Who Gets A Leaky Gut
We all have some degree of leaky gut, as this barrier is not completely impenetrable . Some of us may have a genetic predisposition and may be more sensitive to changes in the digestive system, but our DNA is not the only one to blame. Modern life may actually be the main driver of gut inflammation. There is emerging evidence that the standard American diet, which is low in fiber and high in sugar and saturated fats, may initiate this process. Heavy alcohol use and stress also seem to disrupt this balance.
We already know that increased intestinal permeability plays a role in certain gastrointestinal conditions such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. The biggest question is whether or not a leaky gut may cause problems elsewhere in the body. Some studies show that leaky gut may be associated with other autoimmune diseases , chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, allergies, asthma, acne, obesity, and even mental illness. However, we do not yet have clinical studies in humans showing such a cause and effect.
Complications Of Leaky Gut Syndrome
Acne: Acne is more than just pimples, it means that hair follicles plug with oil and dead skin cells. A gut flora imbalance can be the cause.
Constipation: Constipation is when you have trouble releasing your bowels regularly. About 4 million people in the US experience constipation. Leaky Gut may be one of the reasons.
Anemia: People with anemia do not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the bodys tissues. It is usually a temporary and treatable condition.
Headaches and Migraines: Most people have experienced headaches in the lives, and an increasing number of people are suffering from chronic headaches and migraines. The reasons for headaches can vary from stress, structural issues, food allergies, environmental triggers, bacteria overgrowth, Leaky Gut, and other issues.
Hives: Hives are skin rashes. They are triggered by irritants, including food, medication, etc. Leaky Gut makes your system more compromised, and your body may react more harshly to irritants around you.
Depression/Anxiety: There is increasing evidence to the gut-brain connection. A gut flora imbalance and Leaky Gut can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Allergies: When you have Leaky Gut, your body is compromised by becoming loaded with bad bugs and toxins, making you more susceptible to develop allergies.
Diarrhea: Diarrhea is associated with watery and loose stools and stomach pain. It can be caused by a gut flora imbalance and Leaky Gut.
Dietary Changes And Routine Medical Care May Help Reduce Risks
The slight increase in mortality risk does not suggest that we need to manage CD differently. However, these findings do highlight areas for patients and physicians to focus on in an effort to possibly reduce these risks.
For example, research suggests that inadequate intake of whole grains, along with insufficient fiber intake, is a leading cause of disease and death worldwide. Specifically, lower intake of whole grains is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Given the limitations of a gluten-free diet, it is possible that people with CD eat fewer whole grains than those on an unrestricted diet. Thus, individuals with CD should consume a diet rich in whole grains that do not contain gluten, such as oats, quinoa, and amaranth.
In addition, patients with CD were found to have an increased risk of death related to respiratory disease. As part of routine care after diagnosis, patients should speak with their doctor about pneumococcal vaccines, which can reduce the risk of some respiratory infections. This is not yet common in most healthcare practices, so ask your doctor about this if he or she does not bring it up.
Chronic inflammation is likely a factor in the association of CD with increased mortality. With this in mind, physicians should consider a repeat intestinal biopsy to look for ongoing inflammation, even though this study did not find an increased risk of death in people whose intestine did not heal on a gluten-free diet.
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Can A Person Heal Leaky Gut With Supplements
Probiotics for leaky gut are fundamental to good gut health, but other supplements can definitely be of benefit as well. Those with leaky gut often display signs of zinc deficiency. Sufficient zinc intake can resolve permeability issues and improve leaky gut symptoms, especially in patients who suffer from Chron’s disease.
Zinc stimulates mucosal secretion in the body, which is vital to protecting the lining of your gut. In addition to supplements, you can boost zinc intake by eating red meat, oysters, and pumpkin seeds. Be careful to not increase zinc levels too much because this can be harmful to your immune system.
Your leaky gut meal planshould incorporate licorice root, which is an adaptogenic herb that is well known for strengthening the lining of your digestive system. It also helps neutralize low stomach acid problems by stimulating acid production. Leaky gut syndrome worsens when your stomach doesn’t have enough acid. If you are experiencing inflammatory symptoms due to leaky gut, licorice root can be of the utmost help thanks to its anti-inflammatory effect.
What Is Intestinal Permeability
The digestive system performs several very important functions in your body. In your digestive tract, your body breaks down food and absorbs nutrients into your bloodstream.
Plus, the walls of your intestines act as an important barrier between your gut and the rest of your body. The intestinal wall serves as a gatekeeper, determining which substances pass through to the bloodstream and organs.
The term intestinal permeability describes how easily substances pass through the intestinal wall. Its another word for leaky gut syndrome.
Typically, there are tiny gaps between the cells in the small intestine. These gaps are called tight junctions.
If theyre are damaged or become too loose, it causes the gut to become leaky. This allows substances and organisms in the gut to leak into the bloodstream.
When bacteria and toxins leak into the bloodstream, it causes widespread inflammation in the body.
