Leaky Gut Syndrome


Dr Jake Paul Fratkin, OMD, L.Ac.

Author of "Chinese Patent Herbal Medicines"

Dr. Jake Paul Fratkin, author of "Chinese Patent Herbal Medicines", has spent the last 30 years focusing on integrating Functional Medicine with Traditional Chinese Medicine, especially for the treatment of Leaky Gut Syndrome. In this online class, he explains the etiology and mechanism of LGS, how to use lab testing (stool, saliva, urine, blood) to focus treatment, and the use of herbs and dietary supplements. More importantly, Dr. Fratkin explains how to apply Zang-Fu, Acupuncture, & Chinese Herbs to effectively treat this very complex syndrome.

In 9 hours, you will learn


Why this Modern Syndrome is not discussed in the Chinese Classics


To Recognize the Signs & Symptoms of this Complex Disease


To Order & Interpret Lab Reports to Diagnose & evaluate Progress


To Treat the Root & Branch using Oriental & Functional Medicine


Includes Case Studies with Full Color Lab Reports


This lecture was originally presented as a two day class at the East Coast Acupuncture Conference. It is now available as an online, distance learning class. Go at your own pace and watch on demand for an entire year.


Dr Fratkin is the definitive speaker on treating Leaky Gut Syndrome with Oriental & Functional Medicine. This is his longest, most in-depth lecture on the topic.


$120.00 for a full year of viewing

California Provider # 1215: 9 CEU/PDA

NCCAOM # 685-026: 8.5 CEU/PDA







(910) 791-3349 Eastern Time


Jake Paul Fratkin, OMD, L.Ac. has studied Korean and Japanese acupuncture since 1975, and Chinese herbal medicine since 1982. He spent a year in Beijing hospitals specializing in internal disorders and pediatrics. He has formulated patent herbal medicines for several manufacturers and taught at the South West Acupuncture College.


Dr. Fratkin is the author of Chinese Herbal Patent Medicines, The Clinical Desk Reference, a guide to 1250 Chinese herbal products available in North America, and the editor-organizer of Wu & Fischer's "Practical Therapeutics of Traditional Chinese Medicine". He is the recipient of Acupuncturists of the Year, 1999, by the AAAOM and Teacher of the Year, 2006, American Association of Teachers of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AATAOM). He currently lives and practices in Boulder, Colorado.


In Depth Course Information

Part 1: The Problem


Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS) is a major cause of disease and dysfunction in modern society, and in my practice accounts for at least 50% of chronic complaints, as confirmed by laboratory tests. In discussing Leaky Gut Syndrome, I want to first describe the situation in terms of western physiology, and at the end of the article I will discuss aspects of Leaky Gut Syndrome that are unique to Traditional Chinese Medicine.


In Leaky Gut Syndrome, the epithelium on the villi of the small intestine becomes inflamed and irritated, which allows metabolic and microbial toxins of the small intestines to flood into the blood stream. This event compromises the liver, the lymphatic system, and the immune response including the endocrine system. It is often the primary cause of the following common conditions: asthma, food allergies, chronic sinusitis, eczema, urticaria, migraine, irritable bowel, fungal disorders, fibromyalgia, and inflammatory joint disorders including rheumatoid arthritis. It also contributes to PMS, uterine fibroid, and breast fibroid. Leaky Gut Syndrome is often the real basis for chronic fatigue syndrome and pediatric immune deficiencies.


Leaky Gut Syndrome is reaching epidemic proportions within the population. As a disease entity, it has not been discussed in classical or modern TCM literature. In fact, taking a

strictly classical Chinese medicine approach to Leaky Gut Syndrome is often ineffective

or only partially effective, because the disease is not addressed in all of its complexity.


Oriental medicine has never addressed the issue because it is a modern phenomenon. Historically, the only way bowel toxins entered the blood stream was through trauma, for example by sword or spear. This quickly led to septicemia that might be treatable, or more probably, ended in death. Outside of trauma, the body maintained a wonderfully effective selective barrier in the small intestine, one that allowed nutrients to enter, but kept out metabolic wastes and microbial toxins rampant in the intestines.


What modern event allowed such a break-down? Primarily it has been antibiotics,

secondarily non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The first antibiotic, penicillin,

did not enter mainstream health care until 1939. Since the 50s and 60s, antibiotics have been frantically prescribed for every infection and inflammation, particularly pediatric ear infection, bronchitis, and sore throat. It is sadly ironic that most of these infections are viral in nature, and not only are the antibiotics damaging, but they are ultimately unnecessary. Antibiotics should be considered a hospitalization level medicine, when bacteria have entered the blood, bone, or organ.


