Leaky gut overview

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) isn’t currently recognised by conventional doctors but it has been long known to exist in natural medicine. However, evidence is accumulating that it’s a real condition /syndrome with many health ramifications widely recognised in scientific research.

The primary function of the small intestine is to act as a selective barrier by allowing some particles into the body (i.e. nutrients and water) while keeping others out (bad bacteria or partly digested food particles). Leaky gut is caused by damage to the intestinal lining causing loosening of the tight junctions between the cells lining the walls of small intestine, resulting in a loss of integrity of gut wall leading to increased permeability. This allows bacteria, toxins and incompletely digested foods such as proteins, 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. Leaky gut can also cause or contribute to a wide variety of symptoms throughout many body systems.

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

Identifying problematic foods that a person has developed intolerances to, is key to start repairing gut walls. Keep reading about food sensitivities/ intolerances effects on the immune system and the gut lining HERE.

Overall, if you have IBS (bloating, gas, cramping, reflux, indigestion) or other digestive symptoms or disorders, it’s highly likely that you have a leaky gut. Ideally, the gut contains roughly 80% “good” probiotic bacteria and 20% “bad” pathogenic bacteria, this is what a healthy gut looks like. Unfortunately, this ratio is reversed in most people, who don’t have nearly enough friendly bacteria, and too many disease-causing bacteria inhabiting the microbiome.

Causes of 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 stress – it increases cortisol and other stress hormones which are inflam