I’m sure many of you have heard of the term ‘leaky gut’, probably used in relations to animals and humans but perhaps don’t fully understand the mechanisms in play and how this condition can adversely affect the body.
Basically, leaky gut is used to describe a condition of the intestinal barriers. These barriers normally allow for the crossing over of essential vitamins, minerals and fluids into the bloodstream for dissemination to the rest of the body but prevents (if healthy) food particles and pathogens from crossing the intestine-blood barriers.
In some animals and in some people, this barrier becomes damaged and inflamed for a number of reasons, including:
• A poor diet, usually processed and lacking in nutrients• Over-use of some medications, for example antibiotics
• Pathogens – bacteria, parasites and yeasts, which alter the balance of digestive flora
• Certain health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
This damage weakens the intestinal barrier, causing it to become permeable, allowing food compounds and pathogens to pass through the intestine-blood barriers. So what happens when these barriers are weakened. Well, our bodies, being equipped with a super strong immune response, can become hypervigilant and launch an immediate defence attack on anything that has crossed this barrier. Unfortunately, when its food particles, this can result in food allergies and intolerances because the body starts to recognise these particles as invaders. Remember, these particles shouldn’t be there and because of this, your body marks them as hostile. They should still be in the digestive system waiting to be fully digested. In other animals or people, systemic infections can occur, or autoimmune conditions can become an issue as the immune system starts to go into overdrive.
These mechanisms cause the body to produce inflammatory markers, further increasing inflammation, resulting in a further weakening of the intestinal-blood barriers. It becomes a vicious circle. Then we introduce more antibiotics and more steroids to treat the resulting symptom’s, often skin or digestive related. In turn, this causes more inflammation and symptoms escalate. We change our animal’s diets, without really knowing why, and at the same time we don’t try and fix the cause of the issue, so ultimately our dog (or you) start to react to the new diet.
So how do we help to fix this? Well the most effective way is to actually prevent it occurring in the first place by feeding a healthy, specifies appropriate diet. Limit junk food and toxic chemicals, Filter drinking water, reduce environmental toxins/sensitivities (these have been shown to actually alter the gut flora) and reduce the use of chemicals flea and worm treatments.
That’s all well and good but how do we help animals (or you) that you suspect already has this condition?
1. Feed a healthy, unprocessed as possible, chemical free diet.
2. Supplement with l-glutamine, a fatty acid component, which helps maintain a strong intestinal blood barrier.
3. Add in herbs, such as plantain, marshmallow and chamomile. These help to sooth, reduce inflammation, tone and provide a protective barrier whilst your body naturally heals. Omega 3 fatty acids also play a strong role here.
4. Add in pre (food for friendly bacteria) and probiotics (the friendly bacteria). These will help to rebalance and repopulate the gut flora. Friendly bacteria help to keep the intestinal linings functioning normally and act as an additional barrier protecting the intestinal lining from pathogens, inflammation and toxins.
5. Remove suspected intolerances and sensitivities to help to reduce stress on the body and reduce the inflammation, stopping the vicious circle and allowing for healing to begin. However, you must do this in conjunction with the above advice. Removing the offending foods or environmental sensitivities alone may produce a short-term health benefit but after time the vicious circle will kick back in and new intolerances will start to develop.
6. If you are unsure of your animal’s intolerances , then we recommend taking the BB Herbal Intolerance & Sensitivity Test for animals .
7. Lastly, this is not a quick fix but with attention to detail and sticking rigidly with the above points the you should start to see some improvements after approximately 3 months, however every animal and human are different – some see benefits very quickly and others can take up to a year.