Leaky gut syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome is a hypothetical, medically unrecognized condition which some alternative health practitioners and nutritionists claim is the cause of a wide range of serious chronic diseases, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and autism, among others. Proponents claim that overgrowth of yeast or bacteria in the bowel, a poor diet and the overuse of antibiotics cause damage to the intestinal wall or lining, permitting toxins, microbes, undigested food, or other substances to leak through. According to the hypothesis, this "leakage" prompts the body to initiate an immune reaction that, in turn, leads to chronic diseases such as those mentioned.
Although the concept of "leaky" gut (scientifically known as increased intestinal permeability) is well recognized, there is currently little objective evidence to support the hypothesis that such increased permeability is the direct cause of any chronic diseases. There is also little evidence that any of the remedies marketed for its treatment bring the benefits claimed by their manufacturers.
Conceptual basis and background
While increased intestinal permeability is a phenomenon recognized by mainstream science, which may be caused by various conditions and medications, 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. These supporters say that undigested food particles can pass through the "leaky" bowel wall and into the bloodstream, which triggers the immune system and causes chronic inflammation throughout the body, leading to a large number of conditions ranging from migraines to autism. As of 2016[update], according to National Health Service England, there is little evidence to support this hypothesis.
Seth Kalichman has written that some pseudoscientists claim that the passage of proteins through a "leaky" gut is the cause of autism. Some people promote different nutritional interventions for autism, but the evidence about these treatments is conflicting. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) does not recommend the use of special diets to manage the main symptoms of autism. 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.
Diagnosis and treatment
"Leaky gut syndrome" is not a recognized medical diagnosis; the claimed symptoms are generic and there is no medically validated test. Various treatments are touted as a treatment for "leaky gut syndrome", such as nutritional supplements (as those containing probiotics), herbal remedies, gluten-free foods, and low FODMAP, low sugar or antifungal diets, but there is little scientific evidence that the treatments offered are of benefit as claimed.
Quackwatch calls "leaky gut syndrome" 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.
- "Leaky gut syndrome". NHS Choices. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
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- 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 . PMID 23851019.
- Kalichman, Seth C. (2009). Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy. Springer. p. 167. ISBN 9780387794761.
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The leaky gut/autism connection has fuelled a strong debate within the scientific community, far from being settled
- Barrett, Stephen (14 March 2009). "Be Wary of "Fad" Diagnoses". Quackwatch. Retrieved 24 October 2013.