Increased intestinal permeability has been associated with autoimmune conditions, including type 1 diabetes, Crohns disease, and inflammatory skin disorders (
The immune system responds to substances it recognizes as harmful by causing inflammation. Inflammation is one of the bodys natural self-protection mechanism, though persistent inflammation can be associated with multiple chronic conditions.
In individuals with a sensitivity to gluten, the protein is deemed a foreign invader by the body. This leads to inflammation.
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Overconsumption Of Alcoholic Beverages
Alcohol contains empty calories, as it contains very few nutrients to metabolize. The fact of the matter is alcoholic beverages contain substances that are toxic to our cells, which gets metabolized by our livers and then stored in the body. Alcohol is well known for putting undue strain on our livers, which affects our ability to effectively digest food. It also can damage the intestinal tract.
Will Leaky Gut Heal Itself
Although many individuals would like to believe that this problem will fix itself, the reality is that getting to the root cause of leaky gut requires testing and treatment. We like to use stool and/or urine testing to diagnose leaky gut and get to the root cause of it. If the conditions and behaviors that initially led to leaky gut do not change, then it is likely not realistic to expect leaky gut to fix itself. Not to mention, any damage done to the gut must be rectified.
Instead, concerted steps need to be undertaken to solve leaky gut syndrome.
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How To Treat Leaky Gut Syndrome
The first step to healing leaky gut is diagnosis.
Diagnosing Leaky Gut
Zonulin or Lactulose Tests
Zonulin is responsible the size of the opening between your gut linings and your bloodstream. In a healthy body, these openings are normal. In a compromised body, often due to gluten, yeast, candida, parasites, and bad bacteria, zonulin levels become abnormally high suggesting these openings too large. Testing for zonulin levels is done with ELISA tests. Intestinal permeability assessment can also test for Leaky Gut by measuring your how lactulose and mannitol, two sugar molecules can permeate your gut lining.
IgG Food Intolerance Testing
Leaky Gut can lead to food sensitivities and food allergies by raising your bodys immune response. A multitude of food intolerances and intolerances to gluten and pasteurized dairy can indicate Leaky Gut.
Stool tests check your beneficial bacteria levels and can look at your overall intestinal immune function, intestinal health, inflammation markers, yeast, parasites, and other bad bugs.
Organic Acid Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies Tests
Additional Nutrition And Herbal Support
For further nutrition and herbal support for leaky gut, there are a few different options to speak with your healthcare provider about. Herbs like slippery elm, licorice, and chamomile contain constituents that may be beneficial in reducing intestinal permeability. Specifically, this is due to tannin components which have anti-inflammatory activity in the upper GI tract.7
Slippery elm also soothes the digestive tract and can boost production of short chain fatty acids .7 Butyrate is an important SCFA that serves as an energy source for cells in the colon and has shown to protect and repair the intestinal barrier.42
Berberine also has many GI benefits including being an antidiarrheal and anti-inflammatory agent that helps in protecting intestinal mucosal barrier function.26 It has an antimicrobial effect that can inhibit harmful bacteria in the microbiome while not disrupting the good bacteria.7,43
L-Glutamine is one of the most abundant amino acids in the body. It is involved in many metabolic processes, but it is particularly critical in the development and regeneration of intestinal cells.28,39 It provides energy to help rebuild the mucosal lining.44,45
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Undergoing Chemo Or Radiation Therapy
Watch out for leaky gut syndrome if youre planning to undergo chemo or radiation therapy.
Studies show that radiation therapy increases intestinal permeability in humans, rapidly disrupted tight junctions in mice, and increased gut permeability in monkeys.
Several studies have shown that chemotherapy likewise increases gut permeability in humans, although the exact reason why has yet to be found .
Leaky Gut: What Is It And What Does It Mean For You
- By , Contributor
Before the medical community had better understanding of the mechanisms that cause disease, doctors believed certain ailments could originate from imbalances in the stomach. This was called hypochondriasis. This concept was rejected as science evolved and, for example, we could look under a microscope and see bacteria, parasites, and viruses. The meaning of the term changed, and for many years doctors used the word “hypochondriac” to describe a person who has a persistent, often inexplicable fear of having a serious medical illness.
But what if this ancient concept of illnesses originating in the gut actually holds some truth? Could some of the chronic diseases our society faces today actually be associated with a dysfunctional gastrointestinal system?
The expression “leaky gut” is getting a lot of attention in medical blogs and social media lately, but dont be surprised if your doctor does not recognize this term. Leaky gut, also called increased intestinal permeability, is somewhat new and most of the research occurs in basic sciences. However, there is growing interest to develop medications that may be used in patients to combat the effects of this problem.
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Individual Health May Play A Role
Gluten does activate zonulin, but it doesnt affect everyone the same way.
Its clear that gluten can increase intestinal permeability in those with celiac disease and possibly in those with IBS. However, it appears that gluten does not increase intestinal permeability in people without these health conditions.
Gluten activates zonulin and increases intestinal permeability in people with celiac disease. Gluten does not increase intestinal permeability in people without these health conditions.
