Your intestines are the gateway to your health. If your gut is healthy, chances are your overall state of health is good. Whereas if your digestive health is poor, you probably experience several varied health problems. One of the most common is fatigue.
You may have heard of leaky gut syndrome. It is increasingly being recognised as an underlying factor in most inflammatory and immune mediated health problems.
What is a leaky gut?
Your intestine is naturally permeable to very small molecules in order to absorb vital nutrients. At the same time, it is designed in a way to prevent large or harmful molecules from gaining entry to the bloodstream. In some circumstances, the healthy intestinal barrier can become inflamed or irritated, leaving it excessively permeable to harmful substances.
In some people, gluten can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, which is a protein that can break apart tight junctions in the intestinal lining. Other factors can also break down the gut lining and make it excessively leaky; most commonly gut infections, parasites, alcohol, stress, antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
When these tight junctions get broken apart, you have a leaky gut. When your gut is leaky, harmful things like bacteria, toxins, heavy metals and undigested food particles can leak through your intestines into your bloodstream. Once they get into your bloodstream, the first place they head is your liver. This puts a great strain on your liver function and it’s not surprising that most people who have had a leaky gut for some time eventually go on to develop poor liver health. Sometimes they even develop elevated liver enzymes.
What causes leaky gut?
The number one cause of leaky gut syndrome is gluten. A large percentage of the population just cannot digest gluten properly, and it triggers inflammation in the intestinal lining. You do not need to have celiac disease in order for gluten to make you very sick. Other common culprit foods are dairy products (casein), sugar and any food you are allergic to (eg. Nuts, eggs, soy, corn). Alcohol promotes increased intestinal permeability as well as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Gut infections promote a leaky gut. The most common infectious causes are Candida overgrowth, intestinal parasites, and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). You can develop these types of infections from consuming too much sugar, poor hygiene or food poisoning.
The most common medications to promote leaky gut are antibiotics, particularly if taken long term such as for acne or bladder infections. The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Motrin and Advil are common culprits. Steroids and stomach acid suppressing drugs also promote leaky gut.
8 Signs You May Have a Leaky Gut
If you suffer from any of the following conditions, it’s likely that you have a leaky gut.
- Digestive problems like gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Hay fever, allergic rhinitis or sinusitis. Seasonal allergies, or year round allergies usually indicate compromised digestive health. I’ve found that quercetin and bromelain are fantastic for providing symptom relief quickly, and they are found in Allergy Relief tablets. To reduce the risk of developing these kinds of allergies in the first place, it is vital to restore your gut health.
- Food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity. These are clues that indicate you are not digesting your food thoroughly, and the resulting immune reaction in your intestines is inflaming the delicate gut lining.
- Skin problems like itchy skin, acne vulgaris or acne rosacea, cystic acne, psoriasis, dermatitis or eczema. If the skin on the outside of your body is inflamed, you can be certain that the skin on the inside is inflamed too. The lining of your insides, from your mouth right down to your anus is really like an internal skin. Healing the skin on your inside is the key to glowing, radiant, healthy skin on the outside.
- Mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Harmful bugs in your intestines produce toxins that can travel right through your bloodstream and they can even cross through your blood brain barrier. These toxins can disrupt the production of neurotransmitters in your brain and negatively affect your mood.
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease. There is a great deal of solid research to confirm the link between autoimmune disease and leaky gut syndrome. An excessively permeable gut lining is thought to be a trigger for the development of an autoimmune disease, as well as a driving force in flare ups. There are 81 recognized autoimmune diseases; the most common ones are Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.
- Autism. Autism is a very complex disorder and there are several factors that can trigger autism in a genetically susceptible child. According to Professor Alessio Fasano, a leaky gut is necessary but not sufficient to promote the development of autism.
- Joint pain. This is a classic symptom of an inflamed gut. Toxins that enter the bloodstream through the gut lining typically lodge in the joints and create pain and inflammation. If this is allowed to continue for years, it can wear away the protective cartilage and create structural problems. Serrapeptase is a powerful anti-inflammatory enzyme that can reduce inflammation in the joints, helping to relieve pain.
How can you heal a leaky gut?
- Remove all known and suspected problematic foods. Gluten, dairy products and sugar should be eliminated. Since they very commonly cause food intolerance or allergy, it may be necessary to temporarily eliminate other foods such as soy, corn, nuts and eggs. It is best to be guided by a naturopath or nutritionist in this matter.
- Kill harmful gut microbes. Berberine is an herbal extract with the ability to kill a range of different pathogens and is strongly recommended for anyone dealing with a parasitic gut infection or SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). It has shown efficacy against various bacterial strains, including cholera, giardia, shigella, and salmonella, along with staphylococcus, streptococcus, and clostridium. Berberine also has anti-protozoal effects against Giardia lamblia, Trichomonas vaginalis and Leishmania donovani. Berberine has remarkable abilities to heal a leaky gut. It helps to strengthen tight junctions between cells of the small intestine, thereby reducing intestinal permeability. Berberine also protects gut cells from the damaging effects of bacterial endotoxins (such as lipopolysaccharide), and reduces the amount of lipopolysaccharide absorbed into the bloodstream and entering the liver.
- Heal the lining of your intestines with a glutamine supplement. Glutamine literally helps to heal and seal the gut because it provides fuel for the intestinal cells; helping to repair and regenerate them.
- Re-inoculate your intestines with beneficial microbes. A good quality probiotic is helpful, as is including fermented foods in your diet, such as sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi.
There is more information about leaky gut syndrome in our book, The Ultimate Detox.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.