For those of us who have Digestion Issues, we know how much discomfort and frustration it can cause. It can affect your mood, your training, your sleep, your work, essentially anything you want to do. Most doctors will jump to IBS as a diagnosis but did you know that leaky gut syndrome may be the root cause to your discomfort? The phenomenon called “leaky gut” has gained a bit of media attention lately. Although many mainstream medical professionals do not recognise leaky gut as a “real” condition, there is scientific evidence that proves leak gut does exist and may be associated with multiple health problems.
Leaky Gut Defined
Leaky gut syndrome is defined as a reduced barrier to the passage of molecules from the intestine into the wall of the intestine and from there, possibly into the body. Leaky gut caused many digestion issues and discomfort.
The human digestive tract is where food is broken down and nutrients are absorbed. But did you know that the digestive system also plays an important role in protecting the body from harmful substances. The walls of the intestine act as barrier, controlling what enters the bloodstream. When we talk about intestinal permeability we are referring to how easily a substance can pass through the intestinal wall.
Cause of Leaky Gut
A possible cause of leaky gut is increased intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability. Hyperpermeability simply means the intestinal lining has become more porous, with more holes developing that are larger in size and the screening process is no longer functioning appropriately. This can potentially lead to substances being “leaked” into the bloodstream. It is when these tight junctions of the intestinal wall become loose, that the gut becomes more permeable, which may allow bacteria and toxins to pass from the gut into the blood stream. When the gut becomes “leaky” and these bacteria and toxins have entered the bloodstream, it can cause extensive inflammation possibly resulting in an immune system trigger reaction.
The causes of leaky gut remain a medical mystery. The medical professions are still trying to determine exactly what causes it. Never the less medical professionals do agree that increased intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability exists.
Studies have connected increased intestinal hyperpermeability with multiple chronic diseases such as:
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Food allergies
The gut is considered the second brain known as the enteric nervous system. The brain in the gut has a mind of its own that guides our feelings, moods, certain behaviours and reactions and plays a major role in our happiness and misery. When the gut is inflamed, infected with pathogens, not functioning optimally or the gut is leaky production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters will be impaired leading to neurological manifestations because the gut has lost the ability to effectively absorb nutrients or convert the into vital brain chemicals. Leaky gut affects the whole body including the brain. The brain communicates with the gut via the enteric nervous system. When there is a communication difficulty from the gut to the brain or from the brain to the gut, health is compromised!
Factors that could potentially play a role in leaky gut are:
- Excessive sugar intake
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Lack of zinc
- Poor gut health
- Yeast overgrowth
- Hormonal deficiencies
What can you do for your digestion issues?
Methods of improving gut health include removing inflammatory substances that irritate and damage the gut. Consuming fermented foods, high fibre foods, including probiotic and prebiotic food sources, eating nutrient-dense foods, drink plenty of water. Minimising stress is crucial in gut restoration.
If you feel you have leaky gut the key to addressing it is finding the underlying causes and prioritising a healthy gut as a lifestyle change. Consult your medical health practitioner. In my practice, I conduct a comprehensive digestive stool analysis testing which provides an extensive look at the health and function of your gut. Book a consultation to get your stool kit.
Hollander, D. (1999). Intestinal permeability, leaky gut, and intestinal disorders. Current Gastroenterology Reports, 1(5), 410-416. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11894-999-0023-5
Written by VPA contributor Tessa Villanueva