Debunking The Myth About Leaky Gut

Have you been told that Leaky Gut is the cause of all of your ailments? Have you been working hard to heal your leaky gut, only to continue to have symptoms? In this week’s episode of Integrative Wellness Radio, join Dr. Nicole Rivera and Brooke Scheller to learn more about the myths of Leaky Gut and how you can heal for body for good!

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Dr. Nicole Rivera: Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Integrated Wellness radio. I am Dr. Nicole Rivera and I am here with our clinical nutritionist Brooke Scheller at Integrated Wellness Group. Today, we are going to be diving into some information about leaky gut. I feel like this has been the hot topic over the course of the past year. I hear many people being diagnosed with leaky gut left and right but in addition I also hear about people being on this very, very long journey of healing their leaky gut. When I get this information, I kind of take a step back in order to try to understand why it's taking so long because I do feel like with the course of action that we use in our practice here at Integrated Wellness Group, really understanding the full picture of someones gastrointestinal system, really gets them on a path of healing which can be pretty fast. I think it's safe to say that we are getting results in anywhere between four to eight weeks from a gastrointestinal stand-point.

Brooke and I want to kind of dive in and go through some of the things that you might not understand that is contributing to your leaky gut.

Brooke Scheller: Yeah. I think it's pretty interesting because, with functional medicine, one of the big things is looking for the root cause. I think that there are layers of causes. It's almost like an onion. When your peeling back through peoples' symptoms, what they are experiencing, and then running labs. You have several different things that are going on. While leaky gut maybe part of the picture, there may be some other different things that are maybe contributing to the leaky gut or may be making those symptoms of leaky gut worse.

I think it's really interesting because it's a really hot topic now, especially, in this functional medicine world that we're in. It's almost like we see a shiny thing and we want to grab it because it's like, "Oh, well, that seems to answer all of my questions. It seems to describe why I have food allergies, or describe why I have digestive complaints, or maybe was diagnosed with auto-immune condition." We look a little bit deeper even below that to understand well, if leaky gut is occurring because it's not that it's not really happening. It's more of why is that an issue?

Dr. Rivera: I think that is hitting the nail on the head because leaky gut has become a diagnosis. I think it is more of a symptom of what your true diagnosis is. I think that is really important for people to take away is leaky gut is not necessarily existing on it's own it is existing because of underlining infections that exist in your gastrointestinal system.

[00:03:30] Brooke: Yeah. I think like Dr. Nicole mentioned, if you are someone who had been diagnosed with leaky gut and you've been using supplements and herbs and dietary modifications, and maybe you're getting partially better. Your feeling a little bit better but you're not fulling getting everything under control, especially, if there is an auto-immune condition present. Then there may be other things going on to look for.

Dr. Rivera: Definitely.

Brooke: Let's jump into what some of those other things may be. We kind of eluded to, obviously, changes in the gastrointestinal system. Let's talk about different bugs or things that might be in there.

Dr. Rivera: Definitely. I would say the biggest things that are associated with the leaky gut is going to be a combination of parasite infections, which really kind of exist in any part of gastrointestinal system. It could be the stomach, it could be the small intestine, it could be the large intestine, bacterial over-growths. Bacteria, unfortunately, is so common. You know most food that we are eating has bacteria on it. Unfortunately, we live in a world, now a days, that are immune systems are not working as best as they used to and it's partially because of all the toxins that we get exposed to and all the pesticides on our food and heavy metals that we are getting exposed to even through our personal products. With our immune systems not working optimal, we are getting exposed to bacteria through food and it's getting into our systems and our body is not fighting it off. It's getting into our system and it's hanging out because in reality our gastrointestinal system is the perfect environment for anything from bacteria to parasites and even yeast over-growth.

The yeast thing ... There's a big thing about Candida, as well. We did do a podcast diving deeper into that. With Candida, that's really not the only yeast that exists. There's plenty of other yeasts. There's also issues with mold. Which is also in that same world of fungus. Yeast and mold fold into that category. This is something that we do find colonizing in people's gastrointestinal systems, as well. When you talk about mold it's definitely can be environmental exposures but also there is a lot of mold on food that we eat. People don't necessarily realize that. If you are eating a diet that's very high in .... different types of food that are processed, so I'm not going to necessarily say fresh fruit but dried fruits as well as, fruits, say at the bottom of your yogurts, those are higher in mold content. Then you also have a lot of your grains, keen was, rices, even like lintels, a lot of those are going to have high levels of mold, as well.