What Foods Should You Avoid If You Have Leaky Gut Syndrome
If your doctor feels confident that you likely have leaky gut, they may recommend adjusting your diet to remove inflammatory foods that could impact gut flora, such as:
- Processed foods
- Foods that may trigger allergies or sensitivities, such as gluten or dairy
Additionally, the doctor may also recommend a low FODMAP diet. Usually, this diet is recommended for people with IBS or even celiac disease, but it may help relieve some of the symptoms from leaky gut as well, especially since there is so much symptom overlap.
Creating a diet rich in foods that aid the growth of beneficial gut bacteria is important as well. Some great options are vegetables , roots, fruit, sprouted seeds, fish, cultured dairy products and nuts .
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Some Claims About Leaky Gut Are Not Backed By Science
Clinical studies to date show sufficient evidence to demonstrate a clear link between leaky gut and chronic illnesses such as IBS, Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. At the same time, there are just as many open questions regarding the role of the gut in other illnesses that burden our society.
Research on the role of the gut in health conditions such as Alzheimers disease, anxiety, depression and autism is ever expanding. Critics of the emerging research argue that the existing clinical evidence is insufficient to draw conclusions and that at best we can establish a correlation rather than a causal link. As the field of microbiome research continues to expand, we will likely learn much more about the role of the gut in many common diseases.
Meditate And Get Enough Sleep
Stress management is also essential. Stress hormones wreak havoc on health and impair digestive function.
Activities like meditation and yoga can help heal these junctions by reducing stress neurotransmitters and hormones and increasing the happy hormones dopamine and oxytocin.
Take it a step further.
Mindful eating is imperative. Eating in a calm, pleasant place and having gratitude for your food improves digestion.
Dont forget adequate sleep. You need at least 7 hours of sleep per night to rest, restore, and repair your body.
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Is There A Test For Leaky Gut
While diagnosis is incredibly difficult as mentioned, there is one specific test that some physicians will use in order to test intestinal permeability. The test is called the mannitol and lactulose test. Both of these are water-soluble molecules that the body cannot use. Mannitol is easily absorbed by people with healthy intestinal linings, whereas lactulose is a larger molecule, and thus is only slightly absorbed. A person is instructed to drink a solution containing both of these molecules, and then their urine is collected for six hours. The amount present in the urine reflects how much was absorbed by the body a healthy test will display high levels of mannitol, and low levels of lactulose. If high levels of both are found, it indicates increased intestinal permeability. If low levels of both are found, it indicates general poor absorption of all nutrients .
It is important to note that this test is an indicator of small intestine permeability, and cannot definitively diagnose leaky gut with full certainty. Most physicians steer clear of this test, as they do not believe it is very reliable. Additionally, since increased intestinal permeability is a symptom of many other diseases, it should not be used to necessarily diagnose leaky gut syndrome, as this could prevent a patient from receiving treatment for a more serious condition they may have. Seeking the advice of a gastroenterologist is recommended, as they specialize in digestive health and the GI tract.
Mood And Behavioral Disorders
Leaky gut has also been linked to certain neurocognitive disorders. Some research has shown that the inflammatory response caused by intestinal hyperpermeability can trigger a release of certain chemicals in the brain such as pro-inflammatory cytokines that may increase the risk of depression. One study in particular reported on the way in which a poorly-functioning immune system and dysbiosis that lead to leaky gut can also result in the production and absorption of neurochemical compounds and/or neurotoxic xenobiotics. Other theories suggest that even autism may be linked to problems in the gut microbiome, particularly during a babys first year. In recent years, more and more research is showing a strong association between leaky gut and autism.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Leaky Gut Syndrome
Q. How do I know when my Leaky Gut is healed?
A. Your symptoms is the best indication of healing. When Leaky Gut is healed, your digestive issues decrease, food sensitivities go away, your skin clears up, you feel energetic in mind and body, your autoimmune labs improve, and you overall feel your optimal self again.
Q. Is Leaky Gut an autoimmune disease?
A. No, but there is a connection between the two. Leaky Gut can lead to autoimmune disease, and healing Leaky Gut can improve your autoimmune symptoms.
Q. Is Leaky Gut celiac disease?
A. They are not, but untreated celiac disease can lead to Leaky Gut.
Q. What doctors can treat Leaky Gut syndrome?
A. Functional medicine, integrative medicine, holistic medicine, naturopathic and some traditional doctors are your best choices to seek treatment for Leaky Gut.
Q. Will leaky gut heal on its own?
A. If you continue living the same lifestyle that has contributes to Leaky Gut, such as an unhealthy diet, stress, and loads of medication, your Leaky Gut will not magically disappear. Making necessary changes in your lifestyle with the help of your doctor, such as eating a healthy whole foods diet, staying away from processed foods, reducing toxins, de-stressing, taking probiotics, and using supportive herbs and supplements, your body has the ability to heal itself.
Q. Can leaky gut cause hair loss?
A. Yes, symptoms of Leaky Gut may include hair loss.
Q. What is Leaky Gut in babies?
Q. Are leaky gut and candida related?