Leaky gut is a term that’s often thrown around but never properly understood. You’ll want to read this whole post, as this may explain a lot of your own symptoms.
The digestive tract is a hollow tube that runs from the mouth to the anus, and can therefore be considered “outside” of our body: we absorb things from this tube, and secrete things into it, and whatever our body doesn’t need passes through and is eliminated.
Each part of the tract has its role, the first parts (mouth to the beginning of the small intestine) are designed to break down food for absorption, and start killing things that our body doesn’t want in it. The immune system has an incredible role here: meet things in the tract and identify if they are good or bad. The good things are allowed into the body, and the bad can be dealt with several ways: 1) ignored, 2) antibodies are secreted into the digestive tract to aid with elimination, and 3) if the bad things do get in, different parts of the immune system can now fight it.
The small intestine is where the absorbing of foods (and bad things) happens. The lining is folded into finger-like projections called “villi” to increase the surface area, and the cells are packed tightly together (forming “tight junctions”), forcing the foods through the cells, where they are re-packaged into recognizable forms and released into the body.
However, in the presence of inflammation or an existing immune response (for a myriad of reasons), swelling can cause the intestinal cells to separate and allow foods to more easily pass between the cells. The foods are now not in a form the body recognizes, and the immune system will react to it as a foreign invader. This is called “leaky gut”, as foods that one might think are benign “leak” through “holes” in the gut and are actually the cause of increased inflammation. These offending foods are specific to each individual afflicted with leaky gut, and collectively known as food sensitivities.
This increased inflammation can be the cause of many symptoms that can affect your quality of life, and is often never related back to the gut. Here is a list of some of the systems and symptoms that have been related to leaky gut, and this is not exhaustive.
- Digestive symptoms: bloating, stool changes, indigestion, cramping, etc.
- Skin symptoms: eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, hives, etc.
- Respiratory symptoms: mucous, recurring colds/flus, fatigue, sinusitis, etc.
- Cardiovascular symptoms: high blood pressure, migraines, etc.
- Endocrine symptoms: blood sugar changes, thyroid changes (body temperature, weight changes), fatigue, PMS, etc.
- Mood symptoms: irritability, food cravings, etc.
- and the list keeps going
Leaky gut is diagnosed clinically by your doctor, and the specific offending foods are corroborated by testing. It can also be diagnosed by symptomatic improvement following an elimination diet for 1 month, and identification of offending foods happens upon their reintroduction.
- Reduce incoming inflammation: this is the elimination of offending foods, whether identified through testing or commonly understood inflammatory foods (including wheat, cow dairy, sugar, soy, corn, etc.)
- Reduce existing inflammation: healing of the gut needs to be done concurrently, and can include L-glutamine, fish oil, fibre, DGL, anti-inflammatory herbs like aloe, marshmallow and slippery elm, etc.
- Correct a dysbiosis: if there are bugs in the gut contributing to the inflammation, they need to be removed by probiotics and specific targeted treatments depending on the bug.
If you would like to know more about this, as well as leaky gut, please book a free 15 minute consult here.