Are you overweight, lack energy and feel low or depressed ? Do you suffer from bloating and inflammation ? Do you regularly have bouts of eczema, IBS and food intolerances ? If you answer yes to the majority of these questions then I’d urge you to pay more attention to your digestive system’s health and consider whether you are suffering from what is commonly known as ‘leaky gut syndrome’…
What is leaky gut syndrome?
If you’re into natural health, then you may have heard of leaky gut syndrome. It’s an important problem to consider, as a leaky gut is associated with various related diseases and conditions. It is sometimes referred to as ‘intestinal hyperpermeability’.
Over the last few decades, various studies have been published that discuss our growing understanding of immunity, gut function and also how modern lifestyles and diets negatively affect our health by damaging our digestive system.
Leaky gut symptoms due to intestinal tight-junction malfunction. These junctions are the gateway between your intestines and your bloodstream, and they control what passes into the bloodstream from your digestive system. Tight junctions have to maintain the balance between allowing vital nutrients to enter your bloodstream, while staying small enough to prevent xenobiotics (which cause diseases) from passing out of your digestive system into the rest of your body.
Some of the underlying causes of a leaky gut are genetic predisposition, poor diet, toxin overload, bacterial imbalance, and chronic stress.
You may be wondering if you have this problem and how to identify if you have a leaky gut. Here are seven common leaky gut symptoms and early occurring conditions that may suggest an issue with your gut health:
1. Food Sensitivities
Due to the large amount of toxins that enter the bloodstream, the immune system of someone with leaky gut syndrome is working in overdrive, producing huge amounts of antibodies. This can lead to the body being more susceptible to antigens in certain foods, such as gluten and dairy. Studies of human children show that leaky gut syndrome and food allergies have been linked. Allergies are actually believed to be one of the most common symptoms of a leaky gut.
2. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Research has found that elevated gut permeability is often localised to the colon in people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Ulcerative Colotis. In the 1980s, scientists suggested that Crohn’s disease may be more of a risk for people with leaky gut.
3. Autoimmune Disease
Eating gluten may trigger a leaky gut as researchers have found that gluten activates a protein called Zonulin. There is good news however, due to the fact that as long as leaky gut plays a role in autoimmune conditions, it is reversible and could potentially actually alleviate some of these negative immune responses.
4. Thyroid Problems
Leaky gut syndrome may directly affect an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s disease. This disorder is characterised by low thyroid function, fatigue, impaired metabolism, depression, and weight gain.
5. Nutrient Mal-absorption
Leaky gut syndrome can also cause various nutritional deficiencies, such as Vitamin B12, magnesium and digestive enzymes. This is why medical practitioners tend to prescribe a whole-food multivitamin for people suffering leaky gut problems.
6. Inflammatory Skin Conditions
The gut-skin connection theory has described how intestinal hyperpermeability can cause some skin conditions, particularly acne and psoriasis. Creams and drugs with some dangerous side effects are often given to people suffering from these disorders, however there is lots of evidence to suggest that part of the root cause could exist in the gut.
7. Mood Issues and Autism
Leaky gut has also been shown to cause neurocognitive disorders such as depression. This is because the inflammatory response characteristic triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and other chemicals which induce depression
How do you get rid of a leaky gut?
Testing for leaky gut
There are several ways to test for leaky gut syndrome, confirm a diagnosis, and point you in the right direction for treatment. These tests identify specific sensitivities and can help to uncover which types of deficiencies or toxins are contributing to your symptoms.
- Stools Tests
- Lactulose Mannitol Test
- Zonulin or Lactulose Test
- IgG Food Intolerance Test
- Organic Acid Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies Tests
Leaky gut treatments
These 4 ‘R’s detail the ways that you can heal a leaky gut:
- Remove foods and factors that damage the gut.
- Replace these with healing foods to follow an anti-inflammatory leaky gut diet
- Repair the gut by taking supplements specially for a leaky gut, such as butyric acid
- Rebalance your microbiome with beneficial bacteria (probiotics). Bacteria in your gut are a major component of the intestinal barrier, therefore doing so is key.
If you are suffering from a leaky gut or have some of the symptoms, then remove processed foods and stick to a diet which includes some of the following:
- Bone broth
- Fermented vegetables and other probiotics foods
- Coconut products
- Raw cultured dairy
- Sprouted seeds
- Foods with omega-3 fatty acids
- Herbs and spices
- Nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory foods such as grass-fed beef, lamb, fresh vegetables and fruits etc.
A summary of leaky gut syndrome
- Leaky gut syndrome occurs when there is a problem in the intestinal tight junctions in the digestive tract, which allows larger particles to pass from the digestive system into the bloodstream. This disrupts the balance of our inflammatory immune responses which can lead to inflammation and poor immunity.
- Leaky gut is correlated with many diseases and issues such as depression, digestive disorders, autoimmune disease, etc.
- Common symptoms include digestive issues, food sensitivities, thyroid disruption, autoimmune disease, nutrient malabsorption, inflammatory skin conditions and brain-related issues such as autism and depression.
- Many of the symptoms of a leaky gut can be improved by following a healing diet and there are also many supplements available that support gut health.