To answer the above question firstly we need to know what barrier protection systems are?
1. What are barrier protection systems?
Vital organs and biologic systems have developed specialized barriers to protect (eg from infections) but also allow nutrition through for growth and survival. The notable barriers are the blood brain barrier, blood gastrointestinal barrier (GBB), blood retinal barriers, blood placenta and blood testis barriers, the blood thymus barrier, and the blood–lung or airway barrier. Each of these barriers protects vulnerable and sensitive organs and systems (1). Selective permeability is important and accomplished though specialized cells, occludins, adherens, and claudins, for example.
The junctional proteins in the brain are similar to those of the small intestine. In the gut, the barriers are semipermeable, thus allowing efficient transport of nutrients across the, while excluding entry of potentially harmful small molecules and organisms. The exclusionary properties of the gastric and intestinal mucosa are referred to as the gastrointestinal blood barrier (2).
2. What is Leaky Gut and Leaky Barrier?
Food sensitivity and emerging toxins have been linked to inflammation and some individuals react to food and dietary proteins as pathogenic or antigenic, causing inflammation of the mucosal barrier and immune stress. The inflammation, comprised largely of cytokines, interleukins (IL)-8, and the pro-inflammatory cytokines; tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interferon (IFN)-γ, may play a role in this process and inflammation can induce changes in the expression and/or localization of tight junction proteins (1).
A key point to follow is what happens when the integrity of the intestinal blood barrier is compromised. It has the potential to affect a host of other organ systems, which can be problematic. Immune recruitment and an autoimmune response can destroy intestinal epithelial cells, which may lead to villous atrophy (3).
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive brain stimulation technique used to assess and monitor patients with celiac disease shows that “hyper-excitable celiac brain” can exist. These researchers show gluten-related excitatory and inhibitory synaptic excitability. TMS suggests there is a subclinical involvement of GABAnergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission (4). This was even found when celiac patients were asymptomatic, and suggests the brain and its excitation state, and perhaps permeability barriers, could be commonly affected through inflammation in this disease.
The innate immune response has been shown to increase zonulin, which is a modulator of intercellular tight junctions and trafficking of macromolecules important in tolerance and immune responses. Dysregulation of the zonulin pathway can increase the permeability of tight junctions and render individuals susceptible to possible autoimmune disorders, cancer, and inflammation (3).
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