What You Need to Know About Leaky Gut Syndrome
Research into the brain-gut connection is revolutionizing how medical professionals understand the relationship between mood, food, and cognitive function. At the center of this new space is the concept of the leaky gut – a condition in which inflammation-driving materials enter the bloodstream through cracks in the intestinal tract.
In this article, we will explore leaky gut syndrome. What is it? What are the symptoms and treatment options? And is getting tested and changing your diet the key to improving your overall health?
What is a leaky gut?
Your gut, also called the gastrointestinal tract, involves more than 4,000 square feet of intestinal lining. When functioning correctly, it creates a barrier that controls what gets absorbed into your bloodstream – vitamins like B12, for example – and what doesn’t.
An unhealthy or ‘leaky’ gut lining may have holes and cracks that enable partially digested food, bacteria, and toxins to penetrate the tissue.
Leaky gut syndrome, also referred to as increased intestinal permeability, triggers changes in gut flora (healthy bacteria), inflammation, digestive tract issues, and more. Although some conventional doctors don’t recognize the condition, a growing body of research shows that changes to intestinal bacteria may contribute to the development of chronic diseases.
In 2014, a study found that a leaky gut can lead to several health problems, including:
- Chronic fatigue
Further, damage to the intestinal lining has been connected to the following conditions:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Type 1 diabetes
What are the symptoms of a leaky gut?
A leaky gut shares several of its symptoms with other conditions, making it challenging to recognize and diagnose. You might experience the following because of increased intestinal permeability:
- Chronic bloating, diarrhea, or constipation
- Frequent headaches
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Joint pain
- Trouble concentrating
What happens when you have an excessively leaky gut?
We want to absorb nutrients, which means we want our guts to be leaky to some degree so that we can transport desirable materials into our bloodstreams. But it’s a balancing act. When our gut becomes excessively leaky, it allows undesirable things to pass through.
For one, you might experience bacterial leakage, where external code material called lipid polysaccharide (LPS) finds its way into the bloodstream. This is recognized in peer-reviewed scientific literature as a driver of inflammation throughout the body, including the brain.
You might also experience the leakage of molecules from food. In this case, your white blood cells will look at these molecules and identify them as foreign. What can follow is a process called molecular mimicry, in which our bodies see something that looks like itself and then cross-reacts with itself. This is one of several proposed triggers for autoimmune diseases.
Can you test for a leaky gut?
Yes, you can test for a leaky gut in the functional medicine space. There are at least two commercial laboratories which make this type of testing available to my patients, if we decide that testing for leaky gut makes sense.
How can you improve a leaky gut through diet?
Protecting and nurturing your digestive health through diet is one way to improve or prevent a leaky gut. However, it is not a one-stop-shop miracle solution – instead, it’s a piece of the complex health puzzle.
According to one 2018 review, low biodiversity of gut bacteria can lead to an increase in inflammation and intestinal permeability. Foods that contain prebiotics and probiotics support the growth of healthy gut flora. These include:
- Fermented foods like kimchi and miso
- Sourdough bread
Other foods known to aid gut health include:
- Some fruits, such as grapes, oranges, blueberries, and strawberries
- Some vegetables, such as cabbage, zucchini, and eggplant
- Nuts, such as cashew, peanuts, and almonds
- Dairy alternatives, such as plant-based milk
- Grains, such as quinoa, oats, and rice
A gut-friendly diet tends to minimize processed, high-fat, and high-sugar foods and maximize fiber. My book, Neurishment: The Brain Tune Up! Food Guide, takes you through the steps necessary to repair and restore your digestive tract to resilient health.
In addition, it may be necessary to investigate and identify other environmental and lifestyle causes of inflammation, that can work against you, even when you have your diet dialed-in.
Can you fix a leaky gut permanently?
You can certainly improve a leaky gut by following my Neurishment diet plan.
But if you’ve been reading my blogs you know there’s more to the story, which is why it takes a team of professionals and a holistic approach to achieve and maintain overall health and vitality in the long term.
Is it worth formal testing for a leaky gut?
In my opinion, not always. Let’s start with a detailed timeline to better understand the events and circumstances that contributed to why you got sick in the first place, and then identify the things that are keeping you on the illness trajectory. By gaining more insight in to what makes you YOU, my team and I can put together a comprehensive, personalized plan that includes but goes beyond, the simple first step of healing your gut. At Sharlin Health and Neurology I want to shift my patients’ mindsets and lay a healthy foundation for healing the gut that functions on both a physical and philosophical level to transform your life, not just provide a quick fix. I bring in a highly skilled multi-disciplinary team that empowers my patients to do so much more than improve their diets. Together, we give them the tools they need to completely redirect the trajectory of their well-being. I do all of this through my Brain Tune Up! Protocol.
Whether or not you have increased gut permeability, if you would like to find out more about my Brain Tune Up! Protocol, please contact my friendly staff today. We offer a free 15-minute pre-enrollment consultation.