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Nutrition and Intestinal Permeability. Presented by Dr Cuong Tran, Senior Research Scientist CSIRO

The importance of the gut was understood nearly 2500 years ago by Hippocrates who is thought to have said “All disease begins in the gut”. For hundreds of years the significance of the gastrointestinal tract was overlooked. It was considered a passive food tube which simply channelled nutrients and waste products. Research now shows not only that intestinal permeability (leaky gut) occurs, but it is common and contributes to; low grade inflammation, IBS type symptoms, and an increased susceptibility to diseases.

Cuong explains the physiology of intestinal permeability. He describes when intestinal permeability is impaired it allows an undesirable uptake of toxins and macromolecules into the bloodstream and provides a favourable environment for infection with a variety of pathogens (bacteria, parasites, viruses).

Impaired intestinal permeability can be caused by a variety of factors; damage to the gut lining, gut conditions, metabolic or autoimmune disease. The consumption of artificial chemicals and preservatives, pesticides, toxins and bacterial metabolites can also play a role in producing leaky gut.

The symptoms of leaky gut range from gastrointestinal eg. abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea. To generalised and systemic eg. Skin rashes, poor immunity, anxiety, muscle pain.

Cuong explains the results of CSIRO clinical trials and systematic reviews in trying to determine the best strategy to heal increased intestinal permeability. Happily for dietitians Cuong advises the best approach is dietary. This includes eating foods which are good sources of fibre and avoiding chemical additives. There may also be a role for probiotics, prebiotics and supplements eg. micronutrients and vitamins.

Dr Cuong Tran is a Senior Research Scientist at CSIRO Health and Biosecurity, and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Adelaide. He has a PhD in nutritional physiology and gastroenterology, and more than 15 years of research experience in nutrition, gut disorders and well-being. Cuong has a research interest in gut barrier function and microbiome in particular in developing effective measures of gut health and function and how that impacts on health and well-being.

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