Are you not feeling like yourself? Perhaps you have bloating or cramps, are always tired, have sensitivities to certain foods, or suffer from headaches and overall body pain. Any combination of these symptoms can get you down, and make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. If this describes how you feel, you could have a leaky gut. Many suffer from leaky gut symptoms but can’t pinpoint the root cause, and many healthcare practitioners do not even believe it is true.
The most common questions about Leaky Gut Syndrome.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
There are diseases that are known to be associated with intestinal permeability, and there is a lot of speculation about other possible diseases that might be connected to it. Intestinal permeability is a recognized feature of several inflammatory and autoimmune diseases affecting the digestive system, including inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease. In these cases, scientists generally consider it to be a symptom, not a cause. These diseases cause chronic inflammation in the intestines, which leads to erosion of the intestinal barrier gradually over time. (1)
Inside our bellies, we have an extensive intestinal lining covering more than 4,000 square feet of surface area. When working properly, it forms a tight barrier that controls what gets absorbed into the bloodstream. An unhealthy gut lining may have large cracks or holes, allowing partially digested food, toxins, and bugs to penetrate the tissues beneath it. No symptoms directly signal that you have a leaky gut syndrome, but intestinal permeability usually happens after an injury to the intestinal lining. The leaking substances from the gut to the bloodstream cause inflammation and puts you at risk of specific autoimmune disorders. (2)
How do I know I have leaky gut?
“Leaky gut syndrome” isn’t a diagnosis taught in medical school. Instead, “leaky gut really means you’ve got a diagnosis that still needs to be made,” says gastroenterologist Donald Kirby, MD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Cleveland Clinic.. “You hope that your doctor is a good-enough Sherlock Holmes, but sometimes it is very hard to make a diagnosis.” (3) After you eat food, your body absorbs the proper nutrients through your small intestine. When your gut is healthy, it is designed with cells that line up like a watertight fence so that only what should cross the barrier, is allowed to cross.
However, with Leaky Gut Syndrome, antigens can leak through these walls by way of inflammation. Antigens are proteins that are seen as “foreign invaders,” and when they come in contact with your bloodstream, your immune system can get confused. When this happens, your immune system and white blood cells can attack themselves, causing those horrible symptoms we mentioned earlier, and even lead to an autoimmune disease.
Leaky gut syndrome is almost always associated with autoimmune disease. In fact, reversing symptoms of autoimmune
disease depends on healing the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Any other treatment is just symptom suppression. An
autoimmune disease is defined as one in which the immune system makes antibodies against its own tissues. Diseases in
this category include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Sjogren’s syndrome, vitiligo, thyroiditis, vasculitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, urticaria (hives), type 1 diabetes and Raynaud’s syndrome. Understanding the leaky gut phenomenon helps us see why allergies and autoimmune diseases develop and how to design therapies to restore intestinal integrity and reverse leaky gut. (4)
Why Does It Happen?
If you have sensitivities to certain foods, like glutens in grains (wheat, spelt, rye, barley) and casein found in dairy (even lactose-free), the proteins in these foods can actually cause irritation in your gut and intestines. When irritation occurs, that “wall” in your small intestines can actually weaken, allowing for the antigens to enter the bloodstream. The proteins in these foods can actually cause irritation in your gut and intestines. When irritation occurs, that “wall” in your small intestines can actually weaken, allowing for the antigens to enter the bloodstream.
Because of this, the irritation in your gut can worsen, making your symptoms more severe. Inflammation causes the spaces between the cells of the gut wall to become larger than usual. Then protein molecules are absorbed before they have a chance to be completely broken down. The immune system starts making antibodies against these larger molecules because it recognizes them as foreign, invading substances. Antibodies are made against these proteins derived from previously harmless foods. The immune system becomes hyper-stimulated and over-reactive to substances that are not necessarily supposed to be dangerous. If the issue continues unattended, it is possible that this can develop into an autoimmune disease.
Is There Anything I Can Do?
Yes! The study of naturopathic wellness suggests that by taking the proper supplements, you can encourage your body to become balanced once again. For instance, L-glutamine can be beneficial when trying to repair your inflamed intestines, as it an essential amino acid, fueling the cells of the small intestine. Other supplements such as aloe juice, digestive enzymes and probiotics can also promote self-healing with Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Be mindful of the dosage, as well as the brand you take, as some over the counter supplements can do you more harm than good. The products in my cabinet are from a health professional line of advanced nutraceutical supplements, called nutraMextrix, which are formulated using the latest researched ingredients and industry-leading best practices.
What’s in Dr. Sheryl’s Cabinet?
Aloe Juice has properties which can help buffer the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract and reduce damage done by acids. Many Aloe products on the market can be diluted with water and don’t have enough active ingredients to be effective.
Digestive enzymes can help support our gut health in many ways. Digestive enzymes can take the food we eat and help to break it down into individual nutrients so our body can actually absorb and use the ‘goodness’ in the food we eat, eg amino acids, vitamins, minerals etc. (5)
Important to gut health, probiotics can encourage your body to help restore friendly bacteria, which can be a root cause of an unhealthy gut and Leaky Gut Syndrome. Probiotics can help fix an imbalance of gut bacteria, reduce an overzealous immune response, and put a halt to inflammation — all of which are thought to contribute to leaky gut syndrome. Probiotic supplements are also effective at improving many non-specific health symptoms associated with leaky gut, such as bloating, brain fog, fatigue, and joint pain.(6)
Once you’ve got your gut on the road to wellness, it’s time to focus on lasting lifestyle changes. Sliding back into the habits that caused your leaky gut will only invite the return of health problems you want to avoid. A good starting point is to Eat mindfully. Before taking your first bite, look at your food and take in its aroma, advises Kathie Swift, MS, RDN, nutrition director for Food As Medicine at Washington’s Center for Mind-Body Medicine and author of The Swift Diet. This will trigger the cephalic phase of digestion, an initial release of enzymes that help break down your food. As you eat, chew thoroughly, paying attention to your food’s flavor and texture. Avoid multitasking or rushing while you eat. Take pauses and breaths between bites, allowing your digestive system to keep pace. After all food is medicine.
(1) Leaky Gut Syndrome
(2) Intestinal permeability and autoimmune diseases
(3) Leaky Gut Syndrome: What Is It?
(4) Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases
(5) Insights into digestion and absorption of major nutrients in humans.
(6) Protection and Restitution of Gut Barrier by Probiotics: Nutritional and Clinical Implications