Written by: Christine Schoenek, ND
Do you experience brain fog, unexplained headaches, joint pain, skin rashes or eczema, mood swings, or fatigue? These are just a few of the many symptoms that can be caused by leaky gut and food sensitivities.
Many health practitioners believe the gastrointestinal tract is central to our overall health and wellbeing. Anatomically, it is a tube that runs through the middle of us, acting very much like our skin, protecting us from outside invaders, wastes, and toxins. Nothing is truly inside the body until the GI tract allows it pass through into the bloodstream. Along with this very important function, the GI tract also contributes largely to our immune system, produces many neurotransmitters that influence mood, is responsible for breaking down foods that provide us with health-promoting nutrients, is home to trillions of beneficial bacteria, and eliminates much of our waste. It’s no wonder that gut health can have such a profound impact how we feel.
The cells that make up the lining of the GI tract are vital for keeping us healthy. Adjacent cells are held close together via “tight junctions” that are modulated by the protein zonulin. These tight junctions are very selective and necessary for keeping unwanted material from entering our systems. If the GI tract becomes inflamed, via overuse of antibiotics, unhealthy or processed foods, stress, yeast overgrowth, or bacterial or parasite infections, an overproduction of zonulin ensues and the integrity of these junctions becomes compromised. The result is increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”. Toxins, waste, undigested food particles and more can pass freely into the body, creating an array of health ailments.
Food sensitivities are mediated by an IgG antibody and occur when a leaky gut allows undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream. The immune system does not recognize these undigested particles and will go into overdrive to fight against them in an attempt to protect us, ultimately creating more inflammation. Unlike allergies, that are mediated by an IgE antibody, and are very quick to create a reaction, sensitivities can take a few hours to days to manifest symptoms. This makes them much more difficult to recognize. Fortunately, there are several tests that can help identify these food intolerances, along with other aspects of gut health.
Tests to determine and optimize gut health:
- IgG food sensitivity test: via dried blood spot, determines if and how much IgG antibodies are mounting an immune response against a wide range of foods. Some variations in foods tested can be ordered based on one’s diet
- Zonulin or Lactulose test: zonulin, which increases with intestinal permeability, can be measured from the serum via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The sugar molecules, lactulose, and mannitol can also be measured in the urine to determine the degree of malabsorption or permeability.
- Comprehensive Stool Analysis: a 3-day stool collection providing information regarding beneficial bacteria, pathologic bacteria, parasitic infection, yeast/fungal overgrowth, inflammatory-marker, digestion, and overall gut function.
These tests can be useful tools in identifying weaknesses in your GI tract that may be contributing to disease. Finding a practitioner to help you understand these tests is key to beginning a path toward health. Grand Rapids Natural Health offers a wide range of services and functional testing, with board certified naturopathic doctors who are experts in the field of natural medicine. They focus on treating the whole body and getting to the root cause of illness. Call or visit their website to learn more about how GRNH can help empower you to create health and wellness in your life. (616) 264-6556, grnaturalhealth.com
About the author: CHRISTINE SCHOENEK, ND
Christine Schoenek, ND graduated from Oakland University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She then attended National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) where she earned a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine, graduating Suma Cum Laude and Valedictorian of her class. Christine currently holds her Naturopathic license in the state of Vermont and is a member of the Michigan Association of Naturopathic Physicians (MANP). Christine believes in the key principle of Naturopathic Medicine – the body has the innate ability to heal itself. Click here to read more.