Thursday, November 6, 2008

Leaky Gut? How Can it Be?

I have some pretty good suspicions about what I should not eat. After 5 months of feeling less than vibrant, I have taken most of the usual suspects out of my diet: gluten, dairy, caffeine (sigh), chocolate (sigh), and refined sugars and carbohydrates. Okay, so far, so good, right?

Not exactly. I decided to have some allergy panels run (blood tests, which are more accurate than skin tests), including 96 common foods and an array of enviornmental or "inhalant" allergens. I will get my results next week, along with some tests on my hormone levels (the diagnosis of "adrenal burnout" is in play).

I've mostly enjoyed good health and a strong immune system, but a switch flipped this summer and I was suddenly allergic to weeds and who knows what in terms of foods. The whole topic of nutragenomics is all about the relationship between diet and genes, how the wrong diet can actually turn genes on and a reformed diet can turn errant genes off.

I was rolling the dice every time I had gluten products (bread, semolina pasta, pizza, etc., etc.). I knew it, as I sneezed every time I ate these things. Sure, I had the rice bread, rice pasta, and rice crust pizza in my house, but we, until recently, ate out a lot, and I resented being the lone spartan (ah, yes, I'll have three sides of vegetables) at a table of hedonists.

Not now. I always remember my friend, Dr. Hugo Rodier, saying that some patients simply weren't "suffering enough" to stick to his dietary recommendations. I guess I hit that point this summer. As strange symptoms started to crop up and the diagnostic path pointed to a leaky gut, resentment was replaced with re-committing myself to a gluten-free (and dairy and refined sugar and caffeine free) diet.

It was incredibly confronting. Me?! Leaky gut? My dry eyes (ocular rosacea, potentially Sjogren's) was related to a leaky gut? But, but, but....I couldn't believe as I wasn't eating junk food and I was supplementing with excellent nutrients. What was the deal?! In a word, stress and overwork had changed my body's chemistry (evil little chemicals come out during stress, especially bad when stress is prolonged). Sensitivity to gluten had flipped over to outright intolerance, creating cellular TOIL in my gut that no amount of supplementation could counteract alone.

When cells become toxic, oxidized, inflamed, or lacking in energy from nutrients, then the membrane of the intestines starts to leak as cells become more rigid and less able to connect with each other. The supplementary nutrition I took over the summer wasn't taking so well because stress had activated my fighting Irish blood genes that like to do unnecessary battle with gluten proteins.

With a leaky gut, my friendly bacteria had no place to colonize effectively, and calcium absorption was being minimized, affecting the healing of my fractured ankle. If the immune system is fighting undigested food molecules that leak from the gut into the blood stream, voila, there's a battle with the perceived antigens.

Drat. Human after all. Foiled by this thing called having a sensitive system and required to pay more attention--or else.

In retrospect, my family history is clearly rife with intestinal problems. At 18, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, but it turned out to be nothing more than a long-ruptured appendix, or so we thought back then. At the time, I was getting into health, eliminating dairy and refined foods, focusing on more vegetables, etc. and so I probably averted an early onset of GI problems.

My older brother, Jim, loved his Winchell's donuts, Coke, and junk food of all kinds. Under stress, when he was in "nuke school" (he was training to be an electronic technician for nuclear submarines), my brother fell ill and was diagnosed with, you guessed it, Crohn's disease.

Sadly, Jim never reformed his diet and died from a bad blood transfusion during a bowel surgery. Recently, Jim's son, Brandon (a handsome lad and excellent salsa dancer, by the way), who went through officer training at the Naval Academy, was, coincidentally, diagnosed with Crohn's disease.

And, as many of you know, my father died of a leaky gut (the doctors wondered about Crohn's and celiac and all sorts of diagnoses, but they all had to do with a bad gut). My dad ignored his symptoms for years, recovering briefly under Dr. Rodier's care, but returning to a junk food diet and a stress-filled life and dying of wasting and malnutrition, as his body could not absorb nutrients properly.

I'm grateful for all the resources and knowledge I have. Otherwise, I might be pursuing pharmaceutical interventions for my dry eyes (permanent prescription of antibiotics which play dreadful havoc on digestion not to mention making your skin ultra sensitive and vulnerable even during short periods of sun exposure). Otherwise, I might be on a fast track to end up like my dad.


paula said...

