Hundreds of clients later and I finally get it…the fatigue, digestive problems, body aches & pains, no sleep, and mild depression… can all point to one thing- a “leaky gut”. But what is a leaky gut and what is it really caused by? It turns out that due to environmental toxins, poor diet, inorganic foods that contain pesticides, and stress/anxiety are the primary contributors…
But, What is leaky gut?
In simplest terms, leaky- gut is ” intestinal permeability” where the lining of the intestines become permeable allowing toxins, food particles, and pathogens to enter into the blood stream and leak into the systems of the body. This process leads to the loss of intestinal barrier function.
The intestines have a physical barrier of cellular defense that includes: vascular endothelium, epithelial cell lining and the mucus layer. Within the physical barrier are chemical substances that take part in the barrier function as well. They consist of digestive secretion, immune molecules and cell products made in the small intestines (1). All of which contribute to the over all functionality of the digestive tract. The loss of barrier function can cause major “inflammation” which piggy backs onto an autoimmune reaction given off from the body. Allergies, fatigue, depression, IBS, arthritis, and more are the result.
What causes leaky gut?
Most of the time, leaky gut is caused by poor diet that leads to an inflammatory response. Certain foods can also be a contributing factors including gluten, soy, and dairy which product antibodies in many clients and cause headaches, fatigue, and joint pain. In particular, gluten and dairy, look very similar to the body’s cells causing the immune system to get confused and accidentally attacking it’s own tissue, better known as molecular mimicry (3).
In addition, leaky gut can be caused by OTC medications including antibiotics, steroids, aspiring, and acetaminophen that eats away at the intestinal lining and causes damage to the blood-membrane barrier of the intestinal wall. Antibiotics for example reduces the diversity and abundance of intestinal microbiota. These changes disturb the communication between microbial species and regulation of the immune system (5).
Gut infections can also be a cause of leaky gut. Infections such as candida over growth, small intestine bacteria overgrowth (SIBO) and parasites can compromise the intestinal microorganisms stability.
Chronic emotional stress or physical stress can play a role on our intestinal health. Given the close relationship the gut has with the brain, there is an correlation between feeling anxious or stressed and experiencing stomach problems.
The 9 Signs You Have A Leaky Gut
- Bloating and Gas
These symptoms are ways the body is signaling that it is under attack. Chronic inflammation to the abdominal region often times is associated with intestinal conditions.
- Nutritional Deficiencies: Food allergies and food intolerances
Some nutrition deficiencies might include vitamin B12, magnesium and digestive enzymes. Food allergies and intolerances are prevent the body from absorbing certain nutrients. Researchers in China found that food allergens may increase intestinal permeability, and is seen as one of the top symptoms of leaky gut (5).
- Total Body Aches and Pains:
Fibomyalgia is an example of this symptom. It is believed that fibomyalgia amplifies painful sensations by the way in which the brain processes this information.
- Extreme Fatigue
There is now evidence that inflammatory and oxidative stressors play a role in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) (4). Often times, CFS worsens with activity but does not improve with more rest.
- Skin Rashes, including acne, eczema, and rosacea
The disruption of normal gut microbe function can have implications on skin health. A Russian investigation reported that 54% of acne patients have marked alterations to the intestinal microflora.
- Brain Fog: ADD or ADHD
The gut is often referred as the “second brain”, comprised of 100 million neurons. These neurons expand from the esophagus to the anus, playing a critical role in the production of dopamine and 90% of the bodies serotonin. Scientists are now discovering that the gut microbiome responds directly to emotional and physical stress, impacting brain performance. Common symptoms include difficulty concentrating (or brain fog), hyperactivity and even impulsiveness.
- Auto-Immune Diseases such as: Rhumatoid Arthiritis, Lupus, Celiac Disease, Chron’s, etc.
These conditions causes your immune system to mistakenly attack its self, leaving a very vulnerable and sensitive digestive system.
- Acid Reflux
When food is not broken down properly and sits for too long, acid builds up in the esophagus effecting the start of digestion. 1 in 5 people experience acid reflux or heart burn in the U.S population, making it a very common side effect to leaky gut.
- GI pain and discomfort
For instance, irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), indigestion and constipation cause abdominal pain and discomfort that can lead to the integrity of the gut lining.
How To Heal a Leaky Gut
Healing a leaky gut takes time and dedication to remove yourself from your usual hectic lifestyle and “pause” to focus on self-care. Self-care is a critical element of healing that people often over look when it comes to gut health. Set your self up for success by implementing a new health routine. This might included getting an adequate sleep (8-9 hours nightly), eating mindfully, and cutting out stressor in your life.
Another key component to healing a leaky gut is to change your diet to eat ” cleaner” and focus your shopping around organic/ pesticide- free foods. Eliminating gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugars, caffeine, and alcohol for 6-8 weeks is also part of the picture. Some of these food categories can cause an increase in zonulin production, therefore increasing the space between our gut junction and allowing for toxins and foreign radicals to enter the blood stream.
In addition, a strong bio-available probiotic such as Kashaya Probiotics is absolutely crucial to turning around the “bad” bacteria load and to help seal up the open gap junctions along the permeable intestinal lining. A strong probiotic will also help to restore the healthy bacteria in the GI tract. Healthy fats including avocados, coconut oil, fish, and flax are also great.
You have the power to feel ” well” again and take on any challenges that come your way.
1.) Bischoff SC, Barbara G, Buurman W, et al. Intestinal permeability–a new target for disease prevention and therapy. BMC Gastroenterol. 2014;14:189. Published 2014 Nov 18. doi:10.1186/s12876-014-0189-7
2.) Chen T, Liu X, Ma L, et al. Food allergens affect the intestinal tight junction permeability in inducing intestinal food allergy in rats. Asian Pac K Allergy Immunol. 2014; 32(4): 345-53. doi: 10.12932/AP0422.214.171.1244.
3.) Guarneri F, Guarneri C. Molecular mimicry in cutaneous autoimmune diseases. World J Dermatol 2013; 2(4): 36-43
4.) Michael M, Jean-Claude L. Normalization of leaky gut in chronic fatigue syndrome. Neuroendocrinol Lett. 2008; 29(6):902–910
5.) Yoon MY, Yoon SS. Disruption of the Gut Ecosystem by Antibiotics. Yonsei Med J. 2018;59(1):4–12. doi:10.3349/ymj.2018.59.1.4