What is Leaky gut syndrome?

Food allergens trigger inflammation in the digestive tract which leads to the many symptoms listed above. Leaky gut syndrome refers to digestive disturbances that affect the integrity of the “gut” wall caused by severe inflammation of the intestine. This inflammation creates increased permeability in the walls of the intestines. Partially digested food enters into the blood stream through small openings between the cells in the intestinal lining where it is met by a hostile immune system. The body produces an increasing amount of antibodies to fight the food we eat, and the food bound with the antibody continually pass from the intestine to the blood stream. By removing the allergen, we can heal our “leaky” guts and begin the process of improved health.

A Must-Read Guide to Enzyme Basics

Our Body's “Construction Workers”: A Must-Read Guide to Enzyme Basics
Contrary to popular belief, we are not what we eat, but what we absorb. Without proper digestion, the benefits of the healthiest diet are lost. Enzymes are the key element to successful digestion. Dr. Loomis, an enzyme nutritionist and founder of Loomis Institute, calls enzymes “the construction workers of the body.” They are responsible for maintaining normal physiological processes and building health. Enzymes break down and shuttle away toxic waste, construct muscle from protein, and deliver hormones, among many other things. They also are responsible for the absorption of food, thereby allowing us to reap food's nutritional benefits. Our health depends on our ability to digest food, and our ability to digest food depends on enzymes.
Digestion Basics:
Before we delve more into the specifics of enzymes, let's travel with them through the digestive process. Here is a basic summary of what happens in our bodies when we eat a piece of pizza. Let's pretend the pizza is being digested by someone who eats few, if any, raw foods and therefore is deficient in  food enzymes:
1. Mouth: Pizza is chewed, the more the better (chewing, not pizza, that is). Salivary glands secrete saliva containing the enzyme, amylase, which digests carbohydrates and is one of the bodies naturally occurring enzymes. Bits of cheese, sauce and bread are then swallowed.
2. Upper part of the stomach (cardiac portion): This is our “pre-digestive stomach” where plant enzymes begin to break down food. This takes 30-60 minutes as the pizza waits for the lower portion of the stomach to produce hydrochloric acid. On a diet that is low in raw, organic foods, there will be few, if any, enzymes to help in this process. In other words, without enzymes for pre-digestion, this piece of pizza will just camp out in the cardiac portion, not quite sure what to do with itself and taking up space while it waits for the completion of hydrochloric acid production.
3. Lower port of the stomach: Here the pizza takes its long-awaited hydrochloric acid bath. It is broken down by the extreme acidity.
4. Duodenum (upper part of the small intestine): The pizza is alkalized (the pH rises to around 7.2) and further decomposed by pancreatic enzymes. Since the food has not been properly pre-digested, the pancreas is left over-burdened and exhausted, probably cursing our lack of foresight and unhealthy pizza obsession.
5. Jejunum (second part of the small intestine): This is the big hurrah for which the first four parts of digestion are preparing us. We finally begin to absorb all the health benefits of our food! Unfortunately, since we eat too much pizza and too little raw foods, there are still fairly large bits of cheese and grain floating around the jejunum. Over time, these undigested bits of food can wear down the small intestine and lead to a condition known as Leaky Gut Syndrome.
6. Colon (elimination): The final stage in our digestion - expelling of wastes. Over 90% of our bodies bacteria live here. Most of these bacteria are helpful. However, sometimes food that is not properly digested will feed pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungi. When wastes are not eliminated properly, toxins produced by pathogenic bacteria are re-absorbed into the blood which requires more work by the liver. That pizza could be coming back to haunt you in more ways than one.
What Happens When Food is Not Properly Digested?
Besides conditions listed above, enzyme deficiency manifests as common conditions of the major systems of the body:
Respiratory System
-        asthma
-        bronchitis
-        hay fever
-        chronic allergies
Endocrine System
-        PMS
-        menopause
-        hot flashes
-        infertility
-        menstrual irregularities
Musculo-Skeletal System
-        injuries (bruises, sprains, broken bones, tendonitis, disc problems)
-        neck and shoulder aches
-        back weakness
-        aching feet
-        arthritis
Immune System
-        inflammation
-        common colds
-        sinus infections
Nervous System
-        head aches
-        insomnia
-        depression
-        mood swings
Circulatory System
-        heart problems
-        high blood pressure
Digestive System
-        gastritis
-        ulcers
-        acid reflux
