Did you know that nearly 70% of our immune systems live in our gut? This is one of the reasons why leaky gut is getting more and more attention in the field of natural health. The more we learn about the gut, the more apparent it becomes that maintaining gut health is a crucial part to maintaining health throughout the body. While leaky gut is indeed a disorder that affects the gut, the main symptom is not an upset stomach as one might assume, but rather, leaky gut can lead to a range of health problems from mood disorders to decreased immunity.
Leaky gut in basic terms occurs when our intestinal lining literally becomes ‘leaky’. This lining thins and substances that are meant to be contained and passed through the intestines leak out and spread throughout the body.
Why is this a problem?
A healthy gut is just slightly permeable (breathable), allowing minuscule particles to escape and be absorbed by the body. These particles are beneficial, containing nutrients and vitamins that our bodies need to thrive. When the gut becomes damaged and its permeability increases, larger items can escape and get into our blood stream. These items, including undigested food, harmful bacteria, and toxins, are then spread throughout the body and trigger the immune system to respond, which results in many different health problems which can vary extensively from person to person.
What causes leaky gut?
Leaky gut occurs when there has been damage to the gut. This damage can be caused by infection, candida overgrowth, a diet high in inflammatory foods, drinking excess amounts of alcohol, use of medications, and environmental toxins.
How do I know if I have leaky gut?
Leaky gut can show up in many seemingly unconnected symptoms. When the dangerous particles leak from your gut and spread throughout your body, your immune system responds by attacking these foreign invaders. This immune response shows up differently in different people. Here are a few of the more common signs of leaky gut:
1) If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease: Autoimmune diseases and leaky gut often go hand in hand. If you have an autoimmune disease and have not addressed leaky gut, there is a good chance that this is contributing to the persistence of your symptoms.
2) If you have food allergies or food intolerances: Sensitivities to foods can arise because you have a leaky gut. Foods that you were once able to eat become intolerable because of your bodies heightened immune response.
3) Chronic fatigue and mood disorders, including depression and ADHD are all linked to leaky gut.
4) Problems with your skin, including acne, psoriasis, and eczema.
5) Bloating or other digestive problems.
6) Seasonal allergies can be triggered or exacerbated by leaky gut.
What can be done to heal a leaky gut?
Luckily, functional medicine can address leaky gut in a proactive way. The treatment plan involves eliminating inflammatory and toxic foods, adding in essential supplements and nutrients to restore gut flora and introduce beneficial bacteria, and to heal the gut through supplements that will repair the ‘leaky’ intestinal wall. This healing process involves time and dedication, but as a result you will regain your health and halt your body’s autoimmune response.