NSAIDs are commonly taken for various pains, and include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil). They

are quite damaging to the small intestine mucosa lining.


Antibiotics create their damage in two ways. The first is by destroying beneficial bacteria.

The small intestine and large intestine host over five hundred different kinds of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria perform hundreds of functions required for healthy metabolism and immune response. Through enzyme secretions, bacteria transform metabolic and microbial wastes before they are discharged by the body. These wastes include cellular debris, hormones, chemical wastes, bile, pus accumulations, viral toxins, bacterial toxins, etc.


For example, the body creates bile not only as a lubricant to flush wastes out of the liver,

but also, by its cold and bitter nature, to detoxify many of the poisons accumulating in the liver. Bile however is extremely caustic to large intestine epithelium. When bile enters the small intestine via the common bile duct, beneficial bacteria break the bile salts down into a less caustic compound, making it non-dangerous by the time it reaches the large intestine. When you take antibiotics you destroy these bacteria and the bile salts freely enter and damage the large intestine. I believe this contributes significantly to the high incidence of colon cancer plaguing today’s society.


Beneficial bacteria also break down hormone secretions that are discharged from the liver

to the small intestine. If you lack the bacteria to break down estrogen and the intestinal permeability has been altered, the patient is now reabsorbing estrogens in their original

state. The body will deposit these in estrogen sensitive areas such as the breast, uterus, or ovaries, contributing, if not causing, fibroids and tumors. The same scenario is responsible

for premenstrual syndrome as well.


Antibiotics Promote the Growth of Fungus


The second way antibiotics damage the intestines is by fostering the growth of Candida Albicans and other pathogenic fungi and yeast. This event, more than any other, precipitates Leaky Gut Syndrome. In a healthy situation the small intestine epithelium maintains tight cell junctions, which contributes to the physical barrier involved in intestinal absorption. In addition to the physical barrier, there is an important chemical barrier within the mucus that contains immune agents which neutralize any toxin that comes in contact.


Candida exudes an aldehyde secretion which causes small intestine epithelial cells to shrink. This allows intestinal toxins to infiltrate through the epithelium and into the blood. The secondary barrier – immune agents in the epithelial mucus -remain the sole agent for neutralization. Eventually, the immune system becomes exhausted rising to this challenge.


Many people have an erroneous belief that the Candida itself enters the blood stream, allowing it to be deposited elsewhere, such as the brain. Unless the immune response is completely depleted, as in AIDS, Candida is quickly destroyed in the blood. The real damage done by Candida is to the intestinal epithelial barrier, allowing the absorption of serious toxic agents and chemicals, which then enter the blood and affect numerous organs, including the brain.


Food Allergies: The Complicating Factor


When the integrity of the intestinal barrier has been compromised, intestinal toxins are not the only pathogens to be absorbed. The barrier, in a healthy state, selectively allows

digested nutrients to enter the small intestine when all is ready. With leaky gut, nutrients

can be absorbed before they are fully digested. The body’s immune response, through specific antigen-antibody markers, will tag some of these foods as foreign irritants. Every

time that particular food touches the epithelia, an inflammatory immune response is

mounted which further damages the epithelial lining. What started as a Candida irritation

with shrinking of the cells has now been complicated with active inflammation every time a particular food is eaten. Food allergies are a common secondary problem to Candida, and

if present, will maintain the leaky gut continuously, even if the Candida is eradicated.


The most common food allergies are dairy, eggs, gluten grains (wheat, oats, rye), corn, beans (especially soy), and nuts. There are seldom real allergies to meat, rice, millet, vegetables, or fruit, although an allergy to garlic is not uncommon. We have to distinguish

a real allergy – that which causes a histamine inflammatory reaction at the site of the SI epithelia – from sensitivity, which may cause uncomfortable symptoms, but seldom is damaging. Sensitivities are usually due to low stomach acid or pancreatic enzyme secretion, that is, poor digestion.


In the healing of the intestinal lining, exposure to a significant allergy can sabotage the treatment. For example, one may be very good at restricting wheat, dairy and eggs, but

then compromises the treatment by taking garlic tablets.


