Leaky Gut & More: The Impacts of Dysbiosis – Part 1

Written by Anil Bajnath, MD
Posted August 17, 2021

Dear Longevity Insider,

We recently discussed the importance of nurturing a healthy gut. Gut health has been linked to many health issues, including autoimmune disease, heart disease, mood, obesity, endocrine disorders, cancer, and more. When dysbiosis in the gut occurs, it can lead to further gut problems. This week, we will be discussing in more depth gut health issues such as leaky gut, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and what you can do at home to optimize your gut microbiome.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

The term “leaky gut” has been a buzz term on social media lately. In fact, leaky gut is a more recently known term within the conventional medical community. Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, refers to when food particles and other things (such as bacteria and toxins) “leak” through the intestinal wall that they otherwise shouldn’t. Your gut is lined by the intestinal wall. Think of it as a patio screen door. Ideally, the screen door in your home is free of damage, providing a barrier from the outdoor elements from coming inside the house. The screen acts as a filter and allows only certain things of certain sizes to enter your home. However, if your screen door is damaged and/or has holes, over time it is easier for large bugs, debris, and other critters to enter your home. With time, the screen door is no longer functioning as a barrier. Similarly, in our gut when our intestinal wall is damaged, the small holes become larger which now allows for harmful substances to enter our system. Naturally, we all have some level of leaky gut as the barrier is a screen and therefore not completely impermeable.

What causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Your bio-individuality may make you more sensitive to changes in the digestive system, but your DNA does not determine your gut health destiny. Let’s look at a few common causes of leaky gut:

  • Dysbiosis
  • Diet
  • Alcohol Use
  • And More...

Dysbiosis

Dysbiosis occurs when pathogenic microbes (viruses, bacteria, mycobacteria) and symbiotic microbes (that are beneficial to the microbiota by regulating our immune system) can no longer coexist in the gut in harmony. This is the leading cause of leaky gut syndrome.

Diet

Diet can determine the composition of gut microbiota, favoring the growth of organisms that are best suited for metabolizing commonly consumed food groups. Western diets are rich in a complex mixture of fats and are high in simple sugars, which significantly impacts the gut microbiome composition, and often leads to the development of gut inflammation and other related diseases, including intestinal disease.

A diet rich in processed foods or foods you are highly sensitive to (we will discuss this later) can lead to leaky gut. Unfortunately, I see more times than not how the American diet impacts patient health outcomes. Studies continuously show how ultra-processed foods adversely affect our gut microbiome which in turn, drives inflammation. The rationale is that the nutritional composition of ultra-processed foods can induce gut dysbiosis, promoting a pro-inflammatory response and consequently, a “leaky gut.”

Alcohol Use

Alcohol and its metabolites specifically promote intestinal inflammation through its influence on intestinal microbiota, immune function, and more. In large amounts, alcohol and its metabolites can overwhelm the gastrointestinal tract (GI) and liver and lead to damage both within the GI and in other organs.  Alcohol disrupts the epithelial cells (cells that line the surfaces of your body) and disrupts the space between the cells which allows increased gut leakage.

We'll dive into more on Thursday!

To your longevity,

Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Officer, Longevity Insider HQ