-        constipation
-        diarrhea
-        urinary weakness
-        irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Integumentary (skin) System
-        acne
-        psoriasis
-        skin rashes
Where do Enzymes Come From?: 
  1. The Digestive System. Our body naturally produces many digestive enzymes which aid in food break-down and absorption.
  2. Food. It is imperative that we fill our diets with foods rich in naturally ocurring enzymes in order to support our digestive system. Raw vegetables, nuts, fruits and raw meat are excellent examples of enzyme-rich foods.
  3. Scientists (supplements created in a lab). When our bodies need an extra boost, we can supplement our digestive system and food intake with enzyme supplements.
3 of the Main Digestive Enzymes 
1. Protease
- What does it digest?
- Why is protease important?
When taken on a full stomach, protease helps digest proteins. Protease helps break down debris from bacteria, parasites, fungi, viruses, and cancer cells. It is also an especially powerful tool for those that take medications such as Nexium, Prilosec, and Omeprazole for acid reflux disease, since these medications inhibit protein digestion.
- What does Protease support?
Protease helps resolve bacteria, viral and yeast infections, and helps support the immune system.
2. Amylase
- What does it digest?
-Why is amylase important?
A modern, Western diet consists of too many carbohydrates. Amylase can help ease digestive distress due to over-consumption of carbohydrates.
- What does Amylase support?
Hypoglycemia, Type II diabetes, carbohydrate cravings, allergies. Also helps ameliorate symptoms of asthma and emphysema.
3. Lipase
-What does it digest?
Fat, and fat-soluble vitamins.
- Why is lipase important? 
Healthy fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 from flaxseed and cold-water fish, or fat-soluble nutrients such as beta carotene, lutein, vitamins A, D, E and K, are extremely beneficial. However, the American diet is artificially chocked full of saturated fats which clog our arteries and necessitate the use of elastic waist bands. Avoiding processed foods quickly and easily fixes this problem. Lipase assists our body’s digestion of necessary and healthy fats. Lipase is especially helpful for those who have had gall bladder surgery and have an especially difficult time with fat digestion.
- What does lipase support? 
Lipase helps resolve high cholesterol, high triglycerides, weight-loss issues, cell permeability, vertigo or labrynthis (Meniere's Disease), and heart disease.
Enzymes Supplements and Appropriate Use: Full v. Empty Stomach
The enzymes found in plants or supplements can be taken either on an empty or full stomach, with varying results.
1. Break down food throughout the digestive system (Full Stomach)
By taking digestive enzymes white eating you can alleviate the stress on your pancreas and small intestine. When consumed with food, digestive enzymes can predigest up to 60% of the carbohydrates, 30% of the protein and 10% of the fat before the bodies digestive system takes over.
2. Vacuum-Cleaners and Inflation Deflators (Empty Stomach)
When taken on an empty stomach, enzymes enter the blood stream and help the immune system by digesting and disposing of toxins like high-powered vacuum cleaners. Taking enzymes in this way can help reverse inflammation. Each enzyme has a specific method for combating inflammation, which is why it is important to consult a health practitioner about which enzyme is best for you. Since plant enzymes digest toxins instead of annihilating them (as antibiotics do with bacteria), this cleansing process leaves no unwanted side effects. We can safely and efficiently eliminate the digested toxins through the urinary tract, skin, colon and lungs.
In Defense of Food
We need to get digestive enzymes primarily from food, not supplements. Our diets have become increasingly homogenized and processed, full of artificial sugars, saturated fats and extracted chemicals. By returning to a diet based on organic vegetables, proteins and fruits, our bodies will begin to heal.
Multivitamins v. Digestive Enzymes
Sometimes a simple diet change is not enough. Our bodies may need some additional support. Though we need to get digestive enzymes primarily from food, not supplements, supplemental digestive enzymes are much more efficacious than multi-vitamins. Tons of vitamins and minerals, boasting their numerous healthful qualities, line the shelves at every supermarket and pharmacy. All those vitamins and minerals seem so enticing in their simplicity: A one-pop-stop to true health. However, complete wellness takes more than a pill, though the pharmaceutical and diet industry would like you to think otherwise.
Plant v. Animal Based Enzyme Supplements
There are 2 different types of supplemental enzymes:
Supplement Enzyme Type 1. Plant 2. Animal (or glandular or pancreatic)
Where do they come from? Cultivated in fermentation tanks Obtained from the pancreas and stomach of cows and pigs
Function Helps the body support and maintain a healthy digestive system. Helps the body reduce inflammation. For acute symptoms.

