Leaky Gut Syndrome in Pets

Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) is a problem in people and animals alike. And recent research is pointing to LGS as a possible causative agent in many previously unrelated diseases.

What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

The GI track (or alimentary canal in medical jargon) should be thought of as an internal passageway within the body that connects the environment at each end. When thought of this way, we realize that food and other ingesta in the intestines are actually OUTSIDE the body. To actually enter the body food nutrients and other molecules need to cross the gut wall and enter the blood stream.

Besides the digestion and absorption of nutrients, one of the major functions of the gut wall is to make sure that it is allowing the proper nutrients to enter, while keeping toxins, pathogens, and other noxious substances out. When the gut fails to keep these negative molecules out of the body we end up with a condition called Leaky Gut Syndrome.

What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?

The GI wall is made up of multiple layers, and these layers differ depending on the part of the GI track they’re located in, for example in the stomach, small intestine, or large intestine. However, one common component of the entire alimentary canal is the interior lining, called the mucosa.

In the small and large intestines the cells of the mucosa are very tightly packed together, forming a bond called Tight Junctions (TJs). Tight Junctions have the primary specific function of preventing toxins and pathogens from entering the blood stream inappropriately. It is damage to these tight junctions that is the main culprit in Leaky Gut Syndrome.

TJs can be damaged from a multitude of different causes. Any type of environmental insult can – in theory – cause damage to TJ’s, and thus precipitate LGS. These include pathogens such as bacteria and viruses, environmental toxins as well as manmade chemicals in many of the pet foods we feed, as well as free radicals and other toxic molecules from incomplete digestion of otherwise appropriate feeds.

Many (if not most) of the feeds we feed our pets are highly processed dry kibble. This heat processing can affect the digestibility of these feeds. Add to that the fact that many of the cheaper diets have added chemicals, colorings, and preservatives, and you realize the intestinal lining of the modern pet is under attack by a barrage of insults that nature never meant for it to face.

Leaky Gut Syndrome and Systemic Disease

LGS is a well-documented disease process in both veterinary and human medicine. On the human side research is currently ongoing to try to discern its role in multiple systemic diseases. It is now hypothesized that many autoimmune diseases can be at least partially attributed to LGS.

And several studies are now pointing to a potential role for LGS in the pathogenesis of Type I Diabetes and Celiac Disease.

On the veterinary side, research is lagging. However, there is no reason to believe that the same causative link will not be found between LGS and systemic disease similar to the findings in human medicine. Skin allergies, certain forms of arthritis, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and many other conditions may be found to have a link to LGS. If this is true, it opens up a whole avenue of possibilities for treatment and prevention of these diseases.


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