What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome is a proposed gastrointestinal disorder that affects the lining of the intestines. That being said, a certain level of controversy exists about whether or not leaky gut actually exists as it is defined, since diagnosis of the disorder is incredibly difficult . Regardless, when a person is believed to be afflicted by this syndrome, tight junctions in the intestinal walls may not be working properly, resulting in tiny gaps that allow bacteria and other toxins to pass into the bloodstream . Increased intestinal permeability can often be found in people with diseases such as Crohns disease. However, intestinal permeability is a symptom of these ailments, not a cause it does not lead to anything more than inflammation of the bowel walls, and it is not leaky gut syndrome.
The gastrointestinal tract is a pathway of connected organs, running from your gums to your bum! The organs that make up the GI tract are the esophagus, the stomach, and the small and large intestines. Put simply, digestive enzymes within the stomach and small intestine break down nutrients in food and drink. These smaller molecules are then used by the body for energy, growth, and repair.
While many doctors and healthcare professionals do not actually recognize leaky gut syndrome as a diagnosable condition, current scientific evidence suggests that it may contribute to a wide range of medical conditions.
Testing For Leaky Gut
If you want to heal your leaky gut, you first have to know if you have one. Symptoms are often attributed to other conditions. The good news is that there are tests that can determine if you have a leaky gut.
One of the more accurate tests is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test . This tests the levels of zonulin in your blood, which gives a biomarker of how much intestinal permeability there is. Dr. Alessio Fasanos research showed that gluten triggers the release of zonulin. Zonulin is a chemical that signals the tight junctions of your intestinal wall to open up, creating intestinal permeability, or a leaky gut. Higher than normal levels of zonulin is an indicator of a leaky gut. Optimal levels of zonulin are 22.3 to 161.1 ng/mL.
Another way to test for leaky gut is to find out if you have a food sensitivity. The best way to discover your food sensitivities is to complete an elimination diet. An elimination diet is a short-term eating plan with the goal of pinpointing exactly which foods are causing the uncomfortable, painful, or mysterious symptoms you are experiencing.
Symptoms Of Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut affects everyone differently. You may have mild, intermittent symptoms or severe and chronic symptoms. Here are a few you might notice:
- Joint pain
- Confusion, lack of concentration, memory problems
- Abdominal pain
We werent kidding when we said the symptoms are varied and confusing. Because these symptoms could point to many other health conditions as well, Dr. Larson runs a special leaky gut test to inform his diagnosis and treatment plan.
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Leaky Gut Symptoms And Treatment
In a healthy person the small intestine permits efficient absorption of nutrients while also preventing absorption of undigested food, bacteria and toxins. A damaged gut lining does the opposite and allows increasing amounts of toxic substances into the body.
These are processed by the liver and eventually the liver detoxification processes become overwhelmed and toxins spill over into the blood stream. This precipitates a massive immune system response, which results in inflammation and allergic reactions occurring throughout the body. This inflammatory response may damage distant organs and contributes significantly to illness and many autoimmune conditions including thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis and others.
Leaky Gut has been shown to be associated with many medical conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, inflammatory joint disease, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies or sensitivities, liver dysfunction, psoriasis, eczema, multiple chemical sensitivity, acne, impaired immunity, autism, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease and other autoimmune conditions. Leaky Gut tends to be a chronic debilitating condition. It has many causes and presents with a wide variety of signs and symptoms.
The Symptoms Of Leaky Gut
Symptoms of leaky gut are vague and similar to symptoms of many other conditions.
Most people will complain of gas, bloating, cramping, brain fog, food allergies and intolerances, asthma, acne and other skin conditions, and fatigue.
There are a lot of doctors and other practitioners who use fear and bad science to sell leaky gut to unsuspecting and vulnerable people.
A particularly infuriating article by an MD on MindBodyGreen states the following:
11 Signs You Have a Leaky Gut
1. Digestive system issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome .
2. Seasonal allergies or asthma.
3. Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or PCOS.
4. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimotos thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease.
5. Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia.
6. Mood and mind issues such as depression, anxiety, ADD or ADHD.
7. Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema.
8. Diagnosis of candida overgrowth.
9. Food allergies, food sensitivities or food intolerances.
10. Poor immune system
11. Arthritis or joint pain
None of these are signs that you definitely have a leaky gut and there is no reliable evidence to prove that leaky gut causes any of them.
My issue with this sort of listicle is that many of the people who write them go on to say that these conditions can be cured simply by fixing the leaky gut problem. This is completely untrue.
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My Favorite Company For Micriobiome Testing Is Viome
Not only are they doing scientifically sound testing, but theyre also focused on the right things.
So instead of trying to sell you follow up products like other companies, theyre giving you simple-to-follow diet and lifestyle advice.
And Im actually kinda amazed at what theyre able to tell from our stool samples now.
