Leaky Gut and Multiple Sclerosis

“Leaky gut” is a condition where the lining of the small intestinal tract has been damaged. The small intestine is approximately 20 feet long and is all coiled up upon itself inside our abdominal cavity. It is across the membrane of the small intestine that the nutrients from our foods are absorbed. The permeability of this membrane is now being linked to Multiple Sclerosis in an article that just came out.

Normally the cells in the small intestine are lined up like soldiers and tightly held together by “rubber bands” which we call “tight junctions”. If these rubber bands are damaged by anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, stress, gluten sensitivity, food allergies, then small holes develop between the tightly knit cells of the intestinal tract. Then food which normally should be going through the cells to be digested, is able to “leak” between the cells and directly enter our bloodstream. This is called a permeability defect of the intestinal walls.

Because these are incompletely digested food molecules, they are relatively big. Big enough to be recognized by our immune system as a “foreign invader”. The immune system then becomes activated and secretes pro-inflammatory molecules which are not limited to just the gut. Rather they get into our bloodstream and circulate through the entire body. This then can contribute to inflammation in any and all parts of the body, and specifically relates to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

In the picture below you see the gluten (and other foods) “leaking” between the cells, causing immune cells called T-cells, and inflammatory molcules like Cytokines to be produced:


For several decades now, integrative doctors have recognized that there is a link between “leaky gut” and autoimmune diseases. In my practice, for a long time, if a patient comes to me with an autoimmune disease such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or multiple sclerosis, I always have evaluated them for leaky gut. The majority of the time, they do have intestinal permeability problems, and we use diet and nutrients to repair the lining of the intestinal tract. This very often brings great clinical improvement.

However if you read websites from conventional doctors including Wikipedia, you will find that this diagnosis of “leaky gut” is questioned by conventional doctors. They say it does not exist!

However I am happy to say that not ALL conventional doctors are close- minded to the idea of a leaky gut and its connection to autoimmune diseases.

Leaky Gut and MS

Just this past week, Shahram Lavasani, Ph.D., and colleagues have published a paper showing a link between animal-model multiple sclerosis and “leaky gut”. In an interview, Dr Lavasani, told the healthline website that this connection has been the focus of his research for more than a decade. He stated “back then, the scientists and professionals did not believe in involvement of the gastrointestinal tract and development of ”extra-intestinal“ autoimmune diseases.”

Because Dr Lavasani, had written another paper showing that a specific probiotic mixture can exert a therapeutic effect in animal model multiple sclerosis, he was spurred on to do this research evaluating gut permeability and animal model multiple sclerosis.

To me, this recent research is extremely exciting, because once again the validity of integrative medicine’s principles of health, are being proven with modern science.

Dr Lavasani states at the end of the abstract for his recent article that “an increased understanding of the regulation of tight junctions at the blood – brain barrier and in the intestinal wall may be crucial for design of future innovative therapies” for multiple sclerosis.

Although the animal model that they use for multiple sclerosis is widely recognized to be a very good model for human multiple sclerosis, we must acknowledge that this study was done in mice not humans. I am happy to see that Terry Wahls M.D. is currently finishing a study on the role of diet and multiple sclerosis. Her study is looking at the benefit of a meat-based Paleo diet for MS. I hope that one day we will be able to do a study with multiple sclerosis and a vegan diet along with nutrients that are known to be able to heal a leaky gut. Ideally, this study will have measurements of leaky gut at the beginning and end of the research.

Do you or your friends or family have Multiple Sclerosis or other autoimmune dieseases? Have you or they been evaluated for leaky gut?

Let me know your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook .


Probiotics and MS

Leaky Gut and MS

Healthline article

Acknowledgments of photos:

Leaky Gut photo

MS photo

Wishing you the best of health!

Dr Soram

About Dr. Soram Khalsa

As an MD, Dr Soram specializes in Integrative Medicine combining diet, nutrition, acupuncture, herbs and nutrition. Visit Dr Soram’s Healthy Living Store where you’ll find high-quality nutritional supplements: