What can cause leaky gut? Continue from Part I.
Gluten is one of the major causes of leaky gut. About 80% of the total protein contained within wheat is gluten. That's significant, because it means that 80% of the protein is useless in wheat, you're not getting as much protein as you think you are. Gluten is also very damaging to the intestinal barrier. One study has demonstrated the intestinal barrier function as assessed by so called trans epithelial electrical resistance. The higher the resistance, the better. The barrier function in celiac intestinal cells that haven't been exposed to gluten is very high. When the cells are exposed to gluten, the resistance level drops, and it happens rapidly within 15 minutes. Any people with celiac disease, this increase in intestinal permeability will persist for up to a week. However, it's not only celiacs who are affected by gluten. When non celiac cells exposed to gluten, there's still a significant impediment to intestinal barrier function. Gluten impairs the intestinal barrier in everybody.
Let's have a look exactly how gluten can do this. In the graph below, the top layer in green represents a mucous layer and the bottom layer in blue is called the lamina propria. This is the tissue layer of the intestines where the immune system lives. When gluten gets ingested, with a series of reaction, it leads to the breakdown of the proteins called the tight junction or gap. These junctions actually hold the cells together and when that gets disrupted the cells are able to physically separate and this is what causes leaky gut. And then when lectins that have been ingested as well as any bacteria that might exist in the intestines can actually pass between the cells and get down to the lamina propria, where it gets exposed to the immune system. And it's able to interact with the immune system. Because lectins are offensive essentially foreign particles, we often mount an immune response to get them. So we often end up developing antibodies that will target them. If lectin has the same antigen on its surface as that of a healthy cell, when we develop an antibody response against lectin, we can also develop an antibody response against a healthy cell. This is called molecular mimicry and this is thought to underpin most autoimmune disease.
Lectins aren't the only cause of molecular mimicry and autoimmune disease. There are also cell wall fragments from bacteria that look very similar to our healthy cells that will trigger this molecular mimicry type of response. This has been shown to be the case in rheumatoid arthritis and a couple of other very specific inflammatory conditions. In addition to molecular mimicry, these bacteria can also exacerbate symptoms of inflammatory conditions like arthritis because they secrete toxins called lipopolysaccharides, which stimulate inflammation. However, not all lipopolysaccharides are the same. Some are pro-inflammatory and some are anti-inflammatory. A healthy diet, often a ketogenic diet, a high saturated fat and animal protein diet, have actually been shown to increase the proportion of bacterial deities which produce the anti-inflammatory lipopolysaccharides. This is a point that's often missed in the research.
Gluten consumption has been linked to increasing of risk of developing type 1 diabetes, gluten Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and other clusters of autoimmune diseases. There is a recent study encapsulate the maternal gluten consumption with the risk of developing type 1 diabetes in the offspring. Over a hundred thousand pregnancies in Denmark were reviewed and a reliable linear increased risk of type 1 diabetes with gluten consumption was found. For the highest group of gluten consumption, the risk of the offspring developing type 1 diabetes was doubled. Other papers indicate that commencing a gluten-free diet soon after diagnosis of type 1 diabetes can significantly alter the prognosis. For example, a study looked at what happened to a boy who was placed on a strict gluten-free diet soon after diagnosis a type 1 diabetes, and it compared him to a group of 21 other children as a control. His insulin usage was far far less and his blood sugar control was far better. His diabetes was still in remission 20 months later when this study was actually published.
Not only children develop type 1 diabetes, adults as well. In adults, it is called latent autoimmune diabetes of adulthood (LADA). It's diabetes of autoimmune origin and in fact up to 14 percent of cases of type 2 diabetes which are diagnosed in adults actually have an autoimmune component. This is huge because more than 1 in 10 of type 2 diabetics actually have this condition. And it doesn't matter if you're overweight and have other metabolic risk factors, you still could have this autoimmune type of adult onset diabetes.
Now the question is why not everybody has an autoimmune disease, although we've all consumed lectins in the past. To develop autoimmune diseases, you probably first have picked the wrong parents, second you probably have some aspect of intestinal permeability which may or may not be triggered by lectin consumption, and then you may also need to be consuming lectins or have some other kind of antigenic stimulus like certain bacteria within your gut. Unless all of those three line up, then chances are you probably won't develop an autoimmune disease. But for people that have picked the wrong parents, the next two layers become very important.
