“From an MD’s standpoint, it’s a very gray area,” says gastroenterologist Donald Kirby, MD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Cleveland Clinic. “Physicians don’t know enough about the gut, which is our biggest immune system organ.”
“We don’t know a lot but we know that it exists,” says Linda A. Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center. “In the absence of evidence, we don’t know what it means or what therapies can directly address it.”
A possible cause of leaky gut is increased intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability.
That could happen when tight junctions in the gut, which control what passes through the lining of the small intestine, don't work properly. That could let substances leak into the bloodstream.
People with celiac disease and Crohn’s disease experience this. “Molecules can get across in some cases, such as Crohn’s, but we don’t know all the causes,” Lee says. Whether hyperpermeability is more of a contributing factor or a consequence is unclear.
Facts that are little known
- A study in 2008 found a relationship between alterations of the intestinal microbiota (i.e. “gut flora”) and fibromyalgia.
- Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that 100% (42/42) of fibromyalgia patients they studied had small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This is astounding.
- A study of 40 patients with fibromyalgia, 28 (70%) had intestinal permeability (i.e. leaky gut). Importantly, 12 of the 28 patients with leaky gut had no gut symptoms. I believe this is one reason the gut is often overlooked as a potential underlying cause of fibromyalgia.
How to repair your gut
- Avoid foods, medications (e.g. antibiotics), and chemicals (e.g. BPA) that irritate the gut.
- Eat plenty of fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.).
- Eat fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc..
- Consume bone broth and glycine-rich foods (e.g. tougher cuts of meat like beef shanks, oxtail, brisket, and chuck roast).
- Consider taking a probiotic
- Treat any intestinal pathogens (such as parasites) that may be present.
- Manage your stress (with mediation, mindfulness practice, biofeedback
- Get at least 7–8 hours of sleep each night.
Most of these diseases have an underlying "unknown" cause. But, when treated with diet and a few supplements, their symptoms can be miraculously managed. The Fibromyalgia Phase I and Phase II diets deal specifically with limiting carbohydrates and processed foods. These lifestyle changes challenge you to incorporate a whole foods approach therefore, limiting the common flare-ups of the illness. "The Plan" as we like to call it here can give you a whole new perspective on life!