What is Intestinal Permeability?
The intestinal epithelium is the most important barrier of protection from the external world in our entire body. It maintains its functional integrity through a network of cells mechanically linked to one another that seal intracellular spaces.
“Intestinal Permeability,” or sometimes referred to as, “Leaky Gut Syndrome,” is a process that has become more widely understood over the past decade. The terms are used to describe what happens when our intestines become hyper-permeable, and allow antigens, proteins, and other pathogens, to pass through the epithelium.
Intestinal permeability has been cited as a major contributor to autoimmune disease, systemic inflammation, allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease.
How Does our GI Tract Become Hyper Permeable?
There are several components involved in influencing the dysfunction of the intestinal epithelium, such as food allergies, gut flora, drugs, toxins, stress and diet. Chronic trauma in the gastrointestinal tract irritates the epithelium on the inner surface of the mucosa, reduces good bacteria, and degrades the cytoskeleton, which is an important protein filament, that maintains the tight junction between cells that support the epithelial tissue. As wear and tear ensues, pores enlarge in the mucosa wall, and cell junctions widen, increasing probability of abnormal immune system function, illness, and disease.
What Does Zonulin Have To Do With It?
The human protein called zonulin, an intestinal modulator, is responsible for governing tight junctions between cells in the digestive tract. Zonulin helps modulate intestinal permeability, by allowing nutrient absorption, and barring pathogenic entry. It does this by attaching to receptor sites along the epithelial cells and inducing permeability through a sequence of biochemical signals. Zonulin levels are dramatically increased in various autoimmune disorders, diseases, and cognitive challenges. Those with celiacs disease have high zonulin levels. Celiacs disease is an immune mediated disease, which means that, the immune system over reacts, or starts attacking the body. Celiacs disease is characterized by the destruction of the small intestine, and is instigated by the consumption of gluten, a protein found in several grains, and commonly used as a flavoring agent. Those who have celiacs disease must strictly avoid all gluten containing products. Studies have shown that gluten increases zonulin levels even in those who do not have celiac’s disease, suggesting that gluten increases cell permeability for all people, to some extent.
Gluten, Zonulin & Auto Immunity
Gluten has been correlated with increased incidence of several autoimmune disorders. A study published by the annals of New York Acedamy Sciences, compared 99 patients with inflammatory myopathies related to various autoimmune diseases, with 100 healthy controls. Results showed Antigliadin IgA (antibodies to gluten) levels were significantly increased in those with inflammatory myopathies, compared to the control group who showed little reaction. Increased zonulin levels have also been indicated in ankylosing spondylitis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cronh’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, type 1 diabetes, several forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.
Intestinal permeability is strongly indicated in individuals with food allergy, and while some researchers believe it is the cause of allergy, others contest it is a result. Although the exact relationship between disease pathogenesis and epithelial permeability is not collectively agreed upon, certain etiological factors can be observed in many cases. Pro-inflammatory cytokines, are a type of immune cell that cause inflammation in the body. In abnormal conditions, such as autoimmune illness or allergic reactions, pro inflammatory cytokines are found in abnormal amounts.
Allergies & Intestinal Permeability
Food allergy, disease, and intestinal permeability often run in the same pack. A common allergic response to cow dairy, that affects 1 out of every 10 children, is atopic dermatitis, which manifests as itchy patches on the skin. Many times with these children, when cow dairy is eliminated, atopic dermatitis goes away. Children with atopic dermatitis have significantly higher chances of developing asthma down the road. Hypochloridia (low stomach acid), and gluten sensitivity, a are often found in those with hypothyroidism. Recent studies show that intestinal hyperpermeability contributes to the development of diabetes mellitus types 1 and 2. Degradation of the intestinal wall, leads to increased food allergies, and may provoke auto-immune damage to the pancreatic beta cells, causing cytokine production and insulin resistance.
