Leaky Gut, Allergies & Food Sensitivities

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by Mike Simmonds

Imagine you went to water your garden with the hose. You unravel it, walk back to the tap, switch it on, expecting a spout of water at the other end. Instead, imagine if hundreds of tiny holes appeared in the middle of the hose allowing water to spew onto the garden, but not where you wanted it. This is what happens in Leaky Gut Syndrome.

What should happen is all the water goes exactly where you want it. In the healthy gut nutrients do cross the intestinal barrier, but very tightly controlled by the gut wall in communication with the gut bugs, the microbiome. In Leaky Gut, as the name suggests, disruption of the wall and microbiome lead to reduced border control and increased inflammation and disease.

Damage to the delicate one-cell-thin gut barrier can be direct from bacterial toxins or drugs, for example, but it can also be due to chaos in the bug populations sitting on and in the intestine. Take an antibiotic and it may not touch your gut wall directly, but because it changes the balance of power within the gut bug politics, chaos and leakiness can ensue. Eat a protein that causes allergic or sensitivity responses and inflammation can put a spanner in the worlds of both intestinal and gut bug balance.

Ok, so your gut is a bit inflamed. So what?

Well, everything. A recent article by Alessio Fasano, a leading researcher in the human field, suggests, ‘All Disease Begins in the (Leaky) Gut’. He suggests that a gut leaking food and microbiome molecules into the body is strongly linked to many chronic immune diseases in people; allergic conditions, autoimmune disease, infectious problems , metabolic complaints, even cancer. Terrifying stuff.

But all is not lost for us or our dogs. There are many things we can do to nurture our gut health and our microbiome. Beyond finding a species-appropriate, unprocessed, fresh food diet that works for the individual’s appetite and digestive quirks, here are some suggestions:

Promote Optimal Microbiome in Your Dog:

Probiotics

Probiotics seed the gut with bacteria. They are not needed by dogs with healthy gut bugs. Trouble is so many dogs today have regular antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (Metacam or Previcox, for example) poor diet or stress issues in their lives. All these things are pro-inflammatory to the body. They can also jar the delicate balance of bacteria in the gut. Think of pro-biotics as being like ploughing up all the weeds in your garden, then sprinkling with new, healthy meadow flowers for a fresh start.

Prebiotics

There are a number of dog supplements that can help promote gut health. These supplements are not bacteria or living organisms. They feed the good bacteria in the gut. Many of our foods are indigestible to us and our dogs. We eat them because they benefit our gut bugs. Amazingly, all the sugars in human breast milk, Human Oligosaccharides, are actually indigestible to our babies! Mother Nature puts them there to ensure the flourishing baby microbiome has plenty to eat and digest. By nurturing baby bugs, the body feeds the baby in the early months from nutrients extensively derived from bugs.

Prebiotics are usually found in plant material. Common examples are fructo-oligosaccharides, FOS, found chicory, onions, asparagus, wheat, tomatoes and other fruits, vegetables and grains.

Many people suggest dogs are carnivores, and therefore have no need of plant fibre. I disagree. From the example above, it seems obvious to me that it pays to feed certain populations of bugs in the dog’s gut with plant material. Throughout history dogs have derived some plant material from berries, herbivore poo and the intestinal contents of their prey.

Herbs and Supplements:

Quercetin

Quercetin is the most remarkable and abundant molecule you’ve never heard of. They are found in a variety of foods including apples, berries, Brassica vegetables, capers, grapes, onions, shallots, tea, and tomatoes, as well as many seeds, nuts, flowers, barks, and leaves. Quercetin is also found in medicinal botanicals, including Ginkgo biloba, St. John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum, and Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis. For such a shy nutrient, it really has a lot of potential benefits to overall health and disease resistance, including anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antioxidant capabilities.

A friend of mine report she’s just started to eat high quercetin foods for the last month and for the first time in a decade she’s able to eat strawberries and apples which previously brought her out in hives and itch. This new and exciting supplement is one to keep an eye on.

Beta-glucans

Beta-glucans are sugars found in the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, algae, lichens, and plants, such as oats and barley.

Beta-glucans are taken by mouth in humans for diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure, and canker sores. Beta-glucans are also taken by mouth to boost the immune system in people whose body defences have been weakened by conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome; physical and emotional stress; or by treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy.

Beta-glucans are also taken by mouth for colds, influenza (flu), swine flu, respiratory tract infections, allergies, hepatitis, Lyme disease, asthma, ear infections, ageing, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, pain after surgery, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.

In dogs, their use is much less well researched, but as the cross-over between human and canine physiology is so great that we can be pretty sure they will have a similar range of used in our canine friends.

Mike Simmonds

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