intestinal permeabilityWelcome back to the second part of our Leaky Gut series. In this section, we will be talking more about the third key concept from Part 1 (that approximately 60-70% of the body’s immune system surrounds the GI tract) and how it relates to the negative effects of Leaky Gut.

If you’ve come here straight from Part 1, you learned about antigens and the gut barrier. Antigens are any substances that are foreign in the body and do not support health or vitality. The gut barrier protects your body from antigens by policing what substances are allowed to enter the body. When the gut barrier is permeable or leaky, antigens gain much greater access to the body by squeezing through the gut barrier and into the bloodstream.

A Word Picture: Your Gut = Screen Door

Let’s use an analogy to help you more easily visualize the effects of leaky gut on the gut barrier. The gut barrier works like a screen door. The mesh of a screen door is large enough that fresh air and outdoor aromas can flow freely inside, but it’s small enough that anything too big (like a spider) can’t get through. Your screen door serves as a protective barrier between your house and Mother Nature. What happens when a few of the small mesh wires in the door break? The holes get bigger. Now, all of those bugs and critters that your screen door was designed to keep out are able to squeeze their way through the larger tears and into your home.

Leaky gut does something similar to the gut barrier. When your gut barrier is broken down by Franken-Foods, poor diet, inflammation, or chronic stress, it starts to become much more permeable like the tears in the screen door allowing larger, unwelcome substances into the body. Also, the screening process that detects which substances have been cleared to enter the body stops functioning properly. Antigens that the gut barrier is designed to keep out of the body are suddenly able to squeeze through and into the blood stream. Unlike bugs getting through a screen door, the antigens that squeeze by the gut barrier are not mere annoyances. Some antigens can cause significant damage to long-term health, including severe inflammation and autoimmune diseases.

What happens when antigens get into the blood stream?

Your body has its own little guards called white blood cells that recognize antigens as substances foreign to the body. White blood cells respond to antigens by sounding an alarm that reports and identifies them to killer cells, the body’s natural soldiers. White blood cells and killer cells work together to eliminate antigens. The white blood cells scan antigens for their “fingerprint”, similar to how a grocery store clerk scans the barcode on a box of cereal to identify the item at checkout. It relays this information to the killer cells, which then attack anything matching this fingerprint. This is a vital function of the immune system. It is the primary way that the immune system protects against foreign substances in the body.

Unfortunately, leaky gut syndrome throws this whole system out of balance by causing the immune system to malfunction and leading to autoimmune disease. Read part 3 of the series to find out more about autoimmune diseases and how they relate to Leaky Gut.


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