What we know about leaky gut syndrome?

Most of your internal organs are comfortably well protected from the outside world. But the gastrointestinal tract – or rather the lining of the GI tract – comes into contact with items from the outside world every day.

The food you eat enters the body through the mouth, goes to the stomach, where it is partially digested, and on to the intestines, where the real work of extracting the nutrients and energy we need to eat takes place. live and flourish.

The system usually works quite well, but for some people it can cause leaks, just like any well-used plumbing system. These small leaks can become an ongoing problem and develop into a condition called leaky gut.
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“Leaky gut is a great visual term for patients, but it’s not a true medical diagnosis,” says Dr. John Whyte, a board-certified internist based in the Washington, DC area. Rather than being a precise diagnosis, the term describes “the fact that your bowels are not working properly.”

Also referred to as increased or increased gut permeability, leaky gut is “a condition in which the lining of the gut becomes inflamed, damaged, or irritated, allowing microbial toxins and undigested food particles to flow into the bloodstream,” says Lacey Dunn, a dietitian in functional medicine and author of: The Women’s Guide to Hormonal Harmony.

The tight connections between the cells that line the gut, called enterocytes, weaken and become more permeable than they should be. This means that undigested food particles and the enzymes your body produces to break down and absorb nutrients from food end up outside the gut, where they don’t belong. “Think of your gut wall as your front door. You want the good guys (vitamins and minerals) to come in, but the bad guys (toxins and pathogens) to stay out,” Dunn says. “It’s the same with your gut.”

The cells that line the lining of the gut are dynamic, says Dr. Dawn Beaulieu, director of the functional medicine IBD clinic at Vanderbilt Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic in Nashville. They molt and are replaced every four to seven days. “This constant turnover provides the opportunity for ‘holes’ to form in the barrier,” said Beaulieu, who is also a GI educator at the Institute for Functional Medicine. “The gut barrier isn’t impenetrable, and it shouldn’t be.” But it’s Goldilocks’ proposal: some permeability is required for the body to function, but too much can lead to problems.


This leakage of matter from the gut into the bloodstream can cause infections and widespread inflammation, and it can even increase the risk of certain autoimmune diseases. In addition, it can affect nutrition. “It’s a double whammy, because you’re not absorbing important vitamins and nutrients, and harmful substances passing through disrupt your hormones and immune system,” explains Whyte.

Symptoms often include bloating, nausea, and cramping, but “because the gut affects our entire body, it can also cause headaches, rashes, fatigue, and joint pain,” Whyte says.

A wide variety of other symptoms, including mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, chronic fatigue, brain fog, arthritis, and allergies can result from increased gut permeability, Dunn says. In some cases, “leaky gut can manifest without gut-related symptoms,” she notes. “In many cases in my clinical practice I have seen people with only skin problems or fears in addition to a leaky gut also have intestinal infections such as parasites.”

Such broad symptoms can make pinpointing the problem a challenge, says Dr. Anil Singh, a gastroenterologist at Orlando Health in Florida. “There is not one particular symptom” that defines leaky gut: “Some have diarrhea or constipation, abdominal bloating, or they may feel tired. Sometimes they have nutritional deficiencies.”

All of these symptoms overlap with other GI disorders and ailments. “You need to rule out other conditions like celiac disease, irritable bowel, or colitis” before making a leaky gut diagnosis, Singh says.

Unfortunately, although the barrier function of the gut wall has been extensively studied, this has not yet been translated into a precise way to diagnose leaky gut. “Even after decades of scientific research, we currently don’t have an accurate test for diagnosis,” says Dr. Kaunteya Reddy, medical director of the division of gastroenterology at Redlands Community Hospital in Redlands, California.

A non-invasive test sometimes used measures the ratio of lactulose to mannitol — a marker of intestinal mucosa function — but Singh says it’s not widely available. Testing for nutritional deficiencies can also be a good idea, whether those deficiencies are the result of leaky gut or another condition.

Who gets a leaky gut?

Anyone can develop increased gut permeability, although “there are some people whose genetics predispose them to a more sensitive digestive tract,” Beaulieu says. For example, people with first-degree relatives who have IBD, gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, frequent GI infections, or IBS are at higher risk for increased gut permeability. But “genetics isn’t the most important factor,” Beaulieu says. “The food we eat and how we live in the world around us is probably the main cause of our gut barrier dysfunction.”