For example, they are now able to pinpoint specific foods that YOUR specific gut flora tolerates well and what foods it does not. This puts a whole new spin on reactive testing.
It is quite possible that this info can sniff out food sensitivities that no other test can. And then by eliminating these foods, you could potentially say adios to food-based digestive problems almost overnight.
In other words, this test is trying to deliver the benefits of a 3-month elimination-reintroduction diet, but without the painstaking effort from you.
Unsurprisingly, Viomes testing service is priced higher than the likes of Ubiome, Biohm and Thryve. But for me, thats because it is simply backed by better data and more useful results.
Test #1 The Lactulose & Mannitol Test For Leaky Gut
The lactulose and mannitol test acts as a very direct test for leaky gut by looking solely at how permeable/leaky the intestinal wall is.
Studies like this one have confirmed its efficacy, as they conclude Evaluation of intestinal permeability in this way provides an objective means of diagnosing food allergy . In other words, this test can act as a diagnostic for leaky gut, which can therefore identify food allergies.
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Leaky Gut Fix #: Nourish And Repair The Gut
Fixing leaky gut syndrome is not just a matter of getting rid of irritants, we also must use good quality foods and supplements to help heal and seal the gut lining. It is also important that your diet is filled with healthy nutrients that come from whole foods. Sometimes targeted supplementation may be necessary depending on the testing.
What To Include In Your Leaky Gut Diet
Aim for your diet to be rich in a wide range of colorful vegetables , whole grains rich in fiber , colorful fruits, and good quality, organic or grass-fed protein sources. A high fiber diet can help with gut motility, and constipation itself can be irritating to the gut. In addition, supplements can also be beneficial on the road to recovery. One of the most beneficial supplements is L-glutamine. L-glutamine is an amino acid in the human body. It helps with tissue repair and has been shown to help heal and seal the gut lining in the case of leaky gut so, is a great addition to a leaky gut diet. Other nutraceuticals such as glutathione, also known as the master antioxidant have been shown to help repair the gut lining, as well.
The Dangers Of Alternative Treatments For Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome is generally touted by alternative health and medical sites with equally alternative solutions ranging from fad diets to costly supplements that have not been adequately researched.
The Canadian Society of Intestinal Research warns that products that claim to help alleviate leaky gut are not medically verified and may actually be dangerous. Further, dietary advice given by unqualified institutions or personalities may lead to malnutrition or a poorer diet overall.
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Signs You May Have Leaky Gut Syndrome
In Health and Wellness by Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC May 13th, 2019
Do you suffer from leaky gut syndrome? This common health condition can cause a range of health symptoms, from headaches to digestive problems, and its closely linked to dozens of other chronic health issues.
The term leaky gut is fairly new within the medical community, and many physicians dont recognize it as a legitimate health issue. But leaky gut has long been called by another term: intestinal permeability.
Its very common for anyone eating a Standard American Diet high in poor-quality meats, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods to experience digestive issues and intestinal inflammation. But just because these issues are common, that doesnt mean we have to live with them. It is possible to heal a leaky gut, and to resolve many of the health conditions that often come along with it.
Need help healing leaky gut syndrome and losing weight? Contact us for a no-cost consultation!
Symptoms Of A Leaky Gut
Leaky gut syndrome has been linked to hormonal imbalances, joint pain, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimotos thyroiditis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, eczema, and rosacea, just to name a few.
A properly functioning digestive system is critical to good health. Problems in our gastrointestinal tract can cause more than just stomach pain, gas, bloating, or diarrhea they can be the root cause of many chronic health problems. If your intestinal wall has been compromised, youll likely experience these symptoms and signs:
If youre experiencing any of these symptoms, leaky gut may be the culprit. Take this quiz to find out!
Do you think you have leaky gut?
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Leaky Gut Syndrome Explained
If youve been struggling with GI issues or have noticed some systemic symptoms that negatively impact your life it could be leaky gut syndrome. Its very possible that this condition will be affecting many individuals each year, and with the proper treatment, they could restore a better quality of life.
For now, you can take steps to improve your gut health and decrease the risk of leaky gut syndrome by following some of the steps mentioned. By reducing inflammation, transforming your diet, and adding a wide range of beneficial supplements you could eradicate your symptoms and feel like your best self. If you feel you need help on that journey, our Integrative Nutrition Team treats both local and virtual patients. Wherever you are, were there too. Just or, you can start by filling out the form below.
The Good Gut Health Diet
Are you wondering what you can do to fight leaky gut syndrome? Gastroenterologists and homeopaths agree that a proper diet can go a long way in improving overall gut health. The following foods are beneficial to good gut health.
- Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, arugula, carrots, kale, eggplant, beetroot, Swiss chard, spinach, ginger, mushrooms and zucchini.
- Roots and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, squash and turnips.
- Fermented vegetables: Kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh and miso.
