Leaky gut. Either you know it all too well, or you’re wondering what the heck it is. This diagnosis is somewhat new, so unless you’re suffering from it, it’s likely foreign to you.
The push to understand this phenomena in recent years has shed some light on the cause of health issues like food allergies, chronic fatigue, joint pain, thyroid disease, autoimmune conditions, and slow metabolism.
What is Leaky Gut?
The intestinal lining is naturally porous and functions like a net with very tiny holes. It is also extremely thin and fragile. This design allows for incredibly small particles of digested nutrients to pass through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream, through which they are then distributed throughout the body.
The term “leaky gut” describes the condition of hyper-permeable intestines, which occurs when the holes in the lining become larger and more frequent. In medicine we refer to it as Intestinal Permeability.
When the normal “screening out” process fails, partially digested foods, bacteria, and other waste leaks into the bloodstream. As these particles seep into the bloodstream, the immune system misreads the foreign substances as “invaders” and attacks the body.
Leaky gut also hinders digestion and the body’s absorption of essential nutrients.
What causes Leaky Gut?
There are many causes of this syndrome, but some of the most common are:
- Poor diet
- Chronic stress
- Toxin overload
- Bacterial imbalance
- Genetically modified foods
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other prescription pain medications
- Excessive caffeine, alcohol, and/or tobacco use
How do I know if I have it?
Since leaky gut lets unwanted materials pass through to the entire body, symptoms are wide-ranging. This often perpetuates a lack of diagnosis, since the telltale signs can be somewhat vague or overarching.
Some very common symptoms of leaky gut are:
- Chronic fatigue
- Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, or IBS
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease
- Mood and mind issues such as depression, anxiety, ADD, or ADHD
- Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema
- Diagnosis of candida overgrowth
Are there ways to test for Leaky Gut?
There remains some debate over one of the more popular tests that monitors the urine’s clearance of two sugars, Lactulose and Mannitol, which are the byproducts of leaky gut.
At this point, no test is 100 percent accurate and should be taken with a grain of salt. I rely on my patient’s symptoms first and have gotten to be pretty good at assessing this condition without running many tests. I use a urinary Indican test, look for parasites, dysbiosis and food intolerances.
What can I do about it?
Leaky gut can be reversed as you heal and repair the netting of your intestinal lining.
Food sensitivities complicate the issue. They should be identified and removed from your diet so your intestinal lining can heal itself. If problem foods aren’t pinpointed, there’s a risk of intensifying the problem, which can lead to more food intolerances or ailments.
Some of these foods can be reintroduced slowly again after the good bacteria are re-inoculated and the gut lining has healed.
Probiotics, digestive enzymes, garlic, fermented foods like sauerkraut and coconut kefir and supplements are also excellent ways to heal the lining. A skilled physician will be able to plan a program for you with weekly steps and goals.
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms, be sure to check with your doctor and get tested for leaky gut.
To gut feelings,