About Leaky Gut Syndrome and Preventive Care
Recently, the importance of gut health has received a lot of attention as scientific research has uncovered links between leaky gut syndrome and a host of chronic diseases and health conditions. The importance of maintaining good gut health and what we know about Leaky Gut is the topic of this blog post. Read on for a closer look at this often preventable disease while we share some common symptoms, warning signs and links for more reading on this topic.
The Gut and Gut Health
The gut refers to all of the organs that make up your digestive system. Your mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine are all known collectively as the gut. It’s purpose is in converting the food we eat into energy.
Often referred to as our second brain, The gut microbiome plays a very important role in our health by helping control digestion and benefiting our immune system as well as many other aspects of health.
Naturally, our gut is often exposed to digestive complications resulting from poor diet, among other things. This link provides some good information, as well as a diagram for those who are visual.
What is ‘leaky gut’?
Leaky Gut is a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged, causing undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacteria to “leak” through the intestines and flood the blood stream.
The Small Intestine as a Toxin Gatekeeper
Our small intestine is composed of four layers that prevent toxins from entering our bloodstream, and protects our digestive system. It also controls which microorganisms can enter the bloodstream, and which need to be excreted.
Assisting the small intestine to protect the digestive system are:
- Bacterial Microbiomes: an array of no less than 1 trillion bacteria (some still being discovered!) that instruct the various functions of the small intestine.
- Healthy junctions between epithelial cells: the top layer of the small intestine is composed of cells that are joined by seals (tight junctions, desmosomes and gap junctions), which prevent harmful substances leaking into our bloodstream.
When the seals in our small intestine cells break, leaving a gap between cells is created where bacteria can leak into our digestive system causing Leaky Gut. Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria begin to circulate throughout our entire body.
Some common symptoms of symptoms of Leaky Gut are:
- Intestinal dysbiosis (imbalance of microbiome);
- Bloating, flatulence or constipation;
- Food sensitivities; and
- Weight gain
Because these symptoms are common for many other diseases, making Leaky Gut Syndrome is often difficult to diagnose initially.
Recent clinical research has strongly correlated the association between Leaky Gut and other diseases, such as:
- Food allergies
- Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Chron’s disease
- Gut conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, acid reflux
- Skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, acne
- Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, and
- Respiratory conditions like asthma
While the jury is still out on which condition comes first, disease or Leaky Gut Syndrome, evidence is accumulating that Leaky Gut is a major factor in many long-term health disorders.
What causes Leaky Gut?
A variety of genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of leaky gut syndrome. However, given that the digestion of food is the main purpose of our gut, the diet is a good place to start when examining the causes.
Foods that are high in fructose have been found to accelerate the onset of Leaky Gut, as well as alcohol consumption. Pharmaceuticals such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and antibiotics also have an effect on the integrity of the small intestine barrier.
There is a lot that you can do to reduce Leaky Gut or minimise the possibility of developing it:
- Seek nutritional support and advice. What you choose to eat on a daily basis can either strengthen or weaken your gut lining. Be aware of this and seek out assistance.
- Boosting your intake of key vitamins and high-grade supplements can give you a boost where your diet may be lacking.
- Vitamin D and zinc assist in the repair and strengthening of the tight junctions that hold the cells of the small intestine together.
- Strengthening your immune system can also assist your body in healing itself
- Daily supplementation of high-quality probiotics and/or prebiotics.
More Gut Health Information
- Gastroenterologists who are on Instagram! Follow them for delicious recipes and facts about your gut: Dr Megan Rossi @theguthealthdoctor Dr Will Bulsiewicz @theguthealthmd
- For interest in how the research into IP is progressing, peruse the overviews of clinical studies conducted by autoimmune disease specialist and nutritionist Bradley Leech.
Enders, G. (2017, May). The surprisingly charming science of your gut [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/giulia_enders_the_surprisingly_charming_science_of_our_gut?language=en
Leech, B. G. (2017). Investigation into complementary and integrative medicine practitioners’ clinical experience of intestinal permeability. Endeavour College of Natural Health.
Tortora, G. J. & Derrickson, B. (2014) Principles or anatomy and physiology. United States of America: John Wiley & Son, Inc.
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