Is leaky gut a real thing? A few years ago, I went to a gluten-free conference that focused on adrenal fatigue and leaky gut as the cause of many symptoms. Today, I want to explore the theory of leaky gut.
There are some conditions and medications that increase intestinal permeability. This happens when the layer of cells that line the bowel (mucosal barrier) becomes less effective at preventing large molecules and germs from passing from the bowel into the bloodstream.
Many alternative medicine professionals have seized on this as the cause of food allergies, migraine, chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, MS, scleroderma, eczema, and autism. Whether or not there is a direct connection to these diseases, there may be some basis for concern about leaky gut.
An unhealthy gut lining that allows partially digested food, toxins, or bugs to pass through it can trigger inflammation and change the gut flora. There are many studies showing a relationship between altered intestinal bacteria and the development of some common chronic diseases.
This is of special concern to those who live with celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome which are known to be associated with increased intestinal permeability. Leaky gut may also pose a risk for those with HIV/Aids, cystic fibrosis, type 1 diabetes, or those receiving chemotherapy, radiotherapy to the abdomen, or immunosuppressants. Suffering from infections like salmonella, norovirus, and giardiasis can also make a patient more susceptible to any possible detrimental effects of leaky gut.
Summing this up, leaky gut exists in everyone to some degree, but may be more pronounced in those who take certain medications or have specific medical conditions. We are beginning to learn the extent to which this may have a deleterious effect or contribute to disease processes although some studies seem to indicate that intestinal permeability may lead to inflammation.
While the experts work out the exact risks of intestinal permeability, what can you do to mitigate the effect of inflammation that may result from leaky gut?
The easy answer is, change your habits to be more gut friendly. Eliminate things that could be inflammatory – alcohol, processed food, and any food to which you have an allergy or sensitivity. Avoid medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Eat a variety of nutritious, fresh food. Pay attention to the effect of foods high in fructose and limit them if they prove to be irritating. Drink plenty of water. Reduce stress as much as possible.
I know it’s infuriating to read that leaky gut exists but may or may not cause symptoms. It’s equally annoying to discover that the best way to combat leaky gut is to prevent or mitigate it with healthy habits.
And yet, that’s where we are. And it’s where we often end up with autoimmune disorders. The symptoms are wide-ranging. The disorders difficult to diagnose. Diagnostic tests, imprecise or unreliable. And even though a healthy diet can help, we’d all prefer a definitive miracle cure.
Perhaps instead of healthy diets, we should start encouraging scream therapy!