The Role of the Liver and Lymphatic System


The metabolic and microbial toxins that enter the bloodstream during leaky gut end up in the liver, which has the job of detoxifying and discharging the poisons. Under normal conditions, the liver is taxed just by processing the daily metabolic wastes created by cell and organ activity. Imagine the further load created by dumping serious intestinal toxins on a regular basis. There is a point when the liver becomes saturated; it cannot further detoxify the poisons, and they are returned to the blood circulation. The blood has sophisticated mechanisms for preserving chemical homeostasis, and will diffuse as much of the toxic chemicals and physical debris into the interstitial fluids as is possible. From here the lymphatic system will attempt to collect and neutralize the toxins, but unable to send the toxins to the liver, the body essentially becomes toxic. Microbes grow and develop, hence there can be chronic lymphatic swelling, especially in children. Over a period of time, toxins will be forced into distal connective tissue around muscles and joints, causing fibromyalgia, or into the cells, which can precipitate genetic mutation and ultimately cancer.


Stress to the Immune and Endocrine Systems


The immune system is stressed in three major ways. First is at the site of the intestinal mucosa. As toxins and food antigens brush up against the mucosa, the immune system mobilizes to neutralize the toxins. Normally, much of this work would have been done by beneficial bacteria, which have been destroyed by antibiotics. For toxins that make it to the mucosa, the body will tag them with a chemical secretory IgA (SIgA), which attracts macrophages and other white blood cells to consume the toxins. It is not long before this immune response is overwhelmed and depleted. This can be measured directly with a stool

or saliva test for the intestinal SIgA level.


The second stressor happens in the liver and lymphatic system which, also overwhelmed, puts demands on the immune system. The third stressor is a consequence: as the immune response diminishes, more microbes (viruses, bacteria, and fungi) multiply, allowing for a chronic state of infection. What might be tagged as a viral infection, such as Epstein-Barr virus for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is actually an opportunistic infection taking advantage

of a weakened immune system.


The most important organ in the production of immune agents seems to be the adrenal

gland, and Leaky Gut Syndrome slowly diminishes adrenal function. In the early and

middle stages, there is actually an adrenal excess, as measured by excess cortisol

output. Eventually, cortisol levels drop, and one now has exhaustion.


The Role of the Digestive Tract


Candida flourishes when the terrain in the intestines favors it. Just killing Candida is usually not successful, because the chemistry and vitality of the terrain has not been normalized, and Candida returns. Antibiotics are the original cause of the change on the terrain. By killing acid forming bacteria (Lactobacillus bacteria produce lactic acid, for example), the environment becomes alkaline, which promotes Candida. Also, antacids and chronic illness reduce stomach acid production, contributing to the alkalinity, and also allowing poor digestive absorption. In fact, many people with Leaky Gut Syndrome are malnourished, no matter how healthy the food is that they eat.


The terrain of the small intestine requires proper pH and electromagnetic resonance. The

idea that lactobacillus supplementation is all that is required after antibiotics is somewhat delusional; in fact most of the lactobacillus from supplementation does not survive in the intestine, due to poor terrain.


Organizing the Therapy


Leaky Gut Syndrome has various components, all of which need to be evaluated and addressed. First, ongoing irritants to the small intestine mucosal lining (fungus, food allergies, and NSAIDs) need to be identified and neutralized. Second, nutrients and herbs are required to promote healing of the epithelial lining. Third, and perhaps the key link, the liver needs to

be regulated. Fourth, the lymphatics and interstitial fluids need to be detoxified. Fifth, the immune and endocrine systems need to be regulated and supported. And sixth, the

stomach and pancreas needs to be regulated, if necessary.


The therapy takes between four and eight months. Patients need to be vigilant about their

diet in avoiding food allergies and minimizing the growth of Candida.


Understanding Leaky Gut Syndrome in Terms of TCM


Antibiotics introduce a very cold environment into the digestive system. It depletes spleen yang and disrupts spleen-stomach harmony. This impairs digestion and absorption of food

and fluids, and more important, depletes the qi necessary to maintain the integrity of the

small intestine. The small intestine is controlled by the spleen. The spleen’s function of absorption and distribution of qi and fluid happens in the small intestine, and the function of the SI is controlled by the Stomach and Spleen channels (not the Small Intestine channel). So, the initial damage to the integrity of the small intestine is due to damage of the spleen function.


We can understand the small intestines discharging toxins to the liver in terms of spleen insulting liver, that is, a reverse control within the Wu Xing (five phase) cycle. The liver will become excess, causing a stagnation of qi and blood. Its ability to store and distribute the blood (which includes the ability to cleanse the blood) becomes impaired. This is the main excess in an array of other deficiencies (spleen, kidney), and as such, becomes the pivotal key-link that needs to be addressed first. Zang-Fu therapy usually requires that the excess be addressed at the beginning.


When the spleen becomes depleted, the kidney will become excess, according to Wu Xing theory. Initially, the body responds with a kidney yang excess, to try to reinforce the yang

that has been depleted in the spleen. This will manifest as stress, anxiety, and poor sleep.

