Leaky Gut Connections
It’s amazing that there is just a single intestinal epithelial layer that separates us from our outside environment. And what’s scary is that when the tight junctions within that intestinal lining become permeable, usually from irritation or inflammation, we can become vulnerable to a wide variety of health concerns.
Because of the gut’s intimate interaction with the immune system, in addition to gastrointestinal issues, a leaky gut causes systemic issues. When a large molecule leaks into the bloodstream, it triggers T cells to make antibodies, causing an immune response cascade. So, it’s important to address the leaking, and there are several natural substances that can help improve the health of the intestinal lining.
Many plants contain a starch-like compound called arabinogalactan. The highest concentrations are found in the larch tree. The authors of a 2002 review published in the journal Complementary Health Practice Review state that in addition to its immune-supporting effects, “the dense polysaccharides of Larch arabinogalactan are also considered a good source of dietary fiber, improving intestinal microflora and enhancing total favorable anaerobic bacteria population in the intestine…” Improving the health of the microbiome supports a healthy immune response, both locally in the gut, as well as systemically.*
Aloe vera gel
The clear, jell-like substance found in the inner part of the aloe vera plant has health-supporting properties. Results of a 2004 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics demonstrated that aloe vera significantly improved gastrointestinal health compared to placebo.*
Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) is a mucilage plant that has been used since ancient times to help support immunity and the health of mucous membranes in the gut and respiratory system. A 2018 review published in the International Journal of Food Properties states that marshmallow has been shown to stimulate epithelial cells and is “very soothing for the mucosal membranes and it coats the lining of the esophagus and stomach wall….” *
According to a 2017 review published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, “Growing evidence shows that the gut microbiota is important in supporting the epithelial barrier and therefore plays a key role in the regulation of environmental factors that enter the body.” The authors of a 2013 review published in Current Nutrition and Food Science state that, “One of the important cytoprotective effects of probiotics in the intestinal mucosa is to strengthen the epithelial tight junctions and preservation of mucosal barrier function.”*
Supporting the health of the intestinal lining is an important clinical goal especially when thinking about seasonal immune support protocols. Fortunately, there are several natural ingredients that can help accomplish this goal, and very good formulations to choose from.*
Asnaashari S, Dastmalchi S, Javadzadeh Y. International Journal of Food Properties. 2018;21(1):902-920.
Farshchi M, Azad F, Salari R, et al. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. 2017;22(3):378-380.
Kim LS, Burkholder PM, Waters RF. Complementary Health Practice Review. 2002;7(3).
Langmead L, Feakins RM, Goldthorpe S, et al. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2004;19(7):739-747.
Mu Q, Kirby J, Reilly CM, Luo XM. Frontiers in Immunology. 2017;8:508.
Rao RK, Samak G. Current Nutrition and Food Science. 2013;9(2):99-107.