Leaky gut syndrome is associated with diseases such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome as all of them are linked to abnormal immune function. As its name suggests, the syndrome is characterized by increased intestinal permeability leading to an increase in the passage of substances from the intestines into the bloodstream.
Normally, intestinal cells are held tightly against each other. In case of leaky gut syndrome these cell junctions no longer remain tight increasing the permeability and allowing toxins, bacteria and allergens to leak into the bloodstream. In an effort to destroy these substances, the body produces immune reactions that cause inflammation. Such an inflammation occurring inside the large bowel leads to the formation of ulcers in which case the condition is termed as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. The irritation in the bowel as a result of abnormal cell permeability also causes abdominal distress and hampers normal bowel movements in which case the condition is termed as irritable bowel syndrome.
The major causes for leaky gut syndrome that is implicated in ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory diseases are suggested to be intestinal infections, poor dietary practices, chronic gluten exposure, stress, excessive consumption of inflammatory drugs and environmental contaminants. Symptoms include fatigue, anemia, improper bowel movements, abdominal distress, joint pains etc.
Altered intestinal permeability is by far the major objective for the treatment of this syndrome that is associated with ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory diseases. This objective is realized through nutritional supplements such as vitamin A, glutamine and zinc and through the use of herbs such as aloe, slippery elm, licorice etc. Stress management is also crucial in alleviating the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome.
One of the earliest signs of a leaky gut is the presence of lymphocytic enteritis that increases Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) which in turn increases the risk for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Therefore, treatment also includes the use to anti-TNF agents such as remicade and humira that are already proven to control inflammation in colitis and Crohn's disease.
Since prevention is always better than cure, it is better to prevent a leaky gut than seek a cure for it. Preventive measures in this case include proper dietary management through the use of fresh foods, balanced diets and regular meals and more importantly the use of probiotics that are said to not only prevent but also treat ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome.