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Chronic Neuroimmune Diseases
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Last updated January 1, 2014

Leaky Gut Syndrome

National CFIDS Association, 1(2), Fall 1997

Leaky Gut Syndrome
Just about every CFS/FM specialist that I have found prescribe special diets and nutritional supplements along with their favorite medical treatment. Since we have also read anecdotal reports from folks who have simply changed their diet and added nutritional supplements and have had significant lessening of "brainfog" and pain, it makes me wonder whether those medicines or the diet has created whatever successes incurred. Seemingly, it certainly blurs the research they've done. I also have never heard that anyone who has changed their diet and added nutritional supplements who has not improved their condition.

Why do we have to boost the metabolism and/or feed our systems larger-than-normal amounts of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc?

Because, it would seem, we're compensating for a leaky gut. Despite the research which shows that increased intestinal permeability problems are the cause of or complicates the lives of people with asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, IBS, and/or AIDS, we seem to think our intestines are made of steel.

Any one of the following can cause a leaky gut:

  • Antibiotics because they lead to the overgrowth of abnormal flora in the gastrointestinal tract (bacteria, parasites, candida, fungi)

  • Alcohol and caffeine (strong gut irritants)

  • Foods and beverages contaminated by parasites like Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium, Blastocystis hominis and others

  • Foods and beverages contaminated by bacteria like Helicobacter pylori, Klebsiella, citrobacter, Pseudomonas and others

  • Chemicals in fermented and processed food (dyes, preservatives, peroxidized fats)

  • Enzyme deficiencies (e.g. celiac disease, lactase deficiency causing lactose intolerance)

  • NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ASA, ibuprofen, indomethacin, etc.

  • Prescription corticosteroids (e.g. prednisone)

  • High refined carbohydrate diet (e.g. candy bars, cookies, cake, soft drinks, white bread)

  • Prescription hormones like the birth control pill

  • Mold and fungal mycotoxins in stored grains, fruit and refined carbohydrates

In addition to the creation of food allergies by the leaky gut, the bloodstream is invaded by bacteria, fungi and parasites that, in the healthy state, would not penetrate the protective barrier of the gut. These microbes and their toxins, if present in large enough amounts, can overwhelm the liver's ability to detoxify. This results in symptoms such as confusion, memory loss, brain fog or facial swelling when the individual is exposed to a perfume or to cigarette smoke that he or she had no adverse reactions to prior to the development of the leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky gut syndrome also creates a long list of mineral deficiencies because the various carrier proteins present in the gastrointestinal tract that are needed to transport minerals from the intestine to the blood are damaged by the inflammation process. For example, magnesium deficiency (low red blood cell magnesium) is quite a common finding in conditions like fibromyalgia despite a high magnesium intake through the diet and supplementation. If the carrier protein for magnesium is damaged, magnesium deficiency develops as a result of malabsorption. Muscle pain and spasms can occur as a result. Similarly, zinc deficiency due to malabsorption can result in hair loss or baldness as occurs in alopecia areata. Copper deficiency can occur in an identical way leading to high blood cholesterol levels and osteoarthritis. Further, bone problems develop as a result of the malabsorption of calcium, boron, silicon and manganese. (from the web page of Dr. Zoltan Rona, Toronto, Ontario).

July 1997

Leaky Gut Syndrome
Enzymes deficiency, irritants such as alcohol and drugs, chemical preservatives, food allergies and toxins create inflammation and contribute to the Leaky Gut Syndrome. Nutrients are not properly absorbed, creating nutritional deficiencies. Food particles that normally do not pass through the intestinal tract leak into the bloodstream creating toxic and allergic reactions. Antibodies (the body's defense team) attack these invaders as if they were infections but are unable to kill food particles. These food particles may look like the body's natural enemies (antigens) on tissue. In its exuberance, the immune system can attack joints as in arthritis; collagen and skin as in lupus; the nerve sheath known as MS or multiple sclerosis; or muscles as in fibromyalgia. Irritable bowel, with constipation, diarrhea, abdominal bloating and swollen extremities, can result from leaky gut syndrome.

Dr. Allen Tyler from Thorne Research states that both the central and autonomic nervous systems are involved and there is a physiological change in the connective tissue. Muscle pain creates physical inactivity, resulting in muscle weakness. Hypersensitivity to pain can result from chemical changes taking place in localized tissue. Increased norepinephrine, along with reduced serotonin and endorphins, amplifies pain messages to the brain. Headaches often result from muscle tension, while temporomandibular jaw (TMJ) joint pain is also common. Even numbness with no neurological impairment can be part of this problem.

It is very easy to plunge into hopelessness and helplessness when one is suffering from intense pain and ineffective treatments. Yet, there are answers to this dilemma. The most important is that of lifestyle change, which includes stress management, bodywork, nutritional support, stretching exercises, yoga or tai chi, and one's outlook on life.