(It is directly measurable as an elevated adrenal cortisol level.) Over a period of time,

kidney yang will begin to become depleted, leading to fatigue. Over a longer period of

time, both kidney yang and yin will be come depleted, leading to a depletion of the

yuan-jing reserves, resulting in true exhaustion.


The combined depletion of kidney and spleen, with depletion of the yuan-jing reserves, significantly depletes the ying qi flowing through the channels. Wei qi, being the active radiating yang aspect of the ying qi, is also depleted, diminishing an effective response to pathogenic factors. The whole stomach and intestinal tract is still considered the outside of

the body, and as such, depends on wei qi to keep pathogenic factors from entering. As the wei qi is reduced, pathogenic toxins are free to enter the body and further sap its reserves

of energy.


Successful rehabilitation requires that the ying and wei be restored to normal levels, through regulation of the spleen and kidney. This tonification of the wei qi will help regenerate tissue on the surface of the small intestine. Again, it is required that the blockage and congestion at the liver be allowed to open up again, or, in terms of TCM, dredged.


Underlying the susceptibility to Leaky Gut Syndrome is the probability that the qi is deficient to start with. This goes back to a modern lifestyle of poor eating habits and poor food choices which injures the spleen, and the various stresses of modern life (life style,

chemicals, electromagnetic) that depletes kidney qi. Within the acupuncture network, this contributes to a weakened dantian, or hara. The small intestine lies over and around the dantian. This is one of the most important energy centers in the body, the place where food

is converted to qi and blood. When the dantian becomes weakened, it creates a terrain

that allows Leaky Gut Syndrome to take place. And it indicates that a successful adjunct

to therapy would include dantian qi gong.




People worry about many sorts of environmental toxins. It is true these are stressors on the body, and contribute to an overall decline in health. A worst threat, however, is an ongoing toxic intrusion from the cesspool that exists in our intestines. The body has a marvelous mechanism, a selective intestinal permeability, that allows digested nutrients in while keeping toxins meant for excretion out. Throughout history, in general, this barrier has maintained its integrity. During the last fifty years, due to the intrusive irritation of antibiotics and NSAIDs, the average person’s health has been significantly challenged and weakened.


Part 2: Diagnosis & Treatment


The complicating factor in Leaky Gut Syndrome is that of acquired food allergies. As the intestinal mucosa is irritated by Candida, foods are absorbed before they are completely digested. The body can tag these as foreign by using specific antibodies. When those foods are eaten there is an inflammatory response at the intestinal epithelia, which keeps Leaky  Gut going. If Candida is effectively eradicated but the food allergy problem is not addressed, the various illnesses will continue.


Dietary Restrictions


The clinician is best served by utilizing laboratory tests to confirm & gauge various aspects

of Leaky Gut including Candida levels, digestive function, food allergies, etc. Many of the tests are expensive and one needs to be prudent in what tests are absolutely required.


If testing is out of the question due to cost restrictions, certain assumptions and advice may be given to the patient. If there is a history of antibiotics (two episodes within a lifetime is enough to set up Leaky Gut Syndrome; yearly doses of antibiotics will guarantee it), assume there is Candida. You will need to give anti-Candida medicines and advise a special diet.


Diet therapy alone will not eradicate high levels of Candida, but certain foods will sabotage successful therapy: sugars, yeasts, refined white flour products (bread, pasta, pastry), vinegar, fermented products including miso, canned fruit juice, and dried fruit. Fresh fruit may or may not be a problem, depending on the severity.


Secondly, assume there are food allergies. If any food allergy is allowed to persist, the intestinal wall will remain inflamed and toxic absorption will continue. Without testing, the best you can do is avoid completely the common allergenic foods: dairy (milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter), gluten grains (wheat, rye, oats, spelt, barley); eggs; corn (including popcorn, corn syrup, corn oil); and beans (especially soy, lentil and kidney; soy includes tofu, miso, and tamari). Other foods that commonly test as allergenic are almonds, peanuts, and garlic. The most common of the allergenic foods are dairy, gluten grains, and eggs. Be careful of these ingredients in packaged foods or foods prepared in restaurants.


A non-allergenic diet can be obtained by eating meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, potatoes, rice, millet, and fruits. Many patients feel that certain foods are allergenic because of

reactive symptoms. We have to distinguish sensitivity from allergy. A food that might cause sensitivity, like tomatoes or oranges, causes discomfort because of an imbalance of

digestive acids and enzymes. Real allergies cause damage to the intestinal lining by

initiating an inflammatory reaction, and ironically, are usually without any perceived reaction.


