By Dietitian Jill Place
Twenty-five years ago, the terms “gut dysbiosis”, “candida”, and “irritable bowel syndrome” … AKA leaky gut … among others were only bandied about in hushed tones in rooms where medical alternatives were discussed. Now they’re on everyone’s lips.
As a matter of fact, one leaky gut repin I did on Pinterest (if you haven’t visited me there, click here (link: https://www.pinterest.com/healyourhealth/) and go for it!) had over 100 repins as of today! In other words, many people are craving communication about this now all-too-common phenomenon.
Your Health is in Your Gut …
I’ve heard SOOO many practitioners say that. Because having a leaky gut can lead to … among many other things …
- Frequent gas, bloating, belching
- Loose stools, diarrhea, constipation
- Acid reflux
- Unexplained weight gain and/or difficult weight loss
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Disease (IBS)
- Halitosis (chronic bad breath)
- Brain fog
- Joint pain
- Skin conditions (i.e. acne, eczema, psoriasis)
- Low energy and chronic fatigue
- Weakened immune system
- Autoimmune diseases (such as Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and even diabetes)
- Allergies and food sensitivities
- Chronic yeast or fungal infections
… and you can have it, so I’m told, and not have ANY of these symptoms. YET!
So Just What IS Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut is a digestive condition in which the climate of the small intestine becomes compromised so that bacteria and toxins are able to “leak” through the intestinal wall. Causing many of the above conditions.Most mainstream medical professionals don’t recognize leaky gut as a real condition. But there’s quite a bit of scientific evidence that leaky gut is real.Click To Tweet
Before we talk about something “leaky”, let’s talk about a “good” gut might look like. And, although the gastrointestinal tract is a 15 foot-long tube that runs from your mouth to your anus, the “gut” we’re talking about is mainly the small intestine, where most nutrient absorption takes place.
The small intestine is covered with a mix of healthy and unhealthy bacteria, molds, and other toxins … even parasites … that should occur in perfect balance with each other. It’s also covered with a mucosal layer (yes … like snots and phlegm) … the microbiome … that supports the health of all these critters.
Part of this balance has to do with … illustrated by the cartoon above … the “tight junctions” of the intestinal cells. Under all this mucous is a layer of tightly-wedged-together cells. They’re designed by nature to keep out the unhealthy critters that co-exist together in the microbiome.
The problem arises when the gut gets compromised. The mucosal layer becomes decimated, those tight wedges between cells loosen up, and that perfect balance goes awry. Stuff that shouldn’t be in the bloodstream now gets dumped into it. Inflammation and bacterial overgrowth ensue. As shown by the illustration below.
Oh … and I forgot to mention that 70% of your immune system is in the gut … in what is called the GALT (gut-associated lymphoid tissue). So if your gut is compromised, can you imagine what it does to your immune system? With a depleted defense system, you’re much more susceptible to attack from outside invaders.
And if you have a genetic predisposition for a certain condition, it may eventually manifest. In other words, if you have a tendency towards joint problems, you could eventually develop rheumatoid arthritis … if thyroid is an issue … Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Grave’s disease. All from a little imbalance in the gut.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
There are many reasons for you to develop leaky gut syndrome … but number one seems to be:
- Excessive antibiotic use: I keep hearing from other alternative practitioners that the “age of antibiotics” is over. But I wish someone had told the doctors. Because many of my clients are in my office because of leaky gut due to antibiotics.Click To TweetAntibiotics destroy the balance of bacteria in the gut and allow what I call “The Bad Gut Guys” to grow unchecked (see my silly illustration below). That’s a very simplistic but very valid explanation.
And others are …
- Excessive sugar intake: A high-sugar diet can destroy tight junctions … not to mention the extra pounds you’ll develop.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS): The long-term use of NSAIDS like Ibuprofen can increase intestinal permeability. Not to mention the 4 ulcers (1 bleeding) I got from them.
- Excessive alcohol intake: Alcohol (I’m sorry to say because I LOVE my wine) makes your stomach produce more acid than usual, which can cause gastritis. Alcohol can also cause an imbalance of gut bacteria, which may cause inflammation of the gut and the tight junctions in the intestine become leaky.
- Nutrient deficiencies: Deficiencies in vitamin A, vitamin D and zinc have all been noted to contribute to increased intestinal permeability. And those with leaky gut can develop many other deficiencies … that’s why I often test for them.
- Stress: Chronic stress is a contributing factor to multiple gastrointestinal disorders, including leaky gut, as well as a major factor in about every ill you can think of.
- Poor Diet: The line at my In-N-Out burger is always 3 blocks long. I guess people think it’s healthier than other chains. But, at 73, I have to say we didn’t have these problems when I was a kid. Because we ate whole foods and traditional fats like butter. And there were no McDonald’s, In-N-Out, or other plastic-fantastic foods. Processed stuff has been a major cause of leaky gut. And fast food has played a huge role in this now-huge problem.
So what do you eat to counteract it? Dial in next week for What Do I Do to Avoid Leaky Gut?
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