- Fruit: Coconut, grapes, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, oranges, mandarin, lemon, limes, passion fruit and papaya.
- Sprouted seeds: Chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds and more.
- Gluten-free grains: Buckwheat, amaranth, rice , sorghum, teff and gluten-free oats.
- Healthy fats: Avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil.
- Fish: Salmon, tuna, herring and other omega-3-rich fish.
- Meats and eggs: Lean cuts of chicken, beef, lamb, turkey and eggs.
- Herbs and spices: All herbs and spices.
- Cultured dairy products: Kefir, yogurt, Greek yogurt and traditional buttermilk.
- Beverages: Bone broth, teas, coconut milk, nut milk, water and kombucha.
- Nuts: Raw nuts including peanuts, almonds and nut-based products, such as nut milks.
Avoiding excessive sugar and alcohol and heavily processed foods can go a long way toward helping digestive function.
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What Happens When You Have An Excessively Leaky Gut
We want to absorb nutrients, which means we want our guts to be leaky to some degree so that we can transport desirable materials into our bloodstreams. But its a balancing act. When our gut becomes excessively leaky, it allows undesirable things to pass through.
For one, you might experience bacterial leakage, where external code material called lipid polysaccharide finds its way into the bloodstream. This is recognized in peer-reviewed scientific literature as a driver of inflammation throughout the body, including the brain.
You might also experience the leakage of molecules from food. In this case, your white blood cells will look at these molecules and identify them as foreign. What can follow is a process called molecular mimicry, in which our bodies see something that looks like itself and then cross-reacts with itself. This is one of several proposed triggers for autoimmune diseases.
How Does Leaky Gut Syndrome Happen
Leaky gut happens normally in the human digestive tract, as part of a process that allows the food we consume when broken down and digested to be absorbed into the body. Sometimes, however, the gut can become too leaky and allow bad stuff or too much stuff to cross over and our bodies’ immune system, including the gut immune system to react. Here are a few points that explain how leaky gut syndrome works:
- The intestinal walls act as gatekeepers that control what substances enter our blood and organs when we digest food.
- Small gaps in the intestinal wall, called tight junctions allow water and nutrients to pass through, while blocking the passage of harmful substances.
- When these tight junctions become loose, the gut becomes more permeable, enabling bacteria and toxins to pass into the bloodstream.
- The most common reaction to leaky gut is systemic inflammation, which can result in body aches and pains, swelling of muscles and tissue and tired feeling or lethargy.
There has been comparatively little research conducted on leaky gut, although that is changing rapidly, because the condition is drawing increased attention from gastroenterologists and holistic practitioners alike.
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A Hint Of Truth Intestinal Permeability
In some individuals, for a variety of reasons, the physical structure of their intestines is compromised. The tight junctions, which control what materials the intestine absorbs, dont work properly, allowing larger substances to cross over into the bloodstream. This is known as intestinal permeability.
Physicians sometimes find increased intestinal permeability in those who have Crohns disease, celiac disease, in individuals receiving chemotherapy, and those who have a high intake of bowel-damaging substances such as aspirin and alcohol. However, intestinal permeability is a symptom of these ailments, not a cause it does not lead to anything more than inflammation of the bowel walls, and it is not leaky gut syndrome. Furthermore, research shows that increased intestinal permeability sometimes has beneficial effects, such as improving water and nutrient absorption as well as activating the immune system.1
The Myth: According to the proponents of leaky gut syndrome, bacteria and toxins enter the bloodstream through these defective tight junctions and wreak havoc throughout the body, causing bloating, gas, cramps, inflammatory bowel disease , as well as fatigue, food sensitivities, joint pain, moodiness, irritability, sleeplessness, autism, and skin problems like eczema and psoriasis.
How Do You Know If You Have A Leaky Gut
9 Signs You Have a Leaky Gut 1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome . 3. Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or PCOS. 4. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimotos thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease. 1. Remove. 3. Reinoculate. 4. Repair.
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But Things Are Changing Tests Are Becoming 10x More Useful
Some companies are actually starting to deliver plain English results and most of all, tell you what you should do with the results they find!
I mean, imagine receiving a letter in a language you couldnt speak or understand and now, finally having a translator convert it to plain English!
i.e. instead of just sending you a complex and bewildering list of strains in your gut, they are now sending you individualized recommendations and lifestyle tips to improve your gut health and thus intestinal permeability.
This changes everything.
Unfortunately, there are dozens of companies out there offering what they say are the most advanced tests. But most are delivering nothing of the kind.
Ubiome and Biohm are 2 interesting testing companies Im keeping my eye on, because the data they produce is solid. However, the actionable takeaways they offer in the results they send back are still quite limited.
Thryve is doing interesting work too, but I feel their testing service is a loss leader for their follow up products. So Im not totally sold on them.