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 hypothetical, medically unrecognized condition which some alternative health practitioners claim is the cause of a wide range of serious chronic diseases, including diabetes, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. Proponents claim that poor diet, parasites, infection, or medications 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.[1]

The "leaky gut" theory is vague and largely unproven, and the scientific community continues to debate whether "leaky gut syndrome" exists at all. There is no credible evidence that any chronic diseases are caused by a "leaky" gut, nor that any remedies marketed for its treatment bring the benefits they claim.[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 National Health Service England, is supported by very little evidence.[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.[5]

Diagnosis and treatment[edit]

Leaky gut syndrome is not a recognized medical diagnosis, the claimed symptoms are generic and there is no medically validated test.[2] According to National Health Service England,

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.[6]

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 "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. ^ Catassi C, Bai JC, Bonaz B, Bouma G, Calabrò A, Carroccio A, Castillejo G, Ciacci C, Cristofori F, Dolinsek J, Francavilla R, Elli L, Green P, Holtmeier W, Koehler P, Koletzko S, Meinhold C, Sanders D, Schumann M, Schuppan D, Ullrich R, Vécsei A, Volta U, Zevallos V, Sapone A, Fasano A (2013). "Non-Celiac Gluten sensitivity: the new frontier of gluten related disorders". Nutrients (Review) 5 (10): 3839–53. doi:10.3390/nu5103839. PMC 3820047. PMID 24077239. The leaky gut/autism connection has fuelled a strong debate within the scientific community, far from being settled 
  6. ^ Barrett, Stephen (14 March 2009). "Be Wary of "Fad" Diagnoses". Quackwatch. Retrieved 24 October 2013.