Health News, Information and Advice from a British Doctor

This condition often crops up on the Health pages of glossy women’s magazines and in alternative medicine journals. It is purportedly characterised by increased permeability of the gut to toxins, allowing these toxins which have either been ingested, or alternatively manufactured by bacteria or fungi in the gut, to pass through the normal barriers and defence mechanisms in the gut wall and into the blood stream. It has been proposed that these circulating toxins can worsen or even cause conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and even multiple sclerosis. Untrained ‘nutritionists’ and alternative medicine practitioners are the main exponents of this condition.

The vast majority of Gastroenterologists and dietitians do not hold these views and do not believe that the condition really exists in particular because there is no evidence base for the claims. Although it is true that certain diseases of the gut, such as inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease), dysenteries and bowel malignancy, may damage the normal defence mechanisms of the gut, there is no evidence that toxins can pass more easily pass into the blood stream and certainly no evidence of a link with the above conditions has ever been made. In fact the converse is true in that serum and proteins may leak out of the blood and tissues into the gut when these conditions are severe. As such, there is no recognisable treatment for this condition which is largely managed with alternative medicine products and dietary exclusion.
Written by Dr M J Webberley, Consultant Gastroenterologist, August 2015