Leaky Gut Syndrome is a common gastrointestinal problem that has been gathering a lot of attention lately because research continues to link it to a number of other health issues and diseases. The SAD (Standard American Diet), stress, toxic overload and bacterial imbalance people battle has certainly contributed to the epidemic that now affects millions of people globally.
Medical Perspective on Leaky Gut Syndrome
Did you know that the existence of “leaky gut syndrome” has actually been denied by the medical community? That’s no joke!
This is particularly shocking because “intestinal permeability” is something that has been talked about in medical texts for more than 100 years. The online medical database WebMD calls leaky gut “something of a medical mystery.” Yeah, you think? That is because the diagnosis is not even taught in med school. (1)
“From an MD’s standpoint, it’s a very gray area,” says gastroenterologist Donald Kirby, MD – Director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Cleveland Clinic – “Physicians don’t know enough about the gut, which is our biggest immune system organ.”
Government agencies, to make matters worse, have helped contribute to the misconception. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS):
“There is little evidence to support this theory, and no evidence that so-called ‘treatments’ for ‘leaky gut syndrome,’ such as nutritional supplements and a gluten-free diet, have any beneficial effect for most of the conditions they are claimed to help. (2)
Still, the opinions are not unanimous. According to Linda A. Lee, MD – gastroenterologist and Director of the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center – “We don’t know a lot but we know that it exists.” However, “In the absence of evidence, we don’t know what it means or what therapies can directly address it.”
Now, I want you to keep that important point in mind.
It’s true that in the medical profession, when no standard criteria is assigned to diagnosing a disease, there are no official treatments either. Additionally, with no “proof” of an effective treatment model, many doctors have no choice but to treat the symptoms with drugs, which is often over-the-counter antacids such as Prevacid and Tums.
And since the vast majority of doctors and other medical professionals deny the very existence of leaky gut, it is important for you to understand what it is and how it can impact you or your loved ones. Arming yourself with the proper knowledge is key when your doctors fail to see the clues.
Causes of Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut (“intestinal hyperpermeability”) disorder is caused by intestinal tight junction malfunction. According to the NHS, the following conditions and treatments can also damage your intestinal lining: (2)
- Celiac disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Complicated surgery
- Cystic fibrosis
- Inflammatory bowel diseases – such as Crohn's disease
- Intestinal infection (salmonella, norovirus and giardiasis)
- Radiotherapy to the abdomen
- Type 1 diabetes
Representing the chief obstacle within the paracellular pathways between intestinal epithelial cells, disturbance of the constricted junctions opens the door for pollutants to be released into the blood.
According to the Norwegian journal Acta Paediatrica, this process “is implicated in the pathogenesis of several acute and chronic pediatric disease entities that are likely to have their origin during infancy.” (3)
Leaky gut has specifically been linked to these childhood disorders: (4)
Signs of Leaky Gut Syndrome
If you think you may have leaky gut syndrome, here are some warning signs to watch for.
First defined more than 70 years ago, the connection between the gut and the skin points to a slew of skin irritations, including acne and psoriasis, in people with intestinal hyperpermeability. (5) While many doctors lean on dangerous creams and other drugs to treat these disorders, they can usually be solved by fixing the gut.
Mood Disorders (Depression)
Studies, such a one published in the journal Neuro Endocrinology Letters, show that leaky gut can lead to numerous mood disorders. For instance, intestinal hyperpermeability’s inflammatory response features activate the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and other chemicals that induce depression symptoms such as fatigue, gastrointestinal upset, and a variety of so-called “sickness behaviors.” (6)
As you'd expect, if your intestines aren't properly functioning, your digestion will be affected. Such is the case with leaky gut as intestinal permeability has been linked to chronic constipation & microfloral imbalance, which are direct causes of impaired immune function. Researchers discovered that immune cells were disrupted and pathogenic bacteria were allowed to flourish upon prolonged constipation. (7)
For people with intestinal hyperpermeability, the immune system can shift into overdrive when a poisonous assault of toxins is introduced on the bloodstream, dangerously increasing the production of antibodies. This makes them vulnerable to antigens in foods, such as dairy and gluten products.
Leaky gut can also cause various nutritional deficiencies, including deficiencies of vitamin B12, magnesium and other important enzymes that aid in food digestion.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Hungarian scientists recently found that people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis have links to leaky gut syndrome. This is because higher gut permeability is usually localized to the colon. (8)
Another study found that the majority of patients with Crohn’s disease also had leaky gut. Furthermore, up to 10% – 20% of their “clinically healthy relatives,” also had leaky gut, which is a sign of genetic connection. Studies show that zinc is effective at tightening up intestinal junctions. (9)
Being an inflammatory disease by nature, it's no wonder that so many people with autoimmune conditions suffer from leaky gut syndrome. One specific autoimmune disease that researchers are connecting to gut disorders is Hashimoto’s disease, or “chronic thyroiditis.” (10) Thyroid disease can lead to a host of problems, including weight gain, fatigue, depression and impaired metabolism.
Research conducted on a protein called “zonulin” is key to understanding the link between leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. A 2011 paper published in the journal Physiologic Reviews says,
“Zonulin is the only physiological modulator of intercellular tight junctions described so far that is involved in trafficking of macromolecules and, therefore, in tolerance/immune response balance. When the finely tuned zonulin pathway is deregulated in genetically susceptible individuals, both intestinal and extraintestinal autoimmune, inflammatory, and neoplastic disorders can occur.” (11)
This hazardous flow is often triggered by grain consumption. In fact, University of Maryland School of Medicine scholars have revealed that gluten “activates zonulin signaling irrespective of the genetic expression of autoimmunity, leading to increased intestinal permeability to macromolecules.” (12)
Healing Leaky Gut Syndrome
If after reading this article you think leaky gut may be responsible for your health problems, I have two things to say:
- Your suffering doesn’t have to continue. There is hope.
- Healing leaky gut syndrome is not only possible, but happens all the time.
I have discovered that there are some simple steps that you can start doing today to heal leaky gut syndrome including:
- Focus on stress-relieving tactics that help minimize chronic inflammation.
- Drop foods from your diet that can damage the gut.
- Add foods with soothing, healing properties.
- Take supplements like digestive enzymes and probiotics to repair your gut.
- Use essential oils to soothe inflammation and promote healing from the inside-out.
Granted, nothing in this world is guaranteed to work, but following these five steps are a surefire way to improve your leaky gut and get your gastrointestinal health back on track.