Digestion & Disease
The gastrointestinal tract is the epicenter or our immune system. Almost every disease can be traced to its roots in the gut. Seriousness in healing GI imbalance is required when any imbalance begins to manifest. We spend billions every year on pharmaceuticals to treat poor digestion, and the pain that comes with it. While these drugs can offer immediate relief, the underlying cause of the dysfunction is not understood, nor the consequences that can come from it. We are able to heal, or at least significantly reduce the symptoms of, many diseases, rather inexpensively from our own homes. Personal involvement and commitment are the only requirements to help heal a digestive disorder, or any secondary manifestation. Poor gastrointestinal health is a significant trigger in all known diseases.
What’s Ayurveda Got To Say About It?
Actually ayurveda described intestinal permeability thousands of years ago in what was defined as ‘samprapti’ the pathogenis of disease.
Practitioners of Ayurveda recognize the concept of “intestinal permeability” as a process of “Samprapti” which is the pathogenesis of disease through six distinct stages.
- Sanchaya (Accumulation of Dosha)
- Prakopa (Aggravation of Dosha)
- Prasara (Spreading of Dosha)
- Sthansamshraya (Localization of Dosha)
- Vyakta (Stage of clinical manifestation)
- Bheda (stage of complications of diseases)
This basic pathogenesis described in Samprapti can be applied to all disease manifestation, and is also used as a technique of observation by ayurvedic practitioners to assess, and treat clients and patients. From an ayurvedic perspective, intestinal permeability begins in the same way as many illnesses: with low agni. Agni is the process of assimilating nutrients and breaking down wastes.
Healing the GI tract often begins with appropriate diet and lifestyle practices. If digestion has evolved into severe physical imbalance panchakarma or other powerful measures are strongly indicated.
If you are having a digestive issue, book an appointment with Monica Yearwood at Hamsa Center in Chicago who can construct a program for you.
Ghee is clarified butter made from pasture fed dairy cow butter. Therapuetic grade ghee, called desi in ayurveda, is made from raw milk that has been soured in an earthen vessel to make dahi (fermented milk) which is then churned to obtain makkhan (butter), and very gently simmered over low heat until all the water has evaporated. It has been used in India for numerous health related reasons, and to enhance flavor and the nutritive benefits of ingredients used in cooking. Ghee is applied topically for skin irritations, added to beauty products, and as an anupana (vehicle) in ayurvedic medicine.
Anupanas carry herbs and spices deep into the tissues and maximize a specific affect. Common ayurvedic anupanas include ghee, water, honey and milk. Ghee is generally safe for all types of imbalances, and is nutritive for the body and mind. Water is a common anupana that has a relatively neutral influence on the energetic properties of herbs. It mostly affects the rasa tissue in the body. Honey is heating, and milk is sweet and nutritive. Each kind of anupana will influence the energetic of the herb in a specific way. For example, dry ginger powder taken with honey will be hotter and drier, then dry ginger powder mixed with milk. Dry ginger powder mixed with honey is a good expectorant, relieves mucus conditions in the lungs and sinuses, and is a good tonic for kapha conditions. Dry ginger in milk is a systemic nourisher, mild digestive stimulant, and rejuvenates a depleted vata. [i]
Ghee, if made appropriately (see recipes), will reduce inflammation in the small intestine and colon, and assist restoring intestinal permeability. There are several anticarinegenic and health attributes found in ghee. Ghee is a rich source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), butyric acid, and health giving lipids.[ii] Milk fat is one of the richest sources of CLA. Numerous studies demonstrate CLA’s ability to decrease cancerous cells, especially when butyric acid is given during infancy.[iii] Butyric acid, is a short-chain fatty acid known to decrease intestinal permeability.[iv] It is found in several types of food in low amounts, and is also made in the colon. Butyric acid is known to be a protective feature against colon cancer nurtured by dietary fibers. [v]
