A decade ago, Shahram Lavasani, PhD, from Lund University in Sweden, was hard-pressed to find fellow scientists who agreed “leaky gut syndrome” could play a role in multiple sclerosis. “Back then, the scientists and professionals did not believe in involvement of the gastrointestinal tract in development of ‘extraintestinal’ autoimmune disease,” said Dr. Lavasani in a news article on Healthline.
While there is no solid evidence leaky gut syndrome — which refers to an increased permeability of the intestines that allows toxins, microbes, and other substances to cross the intestinal membrane into the body cavity — causes multiple sclerosis, the theory of a possible association is gaining popularity. Dr. Lavasani and his team of fellow scientists became believers when they noticed a positive benefit of probiotic bacteria on protecting against multiple sclerosis. They were further motivated to investigate how leaky gut is involved in multiple sclerosis rather than focus on more “natural” diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Writing in the journal PLOS One, Dr. Lavasani and co-authors Mehrnaz Nouri, Anders Bredberg, and Bj rn Westr m induced multiple sclerosis in mice via the typical experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis method. Following disease induction, the team analyzed intestinal permeability and morphology and found intestinal manifestations even before neurological symptoms appeared. There was also an increase in inflammatory T-cells, which become more prevalent in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
In response to the research, published under the title “Intestinal Barrier Dysfunction Develops at the Onset of Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis, and Can Be Induced by Adoptive Transfer of Auto-Reactive T Cells,” Sarah Ballantyne, PhD, author of The Paleo Approach, stated, “This research shows something altogether more intriguing [than multiple sclerosis causing leaking gut]: that once the immune system develops the ability to attack tissues of the body, the gut is the first victim. Rather than a leaky gut causing the dysfunctional immune system that leads to autoimmune disease, it might just be the other way around.” In other words, patients at risk for developing, or who have developed, multiple sclerosis must also be vigilant in their intestinal health.
Arguably the easiest way to protect against leaky gut is by making proper food choices. Dr. Terry Wahls, clinical professor of medicine and author of The Wahls Protocol, devised a food plan that addresses leaky gut. She is direct proof that multiple sclerosis disease condition can be improved via food choice, as she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. “Healing the gut, restoring normal intestinal permeability, will require increased attention to diet quality and food choices,” said Dr. Wahls.
Both Dr. Ballantyne and Dr. Wahls advocate for whole foods-based diets and embrace the paleo style of living. Perhaps diet can serve as one way to fight against autoimmune diseases and associated afflictions of the intestinal system.