Updated on October 26, 2015
“Leaky Gut” Syndrome and Undigested Fats
In a previous blog post, I discussed the importance of getting good healthy fats into your system. What happens if your digestion system is not breaking down those fats so they can be absorbed?
Fat that is consumed is eventually broken down by 2 substances – bile salts from the gallbladder and the enzyme pancreatic lipase in the duodenum. This means most of the fat that enters through the mouth is broken down into small particles in duodenum, which is located between the stomach and the small intestine. If the stomach matter, or chyme, that moves into the duodenum is the correct acidic pH (between 1.5 and 3) then the hormone secretin stimulates the pancreas to release pancreatic lipase. The pancreatic lipase starts working on breaking down the large fat globules into smaller pieces. From here it moves into the small intestine where millions of villa and macrovilli carry the fatty acids ultimately into the lymphatic system. The first thing that can go wrong and create dysfunction is that pancreatic lipase isn’t released because the chyme isn’t acidic enough. So large fat blobs, instead of fatty acids, move into the small intestine.
The second thing that can create dysfunction is at the gallbladder. Fat in the chyme that just came from the stomach stimulates the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK) to tell the gallbladder to release bile. If a low fat or hydrogenated fat diet is eaten the bile in your gallbladder gets old or viscous. On a low fat diet the bile is never used and the gallbladder just fills up with bile because the liver continues making it. This can cause gallstones, essentially a bile buildup blockage. When small amounts of fat do eventually come down from the stomach, bile doesn’t get released and ultimately large undigested particles of fat go into the small intestine. Hydrogenated fats cause the bile to become thick and sticky, preventing it from getting into the duodenum to help break the fats down. Ultimately, the same thing happens large fat molecules are moved into the small intestine.
If these large fat molecules, globules, get into the small intestine then they become rancid, eventually weakening and compromising the lining. Yuck! The lining develops holes
between the cells that allow these fat particles to get through into the immune system. The small intestine becomes “leaky”. The immune system now doesn’t recognize these large fats as nutrients and a frontal assault is launched. If your immune system is overwhelmed fighting what should have been nourishing food, it can’t fight other toxins in your system like infections, allergens, and cancer. In addition, the body is also fatty acid deficient because those fats aren’t getting absorbed.