• Jasmine Blake Hollywood, MS, HHP

Intestinal Permeability: The Link to Other Diseases

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

What is Intestinal Permeability?

According to Bischoff and his colleagues (2014), intestinal permeability (leaky gut) is defined as “a functional feature of the intestinal barrier at given sites.” [2]. The intestinal barrier is defined as is "a functional entity separating the gut lumen from the inner host. [2].

The barrier also consists of mechanical elements such as mucus and epithelial layers, along with humoral components such as defensins and IgA. [2]. Other features that exist in the layer are immune elements like lymphocytes and innate immune cells, as well as muscular and neurological components. [2].

The description for someone to have normal intestinal permeability is a person with no signs of inflammation, intoxication, or signs of impaired intestinal functions. [2;3]. However, people like this rarely exist, especially in today's society. Unfortunately, many disease conditions have a direct correlation with inflammation, which puts people at risk. [3].Leaky gut is linked to the way we eat, and most people eat the Standard American Diet (SAD). Thus, may people present with impaired intestinal functions and toxicity overload.

Diseases and Dysfunctions caused by Intestinal Permeability

Due to the increasing evidence that intestinal permeability is linked to the development of food allergies, people should be aware of the dysfunctions or possible pathologies that are linked to intestinal permeability. This way, people can add a leaky gut protocol to their current health regime. This reason is to enhance the healing of their disease state. Some examples of diseases directly related to leaky are listed below.

Conditions linked to Leaky Gut [4]:

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Esophageal

  • Cancer

  • Alcoholic Liver Disease 

  • Type 1 Diabetes 

  • Systematic Lupus

  • Colorectal Cancer

  • Atopic Dermatitis

  • Liver Cirrhosis

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis

Triggers and Mediators

Besides the common triggers, which are inflammatory foods such as alcohol and caffeine, ingested drugs such as NSAIDs and antibiotics, and food sensitivities such as gluten and dairy, tight junctions of the epithelial layer of the intestine can also be affected by other sources. [3;4]. These sources are bacteria and pathogens. [1]. When swallowed or inserted through the bloodstream, pathogens can get into the gut, causing the breakdown of the guts structure. [1;4]. This process inevitably increases the risk of disease.

Bacteria linked to [1]: 

  • H. Pylori (disruption of TJ)

  • Clostridium Difficile (binding to claudin proteins)

Breakage in the tight junctions and poor quality of the said membrane of the intestinal barrier need to be healed. [1]. This way, people can begin healing of other diseases. The healing of epithelial permeability will prevent large materials or substances from passing through that wouldn't normally be able to pass through. [1;4]. Thus, reducing food sensitivities, which will reduce excess antibody production, and will eventually level out the responses of the immune system.


  1. Arrieta, M. C., Bistritz, L., & Meddings, J. B. (2006). Alterations in intestinal permeability. Gut55(10), 1512–1520. doi:10.1136/gut.2005.085373. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1856434/ (Links to an external site.)

  2. Bischoff, S. C., Barbara, G., Buurman, W., Ockhuizen, T., Schulzke, J-D., Serino, M., Tilg, H., & et al. (2014). Intestinal permeability – A new target for disease prevention and therapy. Bio Med Central Gastroenterology, 14: 189. doi: 10.1186/s12876-014-0189-7 (Links to an external site.)

  3. Fukui H. (2016). Increased intestinal permeability and decreased barrier function: Does it really influence the risk of inflammation? Inflammatory Intestinal Diseases1(3), 135–145. doi:10.1159/000447252. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5988153/ (Links to an external site.)

  4. Mu, Q., Kirby, J., Reilly, C. M., & Luo, X. M. (2017). Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases. Frontiers in immunology8, 598. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.00598. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5440529/ (Links to an external site.)

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