These are all things to take into consideration and you can do testing for this. This is something that I want to dive into because this is where it gets a little tricky. You have to be working with a physician that understands how difficult it can be to get a diagnosis for these different things like parasites, mold, yeast, bacteria because, unfortunately, testing available is limited. When we are talking about things in the stomach. The only thing that really exists is testing for something called H. pylori, which is one bacteria. There is a lot of different things that could be happening in your stomach and think about how many people are dealing with GERD and indigestion and different types of reflux symptoms.

Then we have the small intestine. The only thing that exists is a breath test for bacteria. Then we deal with the large intestine, which is a little bit more readily available to get better testing. You can test for yeast. You can test for bacteria. You could also test for parasites but for the longest time ... I think we learned from experience in our own practice is that parasites are really hard to diagnose because if you are doing a stool sample, 20 minutes after you have had that bowel movement, most of the parasites in your stool are going to self destruct. By the time your sample actually reaches the lab, they pretty much deem you to be cleared of parasites.

Brooke:[00:08:00] Well, the other thing with that, actually, it's interesting that we are having this conversation because last night, as part of a paper that I'm doing, I was researching the difficulty in diagnosing parasites in stool. You do need to look at multiple days of samples. The higher the amount of days of samples that you're looking at, the more likely the odds are that you are going to catch something. Even if three day sample, which is kind of like the standard that we use, is still not that easy to catch them in the stool. The other thing is that they've been discussing that the actual amount of people who are qualified to do the microscopic examination is lower. As kind of, the baby boomers are getting older, there's not as many people that are trained in this area. They're finding that it is more difficult to find people who are actually looking at the samples in a proper way.

The last thing, like you mentioned is if they're not looking within 30 to 60 minutes of the actual sample being taken, which unless you've got somebody with a lab on staff who's looking at that, you're not going to find it. It's very, very difficult. In fact, when we look at stool analysis I would say maybe 10% of time we actually see the parasitology come up positive and we see it for only a couple of different types of parasites. Not a really wide variety.

Dr. Rivera: Well, we came about this information and we started really researching the ethicacy of the parasite testing available. The reason being is I was working with a child who was having gastrointestinal issues but also having really tremendous sensory issues. It was very difficult to administer supplements and herbs. We had to be very strategy sic. Mom decided that she was going to use a suppository for detoxification. Amongst one of the days she was administering the suppository, she came back and said, "I saw a worm." Which ended up being pinworm. We ran a very specific type of stool sample for parasites. This lab was supposed to be the best for diagnosing parasites. It came up clear. Then she was like, "Well, I saw another worm." That really got me thinking there is major limitations with the testing available.

[00:10:30] This is one of the reasons why we decided to bring someone on staff that does something called autonomic response testing. Which actually uses a type of kinesiology that goes through and is accurately diagnosing what is burrowed within the system. It's also looking at the stomach, the small intestine, and the actual large intestine. We are getting a clear picture of what is going on in these places that the testing is very limited for. This is allowing us to get really, really specific but then also we're using laser treatment on certain parts of the intestines. We're also then giving them the proper supplements because that's one of the best things about the autonomic response testing is Dr. Nick is actually going through and then testing for the most appropriate supplements for those infections.

What I find so interesting is that there are 100s of antiparasitics out there. I know there is a lot of doctors that have these custom antiparasitic protocols and you could just order them online. If you embark on taking certain supplements to kill certain infections or doing certain protocols and you're feeling really, really terribly. It's not necessarily, you're detoxing. Sometimes it's just what you are taking is not right for your body. That is something that we are very specific on and we are able to get clarity on what type of supplements and herbs are actually going to kill off the organisms in your body. You actually feel great going through the process and don't feel terrible.

Brooke: I want to make a disclaimer about parasites because you might be listening and thinking, "Well, I've never been to a third world country. I've never gotten sick when I was traveling or anything like that." The world that we live in today, especially, the meat industry, there is a lot of foul practices that are being used. If you've ever eaten meat that was undercooked, rare, medium rare, medium, or you've ever eaten sushi, the odds are high that you have been exposed to something. It doesn't necessarily mean that you would have major symptoms. Although, if you are experiencing things like loose bowel movements or seeing undigested food in the stool, if you are grinding your teeth at night, which is a silly symptom but is correlated, or even if you're having hives or rashes on your skin, if you couple that with other symptoms like leaky gut symptoms like food allergies or auto-immune conditions, then the odds may be there that there is some type of parasitic infection.

