The 5 Functions of the GI Tract
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract follows a clear line that begins and end outside of the body. It starts with the mouth and ends with the anus and its job is to deal with everything that is ingested into the body. The GI tract has five main functions. They are:
1. Digest foods
2. Absorb the nutrients and end products of digestion in order to convert them to energy and protein
3. Carry vitamins and minerals from the intestines, across the lining, and into the bloodstream
4. In large part, do the chemical detox of the body
5. Protect the body from infection through antibodies
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
When the GI tract is healthy only the small molecules that are products of complete digestion are absorbed. Amino acids, simple sugars, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals – all necessary to health and vitality – are allowed into the body through the small intestine in particular. The cells in the walls of the small intestine as closely packed together, ensuring only small particles make it through. Carrier proteins bind to certain nutrients and move them through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream.
If the intestinal wall is unable to keep out large and undesirable molecules sufficiently, a condition known as Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) results. In effect, the substances that are normally kept inside the intestines leak across the intestinal wall into the body as a whole. This leads to an enlarging of the spaces between the cells of the intestinal wall allowing bacteria, fungi, parasites, toxins, undigested protein, fat, and waste material into the bloodstream.
In response to this influx of unhealthy substances into the bloodstream, the immune system makes antibodies to fight the invaders, often particles of foods which had previously been tolerated by the body. Inflammatory reactions are triggered when foods that correspond with the substances make their way into the body from the intestines. When inflammation occurs in a joint, autoimmune arthritis develops. If the inflammation occurs in the blood vessels the result can be vasculitis. If it occurs in the muscles and multiple organ systems, the result may well be fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.
What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky Gut Syndrome is contributed to by a large number of factors.
· Irritation in the gut caused by alcohol and caffeine
· Candida and gut dysbiosis, caused by antibiotic use
· NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), antacids and OTC pain meds
· Diet high in refined carbs
· Environmental toxins
· Food additives
· Lack of digestive enzymes
· Chronic stress
· GI disease
· Poor liver function
What Happens When You Have Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Some of the problems encountered by people with leaky gut syndrome include:
· Gastrointestinal issues like bloating, flatulence and abdominal distress along with digestive problems – all of which are obvious associations.
· Autoimmune disease as a result of large particles passing into the bloodstream. The immune system defines the particles as foreign invaders and produces antibodies against them. As a result, different foods (particles of which had previously gotten into the bloodstream) set off an immune reaction every time they are eaten. The body’s own cells that may be structurally similar to these foreign particles are also attacked.
· Nutritional deficiencies occur because carrier proteins are damaged when the gut becomes inflamed and more permeable. The nutrients can’t get across the intestinal wall and deficiencies result.
· Toxins are absorbed and enter into the bloodstream. There is a huge strain on the liver, which is the body’s detoxification center, and as enzymes are depleted more toxins are able to circulate in the blood resulting in foggy thinking, skin rashes and in severe cases, toxic hepatitis.
· Impaired immune function caused by inflammation of the gut wall means that bacteria, parasites and yeast, like Candida, gain a foothold.
· Translocation of bacteria that is commonly found only in the intestines end up causing infection anywhere in the body, wreaking havoc with the immune system.
Leaky gut syndrome plays a significant role in illness, many of them autoimmune diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis, thyroiditis, colitis, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are but a few of the diseases associated with LGS.