What is Leaky Gut?
Not a day goes by in my clinic when a patient doesn’t express concerns about his or her digestion.
Symptoms of bloating, gas, belching, indigestion and simply an irritable bowel are common complaints by my patients. These are also symptoms that may be suggestive of a leaky gut.
Your digestive tract is an important barrier and serves to protect the body from harmful and foreign invaders. Think of your intestinal lining as a net with very small holes that only allow certain particles to go through. With leaky gut, also referred to as Increased Intestinal Permeability, those wholes become much bigger, allowing harmful substances through that ordinarily would be blocked.
With the intestinal lining compromised, bacteria, viruses, undigested food, and toxins can leak from the intestines through the damaged intestinal lining into the bloodstream. This causes your immune system to respond and triggers inflammation throughout the body leading to symptoms like bloating, fatigue, achy joints, headaches, skin problems and food intolerances.
A damaged net (aka Leaky Gut) can also affect how well your body absorbs vitamins and minerals from not only supplementation, but also food. Nutritional deficiencies can develop as a result of damaged villi – the finger-like projections in the small intestine that are responsible for absorbing nutrients.
One of the warning signs of leaky gut is multiple food sensitivities or intolerances due to partially digested protein and fat particles leaking through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream, causing an allergic reaction. If left untreated, leaky gut can progress into more debilitating health issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, IBS, arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, migraines, depression, anxiety and chronic fatigue.
Common food intolerances include: dairy, gluten, egg, soy, corn, peanuts, and citrus fruits (oranges).
What Causes Leaky Gut?
A poor diet, chronic stress, certain medications, a toxic bowel and bacterial imbalance all seem to play important roles in the development of leaky gut.
Chronic stress often leads to a weakened immune system because when we release large amounts of cortisol, our stress hormone, it depletes our “good” bacteria in the digestive tract. Certain medications such as aspirin and non-steroidal anti- inflammatories (NSAIDS) can damage the lining of your gut, and antibiotics can kill off most of your essential good bacteria, increasing intestinal permeability.
The birth control pill can also kill off your good bacterial!
Dysbiosis – an imbalance between “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gut – is one of the leading theories of what causes this increased intestinal permeability. Excessive sugar and alcohol consumption can often feed candida and lead to an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria and yeast, which has also been associated with leaky gut.
Many preservatives and chemicals (GMOs) in processed food can damage our intestinal lining, as can excess consumption of gluten – found in wheat, rye, malt and barley.
Think you might be suffering from Leaky Gut? Stay tuned for my next blog on how to heal yourself the natural way.