It would be very very very unusual to treat dry eyes with permanent antibiotic. With your family history of autoimmune disease and your possiblitiy of Sjogren's , the most likely treatment for first line would be Hydroxychloroquine which would help your dry eyes, Sjogren's, and g. i. tract.

Cindy Marteney, CEO, Our Health Co-op said...

Paula, I don't know anything about Hydroxycholoroquine but there seem to be some bad side effects (

I tend to be quite sensitive to pharmaceuticals. Alas, it was a Moran Eye Institute opthamologist who gave me a year's prescription for antibiotics (7 days made me feel lousy) and said to think about adding flax seed oil (I take fish oil regularly now in higher doses).

Thanks for would be interesting to know your background (patient/provider/other interested party).

Kind regards,

Cindy said...

Hi Cindy,

Your situation sounds very much like what happened to me this summer! I am a dietitian, and like you I eat and supplement very well. However, for whatever reason, long term stress, or perhaps my current autoimmune disease (I have diagnosed Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Sjogrens) I started to have lots of problems with nausea and fatigue after eating. After avoiding gluten, caffeine, and cow's milk I saw great improvements. But, I am curious with how you had the allergy panel done. While I suspect I have intolerance issues, I would be interested to get more conclusive results. Where did you get your testing done?

Also, I see a fabulous rheumatologists who has been suggesting Plaquenil (hydroxycholoroquine) for years. I too am resisting for now because of the side effects. But, I will likely try it eventually since there aren't many good alternatives for Sjogrens & RA - other than omega 3 fatty acids which have helped me tremendously.

mariann soulek said...

How did you get the allergy panel done? I have been following Dr. Rodier advice on upping my probiotic intake but I am still having big time bloating, belching, pain in gut mostly when i bend over. I just introduced cinnamon & oregano. I stay away from sugar, gluten, most of the time. What you think> mariann (co-op customer)

Cindy Marteney, CEO, Our Health Co-op said...


At long last, a response. I've been self-absorbed of late with my own healthy journey.

Meanwhile, the allergy panels were through US Biotek ( I did the 96 General Food Panel and the Inhalants Panel.

I also had the Anti-Nuclear Antibody ( test that measures antibodies aimed at the nucleus of cells in the body.

Re your problems with belching and bloating, you may want to consider some colonics to clean out your gut. Dr. Rodier recommended for me to take butyrate enemas to help re-establish short-chain fatty acids that support probiotic colony growth. Since my gut was "leaky," the little friendly bacteria couldn't colonize effectively.

I'm happy to report that my probiotics are re-colonizing on the cleansing diet of raw foods/green juices that I'm on at the Hippocrates Health Institute. And, we do daily enemas (not butyrate though, so I have no personal experience with those!).

Read more about colon cleansing, as I cannot recommend it highly enough for ANY gastrointestinal system problems!

All my best,


Cindy Marteney, CEO, Our Health Co-op said...


Thanks for reading my blog...I checked yours out and appreciate your conversational style.

Meanwhile, after the first week at the Hippocrates Health Institute, I cannot recommend allergy identification (allergy panels), colonics/colon cleansing systematically, as well as alkalinizing, enzyme-rich green foods to help address your auto-immune disease.

Additionally, the whole concept of autoimmune involves the body fighting itself, so the emotional/spiritual component is overlooked. The psychotherapist doing my stress test probed for where I was "fighting myself" (of two minds/stressed about an important crossroads or decision) as a place to turn for understanding the roots of an otherwise inexplicable autoimmune disease.

I'll write more about this soon in a blog entry.

Here's to your healing and good health.

Warm regards,


Ann G. said...

As spon as I see "leaky gut" I go, "Oh, Candida!" And the symptoms, bloating, belching, etc. point that way to me. So I highly recommend "CANDEX", the only real and consistent natural, homeopathic help I have found.
Best luck to you,
Ann G., Los Angeles

Anonymous said...

Ann G. where do you get Candex? mariann

Geri said...

Probiotics are a great thing to use if you're having digestive problems, and you should definitely take any time you take an antibiotic as antibiotics rid your intestinal system of them. There are so many different things that can cause digestive problems. I had them, but fortunately I found my problems were related to an intolerance with salicylates.

colonics said...

Thanks for clearing that up. It's amazing what you hear out there, put forward with such certainty...good blog.