So what can reduce or increase intestinal permeability. The biggest one is alcohol. It is very clear that intestinal permeability is far higher consuming ethanol than not. Next are anti-inflammatory medications, for example, diclofenac, which is the active ingredient found in Voltaren. It's been understood for a long long time that taking anti-inflammatory medication increases intestinal permeability. Next are our processed foods. They're full of a myriad of ingredients that they're always homogenized. The reason is they contain emulsifiers, which lead to a significant thinning of the mucus and it actually allows increased bacterial penetration of the mucus. Study shows that exposure to the emulsifiers increased volitional food intake, then led to a significant increase in fasting blood glucose levels and further emulsifier induced metabolic syndrome. So anybody's still clinging to the calories in calories out hypothesis? Even those on a ketogenic diet shouldn't get too comfortable right now. Because emulsifiers are found in things like cream and coconut cream you usually consume. Please check your labels. They're often stated as polysorbate 80 or E433.
If you're having processed foods, polyethylene glycol is another substance that can really thin the mucus layer. It is often used as an anti-foaming food additive or it's often used to treat constipation in Movicol. Another additive in food which has a potential to damage the intestinal barriers is titanium dioxide nanoparticles. We used to worry about titanium dioxide in sunscreens, but you can probably relax because it doesn't seem to penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin to the dermis where it can actually interact with the immune system. But if you ate it that's a different story. It's an approved food additive often found in sweets and chewing gums. Animal studies have shown that regular consumption for a period of 10 days will actually lead to detectable accumulations in organs. It's so effective at penetrating the gut barrier that drug companies use it for drug delivery. They complex a drug molecule with a nanoparticle because they know a nanoparticle can actually get past the intestinal wall.
Next, pesticides of all sorts are being associated with a whole lot of autoimmune disorders, neurological defects, developmental disorders. Pollution, particularly the really small particles called the PM10's have actually been shown to increase gut permeability. They can also induce free radical damage in terms of oxidative stress and free radical production. Chemicals found in plastic such as BPA is known damaging to the gut lining. But it's being taken out of the the food packaging now, right? Well, it's being replaced by something called BPS. It basically has the same effect. Now 80% of Americans actually have detectable levels of BPS in their urine. So maybe stay away from plastics.
Now let's have a look at things that are good. Consumption of fats has actually been shown to significantly improve the function of the mucus layer in the intestines and the effect was significant. There's something else we can take possibly and that's called glutamine this is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body's and it's used as a main fuel source by the intestinal cells. It significantly contributes to the structural integrity of the enterocytes. Research shows that colostrum may also be helpful, but not whey protein. By definition lectins can bind to sugars. So the theory is that perhaps if we're consuming lectins we can consume sugars at the same time. These sugars will serve as a decoy and bind to the lectins before they can hit our intestinal wall and do the damage. It was proven in one animal study with mice.There's also theories that giving glucosamine supplement will do the same. Now the really interesting thing to consider is that if you're a vegetarian on a low carbohydrate diet, then you may actually be getting more damage from the lectins than somebody who is still eating sweet retreats. Lecithin is a unique substance which is often used as a natural emulsifier in foods. It's a good guy. It actually contains something called phosphatidylcholine and more than 70% of the phospholipids in a mucous membrane is made of phosphatidylcholine. Orally ingested lecithin has been shown to adhere to the mucous layer and strengthen it.
Regarding to dairy foods, there are a lot of debates going around whether we should have A1 or A2 proteins. A1 protein which is found in some milks can lead to the formation of BCM-7 peptide and possibly lead to cognitive dysfunction and some inflammatory diseases. A2 milks that eliminating the A1 protein led to a reduction in systemic inflammation and improving cognitive performance and several other things. But both the milks still led to a low-grade inflammatory response. It's probably reasonable to stay on the side of caution if you have a genetic susceptibility for developing allergies or autoimmune disease, then avoiding cow's milk for the first period of your life is certainly highly recommended and possibly ongoing.
Finally, with all of these theory, does avoiding these plant-based lectins actually help autoimmune conditions, and the answer is yes. There is a special diet which is so called the autoimmune protocol. It avoids gluten, refined sugar, grains, legumes, nightshade vegetables, such as potatos, bell peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, chilies, because they carry a lot of lectins. Plus, no dairy, no eggs, no coffee, no alcohol, no nuts, no seeds, no food additives. With this special diet and some lifestyle change, such as optimizing sleep, exercising a little bit, in a study,15 subjects with inflammatory bowel disease had clinical remission by six weeks and they maintained it for the duration of the study. The average duration of inflammatory bowel disease entering the study was 19 years. Dr. Mason has seen similar results in his own patients.