Dr. Rivera: Definitely. Also, with parasite infections, they really hijack your mood. If you find yourself going through highs and lows through the month. Really just finding that your moods are very unstable, or you're blaming it on hormones as a female, or your also noticing that your moods get worse, or your digestion gets worse around a full moon, those are all actually signs and symptoms of parasite infections.

Again, this is not major focus on parasites being correlated with leaky gut. It's usually, not only going to be parasites. There could be bacteria. There could be yeast. There are a lot of different infections unfortunately, that can coexist within our gastrointestinal systems. You have to understand that our gastrointestinal systems are warm and cozy and there are lots of things to eat. These types of organisms get into our systems and they don't really want to leave.

This is very important to understand because if you are doing a leaky gut protocol that is strictly based off of healing tissues, so maybe your taking things like L-glutamine, or your taking glandulars, or your taking collagen powder ...

Brooke: Or probiotics

Dr. Rivera: Or probiotics, and then you're changing your diet. Maybe to the gaps diet and you're trying to heal your gut through food and you are not necessarily, finding progress. It's because these organisms are still there and they are actually eating most of the nutrients that you're giving to them. You really have to understand that these organisms are not leaving unless you kill them off through very, very specific supplementation. You can change your diet all you want. You will hit a plateau. It's not that you maybe will hit a plateau, you will hit a plateau.

Brooke: Okay. Let's talk about some of those key leaky gut symptoms like the food sensitivities, or the auto-immune conditions and let's kind of debunk how some of those maybe connected to other things that are going on.

Dr. Rivera: When it come to the food allergies ... and this is so interesting because this was taught to me in school in a very specific way. It was taught to me that if you see elevated eosinophils on someone's blood, that it's either going to be parasite infections or allergies. It was kind of based off of the range. I thought that for a very long time and then what I realized is the only reason you develop eosinophilia, which is elevated eosinophils, is because you have parasites. The parasite infections are completely coorelated to the elevation of the eosinophils, which then creates the cascade of the food allergies. It's not either or. They coexist.

That is definitely something to understand is if you are dealing with major food allergies, yes there is an immune response that's happening but the immune response is happening because of infections that exist in your gastrointestinal system. Most of the time it is parasite related but, again, this can be bacterial related. It can be fungal related or it could be a combination of all three.

Brooke: Yeah. I think one of the really big ones that stands out to me is auto-immune conditions. There has been a lot of research that has come out of the past couple of years that says, "Yes, there is this corelation between leaky gut and the develop of auto-immune conditions." While that might be true. I want to talk about how maybe some of these other infections are maybe more of the driving factor in that.

Dr. Rivera: Yeah. For a very long time, I was under the same impression that you develop leaky gut and then particles from food, or different things that you're consuming, escape from your gut. They get into your bloodstream. Your immune system then attacks that food particle and creates a memory, and sometimes a protein structure of that food protein can look similar to an organ. That is what starts to trigger the cascade for these food allergies.

The more and more research that I've done but also at the same time the type of testing that we do within our office validates this, as well. The only reason the immune system is attacking an area of the body, an organ, a specific tissue, is because there is an infection that is burrowed in that tissue. What I find so interesting, and we did a whole podcast on this as well, is the people that we see that have Lupus or have mixed connective tissue disorders, these are the people that are also positive for Lyme disease.

The bacteria associated with Lyme called borrelia, is known to burrow in connective tissue. Which is one of the reasons why people have joint pain. If you have this infection in your connective tissue it makes perfect sense as to why your immune system is going to the connective tissue to fight that infection. Unfortunately, it is going to damage your connective tissue in the meantime. This is happening all the time.

