With gut health being a super popular topic now, you may have heard of a condition called Leaky Gut Syndrome. Also known as “intestinal permeability”, a leaky gut can be involved in a whole heap of unrelated health problems and can make you more likely to develop autoimmune disease. If you are not familiar with leaky gut, here is what you need to know about what it is and why it happens.
What Happens with Leaky Gut Syndrome?
One of the underrated roles of the gut involves forming a barrier between the intestines and the rest of the body.
Normally, the cells in the intestine walls help to keep things tight. Factors such as infection and food sensitivities can change this and allow the intestine walls to be breached a whole lot more easily.
When this happens, the gut is considered “leaky.” Toxins, bacteria and undigested food particles can pass freely through the intestine walls and into the bloodstream. Here, they are seen as foreign threats by the immune system and attacked. This causes inflammation and can produce an immune response. The result? A leaky gut can go hand in hand with a heap of symptoms and many of these are not gut related. From brain fog to low immunity and joint pain, a leaky gut can be hugely debilitating.
Causes of Leaky Gut Syndrome
There can be an extensive list of underlying causes linked to a leaky gut which is why it is so common. A few common factors can include:
1. An unhealthy gut: If your gut health is already poor and you have a low diversity of gut bacteria, it can make you more likely to experience a leaky gut.
2. Diet: Poor diet can be a trigger for leaky gut and some vitamin deficiencies can be involved in increasing intestinal permeability. Vitamin A and vitamin D are two nutrients that are important for maintaining a healthy gut barrier.
Even people who eat a healthy, balanced diet can have a leaky gut as well. Lectins, which are proteins found in some legumes, vegetables and grains, can bind to cells in the intestines and disrupt the gut barrier. Gluten and dairy can also be culprits. Gluten can raise levels of a protein called Zonulin, which is critical for maintaining healthy tight junctions in the intestines. When Zonulin levels are high, these tight junctions are more likely to be compromised and increased gut permeability is more likely.
3. Existing health problems: If you have certain health conditions, there can be a strong link to a leaky gut. This includes Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, asthma and cancer.
In patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a leaky gut is thought to be a major culprit for symptoms. It may even be a factor in obesity, with several studies showing a link between obesity and increased gut permeability.
4. Infections: Infections involving Candida and H. Pylori can be involved in leaky gut. Both have potential to pass through the gut barrier and make leaky gut more likely.
5. Medications: Steroids, over-the-counter painkillers, PPIs to reduce stomach acid and antibiotics are just a few of the medications that can contribute to a leaky gut. Taking these types of medications for extended periods of time can make this even more likely. With NSAIDs, the gut can become leakier within 24 hours.
6. Stress: According to research, stress can increase the potential for a leaky gut. Studies on rats have also shown a strong link between stress and intestinal permeability. Keeping stress levels under control is one of the most crucial factors for reducing potential for a leaky gut.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Allergies - According to studies, allergies and a leaky gut can go hand in hand. Research published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology highlighted a link between intestinal permeability and allergies.
Hormone imbalances - Leaky gut allows toxins, bacteria and undigested food to get into the bloodstream which can lead to inflammation throughout the body. Symptoms such as adult acne, mood swings, weight gain, cycle irregularities, PMS and menopause symptoms can occur.
Chronic fatigue - Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has many underlying factors and gut health is a major player. A leaky gut can be a significant factor in why symptoms develop initially, especially the relentless fatigue and brain fog elements.
Mood changes - We have known for years that as much as 80% of serotonin is produced in the gut, rather than the brain. This is why the gut is considered to be the second brain! For some people, a leaky gut can be a key factor in changes to mood and other aspects of mental wellbeing. This is in part because a leaky gut encourages the release of pro inflammatory cytokines that can lead to low mood and fatigue. In the longer term, experts think that it may pave the way for depression.
Skin rashes - Inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea can all be linked to gut health. Some studies have shown that people with acne, psoriasis and eczema have an above average degree of gut permeability.
Food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities - Gluten and dairy are just two of the culprits that can pave the way for leaky gut in people who are sensitive to them. With the immune system in overdrive and attacking foreign “threats” (such as undigested food that has passed through the intestine walls), the body can become overly sensitive to the antigens in some foods, particularly gluten. Research from Holland has shown that a leaky gut and celiac disease can be linked.
Low immunity - If you are struggling with chronic colds and flu’s even though you are healthy, a leaky gut can sometimes be a culprit. It is linked to the immune system attacking foreign “threats” that have passed through the intestine walls into the bloodstream. There can also be changes to the brain-gut signals that normally work to produce more immune cells when you are fighting illness and to keep inflammation to a minimum when you are not sick.
Autoimmune disease - There is a strong connection between a leaky gut and autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Multiple Sclerosis and Hashimoto’s Disease. For people who are genetically predisposed to developing autoimmune disease, a leaky gut can function as an environmental trigger that allows it to take hold.
GI MAP Test
The GI MAP test is by far the most advanced functional medicine gut test available. This test has uncovered countless root causes of underlying chronic health issues and has been an answer to prayer for so many people.
It is done through a simple stool collection and uses advanced DNA probing technology to help give you the most accurate results. Traditional stool testing methods allow viruses and bacteria to die before being tested resulting in poor accuracy.
The GI MAP features all the most important gut markers including:
- Pathogens- bacteria, viruses, H. Pylori
- Normal bacterial flora- (aka- your “microbiome”)
- Opportunistic bacteria – including potential autoimmune triggers
- Additional dysbiosis and overgrowth bacteria
- Gut health markers (Secretory IgA, Anti-gliadin SIgA, Elastase-1, Eosinophil Activation Protein (EPX/EDN), Calprotectin, b-Glucuronidase, Steatocrit, Fecal Occult Blood, Zonulin)
Purchase your GI MAP testing today with Dr Cobi.