Leaky gut syndrome

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This article is about a proposed medical condition in alternative medicine. For the phenomenon whereby the intestine wall exhibits permeability (Leaky Gut), see Intestinal permeability.

Leaky gut syndrome is a proposed condition some health practitioners claim is the cause of a wide range of serious long-term conditions, including diabetes, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. Proponents of leaky gut syndrome state 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.[1] 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.[2] The scientific community continues to debate whether "leaky gut syndrome" exists at all.[2]

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.[2]

Conceptual basis and background[edit]

While some intestinal permeability is a normally occurring phenomenon recognized by mainstream science, claims for the existence of "leaky gut syndrome" are mostly made by some nutritionists (not the same as a dietitian) and practitioners of alternative medicine.[2] 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.[2][3] As of 2013 the theory, according to the UK National Health Service, is "vague and currently largely unproven".[2]

Seth Kalichman has written that some pseudoscientists claim that that the passage of proteins through a leaky gut is the cause of autism.[4] However, a review of the effectiveness of remedies designed to "treat" this found them not to be effective.[2] 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.[citation needed]

A 2008 article said the relationship between a leaky gut and diabetes-prone animals is poorly understood, and that more research is needed.[5]

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.[6]

Diagnosis and treatment[edit]

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.[2] 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.[2]

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.[7]

Skeptics and mainstream scientists generally agree that most marketing of treatments for leaky gut syndrome is, at best, misguided, and at worst, an instance of deliberate health fraud.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Leaky gut syndrome". NHS Choices. 9 April 2013. Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Kalichman, Seth C. (2009). Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy. Springer. p. 167. ISBN 9780387794761. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Barrett, Stephen (14 March 2009). "Be Wary of "Fad" Diagnoses". Quackwatch. Retrieved 24 October 2013.