As a naturopath, I was always taught that “all disease begins in the gut.” So, it’s no surprise that research now shows how leaky gut syndrome is connected to many health conditions.
A leaky gut means you are dealing with “intestinal hyperpermeability.” It’s when the tight junctions that seal the intestinal mucus membranes together are destroyed and proteins and other undesirables can leak into the blood stream and cause inflammatory reactions.
These junctions are supposed to act as a barrier between the content of the intestines and the blood stream (body) and should ideally only allow very small molecules through. The mucus membranes and tight junctions together stop undesirable agents from getting into the blood stream.
The gastrointestinal tract contains toxins, undigested food particles and microorganisms such as parasites and bacteria. But when these tight junctions are destroyed, they break apart and allow these particles to leak into the blood stream, causing inflammatory reactions that then travel to the rest of the body creating cellular havoc.
The immune system attacks these particles, as it would a pathogen and creates antibodies against these substances, stimulating inflammatory cytokines.
Factors that increase the risk of developing leaky gut in some individuals are eating gluten, gut infections (candida, parasites, SIBO), stress, processed sugar, over-use of antibiotics, alcohol, unhealthy lifestyle and lack of intestinal friendly bacteria.
Common signs and conditions of leaky gut
Such as gas, bloating, discomfort, pain, flatulence, bowel disturbances and/or IBS. Leaky gut often causes many digestive complaints that are immediate or delayed.
Food sensitivities and allergies
As the intestinal contents leak into the blood stream, the immune system produces antibodies against these food antigens and a reaction ensues.
When the intestinal cells are inflamed and the food isn’t being digested adequately before it is absorbed into the blood stream, the nutrient absorption becomes impaired and nutrient deficiencies occur.
It’s been understood for a long time the skin-gut connection and its relationship with leaky gut, gut infections and food sensitives/allergies.
If you are in a chronic state of inflammation from leaky gut and infections, you may feel tired all the time.
Studies show a connection between mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD and leaky gut and the health of the microbiome.
Many autoimmune diseases such as IBD, Hashimoto’s, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis have been connected to leaky gut syndrome.
If you have been diagnosed with a leaky gut, what can you do about it?
If an intestinal infection is present then killing the infection is paramount for the recovery process including breaking down any biofilms that may have occurred. Your health care practitioner can order tests if there is a suspicion.
- Avoid allergens and problematic foods such as gluten, processed sugar and dairy. You can have IgG and allergy tests to help determine the problem foods.
- Improve digestion with ACV (apple cider vinegar) or with digestive enzymes to improve the digestion of food.
- Specific supplements such as zinc and glutamine can be very helpful to heal and seal the gut as can some specific herbs, foods and nutrients to support the health of the intestinal cells.
- Consume fermented foods and taking specialised probiotics to re-inoculate the gut with good bacteria.
- Reboot and give the digestive system a rest from all things undesirable such as processed sugar, gluten and dairy. Rebooting can allow the digestive system to have a break. The high volume of antioxidants and plant compounds helps reduce inflammation, modulates the immune system in a positive way and allows the nutrients to easily assimilate improving energy and reducing symptoms. The nutrients from the juice can easily pass through the intestinal lining without creating issues.