Intestinal hyperpermeability: how to avoid it

If you have read our article on the intestinal barrier, you will already know that it is essential to take good care of it to avoid intestinal hyperpermeability. Indeed, the wall of our digestive tract plays a role of barrier and has a double function. On the one hand, it is involved in digestion for the absorption of nutrients and, on the other, in preventing the entry of foreign and potentially dangerous substances into the body. However, in order for it to properly perform its role as a barrier against invaders, it is advisable to take the necessary measures to avoid suffering from intestinal hyperpermeability.

What is intestinal hyperpermeability?

Intestinal hyperpermeability is the result of an alteration of the intestinal barrier. As the name suggests, it results in a loss of sealing. The cause? The loss of cohesion of the layer of cells on the surface of the digestive tract, which may be due to three events:

  • The existence of temporary lesions (e.g., infections, abrasions) of the epithelial cells;
  • The decrease in the number of intercellular junctions whose role is to ensure the impermeability of the intestinal barrier;
  • The alteration of the structure of these junctions, thus leaving a free passage between the cells of the intestinal wall i.e., a gateway in the organism for undesirable elements, such as bacteria, viruses and food allergens.

How does intestinal hyperpermeability manifest itself?

Frequent infections

First of all, people suffering from intestinal hyperpermeability are more prone to infections. In fact, the intestinal wall becomes a real gateway to the body for pathogens.

Pain and digestive problems

In addition, remember that the intestinal barrier is made up of 3 components: mucus, epithelial cells and immune cells. The latter’s mission is to quickly oppose any intruder and alert all the body’s defenses to prepare them for its possible dissemination through the rest of the body. This situation is relatively uncommon in the case of a healthy intestinal barrier, because it implies that the invader has managed to cross the first two layers of the intestinal barrier without any problem. However, this situation is much more frequent in cases of intestinal hyperpermeability.

In fact, the immune cells of a weakened intestinal barrier are constantly confronted with invaders. They are therefore in a constant state of alert and trigger immune reactions to try to eliminate the danger and stop the invasion. The inflammation linked to the immune reaction manifests itself through pain and digestive disorders (e.g., diarrhea, constipation, gas, etc.).

If the hyperpermeability is prolonged over time, the inflammation can then become chronic and lead to a disruption of the immune system. In the long term, this disruption can lead to the development of chronic inflammatory diseases such as chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), functional disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, increased food allergies or autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease.

How to take care of your intestinal barrier

Several environmental factors, such as diet and lifestyle, have an impact on the quality of your intestinal barrier. You must therefore adopt the right reflexes on a daily basis to take care of it in order to avoid intestinal hyperpermeability.

Adopt a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle

It has been shown that a diet low in fiber, high in fat and sugar, and alcohol consumption can alter the intestinal barrier.[1] One of the levers to take care of it is to adopt a varied and balanced diet. This will be all the more beneficial if your diet is rich in prebiotic fibers. Prebiotic fibers help nourish your intestinal microbiota and promote the growth of good bacteria at the expense of bad ones. Prebiotic fibers have also demonstrated their ability to strengthen the intestinal barrier.[2]

Chronic stress and certain medications (especially antibiotics[3]) are also important to watch out for as they can damage your intestinal barrier.[4] 

Get into biotics

Incorporating biotics into your daily routine is also a good way to take care of your intestinal barrier and prevent intestinal hyperpermeability. Probiotics, for example, compete with pathogenic bacteria that may have settled in your digestive tract. In addition, some probiotic strains produce antimicrobial substances that eliminate harmful bacteria before they can even cross the intestinal barrier.

Postbiotics, on the other hand, reinforce the protective role of the intestinal barrier via two mechanisms. Firstly, they adhere to the mucus and form an additional barrier, preventing pathogens from attaching to the wall of the digestive tract. Secondly, postbiotics like LBiome™ are known to strengthen certain intercellular junctions, which ensure the tightness of the intestinal barrier.

You now know all about intestinal hyperpermeability: what causes it, how it manifests itself and, above all, how to prevent it. To continue taking care of your microbiota and your intestinal barrier and help boost your immunity, try out  our 3 delicious suggested recipes.

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[1] Ulluwishewa D, Anderson RC, McNabb WC, Moughan PJ, Wells JM, Roy NC. Regulation of tight junction permeability by intestinal bacteria and dietary components. J Nutr. 2011 May;141(5):769-76.

[2] Pham VT, Seifert N, Richard N, Raederstorff D, Steinert RE, Prudence K, Mohajeri MH. The effects of fermentation products of prebiotic fibres on gut barrier and immune functions in vitro. PeerJ. 2018 Aug 10;6:e5288.

[3] Otani K, Tanigawa T, Watanabe T, Shimada S, Nadatani Y, Nagami Y, Tanaka F, Kamata N, Yamagami H, Shiba M, Tominaga K, Fujiwara Y, Arakawa T. Microbiota Plays a Key Role in Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug-Induced Small Intestinal Damage. Digestion. 2017;95(1):22-28.

[4] Karl JP, Margolis LM, Madslien EH, Murphy NE, Castellani JW, Gundersen Y, Hoke AV, Levangie MW, Kumar R, Chakraborty N, Gautam A, Hammamieh R, Martini S, Montain SJ, Pasiakos SM. Changes in intestinal microbiota composition and metabolism coincide with increased intestinal permeability in young adults under prolonged physiological stress. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2017 Jun 1;312(6):G559-G571.