Words You Don’t Hear At Your Doctor's Office: Leaky Gut
The term Leaky Gut is becoming more and more common, especially with the growing number of people experiencing digestive concerns and talking about food sensitivities. Often for my patients, food sensitivities (not to be confused with food allergies or intolerances) and subsequent gastrointestinal symptoms is what brings them through my door. However, leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is associated with a large number of health concerns including seasonal allergies, autoimmune disorders, autism and depression.
The cells in our small intestine are very close together (tight cells junctions) and have an epithelial lining that protects from the passage of toxins, irritants such as large food particles and bacteria/viruses/yeasts from entering into our blood stream. When all goes well, these things float on through our small intestine and enter into our large intestine to be eliminated; nutrients broken down from food are absorbed into our blood stream through the tight cells, filtered by the liver, and utilized as needed throughout the body. However, in some cases, a variety of irritants such as toxins, large food particles and a variety of microbes begin to compromise the cell barrier and cause inflammation. Once the gut becomes “leaky”, food particles, toxins and microbes enter the blood stream and the body tags them as foreign, starting an immune response. Over time, the body, including the immune system and liver, can become over burdened from dealing with the large amounts of particles slipping into the blood stream.
Other factors that contribute to this inflammation include food sensitivities, environmental toxins, chronic stress, processed foods, low fiber/high fat diets, alcohol and antibiotics. A proper balance of gut microbiota, or balance of good bugs and bad bugs, is needed to support intestinal cell integrity. Leaky gut can lead to poor absorption of nutrients, and a lack of nutrients can weaken the gut function.
When to consider investigating a leaky gut:
The symptom picture of leaky gut can be wide ranging and often overlaps with other conditions such as IBS.
Symptoms may include:
-Gas and bloating
-Brain fog, anxiety and other mood concerns
Leaky gut can be linked with inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease. Other conditions where leaky gut can be considered include: seasonal allergies and sinus congestion, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer disease, and mood. Other causes of increased intestinal permeability can include: exposure to toxic substances such as NSAIDs and alcohol, low stomach acid, prolonged fasting or nutrient insufficiencies and infections of parasites, yeast, viruses or bacteria.
So you think you may have leaky gut, now what?
In my practice I sit down with patients and we discuss any factors, including diet and lifestyle, which may be contributing to leaky gut. Often I suggest either an elimination diet or food sensitivity testing (FST) to identify any foods, which may be contributing to the gut lining inflammation and triggering an immune response in the body. Once identified foods are removed, it is important to support the gut to heal through supplementation such as L glutamine and probiotics, as well as foods such as bone broth. Supporting the liver and the immune system are also vital, as they are working extra hard to make the body run optimally.
Interested in discussing leaky gut? Feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I practice in both Hamilton and Burlington ON, as well as virtual appointments for patients outside of those cities. I offer free 15 minute chats to answer your most burning questions!
Disclaimer: Any information is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in place of professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care practitioner with any questions or health concerns you may have.