Learn what a leaky gut is and how you may be able to overcome a leaky gut.
Leaky gut can describe a range of disorders, syndromes, conditions, or clusters of symptoms affecting the lining of the intestines. The intestines are long tube-like structures that are part of the digestive system. After it’s swallowed, food moves to the stomach where it’s broken down and combined with digestive enzymes. This food mixture then travels through the intestines. When everything is working well, nutrients and water are extracted through the intestinal wall and taken into the bloodstream.
Within the intestines, different cell types work together to ensure that while nutrients travel from the digestive tract into the bloodstream, potentially harmful substances do not. The cells that make up the walls of the intestines are equipped with junctions that allow nutrients to pass through, while bacteria, toxins, and other harmful substances are prevented from doing so (Kinashi & Hase, 2021). The intestines also contain mucus, peptides, proteins, and a variety of helpful bacteria that all play a role in ensuring that only nutrients make it through to the bloodstream.
For a variety of reasons, this complex system may become dysfunctional, and harmful substances may “leak” from the intestines into the bloodstream (Camileri, 2019). In leaky gut syndrome, the intestines have become pathologically or chronically permeable - they regularly let bacteria, toxins, and other harmful substances move from the gut into the bloodstream.
The presence of harmful toxins in the bloodstream can cause the body to launch an immune response. The immune response may take several different forms including inflammation. Although the toxins may enter the bloodstream through the intestines, the inflammatory immune response may appear in almost any part of the body. There may even be a link between leaky gut and mental and developmental disorders including depression, anxiety, autism, and schizophrenia (Schmidt, 2015).
Leaky Gut Symptoms
Since leaky gut can lead to inflammation and a systemic immune response, symptoms may be very broad and may potentially include almost anything. However, digestive system discomfort may be the most common symptom of leaky gut. According to the Cleveland Clinic, symptoms of digestive discomfort that may be symptomatic of potential leaky gut may include:
How To Fix a Leaky Gut
If an underlying medical condition like Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Celiac disease is responsible for the leaky gut, addressing these broader medical concerns may also address the difficulties with leaky gut.
In the absence of treatment for a medical condition, you may be able to gain relief using:
If you find yourself with symptoms of leaky gut syndrome, all is not lost. You may be able to reintroduce order by changing your diet or by introducing supplements.
This may be a relatively straightforward process that you can achieve by eating more fresh, unprocessed foods and fewer processed, fatty, and sugary foods. However, your path to recovery from leaky gut may be more complicated - requiring you to craft a specific diet and incorporate supplements. This may require you to move forward in your quest for gut health with the support of a qualified professional like your doctor or a registered dietician. Whether you opt to tackle small manageable changes yourself or to work with a professional on more intensive and targeted changes, you may be able to achieve relief from the discomfort of a leaky gut.
Pamela (Pami) Parker currently serves as a holistic practitioner, coach and teacher. Her intention is to be a compassionate guide to those who choose to experience a healthier, happier and more peaceful way of life.