No, this isn’t the name of a cheaply made 1950’s sci-fi flick, it’s even worse! Zonulin is a protein that is produced inside the small intestine. Given the right environment, this “alien” can be dangerous. Want to know something even scarier? Chances are, you’ve already given Zonulin the “right environment” causing leaky gut syndrome.
When I first studied Leaky Gut Syndrome, I just thought it was a nickname (gut), but while studying to become a nutritionist, I learned that many nutritionists use the term “gut” when describing anything to do with the digestive system. Inside your small intestines, where the majority of nutritional absorption takes place, there lies a barrier, a barrier dividing up your intestinal chute and your bloodstream. What’s inside the intestines needs to stay inside the intestines. However, certain foods we eat can begin wreaking havoc on the digestive system, damaging the cells that are the barrier for the intestines from the bloodstream. Not only does partially digested food leak out into your bloodstream (where it doesn’t belong!), but other critters like microbes, toxins and bacteria can leak out too! Once these critters get into the bloodstream, or the partially digested food escapes the small intestines, your immune system kicks in, and releases inflammatory inducing eicosanoids that are released in an attempt to eradicate this new foreign attacker. After these eicosanoids are released, inflammation begins and inadvertently begins to cause chaos on your digestive system, creating an autoimmune attack. The result is your body having a difficult time to absorb the much needed nutrients. But it doesn’t stop there! It gets worse. Much worse.
At some point, this partially digested food will then join IgG antibodies and create immune complexes. These immune complexes float around the body via the bloodstream until finally, tissues absorb them, and more inflammatory eicosanoids are released creating target inflammation. This is how food intolerances cause joint pain, headaches, and other physically painful side effects. As Leaky Gut continues throughout your life uncorrected, more and more symptoms appear. Many of us chock it up as a normal part of the aging process, when the reality is aging shouldn’t have symptoms.
As you continue to keep eating the foods that are preventing your Leaky Gut from healing, you begin to crave the very foods that are damaging your digestive system. These IgG antibodies that your body created, are now roaming around, programmed to attack the foods that are causing your reaction, they’re hungry, thus you begin craving the foods that are hurting your digestive symptom. Pretty ironic, huh?
Leaky Gut Syndrome can be considered a cycle. And a vicious one at that! You see, once you consume a food like gluten or dairy that begins to break away the cell wall of the small intestine (exposing the bloodstream), your body can repair these cells pretty efficiently, within three days or so. No big deal. But when you continue to consume these foods (in most cases, multiple foods), your body has a hard time to keep up with the repair demand. So, like a pick axe at a rock, one or two whacks is no big deal. Continue to take repeated whacks, and soon, there will be nothing left.
The cycle begins with foods that cause these cells to break up, causing intestinal permeability. This then causes inflammation (hence inflammatory foods). Next, this inflammation causes nutrient malabsorption. Your body then has a hard time absorbing nutrients such as Vitamin B-12, magnesium, iron, etc., potentially causing vitamin deficiencies. Because your body is having a hard time to absorb these nutrients, your immune system kicks in thinking you’re sick, sending antibodies and attacking where the “damage is happening”. This immune response is then triggering various GI issues, thus creating food intolerances. After repeated attacks by your own immune system, autoimmune diseases begin to develop. After these autoimmune disease begin, consuming certain foods will trigger intestinal inflammation even more, thus completing, and at the same time, restarting this cycle. See the flow chart below.
The vicious cycle of leaky gut syndrome
If you have symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), chronic constipation, nausea, or any other digestive disorder, you could be willing to bet that you have Leaky Gut Syndrome. Many people do, so you are not alone! Fortunately, this is what The My Sacred Life 30 Day Challenge begins to address, initiating the healing process of Leaky Gut Syndrome. As I have mentioned before, the healing of the gut is a process. It won’t happen by the end of this 30 Day Challenge. However, once you continue this healthy eating and lifestyle program beyond the 30 Days, you will begin paving the way to healing your gut, and regaining your life. Every aspect of this 30 Day Challenge is to address how to begin the healing process of your digestive system.