The digestive system and leaky gut, part 2

What do you need to know about the digestive system and leaky gut? Part 2: How to heal.

In my previous article I talked about the importance of digestion, and what may cause leaky gut. The walls of the intestine serve as a physical barrier, separating food and the bacterial populations of the intestine from the rest of the body. Intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut,” occurs when antigens that normally can not go through the intestinal tract are able to make their way through and enter into the bloodstream.

There are numerous things that can alter the permeability of the intestine, including stress, medication, alcohol, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and food allergies. Leaky gut can lead to systemic inflammation, and can also cause autoimmune disorders and many other complications. Hormone imbalance and estrogen dominance are also often associated with leaky gut. Signs and symptoms include digestive issues, bad breath, body odor, bloating, gas, nausea, and constipation.

Diet/bacteria relationships lead to two types of unwanted antigen exposure. First, the body may be directly exposed to unwanted food antigens consumed in the diet via disrupted permeability. Second, the body may experience indirect exposure in which the disrupted microfloral balance may produce unwanted endogenous toxins and antigens. And for the bacterial balance and imbalance in the gut, there’s a strong connection between what we eat, and how we eat (such as when and where). Consuming difficult to digest foods, such as a meal with both high fat and high carb content, or highly processed foods, can delay intestinal food transit. This, combined with poorly timed intestinal muscle activity, can lead to excessive permeability and can result in abnormal bacterial balance and the absorption of antigenic or toxic substances into the bloodstream.

So can leaky gut be “cured”? The answer is definitely yes.

Relatively short periods of fluid/nutrient-supplemented fasting have been shown to improve the microfloral balance in the intestine. Gluten, found in wheat and other grains (barley and rye), also plays a huge role in inflammation and leaky gut. Dr. Alessio Fasano, head of research at the University of Harvard Celiac Research Centre, has shown that there is at least some increased gut permeability induced in all people when exposed to gluten. And now, Dr. Fasano has actually demonstrated what’s being called “leaky brain,” when similar changes in the blood-brain barrier permeability are brought on by similar influences.

A very effective way of treating intestinal dysbiosis and leaky gut is the 4-R program, developed by Dr. Jeffrey Bland. The four Rs are Remove, Replace, Reinoculate and Repair.

In the Remove phase, the patient removes the common allergy-producing foods, including grains containing gluten and dairy products, and switches to a low allergy potential diet utilizing rice-based products, legumes, fruits, vegetables, fish and poultry. If the patient is suffering from chronic infections of the sinus, oral cavity or intestinal tract, then these are treated. The exposure to toxic chemicals and toxic metals such as mercury is also eliminated.

The second clinical step in the 4R program, Replace, removes the substances that might disrupt the function of the immune system, and evaluates the patient for their sufficiency of digestive enzymes and proper stomach acid. The best “test” here is whether the person can properly digest a normal meal without complaints of bloating, gas formation, or reflux. If this is a problem then digestive aids can be used, such as digestive enzymes that are taken along with meals.

Reinoculate is the third 4R step, and refers to the reintroduction of desirable bacteria into the intestine to establish microfloral balance via a therapeutic dose of a well researched and medically documented probiotic, along with a prebiotic supplement.

Prebiotics are specific food fibers that are used by the friendly probiotic organisms as their “food” in the intestinal tract to improve their therapeutic value. In other words, prebiotics are there to support our good bacteria.

A variety of supplemental sources can be helpful in this phase, including cultured and fermented foods containing live bacteria, refrigerated liquid supplements containing live bacteria, or freeze-dried bacteria packaged in powder, tablet, or capsule form. In addition to directly reintroducing bacteria, this step may also involve indirectly bolstering the reinoculation process through foods or food products that enhance lactobacilli or bifidobacteria growth without simultaneously enhancing pathogenic bacteria growth.

After a couple of weeks in the Reinoculate phase, the fourth and final step in a 4R approach, Repair, involves providing the nutrients that the membranes need to regenerate via direct nutritional support of the intestinal cells through the use of supplements containing nutrients known to be critical in intestinal wall structure and function. In this group of nutrients are many of the antioxidants, including vitamins C, E, and A/betacarotene, the minerals zinc and manganese, the amino acids cysteine, N-acetylcysteine, and glutamine, the tripeptide glutathione, and the carbohydrates inulin and/or FOS. Also included are other nutrients closely involved with collagen formation, such as the vitamin pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), as well as licorice root, and curcumin.

If you feel that you might be suffering from leaky gut, then some food recommendations include lightly steamed, organically grown fresh vegetables. You can add mustard seed, which is an active enzyme that helps ease digestion, as well as herbs such as parsley, cilantro, and basil. Wild-caught fish, including sardines and salmon, can be helpful, as can raw nuts and seeds, almonds, sprouts, and organic eggs. You can switch to almond, coconut and hazelnut flour instead of gluten, and to almond, cashew and coconut milk instead of dairy. And you can add superfoods to your diet, such as maca, chlorella, blue-green algae, cacao, mulberries, and hemp seeds. Also beneficial are sweet potatoes, asparagus, dandelion greens and Jerusalem artichoke, spinach, organic kefir and organic beef liver. Fruit, of course, is great but try to go for lower sugar fruits, such as berries.

