What is it?
A leaky gut is a term used to describe an increase in permeability of the gut wall which allows pathogens, toxins and translocating bacteria to cross the gut wall membrane, causing discomfort in the gut and ill health to other parts of the body.
Tight junctions (TJ’s) are the gates of the gut that control the permeability of the gut wall, allowing water, ions and macromolecules to pass through whilst refusing entry to inflammatory molecules and harmful substances.
When the tight junction barrier is damaged, it becomes more permeable or ‘leaky’ and there is an immediate inflammatory immune response that causes gastric discomfort. Scientific research has indicated that dietary management can prevent, reduce and control the many inflammatory responses to TJ damage.
There are three types of symptoms associated with ‘leaky gut’ the first set can be directly linked to the gut and include weight loss, inflammatory bowel disease, acute and chronic vomiting, flatulence, and diarrhoea.
The second set of symptoms can be linked to inflammation in distant parts of the body, human research has identified arthritis, skin allergies and diseases, hepatitis and pancreatitis.
The third set of symptoms relates to the imbalance caused to the gut community by ‘leaky gut syndrome’ growing scientific evidence suggests that anxiety, aggression and stress behaviours can be caused by gut bacteria communicating to the host through the gut/brain axis.
Too many of the wrong/bad species of bacteria can increase levels of stress and anxiety through the production of neuroactive peptides which disrupt the communication between gut and brain.
Biofilm bacteria are formed in the gut wall and aggravate/cause ‘leaky gut’, colonising gut bacteria tend to rob the host of nutrients, reduce levels of good gut bacteria linked to a strong immune response and produce toxins linked to inflammation.
The reason for the onset of leaky gut is thought to be related to the bacteria community that resides in the gastrointestinal tract. At Petbiome we have the largest database of dogs in the world and working together with vets we have put together several microbial community profiles of dogs with leaky gut symptoms.
The common denominators are
1. Bacterial infections, infestations, and overgrowths.
2. Long-term medication with antibiotics, NSAID’s and over-vaccination, all causing a reduction in the numbers of good gut bacteria that help ‘police’ the numbers of bad bacteria.
3. Toxins- some bacteria produce secondary metabolites that are toxic helping to degrade the tight junctions of the gut wall.
4. Highly processed food, the good gut bacteria need food with whole fibre content, too much processed food often provides high levels of carbohydrates that promote the growth of bacteria linked to inflammation.
Diagnosis of leaky gut.
The vet may run several tests to check for underlying causes including blood tests (inflammation/infection) faecal tests (for parasites), Xrays, ultrasound and biopsies to examine the health of the gut lining.
The PetBiome report offers a unique real- time analytical tool to identify all members of your pet’s microbial community, linking these bacteria to biofilm formation, toxin production and translocation across the gut wall.
It is also possible to look at alternative underlying causes for symptomatic dogs, i.e., identifying the bacteria associated with nutrient supply, immune response, and the links to the brain. Once a profile has been established the diet can then be altered to re-establish gastrointestinal balance and health.