Intestinal permeability often called leaky gut has enjoyed a lot of press of late with articles linking it with various issues from arthritis to Donald Trump’s election success. Pending alien invasion may also have been mentioned as well as Take That reforming, but I plan to stick to the parts I can quantify scientifically…and I have compelling theories for the first two only.
What we will cover in this article is what it is, why it’s important to deal with it, what you should look for. In short, what it means in real terms for your dog. In the next article, we will cover how you can help heal it and prevent it reoccurring to keep your dog as healthy as possible which is, as you know, our mission at Bella and Duke & what we get excited about.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a “tube” that runs from your dog’s mouth to its anus. Yes, we are barely into this and I have already written anus. If my Nana could see me now. In fact, I can imagine the face she’d be pulling..
This “tube” is its first line of defence to the outside world. And, if you think about it, it’s actually the outside world, inside your dog. Can I say that again as its super helpful to be able to visualise this first concept? It’s actually the outside world inside your dog. Try imagining a very long Dachsund, let’s call her Luna with a perfectly straight digestive tube instead of one cleverly coiled up. If Luna opened her mouth you would, in theory, be able to see daylight out of…the other ends. This tube is how your dog’s body “interfaces” with the outside world. Its through this it gains all of its nutrition, hydration, ingests chemicals, comes into contact with bacteria, (friendly, not friendly and ambidextrous – to be explained in article two), as well as parts of tennis balls, essential radiator keys and that receipt for the flat screen tv that no longer works.
So, your dog’s digestive system, if it’s working well, will decide what it should allow in (into the bloodstream and circulate around the body) and what needs to be kept out.
What protects your dog from anything that gets into this tube is a thin line of cells (the mouth, the stomach lining, the gut wall et al) and A LOT of very helpful bacteria. Whether you prefer metric or imperial its a LOT. Think billions. A metric dog full. Dogs tend to have much more effective and varied friendly bacteria than we do because they are constantly drinking out of dirty puddles, investigating other dogs and swapping bacteria that way, eating random smelly food found in the garden or just picking up a concussed pigeon and looking pleased with themselves. All of these actually serve a purpose that helps your dog’s immune system. If not your kitchen decor.
With intestinal permeability (IP) this tube has been “breached” and it is no longer effective at keeping the items out that need to be and is more of an “open door” than a “selective door”. It’s as if the doorman at the club has gone for a cheeky smoke break and the “no drunks, no drugs, no knives policy” has stopped being enforced. Anything and anyone can make its way in, friend or foe.
This is due to a process that makes the junctions between the cells “less tight”, much like a wall with loose mortar or a garden fence with a few planks missing. Or a smoking doorman absent from the door.
Apart from the obvious unfriendly bacteria now able to enter the bloodstream, leaky gut also unwittingly turns some friends into foes..err wait a moment , but why ?? How?
You remember those beautiful grass-fed raw beef bones you sourced but now Luna seems to have some intolerance to beef? Or those chicken livers that whenever Billy scoffs he starts licking his paw the next day? Intestinal permeability can cause food intolerances because it allows undigested whole protein molecules to go through the gut directly into its bloodstream.
In a healthy digestive system, these molecules are fully digested and enter circulation after being filtered by the liver. In a leaky gut, these undigested molecules go straight into the bloodstream where the immune system then says “whoa whoa wait a minute, this isn’t part of Luna” so it mounts an “antigen defence”. And sends soldiers to escort these molecules off the premises. It then remembers these molecules “faces” and whenever Luna snarfs some beef, the immune system alarm bell rings and all the soldiers pile hastily out of the guardhouse. Spears clanking, helmet visors askew.
In short, the body starts to recognise certain foods as it would do an invading bacteria or virus.
The good news is that in most cases this can be resolved. (to be covered in Article 2) and the soldiers can be reprogrammed, or their memories wiped.
The other friendly it can tun into foe is the friendly bacteria itself. Yes. I know. It pains me to write this, in fact, I am pulling Nana Flo’s face from earlier. Those friendly bacteria that makeup such a huge part of your dog’s immune system and keep him or her well are in fact only friendly when they are outside the fence not inside the fence. When those cell junctions become less tight the friendly bacteria can also slip directly into the bloodstream with the undigested molecules which are a double whammy because apart from them being foreign bacteria (to the inside of the dog) they are also coated in a shell of lipo-poly saccharides (LPS) which are HUGELY inflammatory.
These LPS molecules then ride the rollercoaster of your dog’s circulation, around its body, creating inflammation wherever they bump into. And as the blood transports essential nutrients to EVERYWHERE in its body, this inflammation goes EVERYWHERE. Which means sadly, tough times at Dog Towers. In humans studies, research has linked Intestinal Permeability with EVERY single autoimmune disease so far researched. That’s a lot of capitals. All warranted.
To be clear. That’s doesn’t mean that research has definitively linked IP as the cause, …yet…., but they have found a 100% correlation of autoimmune disease and Intestinal Permeability. That includes arthritis, MS, various skin disorders, the whole smorgasbord. Whilst that is could be seen as grim news, its actually excitingly great news because we know how to deal with IP.
Hopefully by now you have a good idea of what intestinal permeability is, what can happen and what to look out for…food intolerances, skin issues, arthritis , I deliberately haven’t mentioned the C word because there is much controversy afoot on this right now, but what we do know is that IP is certainly a piece of the jigsaw. It’s just a question of how big a piece.
So if you want to keep you dog as healthy as possible (and btw the way, happy, because an inflamed brain is never a happy one, think human hangovers on Sunday am), then preventing IP or dealing with IP is an essential cornerstone to the health pyramid. In fact, we can be as bold to say its critics. It’s also one of the biggest and simplest wins if you stick to the formula.
Reassuringly and what you can feel really good about is that feeding your dog an unprocessed, grain free, dairy free and lectin limited diet (which is what you are doing with Bella and Duke meals) is essential.
Whether you are using B&D raw meal or not, please please always ensure that the only food that goes into your dog’s mouth fits the above criteria.
And if you were wondering, wait a minute, is this whole leaky gut process similar for humans, in nutshell. Yes.
Next week I will cover what causes it and how to heal it.
Please feel free to post comments and questions below and I will reply as soon as possible, between my human patients!
Have a fabulous weekend and let’s get excited about improving your dog’s health.