You may have heard the term "leaky gut" before, but what does it actually mean? What's leaking? Where's everything going? Maria Harpas, Naturopath, Clinical Nutritionist and Director of Natural Health Medicine explains below.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
‘Leaky-Gut-Syndrome’, also known as intestinal permeability, is a condition of the gastrointestinal tract which has claimed quite a bit of attention in recent years. In fact, health practitioners are now believing its linked to long term illness’s such as chronic fatigue and autoimmune disorders! Leaky gut occurs when the lining of your small intestinal (SI), tight junctions malfunction. The SI is like a net with tiny holes that allows certain substances to pass but not toxins, microbes and undigested food particles. The main function of the SI is to act as a barrier blocking out anything damaging to your system while absorbing nutrients form our food, when those junctions get too wide things pass into the blood stream that shouldn’t.
What Symptoms Does leaky Gut Syndrome Cause?
So What Passes Through The Tight Junctions?
Well anything from proteins such as gluten, bacteria, fungus and semi digested food particles. In essence this process is toxic waste seeping through the intestinal wall polluting your blood stream. Once this starts to occur the immune system naturally detects the foreign particles and this cycle begins an immune reaction.
The Immune System Begins To React!
The immune system turns on immediately and sends your white cells to the intestinal lining where the foreign particles are detected. They produce inflammatory toxins to promote inflammation and protect the body against anything harmful. Putting the body in a constant immune response results in a fatigued immune system. Overtime immune ability becomes weakened and is more prone to be unsuccessful at eradicating viruses, preventing chronic illness and stopping cancer cell development. Overall the detoxification pathways through the liver are affected, becoming overloaded. The health consequences associated with flawed detoxification vary for each person.
Known Causes of Leaky Gut?
As the population is exposed to more chronic stress, toxic overload, poor dietary choices, less whole foods and beneficial flora imbalances, specific causes can become blurred. Yet again new research is showing a main player is the state of the gut microbiome (mainly with the breakdown of gut barrier) which leads to increased intestinal permeability, this can all be encouraged by processed foods, high sugar and alcohol, intestinal parasites, fungus (yeast infection) and bacterial overgrowth. An unhealthy gut allows parasites, bacteria and yeast to house comfortably and compromise the intestinal tract! So once the root of leaky gut syndrome is eliminated its far easier to identify and begin to heal the gut!
How Do I fix Leaky Gut?
Firstly, determining the cause through thorough pathology testings. A functional medicine practitioner will do food intolerance tests, parasite testing and bacterial dysbiosis tests along with other appropriate markers according to your health picture. Working on healing your gut through dietary and lifestyle changes can set your body up to be able to heal itself. Avoiding reactive foods, grains, dairy, sugars, alcohol, caffeine and including a rich whole and seasonal food diet can be a great start. Having some good stress management techniques and exercise/movement routine helps the muscular tone of the digestive tract.
Healing Foods For The Gut?
Nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit, leafy greens
Fermented foods – kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, apple cider vinegar with mother, yoghurt.
Prebiotic foods – onion, garlic, leeks
Fibre fresh, wholefoods, nutrient dense
Enjoying food/Social connection
Gut Support Nutrients
Cod liver oil
Turmeric, liquorice, marshmallow, ginger, gentian, chamomile
Need some further guidance? Speak to the team at Natural Health Medicine.
About the author
Click here to learn more about the author and her practice Natural Health Medicine.
Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases
The Role for Gut Permeability
Altered gut microbiome
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