Dairy products contain bioavailability nutrients and vitamins converted from the foods the animal was eating. Cow dairy ghee fluctuates according to the season, and location it came from. Generally, ghee taken from milk harvested in fall and spring has a higher nutritional content then other times of the year.[vi] Ghee is high in caratanoids, luetin and beta-carotene.[vii] Luetin is known to encourage retinal tissue repair, and overall eye health. Studies have shown that luetin assists intestinal repair after injury.[viii] Vitamin A is converted from beta-carotene during digestion, and known to have a mild sun screen effect, helps to regenerate tissue, increases circulatory function, and boosts immunity.[ix]
Ghee, made from pasture fed cows, contains antioxidants, linoleic acid, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.[x] Lipids in ghee assist in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins.[xi] The high amount of phospholipids, specifically cephalin, make it highly antioxidant and capable of removing the body of heavy metals and other degenerative toxins. Studies have also shown that ghee actually lowers cholesterol through the stimulation of liver bile salts.[xii] Ghritams, medicinal ghee, made in ayurvedic medicine by infusing herbs and spices during processing is shown to increase the antioxidant properties in ghee and its shelf life. Amla, tulsi, turmeric, cardamom and black pepper have shown to significantly enhance oxidative stability and viability of ghee more then synthetic preservatives or isolated antioxidants. [xiii]
Ghee can be used medicinally for a wide variety of reasons and purposes. It is used for both short and long durations to detox or rejuvenate various functions in the physical body. It is nourishing and helps replenish all the tissues in the body. It builds ojas, essence, immunity, and can help heal almost any condition, including the mucosal lining in the GI tract. It increases agni without aggravating pitta, and can be infused with herbs to induce specific affects on the body, mind and spirit. Ghee is taken internally during courses of internal snehana (oleation), panchakarma, detoxification and rejuvenation. It is also applied externally to the skin to treat numerous skin conditions, dropped into the eyes to remove redness, inhaled into the sinuses to alleviate dryness, inserted in the ears to decrease mucus, mixed with essential oils and used as a facial moisturizer, combed into the hair for a conditioning treatment, and massaged into the feet to induce sleep. Practically everything under the sun could benefit from a smear of well-obtained and processed ghee.
Watch and learn how to make ghee!
Learn about this and more at Hamsa Ayurveda & Yoga Center in Chicago.
We’ve had an exciting June month at Hamsa that began our first summer open! Our ayurvedic yoga series led by Margaret Berger and Yoli Maya Yeh has been an extraordinary success, and our therapists Janice Arogones and Nathan Paulus have been busy assisting our clients through the beautiful process of panchakarma. We are excited to share an over view of the month to come, as we continue to grow and establish ourselves as an ayurvedic center in our Chicago community.
Ayurvedic Nutrition Series – July 11th, 18th & 25th
Ayurvedic nutrition can be extremely complicated and confusing to the novice on the ayurvedic path. Take the “Ayurvedic Nutrition Series” at Hamsa to learn about ayurvedic nutrition in a step-by-step manner and break away from going to others for nutritional insights that your body requires. In this three-part series Monica Yearwood will teach you the fundamentals of ayurvedic nutrition, signs your body is not digesting food well, dietary intolerances from an ayurvedic perspective, and how to create a diet for yourself and family. Learn more about the series by following this link!
Lunar Sadhana – July 15th
Our monthly lunar meditation for women continues to grow at Hamsa. Please observe that we have switched our meetings from Tuesday to Monday. Join us July 15th for a 2-hour practice that honors Duti Nitya, who is the aspect of the ‘Divine Female,’ that grants our wishes swiftly. We will experience a guided meditation, accentuated by sound, breath and movement. To learn more and register follow this link.
Practices for Pitta – July 20th
The summer season has been strange and marked by climatic swings, but we have hopes that by the time our resident ayurvedic therapist, Nathan Paulus, teaches, “Practices for Pitta,” we will be in the sweltering midst of a Chicago-true-style-summer. In this 2-hour workshop learn about pitta dosha in the body, mind, and environment. Nathan will show you how to identify pitta excess, and how to reduce it using yoga and ayurvedic lifestyle practices. To learn more and register follow this link.
