The gut is one of the most influential systems in the entire body. Even minor dysfunction can dramatically impact important factors of health including immunity, neurological activity, energy level, and much more. As such, more severe chronic conditions of the gut can have a notably damaging and long-lasting effect. One condition of particular note is leaky gut syndrome.
If left unnoticed or untreated, leaky gut syndrome can cascade into a number of serious health issues. Therefore, being familiar with leaky gut and knowing how to recognize it is an important part of individual wellness.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The intestines are protected by proteins known as tight junctions and act as barriers between the intestine and bloodstream. Tight junctions are responsible for allowing beneficial nutrients into the bloodstream while simultaneously keeping xenobiotics (compounds that cause disease) and other harmful substances contained in the digestive tract.
Leaky gut is the result of tight junction failure wherein unwanted toxins, antigens, bacteria, etc. are able to pass through the protein barrier and enter the bloodstream. This can lead to sustained immune activation resulting in chronic inflammation and severe systemwide dysfunction.
Identifying the Signs and Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Because the gut wields broad influence over many bodily processes, leaky gut has the potential to present a wide range of symptoms. However, there are several specific symptoms that are particularly indicative of leaky gut. If you experience some or all of the following symptoms, testing for intestinal dysfunction such as leaky gut may be appropriate.
Leaky gut is typically accompanied by an overactive immune system, which increases the prevalence of various antibodies. Greater antibody activity can cause individuals to become more sensitive to common antigens such as gluten and dairy that previously caused little to no disruption. If you have developed a new food sensitivity or allergy it is possible that leaky gut is to blame.
The body’s natural inflammatory response involves the release various chemicals that may influence mood. Research shows that the continuous immune activity and bacteria imbalance associated with leaky gut may create a cycle of neurological and immunological degradation that can contribute greatly to mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADD or ADHD.
Inflammatory Skin Conditions
Studies done throughout the years have found a potential connection between gut function and skin irritation. If you have recently developed rashes, acne, or more significant skin conditions such as psoriasis, leaky gut may be a contributing factor. Alleviating skin conditions such as these may require restoring gut function.
Leaky gut may cause an imbalance of immune-regulating substances, thereby contributing to the development of autoimmune conditions. Some of the conditions associated with leaky gut include lupus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia. Individuals suffering from these or other chronic disorders may find that their condition is aggravated or caused by an underlying case of leaky gut.
A common health issue seen in leaky gut patients is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This chronic autoimmune disorder is associated with severely reduced thyroid activity or hypothyroidism. Those experiencing common symptoms of thyroid dysfunction including metabolic issues, fatigue, depression, and unexplained weight gain may be suffering from a thyroid condition triggered by leaky gut.
Nutrient absorption is an important intestinal activity that may be disrupted by leaky gut. As such, those suffering from leaky gut may be deficient in various nutrients including vitamin B12, magnesium, and digestive enzymes.
Leaky gut may prompt dysbiosis, bacterial imbalance, and other issues within the gut that can contribute to symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, and/or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If gastrointestinal symptoms develop in conjunction with others listed above, leaky gut may be present.
Leaky Gut Treatment
Leaky gut impacts many different systems and may contribute to the development of several seemingly disconnected conditions. Therefore, resolution of these issues may require resolving an underlying case of leaky gut.
Treatment of leaky gut should be done in a manner that addresses unique patient factors and individual needs. As such, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to leaky gut. However, effective treatment typically includes the four following components.
Eliminating Contributing Factors
Alleviating stress on the gut is an essential part of resolving leaky gut syndrome. When starting treatment, one should eliminate inflammatory and allergenic foods from their diet (alcohol, gluten, grains, dairy, etc.) avoid exposure to toxins, and reduce physical and mental stress. Taking these actions helps take strain off the gut allowing it the time to regenerate.
Adopting a Gut-Friendly Diet
Supplying the gut with whole foods packed with gut supporting nutrients goes a long way in repairing leaky gut. Consider including more fruits and vegetables into every meal, eating pasture-raised animal products, and enjoying foods full of healthy fats such as nuts, fish, olives, and coconut oil. Perhaps the most important part of a gut-friendly diet is to avoid unnecessary sugars, processed or packaged foods, and unhealthy fats.
Using a Probiotic
Bacterial imbalance or dysbiosis is a common component of poor gut health. Supplying the body with a healthy supply of beneficial bacteria through the use of a quality probiotic can help resolve imbalances and support better gut function. Probiotics may also strengthen intestinal lining which may help reduce the number of particulates escaping into the bloodstream.
Nutrient absorption typically declines in the presence of leaky gut. Therefore, supplementing with vitamins and minerals to resolve existing deficiencies may be hugely beneficial for patients suffering from leaky gut. Additionally, supplementing with natural substances including glutamine (an amino acid), curcumin (found in turmeric), and butyric acid (found in butter and animal fat), may provide notable gut support and reduce intestinal permeability.
Get Good with The Gut
Chronic gastrointestinal conditions such as leaky gut can have a dramatic effect on overall health and wellness. Resolving leaky gut demands an individualized treatment plan that often includes lifestyle changes such as eliminating gut stressors and providing appropriate nutritional support through diet and supplementation. If you suffer from some or all of the indicators of leaky gut mentioned above, seek out a doctor who is familiar with identifying and treating this complex gastrointestinal condition.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to utilize cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to uncover and address leaky gut syndrome. Additionally, our Certified Health and Nutrition Coach will work with you and your HMG physician to develop a diet that addresses your unique needs. If you are experiencing chronic gastrointestinal disruption and suspect you may have leaky gut or if you’ve been diagnosed with leaky gut, but aren’t getting the treatment you need, call us at 877-508-1177 to see how we can help you!
1. Bischoff, Stephan C et al. “Intestinal permeability–a new target for disease prevention and therapy.” BMC gastroenterology vol. 14 189. 18 Nov. 2014.
2. Ulluwishewa, Dulantha et al. “Regulation of Tight Junction Permeability by Intestinal Bacteria and Dietary Components.” he Journal of Nutrition, Volume 141, Issue 5, 1 May 2011, Pages 769–776.
3. Josh Axe, DC, DMN, CNS. “Leaky Gut Syndrome: 7 Signs You May Have It.” Dr. Axe.
4. Amy Myers, M.D. “11 Signs You Have Leaky Gut Syndrome.” MindBodyGreen.