Important Facts about Leaky Gut Syndrome
Have you heard about leaky gut syndrome? Sounds pretty gross, doesn’t it? Doctors have only recently discovered what causes this condition. The systemic effects are something you need to know (and avoid) in your own life to guard your health.
Donald Kirby, gastroenterologist and director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition, explained why digestive illness and disease are still new. “Physicians don’t know enough about the gut, which is our biggest immune system organ.”1
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Your small intestine is the largest organ in your body and makes up two-thirds of your overall immune system. It’s responsible for filtering various known and unknown toxins from your body. Most people don’t realize that the small intestine is your first line of defense against foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and so much more.
It acts sort of like a coffee filter. The fine weave would capture many of the contaminants of dirty water poured through it. All the larger pollutants and many of the tiny ones. However, if you poked holes in the filter first, a lot of those particles (large and small) would escape the filter entirely and give you a much different result.
The same is true of your small intestine. When it is clean and without holes, it filters out all the large pollutants you might have in your body and most of the microscopic ones.
Poor diet, lack of exercise, obesity, sleep deprivation, chronic stress, substance abuse, tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, and so much more cause inflammation to rage out of control in your entire body (systemic). The damage this rampant inflammation causes affects every cell in your body and one of the biggest victims is your gut.
For simplicity, inflammation pokes holes in your small intestine.
Once these holes are made, your gut literally leaks particles into your bloodstream. Things that should never escape this immunity organ – like bacteria, undigested food particles, and other toxins – are then floating unchecked throughout your system when they should have been filtered out and flushed as waste.2
Your Immune System Bounds into Action
Leaky gut syndrome is a foreign condition to your body and your immune system immediately takes steps to reduce the potential damage. As you know by now, the primary immune response is inflammation. That means you take a raging fire and add more fuel to it. 3
Your immune system doesn’t realize it’s causing more problems because it simply sees these harmful toxins as potential foreign invaders and wants to get rid of them. That’s its job!
The chain reaction inflammation causes then extends well beyond your gut.
Because so little is known or understood about how the human microbiome functions, leaky gut syndrome is often misdiagnosed and can go years without being treated.
Ultimately, your doctor may have to work backwards, addressing each of your symptoms, in order to figure out what’s happening in your belly.
The symptoms are varied because they affect so many different areas of the body. This is one of the main reasons that leaky gut syndrome may be difficult to pinpoint. Doctors are not yet trained to examine the health of your gut if you have allergies, chronic fatigue, or unusual pain. 4
Common Signs of Leaky Gut Syndrome 5, 6
- Severe PMS or PCOS menstrual conditions
- Bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Seasonal allergies or asthma
- Chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Nutritional deficiencies (malabsorption of nutrients)
- Behavioral changes including depression, anxiety, or poor focus
- Skin irritations, rashes, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, or acne
- Issues with yeast
- New food allergies or intolerances
- Unusual food cravings
- Autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, lupus, Crohn’s, or celiac)
- Headaches, poor memory, or “brain fog”
- Poor immunity that results in regular illnesses or infections
As you can tell, it would be easy to overlook or misdiagnosis leaky gut syndrome from these signs that literally affect parts of your body that you wouldn’t connect to your gut health.
To date, researchers have determined that diet and specific drug interactions (antibiotics, steroids, or pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen) are the greatest culprits that stimulate these issues.
Dr. Leo Galland, M.D. outlines several strategies to healing this unstable condition and getting your health back on track (with a soothed and happy immune system).
5 Ways to Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome 7
- Drastically limit (or eliminate entirely) alcohol consumption
- Stop all use of pain relievers (prescription and over-the-counter)
- Discuss testing for this condition with your doctor
- Cut out known inflammatory foods high in acids, unhealthy fats, or processed sugars
- Increase your fiber consumption (vegetables are best)
Again, it can be difficult for your doctor to diagnose leaky gut syndrome and he/she may insist on going through a “process of elimination” to rule out other potential causes.
However, if you continue to experience the symptoms listed above, put your foot down and get tested for it. If your regular doctor won’t do it, find one who will.
Pain with no known cause, fatigue no matter how much rest you get, feelings of depression, skin conditions that you can’t get under control, or persistent bowel distress are no way to live.
When you heal your gut, your entire body is going to feel better. You can get back to living your life (without the crazy effects of leaky gut syndrome).
1Web MD: www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/leaky-gut-syndrome#1
2Dr. Axe: Leaky Gut Syndrome: 7 Signs You May Have It draxe.com/7-signs-symptoms-you-have-leaky-gut/
3Harvard Health Publishing: Leaky gut: What is it, and what does it mean for you? www.health.harvard.edu/blog/leaky-gut-what-is-it-and-what-does-it-mean-for-you-2017092212451
4Healthline: Is Leaky Gut Syndrome a Real Condition? An Unbiased Look www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-leaky-gut-real
5Huffington Post: Do You Have Leaky Gut Syndrome? www.huffpost.com/entry/do-you-have-leaky-gut-syn_b_688951?guccounter=1
6Mind Body Green Health: 11 Signs You Have Leaky Gut Syndrome www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10908/9-signs-you-have-a-leaky-gut.html
7Healthy Women: 10 Signs You Have a Leaky Gut—and How to Heal It www.healthywomen.org/content/blog-entry/10-signs-you-have-leaky-gut%E2%80%94and-how-heal-it