The standard American diet is high in saturated fat, sugar and processed foods, while being low in fiber. More and more studies show that this type of food is “a major driver of our reduced bowel function,” Beaulieu says. Heavy alcohol use, stress, and poor sleep also disrupt the gut’s delicate makeup, she says.

Reddy notes that the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium, “are known to cause damage to the gut lining and be involved in causing leaky gut.” Minimizing the use of NSAIDs can help heal the leaky barrier.

People who already have a health problem related to the GI tract, such as symptoms of irritable bowel, Crohn’s disease, or colitis, are more likely to develop leaky gut, Singh says. Other risk factors include autoimmune diseases, arthritis, lupus and Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland and the metabolism-regulating hormones it produces.

Exactly why this happens isn’t entirely clear, but Singh says the normal bacteria that reside in the gut and help support a healthy immune system, proper digestion and a range of other bodily functions tend to be replaced or to be lost, causing inflammation. “Inflammation leads to symptoms or signs of leaky gut syndrome because if there is inflammation, that will cause increased permeability,” he says.

Health implications

While an autoimmune disease such as Crohn’s disease can increase the risk of developing leaky gut syndrome, the risk appears to go both ways: increased gut permeability has been linked with an increased risk of developing several other conditions. such as arthritis, lupus, and diabetes. More research is needed to strengthen the connection.

In addition, a leaky gut can also increase your chances of developing other conditions related to pathogen overgrowth, such as: candida (fungal infections); H. pylori (a type of bacteria that causes abdominal pain, nausea, and other GI symptoms); and parasites, Dunn says.

Leaky gut can also lead to nutritional deficiencies, giving you other conditions. For example, if your body doesn’t absorb enough iodine, you can develop hypothyroidism. And people with low vitamin B12 levels can develop palpitations.

Coping With Leaky Gut Syndrome

If your doctor suspects leaky gut syndrome, or if you’re at risk of developing it, you’ll probably be advised to make some lifestyle changes to help relieve symptoms and better manage the condition. “There is no medication we can use,” Singh says. “It’s basically lifestyle changes,” such as changing your diet and avoiding stress.

Some patients feel that working with a functional physician can show the way. “The concept of functional medicine is to create balance in our body systems, and it all starts in the gut,” Beaulieu says. A functional medicine practitioner will typically “follow a 5R framework for gut recovery,” which includes five steps:

Eliminate the things that negatively affect the GI tract, such as medications that can damage the gut, foods you are allergic to, toxins, and stressors. This means no more ultra-processed foods or excess sugars.

Replace those items with higher quality foods that can promote good digestion. A high-fiber, plant-based diet is a great place to start, Dunn says. “The diversity of plants in your diet is one of the biggest contributors to a healthy gut. Fiberglass is your friend.”

Re-inoculate the gut by helping beneficial bacteria thrive through increased intake of prebiotic, probiotic and postbiotic foods. Fermented foods, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, can help the gut microbiome thrive and diversify.

Restore the damaged intestinal wall through foods and supplements. Beaulieu recommends “eating the rainbow of food.” Vitamin and mineral supplements such as vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, L-glutamine, and aloe can support the body’s efforts to repair the gut lining.

Balance your overall life to support better health. “Sleep, exercise, and stress all affect the GI tract,” Beaulieu says. “Balancing all of these is crucial for gut health.” While staying physically active is a good idea for overall health, Beaulieu notes that endurance exercise, such as running, cycling, or boxing, can increase your risk of leaky gut because excessive, high-intensity exercise is a “stress-induced condition” that can alter intestinal barrier function. Stay active, but don’t overdo it.

While some suppliers recommend adding a probiotic supplement, Beaulieu notes that there is little evidence that probiotics improve barrier function and are often performed only in animals. More data and research are needed.

Staying well hydrated is a good way to support gut health and overall wellness, Dunn says. “Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water every day.” But stay away from alcoholic drinks; the sugars in alcohol can make leaky gut symptoms worse.

Beaulieu notes that in some mainstream medical circles “the concept of a leaky gut is controversial,” in part because “there is no gold standard that everyone can agree on that can test this, and there is no documented scientific evidence that these changes in the function of the intestinal mucosa will always result in metabolic changes.”

Still, “the data is compelling and we’re learning more every day,” Beaulieu says. There’s no reason not to eat right and reduce your stress levels — and if you suspect you have leaky gut, talk to a healthcare provider who can help manage it.

This post What we know about leaky gut syndrome?

was original published at “https://time.com/6156394/what-we-know-about-leaky-gut-syndrome/”