LEAKY GUT/ GUT HYPERPERMEABILITY
The digestive system is our internal skin, that selectively absorbs what’s important and eliminates what’s not. I want to share with you specifically one of the areas that’s least understood I think in practice, and frequently overlooked. And it’s the area of intestinal hyperpermeability, otherwise known as the leaky gut. It’s frequently overlooked because it can have so many different manifestations. Yet the things that we can do to help patients improve their digestion and absorption, and to heal and seal, the leaky gut can have dramatic benefits.
First, let's define what we are talking about. Leaky gut is scurvy of the gastrointestinal tract. So what is scurvy? Scurvy is a connective tissue degeneration. It is a collagen disease, collagen connective tissue degeneration, deterioration and weakness. Scurvy manifests in the mouth as swelling, redness, inflammation, bleeding and other dental manifestations stemming from a deficiency of the collagen formation factor. This breakdown can happen further down in the GI tract, causing a leaky gut.
What then happens is that you have undigested or partially digested proteins from your foods passing through unusually large junctions in your intestinal wall. For example, a tight junction in your intestines might be one to two microns across. By comparison, a red blood cell is five to seven microns wide. In a leaky gut, this can expand to two to three hundred microns, allowing very large particles to enter the blood stream.
So, in a leaky gut, you’re forcing your immune system to complete the job of digestion. How would you know if you have a leaky gut? While there are lab tests which can help, there are also many symptoms of this. One of the most important, are multiple food sensitivities.
For example, I had a patient who had so many food sensitivities that her diet consisted basically of fish, celery and water. That was it. She had dozens of food sensitivities that led her to narrow her diet so drastically. So, multiple food intolerances or food sensitivities is a classic sign of a leaky gut. There are many other symptoms, a few of which include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, joint pain, fever, fatigue, skin rash, allergies, and also a whole range of autoimmune conditions.
So what I want to emphasize today is a very specific approach to helping patients with a leaky gut. Included in a patients plan or program is to heal and seal that leaky gut.
Its important to understand that leaky gut is a collagen degeneration or weakening disease. The collagen formation factor was discovered by the same doctor who discovered vitamin C and won the Nobel Prize in the early nineteen-hundreds for discovering ascorbic acid, Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi. Many years later in the 1930s he named a part of the C complex vitamin P. Why did he name it vitamin P? One of the groups of nutrients in the C complex is vitamin P. The P complex is a major, important part of the C complex. P stands for “Permeability” – vascular permeability, so think hemorrhage, and gut permeability, think leaky gut.
Why is that? Vitamin P as defined by Dr. Szent-Györgyi is necessary for the formation of the primary connective tissue of the body, which is collagen. Collagen is the glue that holds the body together. It makes up about 25% of all body protein and is the structural integrity of the body. For example, let's say you were making a wall out of bricks and you stacked up 100 bricks, and then you say, “Great! I got a brick wall. This is awesome.” Then, you are a little tired from laying all those bricks and you went to lean on the brick wall to rest a little. What would happen? It would fall right over. Is that because the bricks were weak? No. What wasn't there? No cement. No mortar. Collagen is the mortar. Collagen is what makes the brick wall strong, not the bricks, but what holds the bricks together. When you have a collagen deficiency from a lack of vitamin P, which is the collagen formation factor, the permeability factor that has to do with vascular and gut integrity, the collagen will be weak and the tissues will fall apart. In the mouth, you will get swollen and red bleeding gums. In the gut you will get a hyperpermeable gut.
There is more emphasis these days in consuming foods like bone broth that are high in collagen to help heal and seal the gut and there are tremendous, numerous benefits from bone broth above and beyond the collagen content of that food, but we must not forget to give the body what it needs to produce its own collagen. Vitamin P is foundational in collagen formation and there is no substitute for it.