And finally, choose organic as much as possible for all of your shopping. Yes, some people do believe that it does not make much difference, however in my own life and practice I am seeing so many positive effects, especially in helping improve digestion. So I personally believe it is still our best choice.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy Healthy New Year!!


Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at, or (808) 276-6892.

  1. Charlie Chimknee December 26, 2018 9:04 am Reply

    Aloha Kakoung,
    The human digestive system is benefitted with an incredible function that allows the good things (preferably nutritious foods) that travel through the gastrointestinal tract to pass through the gut wall into our blood stream, thus into our bodies and off into the far reaches of every part of our bodies.

    The part of the GI TRACT (meaning the gastrointestinal tract) that absorbs, or allows the walls of the GI Tract to transport the micro particles of our digested food cross the gut wall, from the tube of the GI Tract, and allows the digested micro particles of our food to enter our bodies is in the small intestine. For those who are not sure of where the GI Tract is located, it is from the lips of your mouth to your anus, or your butt, or where you excrete your bowel movements.

    The gut barrier, or the walls of the small intestine, have incredible intelligent cell colonies. One of the amazing things of the GI Tract in the intestine where food enters our bodies is that the wall of the intestines there is only 1 cell thick. They are flat cells lying down like a pan or tray of cookies side by side touching at all of their borders blocking anything from crossing in either direction.

    But the really cool part is that the closed but connected spaces between the cells are like Velcro, they are able to intelligently open and close to nutritious micro particles of our digested food and are supposed to be able to block toxic or non nutrient foods. And this is how it has been since man and womankind have walked the earth.

    My assumption is that it is the same “miracle” mechanism of absorbing our food into our bodies that goes on also in all the apes and monkeys and food eating vertebrates (vertebrates are creatures that have spines and nervous systems like ours).

    One of the issues of the disruption of normal transport across the gut wall for our food is this. Some substances “trick” the Velcro-like connection between the cells that line the gut wall. These “foreign” substances cause the “Velcro” connection to open the space between the cells lining the gut wall and allow through into our bodies the “foreign” non food, and actually toxic or poisonous, substances.

    One of these substances is Glyphosate, one of the main ingredients used in Round Up herbicide and used in the saturation of seeds in the GMO INDUSTRY, in order to make food seeds Round Up Ready, that is make the food, while growing, be able to withstand the poison herbicide Glyphosate, so that corn and so many other GMO foods can grow on farms without having to pull the weeds that normally grow amongst food crops, but instead just spray them with weed poison from enormous machines.

    The sad part for us is that the Glyphosate remains on the food when we eat it and it goes to our small intestines, where it is able to open the “Velcro” connection between our gut wall cells and then the Glyphosate, the herbicide, and perhaps other agricultural poisons, enters our bodies. A large % of people and pregnant women are testing positive for the presence of Glyphosate in their blood and umbilical cords. Yikes…!

    That is what they call the LEAKY GUT SYNDROME…and we are poisoned by it in a subtle silent way. The trouble is this poisoning is damaging and deadly in an accumulative way…day after week, after month, after year, after decades of years, from eating food with agricultural poisons on them, or breathing these poisons when spraying our yards and side of the road for the weeds.

    The poisonous chemicals are relatively new to the human race as the vast majority of them, like over 90%, are made from oil we put in our cars, petrochemicals, and they are carcinogenic or cancer causing, and have only been around since modern chemistry most of which has been since WWII, WHEN THEY SPLIT THE atom to make bombs, but they also unleashed chemistry to make just about anything from oil, petrochemicals, like medicines and additives in our foods.

    The human is not designed to withstand the toxic things that chemicals do and thus since the start and development and wild use of modern chemistry, so too has been the rapid increase in many diseases, especially the cancers, and the epidemics of obesity and heart and vascular disease or heart attacks and strokes, they’ve all come about by the increase in eating animals and the dairy products from them.

    Safe food to eat should be taught at all levels of education. And wild chemical use kept from the human population and from the foods and animals we eat that cute us to get poisoned secondarily…poison to animals and plant based foods…to human gut and body…we’re damaged but the medical world of HELLth Care makes $4 Trillion Dollars per year. How do you stop that without education, some of which hopefully you got today.


    1. iesha m jenkins August 10, 2020 11:28 pm Reply

      Im having problems with bad b/o ever since i put this mesh in my stomach back in 19

      1. Tina November 4, 2020 10:11 am Reply

        I’ve had this issue for a couple of years I’m in my late 20’s s and it’s so embarrassing mine came all of something I don’t know if it’s my hormones cause I do have pcos or if it’s from ibs but it’s very embarrassing being around people and there so judgmental with there indirect comments instead of just saying I smell they just leave me wondering the twist they face up and all I can’t smell it is horrible.

  2. Americo December 19, 2020 10:20 am Reply

    I have bad body odor ever since I was a teenager and I didn’t know what it was until I researched and found out it might be food related allergies. I did take a food allergy test and everything turned out great. I wasn’t positive on and food types, it was all below negative range. If it’s food I would like some professional advise with end result assurance of it never coming back. It’s embarrassing of all my life. Please give good advise to me.

    Thank you

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