Free Lecture & Yoga Practice – July 22nd & July 29th
Curious about our series? Take a complimentary yoga class from Hamsa! Our signature ayurvedic yoga series facilitates the heart of lifestyle learning, strategy, and application at Hamsa. Ayurveda and yoga have traditionally been taught together for thousands of years. For anyone who desires to grow into a more ‘ayurvedic based’ lifestyle, this yoga series provides the learning and on-going support necessary to transform. To learn more and register.
During July receive a complimentary abhyanga treatment (normally $125.00) with purchase of an initial consultation or follow-up consultation. Ayurvedic consultations are used to develop programs that integrate diet and lifestyle (meditation, herbs, eating times, etc). They can be used for weight loss, detoxification, emotional release, enhanced mind/body balance, and alternative medicine support. They also enable the Hamsa staff to fully customize your treatments through the choice of oils, herbs, and treatments chosen in our holistic spa.
At Hamsa, our initial consultation and lifestyle assessments now include a ‘Lifestyle Starter Pack’- A tongue scraper, ayurvedic oil, and a month supply of triphala or antioxidants – $75.00 value. If after a consultation you decide to pursue our post consultation coaching services, panchakarma, or multiple day program at Hamsa, you may credit your consultation fee toward your program cost. To learn more and book an appointment follow this link.
If you have been to Hamsa Ayurveda & Yoga in Chicago you probably have heard the word ‘thailam.’
A thailam is an oil (usually black seed sesame) that has been medicated with specific herbs, plants, and minerals in order to induce a specific influence on the body and mind. The process of making the thailam is complex and requires significant time and expertise. At this time, we are not aware of anyone making the traditional ayurvedic thailams in the United States. Hamsa uses traditional thailams sourced from hospitals in India that use sustainable and wild crafted herbs and plants to procure their oils.
To make the Thailam:
- The plants are picked only at specific times during the year.
- They are cooked in water to form a decoction (strong tea) and paste.
- The production of ‘paste’ is very difficult and requires strict attention and dedication.
- The paste and decoction are mixed in a base oil (usually black seed sesame).
- The oil is cooked for a period between 2-7 days, continuously stirred, until the water is cooked out.
Ayurvedic practitioners perceive a thailam for its therapeutic effects. They prescribe the oils as part of a healthy lifestyle regiment, or in order to treat imbalances in the mind and body.
Dhanvantari is one common thailam. Traditionally used for women after they have given birth (it is said to help rejuvenate the tissues and tonify the womb), it is also used for post-trauma victims, in cases of sustained injury, or after accidents. Dhanvantari is named after the ayurvedic God, Dhanvatari, in the Vedic tradition who bestows health and alleviates his devotees of disease. It is made with 28 different herbs that have been cooked into the oil over several weeks. It requires close observation and effort procuring the oil and making sure it is not burned.
Shirodhara, one of ayurveda’s ‘bliss therapies’ uses around 32 ounces of thailam. In this treatment warm oil is poured over the third eye, hair line, and scalp in order to sedate and rejuvenate the nervous system. Traditionally, shirodhara was used for diseases such as Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. Today, ayurvedic practitioners use shirodhara to treat several conditions such as: chronic stress, exhaustion, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Thailams can be used occassionally in a spa setting for stress reduction, antiaging, and rejuvenation. They can be used clinically over a several day or month long period to treat disease conditions. Practitioners advise their clients and patients to come in for abhyanga treatments where technicians use specific strokes that regulate prana (life force energy), however, thailams are very effective when used part of an at home regiment.
In general, ayurvedic thailams:
- Powerfully pacify vata dosha because of their oily, warm, and heavy qualities.
- Protect the internal organs.
- Provide the body with essential fatty acids.
- Reduce excess lymph.
- Aid detoxification.
- Increase immunity and physical strength.
There are numerous thailams that have various effects. Some thailams are used to combat stress, while others regulate the hormonal system. If you are considering adding a thailam to your health regiment, discuss it with a reliable supplier or your ayurvedic practitioner.
To purchase Hamsa’s thailam’s check out their online store on Etsy.