What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky gut is a disgusting name for a very serious condition. Unfortunately, the medical community is just beginning to recognize it as an actual condition. Because of this, many people are left in the dark, wondering about whether or not they have it. Leaky gut is a common cause of many healthy problems that go beyond gut issues. Acne is one of the symptoms that can find its root in leaky gut syndrome.
What is leaky gut?
Leaky gut refers to increased intestinal permeability. Basically, the intestine is meant to be selectively permeable. So in the gut are cells called the tight junctions. Tight junctions are cells that act like gate keepers between the intestine and the blood stream. They open up to let certain things through (vitamins, minerals, nutrients) and block out other things (viruses, toxins, pathogens). Having well functioning tight junctions in important. We consume a lot of crap. If it all were to pass the tight junctions into the bloodstream, we would be in serious trouble.
Leaky gut syndrome means that the gut inflammed and the tight junctions have either degenerated or have began to malfunction, causing them to be open when they should be closed. Once the tight junctions so not work properly, anything and everything begins to leak into the blood.
When things begin to leak into the blood that don’t belong there, you get inflammation. The immune system starts to respond to what they perceive to be invaders.
While the immune system is an amazing thing, it is also a very aggressive thing. It takes things seriously. You don’t want the immune system responding more often than it should be. Think of the immune system like an army of warriers, after a battle, the battleground is a mess. The ground is torn up, there are bodies, blood and destruction.
Things start to really get nasty when the immune system starts to get over reactive. It gets so used to responding regularly that it starts to go a little haywire and reacts to every small thing.
There is a component of inflammation in every single chronic illness. While inflammation is crucial sometimes, it is not something we want to happen constantly. Acne is an inflammatory condition and inflammation in the gut, leads to inflammation on your face.
Additionally, most research finds a component of leaky gut in all autoimmune conditions. Autoimmunity refers to a condition when the immune system goes erratic and begins destroying the body’s tissues. Which tissues the immune system decides to attack depends on where your weakest link is and any genetic predispositions.
When you have toxins and other substances constantly leaking into the bloodstream, that are not supposed to be there, the immune system can get confused. For example, the protein in gluten resembles thyroid tissue. After the immune cells spend enough time attacking undigested gluten in the bloodstream, they start looking for other things that resemble it. They can start attacking the thyroid and you end up with Hasthimoto’s. This is called molecular mimicry and many believe it is a root cause of autoimmune conditions.
What are the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome?
- Skin problems
- Resistant weight loss
- Autoimmune conditions
- Hormone imbalances
- Brain fog
- Mental illness
- Heart Failure
Because of the importance of the digestive system, symptoms can be wide ranging. It is very common for someone suffering from leaky gut to have no gut symptoms. Symptoms often manifest themselves in the brain as brain fog, depression and other mental illness.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
There are many theories as to what causes leaky gut, but the three I have consistently come across are gluten, stress, alcohol and food intolerances. All these things have the ability to damage the gut. Anything that damages or breaks down the gut lining can cause the failure of the tight junctions.
Gluten can influence leaky gut in a very interesting way. The tight junctions are controlled by the protein, zonulin. When zonulin is released, the tight junctions open. Research has shown that gluten stimulates the production of zonulin, causing tight junctions to open for 4-5 hours after ingesting gluten. This process may occur in all people, even those who are not technically gluten intolerant.
How to Treat Leaky Gut?
Once of the most important ways to reduce inflammation in the gut may be to reduce or completely remove gluten from the diet. If you decide to go gluten free, make sure to remove it for a minimum of 4 weeks before you decide whether or not it improves your health.
Other important factors are going to include reducing stress, avoiding alcohol and uncovering food intolerances.
Once you have removed the damaging substances, you can begin to think about healing the gut. The good news is that the cells of the intestine regenerate quickly.
Best Things for Healing the Gut
- Bone broth
- N-acetyl Cysteine
- Fermented Foods
- Fermentable Fibers (yams, yucca, sweet potato, etc.)
Gut healing isn’t easy. It can be a lengthy process of removing toxins, testing foods and discovering the underlying cause of inflammation. But it may also be the most significant thing for disease prevention and your future health.