Well, yes and no. Let me explain. In fact, let SCD Lifestyle explain as they’ve just done a useful post on it, so it saves me time! Their post was about a webinar which has now gone, but some of the points in the post are useful anyway. I have been asked my views on it by a few of you so thought I would share them more widely!
Is Leaky Gut Testing A Waste Of Time and Money?
In essence, they suggest you could better spend your money elsewhere and assume you have a leaky gut. I agree with that and have said it many times.
BUT, it can be very useful to test your leakyness so you can monitor progress. I went through a time when I was saying the same thing but found people wanted to test sometimes anyway, if only to see on paper if the gut or brain barrier had been affected in some way and they weren’t going mad. Also, it can really help to see that damage coming down, even when you can’t feel anything getting better yet – and that has happened quite a few times so far. I did Cyrex 20 for migraine, for example, as I wanted to see if my blood brain barrier was breached and how badly, for example. It sort of helps to see something on paper even though I suspected it.
The other thing is that the Cyrex 2 especially can give you a good idea of what might be causing the leakyness. A case in point was just last week.
I had a patient do the Cyrex testing as I have set it out in the Gluten Plan and the Gluten Testing page. In essence, the results suggested they have gut and blood-brain barrier loss of integrity, plus thyroid autoimmunity, caused most likely by bacterial infection rather than food or gluten specifically.
How can we tell it is likely bacterial rather than food, you ask?
Well, in Cyrex 2, the permeability test, we found a high LPS score which shows bacterial endotoxins most likely causing leaky gut rather than food because results from Cyrex 3 and 4 showed no food antibodies positive, Cyrex 20 showed blood brain barrier integrity loss. Ergo more likely to be infection than food. That’s not to say food might not be involved – the tests are not infallible and it may be that this person doesn’t have an antibody reaction to food. That’s when you would double-check with something like the ALCAT tests.
So, sometimes you can see it is useful to test – it certainly gives this person somewhere to focus treatment: on hunting down and dealing with bacterial infection.
That said, SCD make a good point and I agree in that I always ask: will having a test change the treatment? If not, is it worth it to know? In this case, would the person have been taking anti-bacterial treatment as part of a gut healing protocol anyway? Maybe. But would it not be more beneficial to try and discover what the bacterial problem is and target is specifically? Possibly. It’s always a judgement call, isn’t it?
I do agree that no leaky gut test yet exists that is 100% reliable but these are the best we have and can help when you use them correctly.
What about the PEG test, or lactulose/mannitol?
Basically, there are two main ways of testing leaky gut currently. You can either look at absorption of molecules, as in the PEG and L/M test OR you can now look at antibodies – immunological damage to the barrier structures and proteins – as in the Cyrex 2 permeability test. The two are completely different: apples and pears, and you cannot compare them.
Generally, I have found the PEG test very useful in people as a progress marker. The PEG test is looking to see what size molecules are getting through the gut barrier – larger ones shouldn’t be getting through, quite simply, and you should see the number coming down if you are healing.
The more well known lactulose/mannitol test is similar in that it is measuring absorption and molecules getting through really. I avoid it in TGF world, though, because it is derived from corn and dairy most of the time. PEG is an inert synthetic substance: OK, not great for you but not a food allergen at least.
The Cyrex 2 is an antibody test, looking for immunological markers and, as I have explained above, can be quite useful in our detective work.
The Strategy for Healing
The second part of the SCD post is also useful in that it describes the approach to so-called ‘tough cases’. In effect, diet alone will not do it. Again, I agree with that. They have even caught up now and advise an AIP diet, healing supplement protocol and working on your stress. Recognise that? It’s the Gluten Plan and strategy advised on the TGF site! Nuff said.
For more on leaky gut and the healing protocols, it’s all in the Gluten Plan – I haven’t had a chance yet to pull that section out and do a leaky gut factsheet for you. Never enough time! But it is all there for you, I promise.