In adults a permeable intestinal wall is called a leaky gut. It is a funny name but very descriptive. In healthy people, nutrients from foods pass through the intestines into the bloodstream. A person with a leaky gut has an intestinal wall that has been damaged and whole food particles can pass into the bloodstream. Sounds like trouble. When that happens antibodies are created for these whole food particles (because they looks like foreign invaders) and a food that was once “okay” becomes an allergen. Oops. Actually, someone who has an allergic reaction to many foods most likely has a leaky gut. Oh, dear.
As we noted in previous emails, these antibodies created for whole food particles can attack similar proteins in the body which causes various forms of autoimmune diseases. This is the molecular mimicry we described earlier when the immune system cannot distinguish between an invader and cells of the body. So this is not just about a situation that occurs in infants when they are naturally supposed to have a permeable intestinal wall.
Why this happens in some people and not everyone is unknown. But one explanation has to do with the difference in the permeability of intestinal walls. Some intestines allow proteins into the body more easily, because of injuries caused by viruses, environmental chemicals, medications (NSAID* like Motrin and Advil), and the unhealthy, high-fat, high cholesterol diet. Whoa! This is good news… we can control some of that. You might want to read that over again. A very leaky gut will indiscriminately allow the influx of foreign proteins into the body. It is interesting that most people with an autoimmune disease also have an unhealthy digestive system.
It looks as though there is something we can do to help our immune system maintain (or regain) our good health. We’ll take a look next time.
* Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs