Leaky Gut is a condition where the bonds between cells that line the inside of the gut are damaged and openings develop through which fecal matter, toxins, Candida Fungus, and partially digested proteins leak into the blood stream.
The lining on the inside of the small intestine is only one cell thick and is composed of specialized cells called Enterocytes. The surface of the enterocytes are covered with small hairs called Cilia that extract nutrients from the digested food and transports them into the blood stream where they are distributed throughout the body. The other important function of the Enterocytes is to be a barrier and keep waste matter, toxins, and harmful bacteria, on the inside of the intestine, isolated from the rest of the body, until they are eliminated.
WHAT CAUSES LEAKY GUT ?
There are a variety of factors that contribute to Leaky Gut but the most damaging ones are grains, potatoes, and high glycemic carbs found in most dog foods.
Dogs are carnivores designed to eat meat, not grain or potatoes. Their Mitochondrial DNA is 99.8% identical to a 20,000 year old Gray Wolf and determines what their body is designed to eat to provide energy for their system. It is passed on by the female only so that it remains constant through thousands of years as mother nature intended.
We may trick them into eating grain and potatoes by adding a flavoring that imitates meat but their systems are not designed to deal with the high glycemic carbohydrates as human systems are. The Nuclear DNA, that is manipulated to get a Gray Wolf to look like a Beagle, has nothing to do with the energy system and what the dog is designed to eat. That is determined by the Mitochondrial DNA which is only passed on by the female and has remained constant for tens of thousands of years. Hanging out with humans, and eating grain flavored to taste like meat, does not change the Mitochondrial DNA but it does affect their health. Just because a dog will eat something, or their body can digest it, does not mean it is good for them or that it will not affect them negatively. Children can digest sugar but no one thinks 40 percent of their diet should be sugar.
There are over 300 rendering plants in the US that produce over 22 billion pounds of "rendered" protein a year from a variety of dead or euthanized animals and waste meat not fit for human consumption, which is put in many dog foods as a cheap alternative to using high quality meat meals. The drug used to euthanize the animals is not destroyed by the rendering process damages the lining of the gut, among other things.
When less expensive vegetable proteins are used in place of animal proteins to cut costs, this increases the possibility of Leaky Gut due to the cumulative effect of the pesticides (Glyphosates) used on them, as well as Lectins which are in all plants, and Mycotoxins (like Aflatoxin B1) that may have developed when they were stored in hot, humid silos.
Dairy is another cause of Leaky Gut, as are most chemical preservatives, coloring, and GMO’s. Below is a list of causative factors for Leaky Gut roughly organized with the worst offenders at the top .
CAUSES OF LEAKY GUT FROM WORST TO LEAST
Grains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, sugar in any form, and other high glycemic carbs - Feed the Candida Fungus which overgrows (Dysbiosis) in proportion to the beneficial bacteria (probiotics).
Candida Overgrowth (Dysbiosis) - The primary and predominant cause of Leaky Gut. The result of high glycemic carbs in the food which lead to Dysbiosis in the gut when the harmful bacteria outgrows the beneficial bacteria and the Candida fungus penetrates the joints between the Enterocytes that line the inside of the gut wall.
Antibiotics - kill the beneficial bacteria in the Gut that keeps the Candida fungus in balance and the Candida Fungus grows out of control (Dysbiosis) and causes gaps in the lining of the small intestine
Chemical Preservatives and Coloring are commonly used and inexpensive preservatives like Ethoxyquin, BHA, and BHT attack the gut lining and lead to Leaky Gut, as do most of the coloring used.
Almost all fish is soaked in the preservative Ethoxyquin before sold to a dog food manufacturer.
Topical flea and tick treatments are very toxic pesticides that attack the gut lining.
Steroids and NAIDS - suppress the immune system and cause Dysbiosis. Are often given to suppress “Allergies” but in the final analysis just make it worse. Steroids do not heal Leaky Gut.
Gluten & Dairy - Both Gluten and Dairy cause Leaky Gut in dogs that are sensitive to gluten or don’t have the enzyme lactase to digest the lactose in dairy.
Mycotoxins,- Mycotoxins are toxic molds that grow on grains and legumes often while stored in hot grain silos. Aflatoxin B1 is a very toxic mold that affects the balance of bacteria in the gut leading to Dysbiosis.
Lectins - Are the defense mechanisms found in most plants and they attack the mucosal lining weakening it in the absence of additions like probiotics that mitigate its negative influence.
Glyphosate - is a common herbicide used on grain and legumes that damages the beneficial bacteria in the gut eventually leading to Dysbiosis in the absence of prebiotics and probiotics to restore the gut biology.
Heartworm medications and Antihystamines - Harm the beneficial bacteria and lead to Dysbiosis and Leaky Gut.
Repeated Vaccination - introducing something the body has already developed antibodies to creates an immune response that causes inflammation of the gut lining.
WHY HAVE I NOT HEARD ABOUT LEAKY GUT BEFORE?
This is due in large part, I believe, to the medical professions tendency to rely on the symptoms of a problem to identify it. Without a clear set of symptoms they could directly link to Leaky Gut, it was natural to conclude that either it didn’t exist or was not important enough to investigate further.
