How Your Gut Protects You From Disease

A leaky gut may be the cause of some cancers in the body, according to researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

A new study, published online in PLoS ONE, suggests that guanylyl cyclase C (GC-C)—a hormone receptor in the intestinal tract that has tumor-suppressing qualities—also plays a key role in strengthening the intestinal barrier and can possibly prevent cancer and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

The research team found that silencing the hormone receptor in mice can weaken their intestinal barrier and make them more susceptible to cancer due to inflammation, microbes seeping out into the body, and damaged DNA that formed cancer in the liver, lung, and lymph nodes.

However, the research team found that stimulating the GC-C hormone in mice strengthened the intestinal barrier to prevent the cancer-causing agents from leaking out of the gut and causing damage.

"If the intestinal barrier breaks down, it becomes a portal for stuff in the outside world to leak into the inside world," said lead researcher Scott Waldman, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Thomas Jefferson University and director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program at Jefferson's Kimmel Cancer Center. "When these worlds collide, it can cause many diseases, like inflammation and cancer."

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Leaky gut, also called increased intestinal permeability, is a condition that affects the lining of the gut. When that lining is damaged—possibly from food sensitivities, extended use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and excessive alcohol consumption—it becomes permeable and allows molecules that don't normally pass through the gut lining to "leak" out of the gut and into the bloodstream.

This triggers an autoimmune reaction with symptoms, such as:

  • Abdominal pain, bloating, and gas
  • Joint pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

How to Strengthen Your Intestinal Barrier

According to the Thomas Jefferson University press release, a new drug containing GC-C is on the verge of hitting the market. However, its intended prescribed purpose is to treat constipation.

"This study helps lay the groundwork for future pre-clinical and clinical studies investigating GC-C's abilities beyond those treatments in humans, including prevention and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and cancer," said Dr. Waldman.

"We've shown that when you pull away GC-C in animals, you disrupt the intestinal barrier, putting them at risk for getting inflammatory bowel disease and cancer. And when you treat them with hormones that activate GC-C, it helps strengthen the integrity of the intestinal barrier," Dr. Waldman said. "Now, if you want to prevent inflammation or cancer in humans, then we need to start thinking about feeding people hormones that activate GC-C to tighten up the barrier."

In the meantime, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. He may suggest that you abstain from alcohol, cease the use of NSAIDs, and follow an anti-inflammatory diet to help heal leaky gut syndrome.



Press release. Thomas Jefferson University.Web.

Jieru Egeria Lin, Adam Eugene Snook, Peng Li, Brian Arthur Stoecker, Gilbert Won Kim, Michael Sullivan Magee, Alex Vladimir Mejia Garcia, Michael Anthony Valentino, Terry Hyslop, Stephanie Schulz, Scott Arthur Waldman. GUCY2C Opposes Systemic Genotoxic Tumorigenesis by Regulating AKT-Dependent Intestinal Barrier Integrity. Web. PLoS ONE, 2012

Science Daily. Stronger Intestinal Barrier May Prevent Cancer in the Rest of the Body, New Study Suggests.  Web.

Leo Galland. Leaky Gut Syndromes: Breaking the Vicious Cycle.Web.