What is Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut syndrome is a digestive condition that increases the permeability of the intestines. Your gut is semi-permeable to allow tiny micronutrients to pass through your intestinal wall and into your bloodstream. This is how you absorb your food.
You have leaky gut when your gut lining has holes or crack that allow undigested food particles, toxins and bacteria from your gut escape into the bloodstream. Studies have associated increased intestinal permeability with several chronic and autoimmune diseases including diabetes type 1 and celiac disease.
Your immune system marks these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and attack them. Your immune response to these invaders may appear as signs of leaky gut listed below.
Underlying causes of leaky gut
#1 Poor diet choices - A typical American grocery store sells food products that are mostly genetically modified (GMO), processed, filled with allergens, synthetic additives and sugar. In addition, fast food restaurants offer convenient, cheap and abundant processed foods filled with preservatives.
Your body is reacting to what you put into your body. A diet containing allergens and inflammatory foods such as GMOs, unsprouted grains, sugar, refined oils, synthetic food additives, conventional dairy products can cause leaky gut.
#2 Chronic stress - A poor diet can cause inflammation in the gut. A constant state of chronic infection due to bacteria, pathogens, fungi and viruses can stress and weaken the immune and digestive systems.
#3 Toxin overload from medication, alcohol consumption and exposure to chemicals from our water, cosmetics, personal care products, cleaning chemicals and environmental pollutants.
#4 Dybiosis means an imbalance between the beneficial and harmful bacteria in your gut.
#5 Genetic susceptibility - Some people has an increased likelihood of developing leaky gut due to their sensitivity to environmental factors that can trigger autoimmune responses.
What are the symptoms of leaky gut?
Below is a list of symptoms which may indicate that you have leaky gut. If you have acne or skin disorder, check to see if you have leaky gut. Most often times, repairing your leaky gut and changing your diet helps reduce acne.
#1 Digestive issues – gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
#2 Food Allergies - Studies have linked leaky gut and food allergies. Food sensitivities (gluten and dairy) are believed to be one of the most common symptoms of leaky gut.
#3 Allergies and asthma - studies have linked leaky gut and chronic inflammatory respiratory disorder, particularly asthma.
#4 Inflammatory bowel disease - ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease have been linked to leaky gut.
#5 Inflammatory skin conditions – Studies have linked skin conditions to leaky gut. If you have acne, psoriasis, rosacea or eczema, you most likely have a leaky gut. Do a leaky gut test to identify specific sensitivities to heal the underlying cause of your skin problems.
#6 Mood and Autism - 95% of your serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for your mood, is produced in your gut. Leaky gut can cause mood imbalances such as stress and anxiety, brain fog and difficulty focusing.
90% of the people suffering from autism have gut issues. A recent research conducted in 2019, found that the gut and brain share many of the same neurons, which confirms the gut-brain connection in Autism. The study reveals that a gene mutation that affects neuron communication in the brain also causes dysfunction in the gut. Further investigation has to be conducted to determine if changes in the microbiome can affect mood and behavior for people suffering from autism.
#7 Thyroid problems - Leaky gut may directly affect Hashimoto's disease, an auto-immune disease that gradually damages the thyroid gland resulting in low production of thyroid hormone which can impair your body's metabolism which can lead to weight gain, fatigue, depression and other mental and heart problems. Hashimoto's disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism (low thyroid functions) in developed countries.
#8 Auto-Immune diseases - rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, diabetes Type 1 (autoimmune) and Type 2 are some of the auto-immune diseases linked to leaky gut.
#9 Hormonal imbalance – Imbalance in the gut microbiome due to leaky gut can cause inflammation and internal stress over time can overwork the adrenal glands causing hormonal imbalances.
The gut microbiome regulates estrogen through the secretion of the enzyme, β-glucoronidase, which deconjugates estrogens into their active forms. Lower microbial diversity in the gut due to leaky gut disrupts this process resulting in the reduction of circulating estrogens which may contribute to obesity, pre-menopausal symptoms, brain fog, infertility and cardiovascular disease. In severe cases, women may experience extreme fatigue and may even develop endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (POS) which leads to higher production of testosterone.
If you are experiencing hormonal imbalances, consider treating your leaky gut to balance your hormones.
#10 Nutrient malabsorption - the damaged gut walls causes nutrients deficiencies. It's recommended that people suffering from leaky gut to take a whole food multi-vitamin in addition to probiotics.
How to test for leaky gut?
There are several tests available for leaky gut syndrome and most are unreliable. Is leaky gut testing really worth the money? Here is a free assessment you can do on your own. Address the causes of leaky gut and do a self assessment in 3 -4 weeks to see if your symptoms related to leaky gut improves.
If you are interested in testing for leaky gut, Lactulose Mannitol test is considered the gold standard for leaky gut testing.
Lactulose Mannitol Test - This intestinal permeability assessment is non-invasive and can help identify food allergies. This test is affordable, simple and convenient as it can be ordered straight to your home. It is also considered the gold standard for leaky gut tests.
A urine sample is collected before and after you drink a pre-measured amount of non-metabolized sugar, lactulose and mannitol, 6 hours after ingesting them.
The urine is analyzed to find which sugar is present in the urine sample. If lactulose, a larger molecule than mannitol is present in the urine sample, your gut is considered overly permeable or leaky.
Zonulin Test - Zonulin, a protein produced in the gut, has emerged as a biomarker for intestinal permeability. The higher the zonulin levels, the more permeable is your gut lining, thus more leaky.
Zonulin controls the size of the openings of the tight joints that hold the intestinal lining. A healthy level of zonulin ensures small openings so nutrients can be transported back and forth. However, too much of zonulin can cause the openings to become too large, thus leaky gut.
Increased zonulin levels can be contributed to gluten, yeast overgrowth, parasites and harmful bacteria. However, studies show that only some of the agents or factors known to increase permeability of the gut have been directly confirmed to trigger the increased zonulin release. Therefore, zonulin test for leaky gut may not be reliable.
Stool Test - The stool test will reveal bacteria, yeast, fungi, parasites and all sorts of microbes present in your stool that may contribute to intestinal permeability.
How to Treat leaky gut?
Here are 6 ways you can treat leaky gut.
#1 Follow a leaky diet plan - learn what foods to eliminate and replenish, and supplements to repair your gut lining.
#2 Treat gut infectious disease and rebalance gut microbiota
#3 Reduce toxic overload in your body
#4 Reduce chronic stress
#5 Increase physical activity
#6 Reduce medications linked to leaky gut syndrome