Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome (increased intestinal permeability) is a hypothetical, medically unrecognized condition. The term Leaky Gut Syndrome is used to describe the condition of “Hyperpermeable Intestines” a fancy medical term that means the intestinal lining is no longer functioning properly. Proponents claim that a “leaky gut” causes chronic inflammation throughout the body that results in a wide range of conditions, including chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, migraines, multiple sclerosis, and autism.
Also known as increased intestinal permeability, it’s a condition in which gaps in your intestinal walls start to loosen. This allows larger substances, such as bacteria, toxins and undigested food particles, to pass across the intestinal walls into your bloodstream.
While it’s true that some conditions and medications can cause a “leaky” gut (what scientists call increased intestinal permeability), there is currently little evidence to support the theory that a porous bowel is the direct cause of any significant, widespread problems.
The intestinal lining is the first line of defense for our immune system. The outer layers of intestinal cells (epithelial) are connected by structures called tight junctions. At the tip of the mucosa cells are the microvilli, which absorb properly digested nutrients and transport them through the epithelial cell and into the bloodstream.
During the normal digestion process the tight junctions stay closed forcing all molecules to be screened and absorbed through the mucosa cells (think of them like bouncers at the front of a classy bar). These tight junctions can become “open” or permeable allowing UN-SCREENED molecules to flow directly in-between the cells. And when this happens the blood steam which is located right behind the mucosa cells is filled up with bad things.
This increased inflammation especially at the gut wall can actually begin to damage the cells of the gut wall… which can quickly become a self-perpetuating cycle of cell damage and more leaky gut if it’s not fixed.
As more foreign particles trickle through from the leaky gut, the immune response increases and this results in chronic inflammation. This process flow can lead to your body fighting itself and the creation of array of autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis, and Raynaud’s Disease. It also increases your chances of symptom cluster issues like IBS, Histamine Intolerance, and CIRS.
Alcohol, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen are well-known irritants of the bowel lining. They can damage the seals between cells, allowing some substances to pass through the gaps and into the bloodstream.
The following conditions and treatments can also damage the seals in the bowel lining:
- Inflammatory bowel diseases – such as Crohn’s disease
- Infections of the intestines – such as salmonella, norovirus and giardiasis
- Coeliac disease
- Chemotherapy medicines
- Chronic kidney disease
- Radiotherapy to the abdomen (tummy)
- Immunosuppressants (medicines that weaken the immune system)
- cystic fibrosis
- Type 1 diabetes
- Complicated surgery
The whole body increase in inflammation is bad enough but then the next step happens. The immune system begins to create antibodies that are specific to the types of foreign particles that getting through. It does so to be able to alert the rest of the body about the attack that is happening in the gut.
These antibody soldiers designed are designed to fight against these foreign objects (which can be things such as the Casein protein from the milk you’re drinking, or other proteins in nuts, grains, meat, or eggs).
If you’re having sensitivities to few foods up to a dozen or more, then it is most likely you have leaky gut. When you have a Leaky Gut condition, the damaged microvilli along the intestinal lining cannot manufacture the digestive enzymes they need to break down the food for proper digestion.
The resulting condition allows food molecules to flow into the bloodstream that have not been completely broken down into the nutrients your body needs.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut can vary from person to person depending on the level of damage and the tissues being affected.
However they can be bucketed into four main categories:
- Skin – rashes, itchy skin, psoriasis, rosacea, hives, acne
- Brain – headaches, migraines, brain fog, memory loss, depression, anxiety
- Immune – autoimmune conditions, food allergies, excessive fatigue, high inflammation
- Gut – nutritional deficiencies, chronic diarrhea, burping, bloating, gas, constipation
Many different “treatments” have been suggested by people who promote the idea of leaky gut syndrome, including diet books, nutritional supplements (containing probiotics, for example), herbal remedies, gluten-free foods and other special diets, such as a low FODMAP, low sugar or antifungal diet.
However, you should be wary of treatments offered by people who claim to be able to “cure leaky gut syndrome”, as there is little scientific evidence to suggest they are beneficial for many of the conditions they are claimed to help.
Some of the dietary changes suggested for “leaky gut syndrome” (such as a low FODMAP diet) can help people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), but these seem to work irrespective of the presence of a “leaky” gut.
Generally, eliminating foods from the diet is not a good idea unless it’s strictly necessary (for example, if you have coeliac disease) and done on the advice of a healthcare professional, as it can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
One is to eat a diet rich in foods that aid the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. An unhealthy collection of gut bacteria has been linked to poor health outcomes, including chronic inflammation, cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes
The following foods are great options for improving your digestive 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, passionfruit and papaya.
Sprouted seeds: Chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds and more.
Gluten-free grains: Buckwheat, amaranth, rice (brown and white), 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.
Some foods have been shown to cause inflammation in your body, which may promote the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria linked to many chronic diseases
The following list contains foods that may harm healthy gut bacteria, as well as some that are believed to trigger digestive symptoms, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea:
Wheat-based products: Bread, pasta, cereals, wheat flour, couscous, etc.
Gluten-containing grains: Barley, rye, bulgur, seitan, triticale and oats.
Processed meats: Cold cuts, deli meats, bacon, hot dogs, etc.
Baked goods: Cakes, muffins, cookies, pies, pastries and pizza.
Snack foods: Crackers, muesli bars, popcorn, pretzels, etc.
Junk food: Fast foods, potato chips, sugary cereals, candy bars, etc.
Dairy products: Milk, cheeses and ice cream.
Refined oils: Canola, sunflower, soybean and safflower oils.
Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame, sucralose and saccharin.
Sauces: Salad dressings, as well as soy, teriyaki and hoisin sauce.
Beverages: Alcohol, carbonated beverages and other sugary drinks.
A healthy gut menu should be rich in fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut or cultured dairy products like Greek yogurt are also excellent additions, as they’re a great source of healthy gut bacteria.
Also be aware that you shouldn’t try to restrict your food forever. The goal should always to be to remove offending foods and foods you are sensitive too, heal up, then add the best ones back in
The information and advice on this page shouldn’t be used to self-diagnose your condition, but may give you a better idea of what’s causing your pain.