Although there is no concrete test for Leaky Gut, the most prevalent toxin to leak through a porous gut is the Candida fungus which is almost always an accurate marker that Leaky Gut is present. It spreads through the body in the blood stream and is referred to as Systemic Candida. Having a fungus coursing through the blood stream causes no end of problems most of which are skin related. If your dog is constantly scratching, licking its paws, biting its tail, scooting on the floor, has dull, dry hair, or yeasty ears, it is almost certain that it has Systemic Candida as a result of Leaky Gut.
Any attempt to resolve the symptoms without healing Leaky Gut first are fruitless. The conditions that caused Leaky Gut must be removed, then the process of eliminating the Candida fungus can begin. Restoring balance to the blood and body requires a slow starving of the Candida fungus by eliminating all forms of sugar and high glycemic grains and potatoes that feed it until it is so weak the immune system can finish it off. This can take from a few weeks to a few months and it needs to happen gradually because the Candida fungus releases a toxin as it dies off that can be quite uncomfortable for the dog if it happens too fast.
Claiming the dog can digest those ingredients is missing the point completely. Digestible or not, they damage the gut which causes a host of health problems.
The following sequence of events shows why it has been so difficult to connect Leaky Gut to the broad range of problems it creates.
Your dog eats a diet that includes high glycemic carbs (grain, potatoes, etc) which cause Candida fungus in the gut to overgrow and overpower the beneficial bacteria (Dysbiosis) and eventually cause gaps between the cells (Enterocytes) that make up the gut lining and fecal matter begins leaking into the blood stream.
During digestion partially digested pieces of protein (random lengths of amino acids) leak through the gaps into the blood stream. The immune system sees them as invading pathogens, creates antibodies, attacks them, and remembers them in case they return, which of course they do.
The Candida fungus also leaks into the blood stream and, as it gets more sugar from the grain, potatoes, and carbs in the diet, it multiplies and spreads through the blood stream to the entire system. Now the dog has a fungus in its blood stream, a condition known as Systemic Candida.
Antibiotics are usually prescribed at some point which kill the beneficial bacteria that usually keeps the Candida fungus in check and the Leaky Gut condition gets worse because the pathogenic bacteria regenerate faster than the good bacteria under normal conditions.
As more and more fecal matter leaks into the blood stream the immune system becomes overwhelmed, exhausted, and hyper-sensitive which leads to an autoimmune response where it attacks its own organs.
Partially digested protein continues to leak into the blood stream and the immune system attacks escalate which is interpreted as an allergy to that protein. Now they have a symptom (an allergic reaction) but the cause is not the meat protein as is commonly assumed, and long term solutions based on that premiss are ineffective.
The problem is not the protein but the Leaky Gut condition that allowed the protein to leak into the blood stream causing an immune response. The protein is not in itself an allergen. ANY protein that leaks into the blood stream will trigger an immune response. Fix the Leaky Gut and the dog can eat that protein without a problem going forward. Changing to a novel protein without fixing Leaky Gut will eventually create an immune response to that protein as well.
All this time the Candida fungus is coursing through the blood stream causing no end of skin problems and ear infections that are making the poor dog miserable.
The autoimmune response continues causing system wide inflammation, overweight, and widespread discomfort and your dog does not have the words to tell you where it hurts.
Few, if any, would imagine that all of these health problems are caused by the same problem, Leaky Gut, much less believe that the most common cause of the problem is diet, especially one with high glycemic grains and potatoes - ingredients commonly used in the vast majority of dog foods on the market - but that is the sad reality.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
Looking at the long list of causes it may seem that almost everything contributes to Leaky Gut, even some vegetables, like peas, that we feed our families.
Some of the causes like Glyphosates, are almost unavoidable to some degree, given the food supply chain in this country, and the amount of pesticides we dump on our food crops.
Lectins, are in most plants and Mycotoxins are toxic molds that tend to grow on grain and food stored in hot, humid silos. Eliminating grain greatly reduces a main source of Mycotoxins one of which is the harmful Aflatoxin B1.
Some of the causative factors, in limited amounts, can be handled by a healthy system. The dog can generally be kept healthy, and Leaky Gut avoided, by feeding a good quality, well designed, nutritionally balanced, high protein dog food free of high glycemic carbs like grain and potato.
Protein content should be between 30% and 40% and be over 90% animal protein versus vegetable protein. It should be meat meal from healthy animals and eggs. Protein content should be greater than 30% and carbohydrates should be low glycemic and Gluten free, such as Cassava Root flour (Tapioca), and make up under 35% of the content on a dry matter basis.
To heal and restore the gut biology to a healthy state it is important to add probiotics, and prebiotics to feed the probiotics.
Adding digestive enzymes help ensure complete digestion of the proteins into individual amino acids that the body accepts and uses to rebuild. When partially digested proteins (random lengths of amino acids) get through the gut wall into the blood stream the immune system attacks them and creates an allergic reaction to the protein.
We know this from first hand experience because fifteen years ago we created a dog food that followed these exact recommendations and has successfully healed Leaky Gut and prevented it from developing in thousands of dogs over the last fifteen years. While I cannot say to what degree things like Lectins and Glyphosates play a role in creating Leaky Gut, I know what the predominant causative factors are because when they are eliminated Leaky Gut heals, regardless of the degree that other causative factors may be present.
Once the system is restored to balance and the dog is fed a proper diet you will be amazed at how quickly vibrant health returns. Dogs are extremely resilient when fed a healthy, grain free, balanced diet with a lot of animal protein and support to maintain a healthy gut.