When the gut is healthy, it remains tightly “sealed,” keeping toxins and waste within the digestive tract where they belong. On the other hand, when the one cell thick gut barrier is leaky, macro-molecules cross the barrier thereby provoking an immune response.
Testing for Leaky Gut Syndrome
The first step to healing leaky gut syndrome is to confirm this pathology via testing and all the more so that the symptoms of leaky gut often are wrongly attributed to many other health conditions. Below four tests that may be indicated.
1. Zonulin or Lactulose Tests
Zonulin controls the size of the openings between your gut lining and your bloodstream. Even in healthy people, small openings are needed between the two to transport nutrients back and forth, but abnormally high levels of zonulin can cause these openings to become too large.
What triggers zonulin levels to rise? Most often, gluten, parasites, candida yeast and harmful bacteria do. A leaky gut test can reveal how high zonulin levels are, which gives you a good idea of your gut permeability. It’s important to correct zonulin levels right away because over time, even more damage occurs in the gut’s “microvilli,” the tiny cellular membranes that line the intestines and absorb nutrients from food. (Source)
Using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test (ELISA), serum levels of zonulin can be tested to serve as a biomarker of how much intestinal permeability there is. More information on ELISA tests can be found here.
An intestinal permeability assessment can also measure the ability of two sugar molecules to permeate the gut lining — lactulose and mannitol. This leaky gut test checks for levels of the two sugars present in the urine from a sample collected over the six hours after ingesting them.
2. IgG Food Intolerance Test
When the immune system is in hyperactive mode, your body can product antibodies to commonly ingested foods. Sometimes the intolerance to certain foods creates obvious symptoms, but more often it creates a low-grade systemic inflammation over time
You need to identify any food sensitivities you have if you think you have leaky gut, since most people who have leaky gut wind up developing sensitivities as a result — and ignoring these can make the condition even worse.
Why does leaky gut cause sensitivities and food allergies? When particles and toxins enter the bloodstream that normally shouldn’t be able to, the immune system basically goes on “overdrive,” working hard to do what it thinks is beneficial for the body by raising immune responses. Intestinal hyperpermeability makes the body produce a high level of antibodies, with the hope of defending the body from dangerous particles.
This means the immune system is extra cautious and reactive, so it tends to negatively respond to foods that it used to tolerate better, especially things like gluten and pasteurized dairy. While some food sensitivities or reactions are obvious, others are more subtle and can easily go unnoticed, since they produce what’s known as “low-grade systemic inflammation.” This becomes dangerous over time and can cause a range of inflammatory diseases, so removing food sensitivities is critical to getting leaky gut under control.
The IgG Food Allergy Test (either with or without Candida testing) is available as a dried blood spot collection. You can either have the leaky gut test done by having blood drawn or by using dried blood that can be collected from home and shipped to a laboratory for analysis. More information on having a igG food intolerance test done can be found here.
3. Stool Tests
A stool test looks at beneficial bacteria levels, the state of intestinal immune function, overall intestinal health and inflammation markers. Additionally, fecal matter can reveal probiotic levels along with microbes present in the gut, both the good kind and the bad. It also reveals information about any pathogenic micro-organisms, such as yeast, parasites and bacteria that might contribute to leaky gut, chronic illness and neurological dysfunction (like mood changes or “brain fog”).
Collect stool samples at home in private, and then mail them to a lab. Stool samples must be collected on two separate days (at least 12 hours apart) and sent to a lab for testing within 10 days of being collected. Before collecting the sample, you must stop consuming most supplements (digestive enzymes, antacids, iron supplements, over 250 milligrams of vitamin C, aspirin, anti-inflammatories) and remove or limit the amount of meat you eat during the 48 hours prior to the collection. More information on having this leaky gut test done can be found here.
4. Organic Acid Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies Tests
One of the common warning signs of leaky gut is nutrient malabsorption or vitamin/mineral deficiencies. This occurs because of damage to the gut’s microvilli. When microvilli stop working properly, it’s possible for large particles to pass through the gut lining that shouldn’t (like gluten) and for some small molecules to be blocked that are actually meant to pass through and provide nutrients.
Another downside of blocked or malabsorbed nutrients is that they can’t help with detoxification of antigens that the immune system produces at high levels in response to leaky gut.
An organic acid test looks for vitamin and mineral deficiencies; amino acid (protein) deficiencies; information in regard to protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism; and antioxidant and bacteria levels.
How does it work? Organic acids are produced during central energy production, detoxification, neurotransmitter breakdown or intestinal microbial activity. When they accumulate to high levels, they can be detected in urine and signal a nutrient deficiency, problem producing digestive enzymes, yeast growth or toxic buildup.
If there’s only one nutritional test that you can afford, then the organic acids test (OAT) is the one to get. It can provide you with the most information for your money in one shot to optimize your health.
It doesn’t’ matter what your health condition is, because the goal in the organic acids test is to look at the underlying biochemical functions of your body. Additionally, it’s also very effective just to evaluate the overall level of health for any individual and practice preventative health maintenance, if a health condition does not exist. Here’s some of the most beneficial points it covers: vitamin and mineral deficiencies; protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism; the very best detection for a deficiency in B complex vitamins; neurotransmitter production and function (dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine only); oxidative stress damage; glutathione status; detoxification abilities; ATP (energy) production via the Krebs cycle; methylation status; bacterial overgrowth; yeast overgrowth; antioxidant status; mitochondria function; d-lactate levels; ammonia levels; oxalate levels; coQ10 levels.
The data attained through the organic acids test is invaluable. It provides a scientific blueprint of precisely what isn’t functioning properly in your brain and body and what needs to be done to achieve a higher level of health.
This information allows you to create a healing plan that is personalized for your unique biochemical needs that addresses the root of the problems for whatever health condition you may have.
Where to Get the Organic Acids Test
There are many different labs who have a version of the OAT, and each one can be highly beneficial. However, I prefer the Great Plains Lab, because I think it is superior to other labs in its ability to identify yeast and bacterial overgrowth. It offers 75 different markers all together that provide a comprehensive metabolic snapshot of an individual’s overall health.
The Great Plains OAT is performed by one of the leading labs in the field of Functional Medicine. Their cutting-edge technology and ground-breaking research has made them one of the most trusted and utilized labs throughout the world by practitioners of all kinds.
The organic acids test is a simple kit that you can perform in the privacy of your own home. No doctor or lab visit is necessary. A kit will be mailed to you; you collect your urine and mail it back to the lab. The results will be sent to you electronically. It’s quick, easy and painless.
5. Parasite test.
When the intestinal system is compromised, it can be a breeding ground for parasites. Parasitic infections are often associated with tropical or developing countries, but I see them frequently in Western patients with chronic conditions.
6. Bacterial dysbiosis test
Just as with chronic parasitic infections, a weakened GI system can also cause an imbalance of bacterial life, or dysbiosis. When there’s a pH change in the GI system, conditions like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) can arise. This change in your body’s pH can can also cause higher levels of opportunistic bacteria such as H. pylori and E. coli
7. Lactulose/Mannitol test
This highly specific test analyzes urine for the clearance of two sugars, lactulose and mannitol, which are byproducts of leaky gut syndrome.