Leaky gut is a condition of the gastrointestinal tract that may increase inflammation in the body. Subsequently, this inflammation can cause many health problems. It is a condition that most doctors don’t discuss, yet affects millions. Thus, most people who have this condition are unaware of it, and continue to suffer from multiple problems that may be helped with its treatment and/or prevention.
What is leaky gut?
Let’s go down to the cells lining your small intestine. Through this lining, made of cells attached side by side, nutrients from the foods you eat are absorbed. The membranes of these cells contain microscopic pores so the nutrients can be transferred into your bloodstream. Once transferred, the nutrients can then be utilized by your body.
The pores are selective, that is they only allow certain things to enter the bloodstream while blocking other things. Thus, beneficial minerals and nutrients are allowed to pass while toxins and large undigested food particles are blocked. Each cell is attached to each other through tight junctions and these should be sufficiently tight enough to prevent material from the gut from passing between them.
There are several theories of leaky gut. One is that these tight junctions, held together with tight bonds containing glutamine, loosen up or are disrupted, resulting in toxins entering the area and the blood. Another theory is that the pores in your intestines widen, resulting in the same scenario.
When undigested food particles and toxins that are supposed to be blocked are allowed to make their way into the bloodstream, they result in an increase in the immune system function, which tries to rid your body of these toxins. If this process goes to excessive amounts, the excess immunity can result in damage to your other cells and organs in your body, which can result in medical conditions.
Immunity is good when in moderation, for it fights off foreign invaders into our body. However, if in excess, your own immune response can not only hit the invaders, but may also attack your healthy cells. Think of immunity as your body’s soldiers fighting off invaders. If a few invaders come in, these can be knocked off with rifles. However, if armies come in, your army fights them massively, say with grenades, that results in collateral damage to your health cells.
This damage to your normal cells can result in inflammatory conditions. These may include arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple other degenerative diseases. Sometimes it may result in food allergies or autoimmune disorders.
How does leaky gut develop?
There are several different ways you can develop leaky gut. Chronic constipation may allow the toxins in your stool to irritate the lining of your intestines. This irritation may lead to inflammation which will cause the pores in the small intestine to expand or the tight junctions to loosen. If this process continues, toxins enter and inflammation into your blood occurs.
Other conditions of leaky gut include irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and colitis, which are inflammatory conditions of unknown cause. Here, your intestines become inflamed and very “leaky”, allowing toxins to invade your body in overwhelming numbers, resulting in your body working overtime to combat. This may result in severe fatigue, malaise, and poor health.
Leaky gut may also occur when an imbalance of the flora inside your gut develops. A perfect balance of the good and bad bacteria within our digestive system must exist for best health. When this balance shifts and there are more bad bacteria than good, irritation occur, which again, causes the pores and the junctions to open up with resulting inflammation formation.
How is leaky gut treated?
The best treatment for leaky gut starts with taking large amounts of glutamine. This amino acid tightens the junctions between the cells in the intestines. It also has the ability to heal soft tissue like the lining of your intestines. By improving the health and integrity of your gut, the inflammatory response may be prevented and/or treated.
Next, we add probiotics. Probiotics are essentially the good bacteria which help to restore the good balance of your gut flora. The good bacteria can thus overwhelm the bad bacteria, the ones that can produce the undesirable toxins within your gut, thus less toxins can enter through a leaky gut.
Another way to reduce the toxins within your gut is to give you antibodies which kill or neutralize them. Your intestines produce these antibodies every day, but this may not be enough to prevent leaky gut, thus, taking these antibodies, i.e. IgG, be beneficial.
The most obvious treatment is to eat the right foods. Not only will your gut be healthier, but so will the rest of your body. Roughage is good, so eat plenty of fiber to allow proper passage of the stool through your gut. Anti-inflammatory foods are also very helpful, such as certain fruits, like berries, to fight this inflammation.
There are many inflammation modulators that can help. For instance, a good fat, Omega-3 fatty acid, is known for its ability to combat inflammation. Thus, increase the amount of omega-3 in your diet by eating more fatty fish like salmon, or by taking an Omega supplements. Make sure these have high amounts of the omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, and not a lot of omega 6 fatty acids. We usually recommend you take 1 to 2 grams a day, but doses of 4 to 6 grams daily can also decrease high triglycerides in your blood and are safe to take.
At our office, we treat leaky gut using all the above modalities. Probiotics and omegas are recommended to not only treat this, but to improve your overall health. A product that contains high amounts of glutamine and IgG is GI protect, and is recommended if you have any signs of leaky gut.
In summary, leaky gut is widespread but not well treated and sometimes ignored by conventional medicine. Focus on healing the gut and preventing this problem through the steps listed above. By knowing what leaky gut is and how you can heal it, you have the tools you need to keep your gut healthy, which can improve your health.