Leaky gut in alcoholic cirrhosis: a possible mechanism for alcohol-induced liver damage.
Am J Gastroenterol. 1999 Jan;94(1):200-7. PMID: 9934756
OBJECTIVE: Only 30% of alcoholics develop cirrhosis, suggesting that the development of alcohol-induced liver injury requires one or more additional factors. Animal studies have shown that gut-derived endotoxin is one such factor. Because increased intestinal permeability has been shown to cause endotoxemia, we hypothesized that increased gastrointestinal permeability contributes to the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease. This study aimed to measure gastroduodenal and intestinal permeability in alcoholics with and without chronic liver disease and in nonalcoholic subjects with chronic liver disease. METHODS: Gastroduodenal permeability was assessed by measurement of urinary excretion of sucrose after oral administration. Intestinal permeability was assessed by measurement of urinary lactulose and mannitol after oral administration of these sugars. RESULTS: Alcoholics with no liver disease showed a small but significant increase in sucrose excretion. Alcoholics with chronic liver disease demonstrated a marked and highly significant increase in urinary sucrose excretion relative to the controls, to the alcoholics with no liver disease, and to the nonalcoholics with liver disease. Alcoholics with chronic liver disease demonstrated a marked and highly significant increase in both lactulose absorption and in the urinary lactulose/mannitol ratio (alcoholics 0.703 vs controls 0.019, p = 0.01). In contrast, alcoholics with no liver disease and nonalcoholics with liver disease showed normal lactulose absorption and normal lactulose/mannitol ratio. CONCLUSION: Because only the alcoholics with chronic liver disease had increased intestinal permeability, we conclude that a "leaky" gut may be a necessary cofactor for the development of chronic liver injury in heavy drinkers.