Do you have “leaky” gut?
Although the condition known as “leaky” gut can cause an array of symptoms, many of which take place outside of the digestive system, many mainstream medical practitioners still aren’t familiar with this condition.
So what is leaky gut? The term itself is actually a pretty accurate description of what occurs in the body. Your digestive system is masterfully designed to keep harmful substances, such as undigested food, toxins, allergens, microbes, viruses, parasites, bacteria and metabolic wastes, confined to the digestive tract. However, when the digestive system develops gaps between the cells of its membrane lining – hence the term “leaky gut” – the substances which should be confined to your digestive tract can escape from your intestines and enter your bloodstream.
What happens then? Because these harmful substances aren’t normally in your blood, your immune system recognizes them as foreign invaders and begins to attack by releasing antibodies, much like an army of soldiers trying to clear out the enemy. Let’s say you catch a virus. You need the immune system to attack and kill the invader, which in this case is the virus. However, when harmful substances leak from your own gut, your immune system becomes confused and literally attacks your own body as if it were the enemy. The continued release of antibodies causes inflammation (swelling), which accumulates over time, causing the digestive system to not work properly and lead to an array of unpleasant symptoms.
Much more than an upset stomach
You may figure because it’s called leaky gut, the condition would mean your symptoms would be digestive in nature. While leaky gut can certainly cause gastrointestinal issues, a digestive problem isn’t only a digestive problem. Inflammation in the gut can lead to inflammation throughout the body and a host of problems. This, my friends, is where modern medicine often fails so many patients. Traditional practitioners typically only look at the area of the body that’s causing symptoms as the source of those symptoms. If you have sinus pain then the problem must be in your sinuses, right? WRONG!
You see, leaky gut can cause an array of symptoms that are seemingly unrelated to the digestive tract. Because the digestive system is the portal of entry for all nutrients into the body, digestive health can affect the brain, the joints, the skin and every other system. In fact, the list of “leaky” gut symptoms is quite extensive. Here are SOME of the most common signs:
- Fatigue, anxiety and/or depression
- Sinus and allergy problems
- Weight gain, obesity and Type 2 diabetes
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Joint pain and fibromyalgia
- Gas, bloating, abdominal pain (irritable bowel syndrome) and multiple food sensitivities
- Autoimmune diseases (including Crohn’s, celiac, eczema, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Hashimoto’s)
- Skin, hair and nail issues (including acne, hives, dry or oily skin, hair loss, and weak or ridged nails)
- Heart disease and high cholesterol
- Hormonal issues such as PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, and low testosterone
What causes “leaky” gut?
The list of causes is about as extensive as the list of symptoms and includes use of medications such as antibiotics, toxins, alcohol, stress, excessive weight, food sensitivities, lack of vitamin D, and lack of movement (exercise). Another cause of leaky gut is poor diet. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet, also known as SAD, really lives up to its initials. It’s the naturally occurring bacteria present in “real” food that keeps our gut healthy. Foods that have been picked, pressed, pulverized, processed, preserved and packaged before being frozen or put in a box or bag are going to lead to an imbalanced ecology in the gut. A growing body of research also indicates grains such as wheat might be culprits in the development of leaky gut because they contain substances that have been shown to damage the intestinal walls.
How do you know if you have “leaky” gut?
If you think you might have leaky gut, it is extremely important to find a practitioner who doesn’t just look at basic lab work and use conventional therapies, but instead who looks to find and correct the underlying cause. At our practice, we offer two different types of testing to assist in determining if a patient’s problems could be stemming from leaky gut.
Our Food Sensitivity Panel is a test that measures if you are reacting to nearly 100 different foods. Remember, leakage in your intestinal wall leads to undigested food passing into the bloodstream. This test tells us if your immune system is releasing antibodies to “attack” any of the foods. If you test positive for antibodies to a certain percentage of foods, it indicates that undigested particles of these foods are leaking from your gut into your blood. The more antibodies we find, the more your immune system is in overdrive.
I want to stress that positive reactions don’t mean you are “allergic” to these foods. It means that your body is reacting to foods that aren’t where they’re supposed to be. Once your leaky gut is healed, you may be able to reintroduce the foods into your diet. We offer follow-up testing and are also involved in national research in food sensitivity testing.
At our clinic, we also can use a Stool Analysis test to help determine if a patient is suffering from leaky gut. This test looks for parasites, bacterial overgrowth or imbalance, candida and deficiencies in digestive enzymes. It is especially useful if a patient is suffering from GI symptoms.
Fixing leaky gut
Lab testing can determine if you do indeed suffer from leaky gut and provide us with the best course of treatment to help you recover. If left untreated, leaky gut can lead to prolonged inflammation in the body, which in turn increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and certain cancers. Also, many people suffer from chronic conditions such as coughs, sleep apnea, sinus infections and post-nasal drip that are all stemming from their gut issues!
Our clinic is here to help end your suffering and put you on the road to wellness. So many of us turn to conventional medicines, which just cover the problem and often don’t offer any real relief. Because medications fail to address the true cause of “leaky” gut, many people continue to suffer and in many cases their conditions worsen, leading to more serious diseases.
I want to share with you an example of a patient who came to our clinic in rough shape. She suffered from autoimmune conditions for which she had been prescribed steroids. The steroids led to her gaining weight and developing diabetes. She also suffered from skin issues including psoriasis, eczema and rosacea.