Diet is perhaps the hardest path for patients to follow, but this is what determines who gets better and who doesn’t. Your management and encouragement here is essential to a real success. Patients need to understand that allergenic foods keep the intestines inflamed, allowing toxins to continuously enter the body.


Useful Laboratory Tests


Most of the pertinent tests require a stool sample, and kits can be provided directly by the practitioner to the patient. Food allergy tests require a serum sample, which is performed

by a registered phlebotomist or lab, who gives the spun serum back to the patient to mail.


As far as useful tests, I think it is essential to assess the level of Candida infestation. Low levels do not require aggressive anti-Candida treatment, whereas high levels do. The blood antibody test for Candida is not very useful as it tends to show only in the severely immuno-suppressed, such as AIDS patients. The better Candida tests use a stool sample, and I would recommend either Great Smokies (Asheville) or Diagnos-Techs (Seattle).


Leaky gut can also be caused or aggravated by pathogenic bacteria and protozoans, especially those acquired in the tropics, particularly India and southeast Asia. Both Great Smokies (using the CPx1) and Diagnos-Techs (using the CH panel) and do a good job here.


The next test I often order is the Chymotrypsin level. This is a digestive enzyme produced

by the pancreas, and is a good global indicator for pancreatic function. Many symptoms

that look like Leaky Gut may actually be stomach-pancreas deficiency, without Candida or intestinal permeability damage. Chymotrypsin deficiency indicates relative spleen qi

deficiency. By measuring the Candida and Chymotrypsin levels first, one can infer or rule

out Leaky Gut. If both tests are normal, it is an unlikely diagnosis. If they are abnormal,

I usually go on to recommend food allergy testing.


There are other tests that are useful. ACHY (anti-chymotrypsin factor) is measured in the stool and is a direct marker for small intestine inflammation; it often indicates food allergies. However, in a chronic case where the immune system has plummeted, the ACHY can look normal. This means that the immune system is too depleted to mount an adequate defense at the site of the mucosal membrane.


Secretory IgA (SIgA) is a direct marker of the patient’s immune system at the site of

mucosal lining of the small intestine, also measured by stool. I have reduced the usage of

this test, because all patients with Leaky Gut syndrome seem to have a severely low level;

I have come to assume that it will be low. However, as far as educating the patient and getting compliance, this is a good test for the patient to see.


Great Smokies provides an intestinal permeability test. The patient drinks a liquid containing two measurable sugars, followed by the collection of urine for 24 hours. It accurately shows the degree of Leaky Gut. Again, it is helpful for patient education and compliance, as well as  making your case with medical doctors.


The final test that is important is a good food allergy panel. The skin prick test for allergens only shows IgE levels, the immediate reactions. Most food allergies are delayed reactions, and require testing of the IgG levels through blood serum. This is a new test, about seven years old, and very few medical doctors know of it except those using natural approaches.


Currently, four labs offer a combined IgE/IgG test that I know of. (See the listing at the end

of the article). For years I have successfully used the General Food Panel from National Biotech in Seattle, which returned the results within ten days. They have recently been acquired by Great Smokies, who now offer a comprehensive panel.


The advantage of a lab food allergy test is that they appear accurate based on dramatic improvements in the clinical picture. Further, seeing a paper print out of one’s allergies is

quite reinforcing to the patient. There are practitioners who do machine or muscle testing

of food allergies, and this is quick and inexpensive. However, they do not seem to

distinguish true allergens from sensitivities.


In any event, I recommend that you call the laboratories to obtain their excellent practitioner educational materials and study them carefully. They have many useful tests that can aid your clinical practice, including hormone profiles from saliva samples.




Treatment of Leaky Gut Syndrome is complex and multi-layered. Most acupuncturists are overwhelmed by the multiple patterns that coexist in a Leaky Gut case. They don’t know where to begin or how to organize signs and symptoms. First of all, identification and elimination of Candida and food allergens is essential to any real success, and can coexist with any of the zang fu patterns. The next overall approach is to prioritize which zang fu to begin working with: liver, spleen, kidney, or heart. They may all be involved, but if you treat all simultaneously, the patient will suffer from a confused and inefficient approach. In the absence of true disturbed shen presentation, it is usually best to start herbal therapies with liver, then spleen, and finally, kidney.


Learn the rest in Dr Fratkin's class, "Leaky Gut Syndrome"

Watch on demand for a full year from the date of purchase.


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    Phone: (910) 791-3349 Eastern Time


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