Working with affirmations, self-empowering tapes, books or counselors helps the psyche's will to succeed and heal. This moves the sufferer from victim into choice. Enhancing the circulation by applying heat, saunas, rubs and massage help relax tight twisted muscles. Bodywork of any kind including chiropractic care is helpful. Chiropractic adjustment and cranial work allows the cerebral-spinal fluid to flow, thus releasing neuro-toxins and relieving headaches, as well as relaxing the nervous system.

Dietary Measures
Diet and nutrition are a major component in the healing process. Allergic foods must be identified and eliminated. The most common foods include wheat, dairy, sugar, corn and soy products, eggs, peanuts, oranges, chocolate and fermented food. To balance the body's pH, eat plenty of alkaline-rich foods such as vegetables. Consume fruits in lesser amounts and decrease meats and grains. Unsaturated high quality oils and protein are essential to repair damaged tissue. Many nuts and seeds, beans, fish and organic chicken are sources of protein. Sometimes a quality protein powder is helpful for those with bowel problems and poor absorption. Avoidance of fried foods, sugar, coffee, regular tea, alcohol, white vinegar, excess grains and meats, food additives and preservatives allow the body to detoxify more easily and benefits the condition. Drinking plenty of water is very important. With so many possible imbalances leading to fibromyalgia, toxins in the system need to be flushed out regularly.

Specific nutrients are needed to relax, detoxify, build and repair the body. Various herbal remedies relax the body and soothe the nerves. For example, kava kava (piper methysticum) comes from the South Pacific islands and Australia. It not only enhances mental activity but relaxes tension and anxiety without addictive side effects. Passiflora, valerian, cramp bark and black haw are herbs with antispasmodic and relaxing effects. Important calming nutrients nourish the brain, regulate blood sugar and act as forerunners. These include calcium, magnesium, B-complex and vitamin B, which boosts normal nerve conduction and nerve function. The adrenal glands play a very important role in the body's reaction to stress, creating anxiety or fatigue. Vitamin C and pantothenic acid (a B-complex vitamin) are used in great amounts by the adrenals in stress situations and, therefore, need to be replaced. Royal jelly and adrenal glandular are possible adrenal supports.

Nutrient Profile: Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium What are they?
Minerals are essential nutrients that cannot be manufactures in the body so they must be supplied in the diet. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in our body, making up a large percentage of bones and teeth. Magnesium works very closely with calcium. Potassium carries a tiny electric charge, serving as an electrolyte.

How do they help?
Calcium and magnesium together build strong bones and teeth. Potassium helps maintain fluid regulation and normal pH. All three help normalize.

Magnesium citratemalate is a form of magnesium most effective for muscle spasm, fibromyalgia and insomnia. Malic acid is found in apples. Maganese and vitamin B6 work together and need zinc to be absorbed. Bromelaine enzymes from pineapple helps control possible inflammation in the muscles. Homeopathic remedies can also be very effective and need to be individualized by a practitioner.

People with fibromyalgia can experience the condition in different ways. Thus, it is important to work with a health professional who considers individual needs and knows how to test accurately for food sensitivities (using applied kinesiology or energy testing with machines). You can overcome fibromyalgia. To do so requires a balanced lifestyle, feeling good about oneself, being positive about life, dreams and hopes for the future, and perseverance.

Bios of Authors
Irene Yaychuk-Arabei is a holistic health educator who practices in Brantford, Ontario. She combines expertise in nutrition, herbs and specialized kinesiology. Much of herbalist knowledge comes not only from intensive study but also from personal experience. She's lectured throughout the world. In addition to being a master herbalist, Irene is a certified instructor in touch for health and a professional kinesiology practitioner.

Billie J Sahley, Ph.D., has been a practicing clinician for fifteen years in the field of pain management and has successfully treated many people with fibromyalgia. Nutrient deficiencies of malic acid, magnesium and manganese are corrected. The hormone melatonin is used for sleep disturbances. (Supplementing with pineal glandular produces the best source of melatonin.) In conjunction with nutrition, Dr. Sahley's treatment includes various forms of body work, which help with the painful trigger points.

Part of The National CFIDS Foundation, Inc. disclaimer: "The National Forum is published quarterly by the National CFIDS Foundation, Inc. The contents are © 1997 by the National CFIDS Foundation, Inc. Articles may be reproduced by other not-for-profit publications as long as copyright notices are included and items are clearly attributed to The National Forum.


Melissa Kaplan notes:
This seems to be an overly optomistic, "blame the patient" view of FM/CFIDS. If the disorder was solely the result of malabsorption and food allergies, those who radically eliminate such foods from their diets and follow a strict regimen wouldn't still have the ongoing pain and other symptoms associated with FM/CFIDS. Given that many of us were eating properly, living a "balanced lifestyle" and were quite positive about ourselves and life in general when we were stricken, there are obviously other factors underlying FM/CFIDS which cannot be accounted for by food allergies and a sour attitude...

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