Crohn’s disease is a rare but serious inflammatory bowel disease. The condition causes the digestive tract lining to become inflamed, leading to symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. Individuals with Crohn’s disease are also more likely to experience small intestine permeability, or what’s known as “leaky gut.” While there is no cure for the disease, medications and lifestyle modifications can be used to help manage the condition. In particular, research suggests zinc supplements may help to combat leaky gut associated with Crohn’s disease.
What is Leaky Gut?
In leaky gut syndrome, the gaps in intestinal walls loosen, allowing bacteria and toxins to pass through the intestines and into the bloodstream. Experts believe the condition may be linked to chronic and autoimmune conditions, including celiac disease and type 1 diabetes.
Leaky gut can occur whenever the balance between good and bad gut bacteria is off. The intestinal tract is home to hundreds of good bacteria, which help to manage digestion, process nutrients, and fight off bad bacteria.
Can Zinc Help?
While optimizing diet to maintain digestive health is a good start for many individuals, there are many other factors beyond nutrition at play when it comes to leaky gut. This is especially true for people with Crohn’s disease. Everything from compounds in tap water to medications can alter gut flora, which is why many individuals, and especially those with inflammatory bowel diseases, need an extra line of defense against leaky gut.
Because Crohn’s disease can inhibit proper nutrient absorption, people with the condition may face deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals. In particular, studies suggest that a zinc deficiency contributes to damage in the gut membrane barrier, but with zinc supplements, small intestine permeability can be improved. In a study published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, the majority of patients who were given 110 mg of oral zinc sulfate supplements for 8 weeks had normal intestinal permeability and did not relapse. The findings suggest that zinc supplements can resolve permeability issues in individuals with Crohn’s disease and that strengthening the intestinal barrier may minimize the risk of relapse.
While each patient should check with their doctor before introducing any new supplements to their daily regimen, the findings do seem to be promising and may suggest that a single vitamin could play a powerful role in Crohn’s disease management.