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Leaky gut and Cardiovascular disease

Leaky gut and Cardiovascular disease | Mr Vitamins
A few years ago I attended a conference where  the keynote speaker was the world renowned cardiologist from the USA Dr Mark Houston, who is regarded as one of the  worlds top hypertension (high blood pressure) and vascular health physicians. One of the focal points of his lectures was that to reduce the risk of heart disease, it is important to “close the gate”.  “Closing the gate” refers to repairing a “leaky gut".  Dr Houston’s lectures stunned me, because:
  • Naturopaths have been talking about leaky gut for decades as a major contributing factor to many disease states
  • Leaky gut is almost never considered as a cause of chronic disease in standard medical practice. In fact the suggestion that “leaky gut” can play a role in any disease state is still dismissed and often ridiculed in orthodox medical practice.
  • I’m now hearing a top cardiologist mention leaky gut as one of the major contributing factors in the worlds biggest killer, cardiovascular disease.
“All diseases begin in the Gut”– Hippocrates (460BC – 370BC) Yes, this includes cardiovascular disease.  Hippocrates is often referred to as the father of medicine.  He knew that back then, 2500 years ago. So it is a mystery to me that the role of gut health is only being focused on now in the 21st century !

What is “leaky gut”?

“Leaky gut” is simply a reduction in efficiency of the gut wall’s barrier function.  Basically the gut wall has the following broad functions:
  • Absorption of nutrients
  • Preventing absorption of materials that should not get through
  • Complex roles in immune system regulation
The development of a leaky gut can begin in childhood and can continue and worsen throughout our adult life. When the barrier function of the gut is compromised, increased amounts of undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacterial cells get into the bloodstream. As a result of this increasing internally derived toxic burden, levels of oxidative stress increase throughout the body. Also, the immune system comes in to help out causing inflammation to increase throughout the body. Oxidative stress and inflammation damage the endothelial layer of the artery, which is how cardiovascular disease begins and what drives its silent progression. In addition to cardiovascular disease, leaky gut has been linked to a host of other chronic disease states too numerous to mention here. Cardiovascular Disease prevalence Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Australia for both females and males.  In 2015, cardiovascular disease caused 12.4% of all deaths in Australia and 15.5% of all deaths worldwide according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  So the importance of understanding the driving forces behind the development of cardiovascular disease cannot be overstated.

Main Drivers of cardiovascular disease

The endothelium is the inner most lining of our arteries. It is considered to be an organ of the body – in fact it is the largest organ in the human body. The skin is the second largest organ. The endothelium is the interface between circulating blood and the rest of the artery wall.  The cells of the endothelium are involved in many aspects of vascular function including acting as a selective barrier between the contents of the blood stream and the surrounding tissue. According to Dr Houston, three phenomenon drive cardiovascular disease.  These are:
  • Oxidative stress,
  • inflammation and
  • immune dysfunction
Oxidative stress can be defined as an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract their harmful effects through their neutralization by antioxidants.  Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation lead to chronic immune dysfunction. Immune dysfunction that arises from increases in oxidative stress  initiates cardiovascular disease. The term “Immune dysfunction” implies that the immune system is not working properly.  In cardiovascular disease this is not entirely accurate – the term “Immune dysfunction” is actually a misnomer.  The immune system is actually doing what it is meant to do – the immune system is not dysfunctional. It is still doing its thing – scanning for threats and dealing with invaders that should not be there.   The problem in cardiovascular disease is that due to abnormal goings on within the arteries due to oxidative stress, the endothelial teflon like lining is breached which leads to immune system intervention which results in inflammation and the initiation of vascular disease. Oxidative damage to the inner most lining of the arteries, the endothelium, sets the stage for cardiovascular disease.

How do I know if I have a leaky gut ?

There is a useful and non invasive pathology urine test that I have been using for over 15 years to detect leaky gut.  It is an intestinal permeability test urine test that also tests for how well your gut is absorbing your nutrients. It can be assumed that most of us have a degree of leaky gut – but the question is HOW leaky. What factors contribute to a leaky gut ?
  • Stress
  • Antibiotics
  • Other Medications
  • Environmental chemical exposure
  • Gluten
  • Junk food
  • Other dietary factors
  • Genetics
  • Gut infections such as parasitic infections
  • Gut bacterial imbalances with the intestines
  • How well you are digesting your food
  • How well the gut is performing its immune related functions

Healing a leaky gut

To heal a leaky gut, identifying and addressing the causative factors listed above will help to heal a leaky gut.  Also, there are many nutrients and supplements that can be taken to accelerate gut healing including:
  • Slippery elm
  • Aloe Vera
  • Glutamine
  • B vitamins
  • Vitamin C
  • Many minerals including zinc
  • Omega 3 fats
  • Collagen supplements
  • Many more nutrients, supplements, foods and herbs.
To reduce the alarming rates of cardiovascular disease world wide, it is important to identify, accept and address the driving forces behind this.  The contribution of leaky gut as a major driving force behind cardiovascular disease is solidly embedded in science.  To quote Hippocrates again: “Healing is a matter of time, but also a matter of opportunity”.  Identifying and healing leaky gut, early, needs to become an integral part of orthodox medical practice if rates of cardiovascular disease are to be reduced. 

Peter Radi | Naturopath

Peter Radi is a fully qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist with 17 years clinical experience. After gaining his qualifications in Naturopathy, Nutrition and Herbal Medicine at Nature Care College in Sydney he went on to earn a Bachelor of Health Science Degree in Complimentary Medicine from Charles Sturt University. Peter’s detailed naturopathic knowledge, together with his ability to find the root cause of a person’s symptoms, inspires and supports his clients to achieve the health and vitality they seek.