points are proteins called tight junctions which limit the passage of molecules and ions through the tissue and into the blood stream.

Although a slightly confusing concept, you can think of anything that's travelling through the GI as outside the body. That is, if it hasn't been absorbed through the tight junctions, it will go through the colon and out as waste, without entering the body tissues and blood stream.

Leaky gut is best explained using digestion. Food is put into three catagories: proteins, fats and carbohydrates, which the digestive system breaks down for absorption into the body:

  • Proteins are broken down to amino acids
  • Carbohydrates are broken down to simple sugars
  • Fats are broken down to smaller fats

When our digestive system is working properly, this is all that's absorbed into the blood stream.

However, if the immune system weakens, permeability increases, leading to dysfunction of the intestinal barrier. This means larger food particles as well as toxins, bacteria and other microorganisms can pass through the tight junctions and into the system.

The result of this is that food allergy or intolerance can begin to develop, so as an example, you may find that certain foods like gluten or dairy begin to give a reaction such as indigestion or bloating.

As pathogens continue to enter the system, the immune system becomes compromised, which can eventually lead to autoimmune system abnormalities. This can result in a long list of different symptoms and diseases, for example: migraines, fatigue, feeling rundown, arthritis, diabetes, Hashimoto's, Grave's etc., etc., etc. .......and not forgetting Ulcerative Colitis of course!

What causes Leaky Gut?

Just as there's never one simple answer to symptoms and treatments of Ulcerative Colitis, due to the complexity of the gut and the number factors that can affect it, the same goes for the causes behind leaky gut syndrome.

However, research and treatment through functional medicine has discovered the main culprits, which can be put into an understandable list:

  • Diet: some foods contain certain proteins and peptides that are known to be allergenic, for example; dairy or foods containing gluten etc., Poor diet e.g. high in sugar low in fibre.
  • Antibodies: if there are pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses in the intestine.
  • Toxins: anything that's not naturally found in the body such as enviromental chemicals, chemicals in foods, cleaning products etc.
  • Medicines: long term use of prescription meds such as birth control pills, meds such as aspirin or pain relievers.
  • Stress: cited as the largest cause of leaky gut - physical or emotional stress; extreme short term or long term background stress.
  • Infections: parasites, bacteria, fungus, candida, mould.
  • Cytokines: certain proteins such as gluten induce the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (chemicals that can damage cells).
  • Neurotransmitters: naturally occurring chemicals that transmit messages between nerve cells e.g. Seretonin or Catecholamines (commonly known as adrenalin).
  • Enzymes: low levels.

These triggers don't necessarily work exclusively, it could be a combination of them that begins the process of leaky gut.

Treating Leaky Gut

The treatment of Leaky Gut / Intestinal Permeability revolves around healing and repairing the gut lining.

It should also be noted that treatments for leaky gut have specific procedures e.g. eliminating food sensitivites, stress and infection should be done before taking supplements and food to repair and heal the gut lining.

Standard Treatment Procedure

  • Remove foods and factors that damage the gut
  • Replace with healing foods
  • Repair with specific supplements
  • Rebalance with probiotics

Bear in mind that due to the complexity of the digestive system, one approach will not work for all. Therefore, I have included a quick summary of advice I found for treating leaky gut - please seach online for more indepth info. You'll also need to take the specifics of your own situation into account to work out an approach.

Diet

  • Identify and eliminate any food sensitivities; common offenders are gluten, dairy, corn, eggs, soy
  • Rotate the foods you eat e.g. don't eat the same thing every day for long periods, even if it's considered healthy
  • Chew food until liquified
  • Digestive enzymes can help
  • Eat real food

Infections

  • Identify and address gut infections (Parasites, Bacteria, Fungus, Mould, Candida) - can be done through stool analysis

Stress

  • Exercise helps the body deal with stress
  • Relaxation techniques: Meditation, breathing exercises, Yoga
  • Don't multi-task
  • A good, regular sleep pattern
  • Take a step back and remember what's important in life e.g. health and happiness - I didn't need to tell you that did I
  • Some supplements can help with Cortisol imbalance (Cortisol is a stress hormone made by the adrenal gland - high levels can damage the gut lining)

Repair and Heal

Introduce a regime using supplements and foods that can repair and heal the gut barrier - suggestions below are not exhaustive.

  • Foods:
    • Bone broth (a staple for UCers in a flare!)
    • Coconut, Garlic - antimicrobial
    • Ginger - increases the effects of antimicrobial meds, also anti-inflammatory
    • Probiotics e.g. kefir, raw milk without casein
    • Probiotics fermented vegetables e.g. sauerkraut
    • Foods containing Omega-3 fats e.g. wild salmon or grass fed beef
    • Foods containing Glutamine e.g. red cabbage
  • Supplements:
    • Glutamine
    • Aloe Vera
    • Probiotics (Lacto and Bifido)
    • Slippery Elm
    • Marshmallow root
    • Liquorice
    • Quercetin
    • Glucosamine
    • Good quality Omega-3