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Leaky Gut Syndrome

Increased intestinal permeability (IPS), commonly referred to as leaky gut syndrome, has been the focus of scientific debate for many years. Today, researchers and doctors acknowledge that IPS is a serious condition that requires medical attention. If left untreated, IPS can trigger various diseases in the autoimmune spectrum. GI North, a board-certified gastroenterology practice, treats patients with gastrointestinal and digestive conditions and diseases.

Researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Hospital Center report that a single cellular layer lines the GI tract and protects the human body and bloodstream from the products of digestion. These epithelial layer cells are locked in place by tight junctions. These junctions work to seal the cellular barrier and protect toxins from leaking from the GI tract into the body’s circulatory system. When the cellular barrier is penetrated, the patient can develop and suffer a broad spectrum of diseases.

IPS and Disease

Although researchers aren’t certain about what causes IPS, (“Clinics,” June 2010) they understand that disturbance of intestinal tight junctions can allow the passage of molecules and matter into the bloodstream. They report that the presence of IPS is associated with type 1 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, allergies, and asthma. IPS may even be associated with the development of autism.

Nutrition and IPS

Some researchers believe that a diet high in cereal grains or fried foods, alcohol consumption, and medications, such as ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs, can cause the tight junctions in the intestinal tract to loosen. French researchers (University of Burgundy, Dijon, France) say that high levels of fat, sugar, and other substances created by cooking or processing food can harm the body’s intestinal barrier. However, when certain toxic compounds enter the body’s circulatory system, inflammation, metabolic problems, or vascular damage can result.

Digestive Changes

Many patients ask about leaky gut syndrome when their digestive system starts to give them trouble. When bacteria and partially digested food enters the bloodstream, the patient may worry about abdominal cramps, indigestion, nausea, heartburn, gas or bloating. Loose stool or diarrhea, or constipation, may occur. Tell Dr. Cofrancesco at GI North about digestive changes because these symptoms may be the first indicator of IPS, a serious medical condition.

Body Pain

Patients may also experience joint or muscle pain in addition to muscle cramps. Arms, wrists, legs, ankles, knees, and elbows may feel sore. Taking NSAIDS like ibuprofen can help patients manage the pain over the short-term but without treatment, muscle fatigue and weakness can become the patient’s new normal state.

Respiratory Issues

Respiratory problems, such as unexplained shortness of breath, can result from IPS as tissues’ oxygen levels change. The body under siege from IPS fights toxins, food particles, and bacteria. Researchers believe the condition is the cause of asthma for some patients.

Cognitive Processing Issues

Research also suggests that cognitive-related issues, such as mood swings, confusion, irritability/anxiety, or general nervousness result from IPS. They believe IPS is the root cause of patient’s complaints about foggy or fuzzy thinking or concerns about feeling groggy. Some patients start to drink coffee through the day to encourage clear thinking but over-consumption of caffeine can add to feelings of nervousness or increase stomach acidity.


Intestinal permeability may also increase the likelihood of skin problems or allergic conditions. Skin breakouts, rashes, or itchy skin may result when the body’s largest organ (the integumentary system) tries to deal with toxins in the bloodstream.

Immune Response

Toxic material and bad bacteria trigger the body’s immune system to respond. Unfortunately, as the body starts to defend itself from the foods the patient eats, he or she is at greater risk for contracting new or frequent infection diseases, including urinary tract infections (UTI).


IPS or leaky gut syndrome can wreak havoc with the patient’s body. If the patient’s physician responds to each individual symptom, the number of medications the patient takes starts to grow. The patient feels sicker and receives more prescriptions as time goes on.

It’s important to address the root cause of the symptoms because, if the patient has IPS, symptoms won’t resolve without treatment. Patients in and around Canton, Cumming, Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Suwanee, Dawsonvile, Alpharetta, Roswell and throughout greater metropolitan Atlanta should contact Dr. Simon Cofrancesco at GI North with concerns about IPS today at (404) 446-0600.

© 2014 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

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