“A small leak can sink a great ship” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Leaky Gut Syndrome – Have you heard of it?
It isn't a condition unto itself, but a symptom really, of inflammation and imbalance within the body. While there are several potential causes, the end result is the lining of the small intestine loses some of its ability to filter nutrients and other substances
Let's take a step back for a minute
As food winds its way through our digestive system, nutrient absorption happens primarily within our small intestine, through a layer that is only one cell thick (!!) Included in this layer are villi, or small fingerlike folds, which are covered in microvilli. Tightly wedged in-between each villi are junctions.
In healthy intestines, these villi and junctions work hand in hand as gatekeepers, letting nutrients pass into our body, while at the same time keeping foreign substances out
Maintaining intestinal utopia isn't a guarantee. Some of the medications we take, or foods we eat, can irritate or inflame the intestinal wall, causing the junctions to loosen up.
When this happens, large food molecules, chemicals, bacteria, and other waste products can leak through this normally protective barrier, and find their way into our bloodstream or lymphatic system
Our body quickly recognizes these as foreign substances, and the immune system is mobilized to finish the job of incomplete digestion. This second line of defense comes at a cost. As the immune system is continually trying to repair itself from the effects of leaky gut, it can be caught in a never-ending cycle and become compromised from the un-needed stress
Also, as antibodies are produced for each of the foreign substances it rallies against, our bodies become more and more sensitive to a wider variety of foods and environmental contaminants
Leaky gut syndrome can be challenging to diagnose. Not only does it produce a wide range of seemingly unconnected symptoms, but many are shared by other disorders as well.
For example, leaky gut has been linked to diseases, including depression, osteoporosis, asthma, migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, autism, and many more. It may also be the underlying cause of gastrointestinal problems such as irritable bowel, Chrones, and Celiac disease
Just how does a person develop a leaky gut?
While there isn't one single cause, such factors as chronic stress, poor food choices, exposure to environmental contaminants, bacterial imbalance, gastrointestinal disease, immune overload, parasites, yeasts, and alcohol abuse seem to play important roles
To give a few examples
Chronic stress – Can change our immune system's ability to respond quickly, and affects our ability to heal. When we're not managing stress, our bodies also slow digestion and send its valuable resources instead to fight the stressor
Poor food choices, such as processed foods, promote inflammation of our GI tract. It's also important to note, even foods we normally think of as “healthy” like milk, wheat, and eggs can be irritating to the lining of our gut
Excessive use of alcohol puts a strain not only on the liver, which affects digestion but can also cause damage to the intestinal lining
There isn't a miracle cure for treating leaky gut, although there are many things one can do to help heal inflammation and restore the integrity of this very important lining. (It's best to work with a health professional who can test for and help you determine the underlying factors)
Some are habits that are easy to change, like chewing your food more completely, and eating a healthy diet. One that doesn't contain gluten, sugars, or things of that nature that will promote reduced integrity of the intestinal lining
Antibiotics are known to play a part in promoting leaky gut, so avoiding them unless they're absolutely necessary
Taking supplements to help your body repair itself can also be beneficial (for example Slippery Elm Gruel or L-Glutamine). If food allergies or sensitivities are an issue, you'll want to deal with them.
Replenish your bacterial flora with probiotics and prebiotics. You also may need to support your digestive system with enzymes, bitters, or hydrochloric acid tablets.
While there is still some skepticism in the mainstream medical community about the legitimacy of leaky gut as a diagnosis, opinions are quickly changing as the evidence mounts. That's a good thing because this condition is very likely to emerge as one of the most significant medical concepts of our time.
Food for thought