Functions within what pH Range? Can function in pH range of 3.0-9.0 Can function only in 8.0-9.0 pH range
Versatility More versatile Less versatile
New Beginnings at Ann Arbor Holistic Health
Supporting our enzymes, the “construction workers,” is essential not only for food digestion and absorption, but also the health of our entire body. The symptoms of enzyme deficiency are our body’s way of alerting us about a digestive problem. Though facing enzyme deficiency can be daunting, it is imperative that we heed these messages and remember that there is hope. After slight modification to our diets and lifestyles, and taking appropriate supplements as needed, our bodies can heal. If you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of a compromised digestive system, make an appointment with one of the digestive health experts at Ann Arbor Holistic Health today. Please call 734-222-8210 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. 

At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic strategy of healing. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life. Please visit our website at 

8 Common Causes of a Leaky Gut

Now that we known some of the symptoms, let's take a look at some of the most common causes.

1. Chronic inflammation

Whether it be stress, IBS, or a food allergy, chronic inflammation is one of the biggest causes of a leaky gut.

2. Food Sensitivities/allergies

Food sensitivities can cause inflammation and worsen a leaky gut. Food sensitivities are also symptoms of a leaky gut because once our digestive tract becomes permeable, additional food sensitivities may develop.

3. Damage from taking large amounts of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)

Certain pain relief medications can be detrimental to our bodies, especially when taken frequently. Consult your medical practitioner for a less caustic pain reliever.

4. Cytotoxic drugs

Used to treat symptoms of arthritis, these medications can wear on our intestines.

5. Radiation

Used to treat cancer, radiation can weaken our systems.

6. Antibiotics

7. Excessive alcohol consumption

8. Compromised immunity

This can be a result of small intestine bacteria overgrowth, chronic stress, or intestinal infections. It is important to take even small infections seriously. If not addressed immediately, they can grow.

5 Easy Steps: Mend that Leaky Gut

A leaky gut sounds menacing, but they can heal with time and effort. Here are three easy steps to get you on your way.

1. Get a Food Allergy Test

Your leaky gut can only heal once you know what foods are harmful to you. Food allergy tests are simple, straightforward, and inexpensive. Removing trigger foods is a great start.

2. Easy on the Pill-Popping

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen often contribute to gut irritation. Ask your medical practitioner for a pain reliever that is more gentle on your digestive system.

3. Twenty-Chew Challenge

Chewing each bite twenty times until it becomes a liquid means less work for your stomach and digestive system. Eating your food slowly also has been proven to help people enjoy food more and eat less.

4. Get a Little Help from your Supplement Friends

A leaky gut generally indicates an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the small and large intestine. There are plenty of supplements out there to help replenish good bacteria. Ask your medical practitioner for a recommendation that's right for you.

5. Don't Make a Mountain out of a Mole Hill...

...and by that we mean treat minor infections, such as candida, immediately and completely. Letting these infections fester forces the immune system to be constantly alert. This is physically exhausting and increases inflammation throughout the body, including the gut.

The 7 Most Common Systemic Symptoms of a Leaky Gut

How do we know if we have a “leaky gut”? Since 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract, poor digestion and absorption becomes a systemic problem. Our whole body feels the effects. This is why discovering and treating a leaky gut is so important.

