In mainstream medicine people with certain gut-related conditions may need treatment to reduce the inflammation of their bowel lining. In alternative medicine a proposed medical condition, called leaky gut syndrome, has been popularized in which it is thought that substances migrate outward through the gut wall with adverse health consequences.
Proponents of leaky gut syndrome say that an altered or damaged bowel lining or gut wall results from poor diet, parasites, infection, or medications, and that this allows substances such as toxins, microbes, undigested food, or waste to leak through. They say this prompts the body to initiate an immune reaction leading to potentially severe health conditions. This theory is vague and largely unproven, and there is no evidence that the remedies marketed for treating leaky gut bring the benefits they claim. The scientific community continues to debate whether there is a connection between a leaky gut and autism.
There is some concern that the promotion of the contentious "leaky gut syndrome" diagnosis is a dishonest ploy designed to make money from the sale of supposed remedies for it.
Conceptual basis and background
It is accepted that various factors can affect the bowel's permeability, but the likely result of this is limited to temporary, mild, local inflammation. In extreme cases the result can be ulcers in the bowel lining. People with certain gut-related conditions such as Crohn's disease or inflammatory bowel disease may need treatment to reduce inflammation and maintain the health of their "leaky bowel".
In contrast to these mainstream medical scenarios, the existence of the condition commonly called "leaky gut syndrome" is supported mostly by nutritionists and practitioners of alternative medicine. These supporters say that undigested food particles can pass through the "leaky" bowel wall and into the rest of body, leading to a large number of conditions ranging from migraines to autism. As of 2013[update] the theory, according to the UK National Health Service, is "vague and currently largely unproven".
Seth Kalichman has written that some pseudoscientists claim that that the passage of proteins through a leaky gut is the cause of autism. However, a review of the effectiveness of remedies designed to "treat" this found them not to be effective. A 2013 review said that the connection between leaky gut and autism had aroused controversy, and that within the scientific community this debate was continuing.
A 2008 article said the relationship between a leaky gut and diabates-prone animals and humans is poorly understood, and that more research is needed.
Another 2008 study said that the relationship between substance absorption by the digestive tract and chronic heart disease was unclear, and that further study is needed.
Select enteric viruses, bacterial pathogens, and parasites modulate intestinal tight junction structure and function, and these effects may contribute to the development of chronic intestinal disorders.[not relevant?]
Diagnosis and treatment
Leaky gut syndrome is not a recognized medical diagnosis, but a proposed condition that is claimed to be the root cause of many ailments, including chronic fatigue syndrome and multiple sclerosis. According to the UK National Health Service,
There is little evidence to support this theory, and no evidence that so-called 'treatments' for 'leaky gut syndrome', such as nutritional supplements and a gluten-free diet, have any beneficial effect for most of the conditions they are claimed to help.
Quackwatch calls leaky gut a "fad diagnosis". Stephen Barrett writes that its proponents use the alleged condition as an opportunity to promote a number of alternative health remedies including diets, herbal preparations, and dietary supplements.
- Odenwald, Matthew A.; Turner, Jerrold R. (2013). "Intestinal Permeability Defects: Is It Time to Treat?". Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 11 (9): 1075–83. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2013.07.001. PMC 3758766. PMID 23851019.
- Kiefer, D; Ali-Akbarian, L (2004). "A brief evidence-based review of two gastrointestinal illnesses: Irritable bowel and leaky gut syndromes". Alternative therapies in health and medicine 10 (3): 22–30; quiz 31, 92. PMID 15154150.
- "Leaky gut syndrome". NHS Choices. 9 April 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- Catassi, Carlo; Bai, Julio; Bonaz, Bruno; Bouma, Gerd; Calabrò, Antonio et al. (2013). "Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: The New Frontier of Gluten Related Disorders". Nutrients 5 (10): 3839–53. doi:10.3390/nu5103839. PMID 24077239.
- Kalichman, Seth C. (16 January 2009). Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy. Springer. p. 167. ISBN 978-0-387-79476-1.
- Vaarala, O.; Atkinson, M. A.; Neu, J. (2008). "The "Perfect Storm" for Type 1 Diabetes: The Complex Interplay Between Intestinal Microbiota, Gut Permeability, and Mucosal Immunity". Diabetes 57 (10): 2555–62. doi:10.2337/db08-0331. PMC 2551660. PMID 18820210.
- Sandek, Anja; Rauchhaus, Mathias; Anker, Stefan D; Von Haehling, Stephan (2008). "The emerging role of the gut in chronic heart failure". Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care 11 (5): 632–9. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e32830a4c6e. PMID 18685461.
- Sciences, Department of Biological (2008). "Mechanisms of intestinal tight junctional disruption during infection". Frontiers in Bioscience (13): 7008. doi:10.2741/3206.
- Barrett, Stephen (14 March 2009). "Be Wary of "Fad" Diagnoses". Quackwatch. Retrieved 24 October 2013.