Think about Hashimoto's. Brooke and I work with so many women dealing with Hashimoto's. A lot of women get diagnosed with hyperthyroid and don't even know that they actually have Hashimoto's, which is an auto-immune thyroid condition. This is something that we did a podcast on as well. Really, get that clarity if you don't have it. If you think about the proximity of your thyroid, which is in your throat, really next to your Adam's apple. If you think of the proximity of that to your tonsils. How many of us have dealt with some level of sore throats, if it's strep or not? This is such a huge connection, that we find that so many women are walking around with strep that's burrowed in their thyroid glands. It's also burrowed in their tonsils. Don't get me wrong there is other infections that can exist within the thyroid but this is really, really common. If the infection is there, a lot of infections like the live together, then naturally other infections you get exposed to will kind of gravitate towards the thyroid and now your immune system is like, "What the heck is going on?" It's trying to fight off these infections in your thyroid.

This is something that is really important to understand about auto-immunity. This is not about a confusion. This is not about leaky gut. This is about infections being burrowed in different parts of your body.

The other thing that you need to understand is you might be saying, "why did my doctor never tell me this? Why have I not been screened for this?" Most people do not get clarity around these different diagnoses because your not going to an infectious disease doctor. I always say to people when they are very confused as to why this hasn't been found or why they haven't had direction on this? I say, "The only reason you would have visited an infectious disease doctor is if you had maybe had chronic diarrhea, that was lasting anywhere between three to four weeks, and nobody could figure out what was wrong with you, or maybe you had this crazy rash all over your body because you wet abroad and nobody can figure out what's wrong with you." Most of the time we are not going to an infectious disease doctor unless it's something that is a big, big mystery. A lot of physicians are not trained on understanding how infections are such a major cause of so many of these things that we get diagnosed with, again, auto-immune conditions, even IBS, leaky gut. There is a huge connection there.

Brooke:[00:20:30] It's crazy, too. When you start to think of it in that light it makes so much more sense that just to say, "We have no idea why the body is just all of a sudden attacking the thyroid. All of a sudden attacking the connective tissue or the liver, or whatever the auto-immune condition might be." It makes a heck of a lot more sense that there's something in that area of the body that's being fought off.

Dr. Rivera: Well, and I also say auto-immune conditions are a thing of the past, what 10-15 years. Everybody has auto-immune conditions left and right nowadays, and why. Why did this not exist 20-30 years ago? It's because our food industry has changed so much. We are exposed to so much crap that we don't even realize. You mentioned the practices of the farming industry. We keep hearing, "Oh, antibiotic free chicken, antibiotic free." Okay. Well, why are these animals getting antibiotics? Because they are sick, because they have bacteria, because they have different infections. These infections are being transferred to us. If you have ever had a hospital visit, unfortunately, you are going to be exposed to infections there. You mentioned sushi. Even the practices of fish. We are exposed to things all the time and we don't realize it. All we know is we're progressively feeling worse.

Don't necessarily sit back and say, "This can't be me. This isn't possible." It is possible. It's really just getting the clarity and you will definitely see most of your symptoms resolved.

Brooke: Yeah. Jumping back to the topic of leaky gut, the biggest thing to understand with any type of condition that your experiencing is there is so much that, that a lot of times is under stones that haven't been turned. You really have to dig a little bit deeper. While leaky gut seems like, "Oh, wow, we are getting to that cause." We still question, "Well, what is the root cause of the leaky gut in the first place?" If you've been trying to address that and you feel like you're hitting a plateau. Then there maybe other things going on a little bit deeper.

Dr. Rivera: If you are that person that has been on your journey to heal your leaky gut and it's been taking months upon months, or even years. You really have to understand that there might be something going on that has been missed. Again, really being able to go back to the segment of this talk of really understanding how difficult it can be to actually diagnose these infections in the gastrointestinal system. The physician you're working with, or the nutritionist, or whoever you're working with may not have that full understanding. Don't get me wrong it's been a huge learning curve for us, as well. These things are happening and they're common. Once you have the clear picture, you should be recovering from these symptoms, honestly, within a few weeks.

Definitely, use this podcast to empower you. Ask more questions. Then, obviously, you have the opportunity to give us a call. We do free 15 minute strategy calls if you do need a little bit more information, or your curious about some of the testing that may have not been done. That we can provide for you. Definitely, take us up on that opportunity.

Brooke: Yeah. If you head over to You can schedule a free strategy call right on the home page with one of our wellness coordinators. They can get you set up with all the information that you need to dive a little bit deeper and learn a little bit more about yourself. It is always great to know and to understand. We look forward to speaking with you next time. Have a good one.