While the following is not an exhaustive list of symptoms or systems affected by a leaky gut, here are some of the most common:

1. Digestive System

-        abdominal pain

-        indigestion

-        diarrhea

-        constipation

-        bloating

-        gas

2. Respiratory System

-        asthma

-        shortness of breath

3. Muscular System

-        chronic joint pain

-        chronic muscle pain

4. Integumentary System (skin, hair, nails)

-        skin rashes

-        acne

-        eczema

-        psoriasis

5. Nervous System

-        confusion

-        fuzzy or foggy thinking

-        mood swings

-        nervousness

-        poor memory

-        aggressive behavior

-        anxiety

-        fatigue

-        feeling toxic

6. Immune System

-        poor immunity

-        recurrent vaginal infections

7. Urinary System

-        recurrent bladder infections

-        bed-wetting

If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, the best course of action is to speak to a health practitioner that is familiar with leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky What? Gut Basics Explained

This month's blogs will focus on Leaky Gut Syndrome. We will cover gut basics, symptoms, causes, and easy steps to take to improve intestinal health.


The concept of a leaky gut is confusing and odd-sounding. It evokes an image of a tin pail riddled with holes, or a faucet with a constant drip. How can our guts be leaky?

Snapshot #1: Healthy Gut

Let's start with normal digestion. Our intestines are not solid barriers, as tin pails and faucets tend to be, but are permeable, like filters. Your digestive tract serves as a filter system, much like the ones people use in their homes to purify water. The digestive tract is essentially providing the same service for our bodies. The gut absorbs healthy bits and pieces of the food we eat and allows them to pass through to the blood stream. Larger molecules-  such as partially digested food, bacteria and toxins- that are too big to properly filter through are shuttled to the large intestine where they are expelled.

Snapshot #2: Leaky Gut

Have you ever gone camping and tried to purify water that was filled with sludge and particulate matter? Even if you haven't, try to imagine filtering drain pipe run-off in your Brita. It probably wouldn't be something to serve to friends. Those with leaky gut syndrome have malfunctioning intestinal filters. Often, however, these intestinal filters are malfunctioning because of what they have been forced to filter. Over time leaky guts develop gaping holes that allow toxins and undigested food to enter into the blood stream. This triggers an immune response complete with attacking white blood cells and flaring inflammation. What may have initially been only one food allergy or sensitivity could turn into many. You could even develop an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis.

“Gutting” it Right

Yikes, that last snapshot was a little gross. No worries. Keeping your gut healthy is relatively easy with a bit of awareness. In this month's blogs we will give you some great tips on keeping those filtering systems sludge-free.

Gluten Intolerance is not a fad: gluten & the foods you love

I. Did you know?: Facts about Gluten
II. What is gluten?
III. Where can gluten be found?
IV. 12 Warning Signs of Gluten Intolerance
V. Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease: What is the difference?
VI. The Dangers of a Leaky Gut
VII. Why Almost No One Tests Positive for Celiac Disease
VIII. Diagnosis: How can I test for Gluten Intolerance?
IX. Links to more information, past newsletters, and gluten podcast
X. What's next? A list of health topics for future newsletters.
I. Did you know...?
• 1 in 7 people in the U.S. are gluten intolerant.
• Gluten is one of the most common food allergies which often leads to additional food allergies.
• 60% of those with Gluten Intolerance do not exhibit any digestive system symptoms.
• Gluten Intolerance is implicated in approximately 50 other diseases.
Manfred certainly didn't know. At 80 years old, Manfred had enviable health and an infectious zest for life. He was always active, exercising daily, operating a landscaping business, and baking delicious and crispy rye bread. He fell ill suddenly with Ulcerative Colitis,a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that affects the large intestine. Manfred was hospitalized and given steroids to reduce intestinal inflammation. When his condition finally stabilized, Manfred still experienced terrible bouts of diarrhea. Having lived healthfully until this point, Manfred did not want to spend the rest of his life on medications which left him physically unsettled, but there seemed no other choice.
By working with the appropriate holistic practitioner, Manfred realized he was exhibiting symptoms of Gluten Intolerance. He removed gluten from his diet and the Ulcerative Colitis slowly dissipated. Now Manfred is back to building, gardening and even baking (though now, gluten-free!).

