While distinct from leaky gut syndrome, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) such as ulcerative colitis have also been associated with this specific gut issue. Ulcerative colitis is characterized by inflammation and ulceration of the mucosa in the colon, and diagnoses are made on the basis of biopsy, colonoscopy, or stool test results.10 Various environmental and genetic factors are thought to contribute to the development of ulcerative colitis, perhaps by altering gut barrier function and leading to abnormal immune responses and chronic inflammation.11 Consequently, management of ulcerative colitis often involves anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant medications, which alleviate inflammation but do not necessarily heal the damaged mucosa. In contrast, a recent study indicated that treatment with collagen both lessens infl ammation and promotes mucosal healing.7 Collagen treatment was found to decrease expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a factor known to correlate to disease severity. Collagen treatment also decreased expression of TNF-a, the cytokine already noted as responsible for increased expression of various other pro-inflammatory mediators as well as matrix metalloproteinases that appear to contribute to mucosal ulceration.7
In addition to leaky gut and IBDs, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is another gut disorder impacting many Americans. In fact, it is among the most prevalent gut disorders in the United States, with an estimated prevalence of 10-15%.12 IBS is diagnosed on the basis of clinical symptoms such as are abdominal discomfort and abnormal bowel habits rather than a diagnostic test,6 which can make it difficult to distinguish IBS from other conditions. Several biological factors have been identified as possible contributors to IBS development, including increased mucosal permeability and activation of the mucosal immune system12 – phenomena also associated with leaky gut syndrome and ulcerative colitis. Thus, the beneficial effects of collagen supplementation on gut permeability and inflammation may also improve the symptoms of IBS.