What is Leaky Gut? Could you be suffering from this condition?

Leaky gut syndrome has gained some considerable attention in the health industry, despite still not being entirely recognized by many medical professionals. Leaky gut is the generic term for an abnormally increased intestinal permeability, a medical term for “small holes in the intestines”. This condition results in an abnormal amount of absorption of materials that should not otherwise pass through the intestines and into the bloodstream. Some of the substances that make it through the intestinal barrier may include bacteria, antigens, food particulates and inflammatory mediators which can lead to a host of potential problems. Malabsorption of minerals is another sequele of this condition.  Untreated and undetected leaky gut may be responsible for some acute and chronic health conditions.  Some of the more common conditions linked to leaky gut include:

  • autoimmune diseases
  • diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease
  • multiple bowel-related problems (IBS, IBD)
  • weight gain
  • psychological conditions
  • joint problems

Causes of leaky gut are multi-factorial. Daily stress, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, alcohol consumption, cow’s milk intolerance, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, pancreatic insufficiency and intestinal infections are all potential sources of inflammation. It becomes quite apparent that intervention is paramount in these cases in order to break the cycle, restore gut health and ideally result in resolution of the associated conditions present.

Assessment strategies for leaky gut syndrome appear to be open to interpretation at the present time. It is largely a diagnosis that is made clinically through the presence of some key indicators.

These key indicators are symptoms such as:

  • bloating
  • gas
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • headaches to name a few.

When a patient presents in my office, I am sure to assess their medical and social history, dietary habits and medication use as these areas can provide keen insights into presence and severity of the condition. Additional assessment tools that are often used to assist in diagnosis are the IgG food intolerance test and the urinary indican test. The indican test is an indicator of intestinal toxemia and  bacteria. Normally urinary indican should be quite low, where elevated levels can signify maldigestion and malabsorption of protein. Keeping in mind that other conditions can raise urinary indican levels such as hypochlorhydria, stomach cancer, insufficient digestive enzymes, malabsorption syndromes, SIBO, intestinal obstruction. If it is high in the correct context without more severe pathology present, it can be a useful indicator of a leaky gut.

IgG food intolerance testing is another popular and widely consumed test that measures the immune system activity in response to the presence of certain foods in the diet.  IgG, commonly associated with type 3 hypersensitivity reactions, is a chronic inflammatory marker that can provide insight into how much and what types of foods are triggering an inflammatory response.   When removing foods that test strongly positive on IgG testing, one is removing an agent directly contributing to inflammation, whether it be the initial cause or a contributing factor.    Once an IgG food intolerance testing has been ordered and adequately interpreted,  guidance can be more uniquely tailored to the individual patient.  These tests can measure up to 220 types of food antigens present in blood as well as the degree of the inflammatory response elicited. It can be a valued assessment tool as previously discussed and also be used to construct unique diet plans.

The typical leaky gut protocol is one that is rich in antioxidants, fiber, mucosal nutrients, fermented foods, is balanced and avoids food sensitivities. If you think this approach will benefit you, reach out for more information. Happy to help you restore your gut and life!

In good health,

Dr. Jennifer Cisternino, Naturopath


[email protected]

Are you getting enough Omega 3’s for your body?

Fish oil supplements and the phrase “eat more omegas 3’s” has become more common these days. This is also because more research has been directed at Omega 3 fatty acids in the human body and its impact on well-being.

In this article I would like to help you better understand what Omega 3’s are, why they are good for us and what foods are rich in omega 3’s. Contrary to some weight loss diets out there, fats are essential to our bodies and we needs fats in order to function. Not all fats are good for our body, but in lieu of this article, Omega 3’s get the spotlight and the praise!

Omega 3: The term omega 3 fatty acids refers to long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. The predominant omega-3 fatty acid in our typical diet is ALA, alpha linoleic acid, which is mainly consumed via plant-based sources (vegetable oils such as soybean and canola).

The omega 3 fatty acids that we can also consume are predominantly EPA and DHA. Since EPA and DHA are found mostly in fish/seafood, our low intake in North America, has most people walking around low in these anti-inflammatory fatty acids. Comparatively, people in Japan, whose intake is quite high, have higher levels and in contrast tend to be healthier. ALA, which is more commonly ingested in North America, can be converted to EPA and DHA in the human body by the liver; albeit, the conversion efficiency is limited and we must not rely on that for healthy amounts in the body. Thus, the most effective way to increase EPA and DHA is to consume them in fish, fish supplements, algae or algal oils enriched with EPA and DHA.

Heath Benefits:

Maintaining optimal levels of omega 3 fatty acids is important for a variety of reasons throughout life. Higher levels of EPA and DHA omega 3 fatty acids have been associated with a significantly lower risk of death due to cardiovascular disease and increase in life expectancy.

In adults, higher blood levels of EPA/DHA omega 3 have been associated with a significantly lower risk for psychological distress, depression, cognitive impairment, age-related dementia, certain cancers and various other inflammatory disorders.

Try consuming more of these foods each week which have a high amount of omega 3 fatty acids:

Fish such as mackarel, salmon, cod liver oil, herring, sardines, anchovies have high amounts.

Vegan options would be: seaweed and algea, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts.

Get your Omega 3 Levels Tested:

With research advancements, there is a way to test your body’s omega 3 levels, among other fatty acids in your blood. The level at which you score (high or low) is a very strong indicator of the risk for sudden cardiac death based on published studies from the Harvard School of Public Health in the New England Journal of Medicine. If you are interested in learning more, reach out.

Dr. Jen Cisterinino, ND


[email protected]