II. What is gluten?
Gluten and gliadin are two proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye that give flour elasticity.
III. Where can gluten be found?
Gluten can be found in cookies, breads, pastas, oats, couscous, spelt, some non-dairy creamers, teriyaki sauce, beer, bran, anything that uses flour and much more.
IV. Are you Gluten Intolerant? Check these 12 Warning Signs: 
1. Diarrhea, flatulence, bloating, constipation, nausea, vomiting.
2. Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
3. Implicated in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's,andepilepsy. 
4. Implicated in autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Type I Diabetes, among others.
5. Mouth ulcers.
6. Gradual weight change.
7. Fibromyalgia, bone pain, joint pain, numbness or tingling in extremities.
8. Frequent headaches or migraines. 
9. Chronic fatigue.
10. Interstitial cystitis.
11. Psoriasis and other skin disorders.
12. Abnormal menses, infertility, miscarriage.
V. Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease: What is the difference?
Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease are delayed allergic responses to the proteins gluten and gliadin. This allergic reaction inflames the small intestine, the effects of which can be felt all throughout the entire body. Over time, this inflammation causes the villi, which line the small intestines, to atrophy. The villi, which look like shag carpeting, are primarily responsible for nutrient absorption. If the villi deteriorate, the body will be challenged to absorb nutrients. When the villi are severely compromised, Gluten Intolerance becomes Celiac Disease. Therefore, Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease are the same illness, differing only in severity. The treatments for Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance are the same - the complete elimination of gluten from your diet.
Below is an image depicting healthy villi on the left, and worn down villi on the right.


VI. The Dangers of a Leaky Gut 
Food allergens, such as gluten, trigger inflammation in the digestive tract. This inflammation creates increased permeability in the walls of the intestines, leading to a phenomenon called Leaky Gut syndrome. Partially digested or undigested food enters the blood stream through the intestinal wall, triggering an immune response to the food. Many people develop secondary food allergies due to a Leaky Gut, the most common of which are allergies to casein found in dairy products, or eggs.
VII. Why Almost No One Tests Positive for Celiac Disease
Most people who are gluten intolerant do not test positive for Celiac Disease. Doctors generally test only for Celiac Disease through a biopsy of the small intestine to check for villi deterioration and some other minimal blood tests. Unfortunately, the biopsy and blood tests most often do not screen for Gluten Intolerance, so many patients continue to suffer needlessly for years, develop autoimmune disorders, and even unwittingly pass it along to their children (Gluten Intolerance can be inherited).
VIII. Diagnosis: How can I test for Gluten Intolerance?
We recommend a complete blood test which checks for both Gluten Intolerance and an additional 96 potential food allergens. This comprehensive screening can detect secondary food allergies which may be due to Leaky Gut syndrome. Digestive Health Ann Arbor is one of the few practices that offer such an inclusive exam.

The 30-foot miracle: Discovering our Digestive Tract

Our digestive tract is a 30-foot-long muscular tube that begins at our mouth and ends at our anus. Its 3 main functions:

1. Transform food into absorbable nourishment.

2. Fend off invading organisms and toxins.

3. Expel waste products.

Ingested food travels down the digestive tract through a process called peristalsis, a wave-like muscle contraction. During peristalsis, different enzymes, bacteria and acids critical to digestion are secreted in a highly specialized and coordinated process. When food is completely broken down it passes through the digestive tract's tissue wall and is absorbed by the body’s cells.

Around 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract. Its primary role is to “ok” or “attack” a food we ingest. When our immune system doesn't like something in our tube, it uses inflammation and excess mucus as ammunition. If the immune system is constantly on the offensive, these reactions can damage our digestive tract. Inflammation deteriorates the intestinal lining, resulting in something called “Leaky Gut syndrome.”

Why do some medical professionals refuse to talk about the connection between poor health and poor digestion? Clearly our bodies have evolved a highly complex digestive immune system for a reason. Denying the fact that food plays a crucial role in our overall well-being seems misguided and potentially dangerous. It is critical that we start addressing digestion as a key element in human health.