Research published in the June issue of the journal Hepatology has found patients with an advanced form of fatty liver are more likely to have increased intestinal permeability and bacterial overgrowth in their small intestine. The severity of these intestinal conditions correlates with the severity of fatty liver.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most common liver diseases in the world. It affects one in five to one in three people in western nations. It occurs when excessive fat accumulates within the liver, and can lead to inflammation, scarring and even eventual cirrhosis of the liver.

Poor diet is the main cause of fatty liver disease; it occurs in people who are overweight (particularly on their abdomen), diabetics and people who eat a lot of sugar.

Risk factors for developing fatty liver disease include:

  • Obesity
  • High carbohydrate diet (sugar, breakfast cereals and foods made of flour)
  • Diabetes and Syndrome X (insulin resistance)
  • High alcohol intake
  • Side effect of some medication
  • Autoimmune liver disease

In the early stages of fatty liver, excess fat accumulation is the only change that occurs. However, if left to progress, the liver may develop a type of hepatitis, which causes inflammation inside the liver. This inflammation greatly increases the risk of permanent liver damage. Research has shown that people with “leaky gut syndrome” and high levels of harmful bacteria in their small intestine are far more prone to developing a dangerous form of fatty liver disease.

Leaky gut syndrome occurs when the mucous lining of the intestines becomes irritated and inflamed, making it more porous than it should be. This allows undigested food molecules, bacteria (and their toxins), fungi and other toxins to gain entry into your bloodstream. All blood from the intestines travels to the liver first. If the bowel is toxic, this means a great deal of toxic waste is delivered to the liver each day.

Researchers believe that it is the toxins secreted by gram-negative bacteria in the small intestine (called lipopolysaccharides) that cause most harm to the liver. These toxins stimulate immune cells within the liver, which causes wear and tear, inflammation and tissue damage in the liver.

More about leaky gut syndrome

So how do you know if you have leaky gut syndrome or an overgrowth of bad bacteria? The following symptoms are good indicators:

  • Food allergies
  • Eczema
  • Abdominal bloating after eating
  • Indigestion, heartburn or reflux
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Flatulence or burping

These symptoms are extremely common, however they should not be ignored. The health of your gut has an enormous impact on your whole body.

The concept that increased intestinal permeability and bad bugs in the gut can contribute to disease was first proposed in 1890 by Llewellyn Jones, who published “Theory of auto-intoxication from gut bacteria”. That statement is very true; we do poison ourselves if we have the wrong gut bacteria inside us.

Our book called The Ultimate Detox contains strategies to repair leaky gut syndrome, as well as improve liver health. If you have a fatty liver please be aware that it is reversible in the early stages.


Luca Miele, Venanzio Valenza, et al. Increased intestinal permeability and tight junction alterations in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Hepatology 2009;49:1877-1887