What is leaky gut?

What is leaky gut?


You might’ve heard a term ‘leaky gut’ but aren’t sure what is it and how it affects your digestive and overall health. Let me explain.

Leaky gut syndrome (also called increased intestinal permeability or hyperpermeability) is not currently recognised by conventional doctors but it has been long known in natural medicine and now evidence is accumulating that it is a real condition with many health ramifications. Leaky gut is caused by damage to the intestinal lining and low sIgA (secretory immunoglobulin A) resulting in a loss of integrity of gut walls leading to increased permeability.

This allows bacteria, toxins and incompletely digested foods such as proteins and fats, and waste not normally absorbed “leak” out of the intestines into the blood stream (just imagine a garden hose with holes in it). The intestinal lining can then become damaged by the passage of these substances, which cause it to become inflamed. This in turn affects the normal absorption of all nutrients and overall digestive health.

A further more serious impact is the body’s immune system becoming compromised. This is likely as around 70% of the immune system is located in the abdomen area around the bowels. Leaking toxins can also damage the liver, which can become overworked which leads to allergies, sensitivities and food intolerances.

Increased intestinal permeability has been implicated in a number of conditions including IBS, anxiety, depression, PMS and weight gain. Vast majority of autistic children have leaky guts suggesting the involvement of toxins from the gut in the brain dysfunction.

 Causes of the leaky gut syndrome include:

  • Poor diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods (e.g. soft drinks, white bread, sweets)
  • Parasitic infections of the gut
  • Candida overgrowth
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Food poisoning and gastrointestinal infections
  • Stress, especially chronic
  • High consumption of alcohol
  • Overuse of medications including antibiotics, steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and antacids
  • Chemotherapy


There a number of potential symptoms of the leaky gut syndrome and include: abdominal pain, heartburn/reflux, bloating, excessive gas and cramps, food intolerances, malnutrition, eczema, insomnia, fatigue, stress, anxiety, irritability, muscle cramps and autoimmunity. It has also been linked with patients that suffer from Crohn’s and celiac diseases.

Resolving the leaky gut syndrome

Leaky gut syndrome is primarily treated with improved nutrition, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial treatments, antioxidants and probiotics. Apart from less digestive symptoms, resolving leaky gut syndrome can often result in feeling less stressed, sleeping better, feeling calmer and having enhanced energy levels.

Latest research on microbiome

Dr Leo Galland, a leader of integrative medicine, gave a profound talk “Planet You” recently in New York on the discovery of microbes and the crucial role of microbes in human healing. He believes that we can learn from the inner ecosystem to better understand our relationship with our outer ecosystem, and this understanding would transform modern medicine.

Of course naturopaths have always focused on healing the gut as a priority treating leaky gut or dysbiosis, and now this approach is being confirmed by research and studies. Mind you the gut flora aka the good and bad bacteria was recently renamed microbiome and then became a very important ‘news’ for scientists and some doctors:)

Good health and blessings

Joanna Sochan
Adrenal Fatigue and Digestive Health Expert
Naturopath || Herbalist || Nutritionist || Reiki Practitioner

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One Comment

  1. […] sIgA serves to protect the gut, lower levels can also lead to an increased risk of ‘leaky gut’ or dysbiosis (microbial overgrowth in the small intestine). When sIgA is decreased and is unable to […]

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