01 May Leaky Gut Syndrome: What is it and can you treat it?
Have you heard about Leaky Gut Syndrome?
It seems to be a hot topic in the digestive health world for several years now.
I hadn’t heard about it until I was told I had Leaky Gut Syndrome. It was about 5 years ago and after visiting SE Asia and returning home to a Standard American Diet, I started experiencing terrible chapped lips. Like, we’re talking clown lips. I mean, raw, sensitive, and painful lips. The irritation spread for at least a centimeter past the border of my lips. I would show you a picture, but I was so self-conscious I didn’t want any photos at the time…
I visited my naturopath and she suggested I had Leaky Gut Syndrome and probably some food allergies/sensitivities. I had told her my chapped-lip history started around the 3rd grade and I had been applying various lip balms ever since… Boy, was she right! And, I’ll never forget it. Healing my Leaky Gut was the best thing I ever did. No more lip balm, except on some of those really dry Central Oregon days! 😉
What is leaky gut syndrome?
Thankfully, this isn’t a complicated, scientific name that you need to break down into the Latin and Greek root words. As a contemporarily named gut issue, it’s actually what it sounds like. This makes it easy to pronounce but probably doesn’t make you feel any better about it. Hold tight! It’s 100% treatable!
Ideally, our gut would operate in a very measured way. The cells of the gut lining would be tightly adhered to adjacent cells by proteins. The joining of intestinal cells by these proteins is called a “tight junction”. Tight junctions are a strict security system that only allow small particles of nutrients consumed past it’s walls in order to be absorbed into the intimately associated blood stream. The blood stream delivers the nutrients throughout the body so our muscles and organs so they can utilize the nutrients for food and building blocks of our proteins, hormones and other cells.
Leaky Gut refers to a permeability of the gut, or intestinal, lining.
Irritation of the gut lining causes inflammation of the intestinal cells. The cells puff up and create tension on the tight junctions. Persistent inflammation results in a weakening of the tight junctions and eventually some of them break. This creates “holes” in the security system, allowing larger food particles and waste products to sneak (leak) past security and enter the blood stream.
Did I mention the blood travels throughout the body? It’s like a fast tract to spread inflammation. The body isn’t used to seeing such large food particles or waste products outside the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, so it doesn’t know if it’s good stuff or bad stuff. The immune system is called in and tries to destroy the food particles and waste products, causing an inflammatory response.
How do you know if you have Leaky Gut?
The best way to know if you have Leaky Gut Syndrome is to talk to your doctor. The symptoms are vague and each person presents differently. Here are some examples of some symptoms:
- Chronic skin rashes such as eczema, acne or psoriasis
- Poor immune system
- Headaches, brain fog, memory loss
- Excessive fatigue
- Digestive symptoms like bloating, constipation, diarrhea
- New allergies, food sensitivities or food intolerances
- Autoimmune diseases
Lastly, there is not test specifically for Leaky Gut, but if you receive a food allergy test where there are many positives indicating several food sensitivities, you should consider Leaky Gut Syndrome. As mentioned earlier, the larger food particles and waste products “leaking” through the gut lining cause systemic inflammation, making your immune system reactive to more foods than you would be if your gut lining was healthy. That is, you may currently have 12 food sensitivities, but after healing your gut, you might have 2, or none!
You can totally treat leaky gut!
I told you to hold tight, thanks for your patience and for letting me nerd out on a Disney analogy! 🙂
As with any condition, you’re barely scratching the surface with treatment unless you treat the underlying cause. That is, you don’t just want to treat the symptoms because Leaky Gut Syndrome will continue unless you solve the problem. It’s possible you’re thinking inflammation is the underlying issue. You’re right, but you’ll have to dig a little deeper. Inflammation is caused by something irritating the gut lining. We need to figure out what the irritating agent is.
For most people, it’s because of something they’re eating. This can be a food allergy or sensitivity. But, that’s not to suggest everyone will have food sensitivities for the rest of their life. In fact, having Leaky Gut Syndrome can cause the body to react to foods it normally wouldn’t. Once the gut is healed, you may find you can tolerate foods that used to cause inflammation and discomfort.
For others, the irritating agent could be related to a hormonal dysregulation (more on that a different day). Or, an infection such as a parasite or bacteria obtained while traveling. It could be due to multiple rounds of antibiotics without proper aftercare, surgery, even emotional stress. Like many “syndromes” Leaky Gut could be caused by multiple factors.
So, first things first, identify the irritating agent or food. Then, heal the gut with soothing herbs. It may also be helpful to support the body with nutritional supplements since Leaky Gut Syndrome is reducing the availability of nutrients you are eating. Depending on the severity, Leaky Gut Syndrome can take a long time to heal. After all, it probably took a while for the inflammation to develop into Leaky Gut Syndrome. So, be patient! It’s hard work but it will pay off when your symptoms subside and then stay away!
Stay tuned for more treatments of Leaky Gut Syndrome or contact Dr. Lexie Ching for a consultation appointment!