Leaky gut syndrome is a condition that millions of people are struggling with and often don’t even know it. It’s a staggering statistic but it actually affects about 80-90% of people today, and the symptoms affect the whole body not just the digestive system.
Medically, leaky gut syndrome is known as ‘intestinal hyper-permeability’, but until recently, modern medicine ignored leaky gut as the cause of disease. Over 2000 years ago father of modern medicine Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the Gut” and finally research now shows just how spot on he was. With thousands of papers written on the subject it’s undeniable that there is an intricate connection between the gut microbiome and overall health.
Apart from digesting food, the real function of the digestive system is to ultimately protect the body from the outside world. Our health depends entirely on the condition of our intestinal lining, or more specifically the ‘intestinal barrier function’ which is the first line of defence for our immune system.
The intestinal wall lining covers a huge surface area within us, but it’s only made up of a thin layer of cells. Within the cells there are little doors call ‘tight junctions’ that effectively screen what is allowed to enter the bloodstream. These junctions are the gateway between you and the outside world. To use an analogy, they are just like bouncers at the doors of a nightclub, keeping the bad stuff out and letting the good stuff enter. If the bouncers aren’t tough enough at doing their job the doors get broken. In the case of the gut lining, when these microscopic doors (junctions) become damaged or ‘permeable’, unhealthy substances enter the bloodstream. So, instead of keeping the bad stuff out, the delicate lining of your intestine is letting all the bad stuff in, and the body starts slowly but surely, breaking down from the inside out.
Just think of what would happen if you poked holes in your fly wire at home. Yes, air will pass through still, but so will flies and mosquitoes. That’s exactly what’s going on in the lining of your gut!
Some of the things that can pass through a leaky gut include toxic food particles, proteins like gluten, bad bacteria and environmental chemicals.
Like some ill-tempered bouncer the bodies first reaction is to put up a fight. When things that normally wouldn’t be able to pass through, are now able to, the liver is called into action to work overtime to clean up the damage. With the constant flow of waste, the liver can’t cope so the immune system steps in to fight. Now the body is battling a huge war against toxins, undigested food molecules, and other pathogens that have accumulated in the body, instead of tending to normal immune system functions. More often than not, the immune system can’t keep up with the constant onslaught, so the foreign molecule invaders begin to absorb into the body’s tissue causing inflammation. This process can lead to the body fighting itself and an array of auto-immune diseases can take hold.
Over time the damaged intestinal lining struggles to manufacture the digestive enzymes it needs to break down food for proper digestion. Undigested foods that can’t be completely broken down into the nutrients the body needs, become ‘foreign invaders’, and your immune system develops reactions to them causing food sensitives and intolerances.
From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut syndrome only affects the digestive system but in reality, it can lead to many other health conditions. One of the biggest warning signs that you may have leaky gut can be that you’re experiencing multiple food sensitivities, but the list is vast:
Millions of people are being diagnosed with chronic illnesses associated with leaky gut. Unfortunately, the epidemic encompasses an array of difficult to diagnose and hard to treat illnesses beginning with the mild and annoying through to the life threatening. If you have any of these symptoms, then you have Leaky Gut and it’s imperative you look at ways to heal and seal up the holes. Over time, Leaky Gut only gets worse and can cause major problems with your health.
All sorts of things contribute to Leaky Gut but it’s mainly our modern lifestyle choices that are too blame. Poor diet, GMO’s, chronic stress and the overuse of antibiotics and household chemicals are the main culprits along with a condition called ‘dysbiosis’, which is basically an imbalance between beneficial and harmful species of bacteria in your gut. We will take a look at the causes in detail here soon.
The good news is there are ways to heal Leaky Gut but there is unfortunately no overnight, quick fix or magic pill! Diet and lifestyle changes are the most powerful intervention of all and is essentially the foundation for healing and sealing the damage to the gut lining.
Likewise, eating to support your native gut microbiome is vital. The gut contains an incredible number of bacteria, fungi, yeast and viruses that play a variety of complex roles in food digestion and absorption. Probiotics and probiotic foods such as homemade yogurt re-inoculate the gut with beneficial bacteria that help heal the gut.
Two leading gut healing, anti-inflammatory diets we speak of often are the Specific Carbohydrate diet (SCD) and the Gut and Psychology diet (GAPS). However, all Leaky Gutgut healing protocols follow an elimination style diet that removes the foods and factors that damage the gut and replace these with healing and sealing foods. Additional nutritional support in the form of specific supplements should also be taken.
If you think that you might have leaky gut, we recommend you seek the support of a health practitioner for guidance. It's important to design a treatment plan that fits your specific issues.