The gut issue we’re going to explore today is often called leaky gut syndrome — and it’s becoming more and more common across the globe as populations the world over begin to adopt a Western diet and lifestyle. While leaky gut syndrome is a fairly modern phrase, it has another name that’s been documented for years — intestinal permeability.
Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, is famous for having said, “all disease begins in the gut.” Even ancient Ayurvedic practitioners have long believed gut permeability was at the root cause of all disease processes, and healthy functioning of the gastrointestinal system is paramount to a healthy body and mind.
What is leaky gut syndrome?
Leaky gut syndrome is a digestive issue that arises from factors such as an unhealthy diet, environmental toxins, stress overload, overmedication from long-term antibiotic use, and imbalances in gut bacteria. The condition can often lead to more serious diseases — other diseases linked to digestive maladies like leaky gut include depression, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and a whole treasure trove of autoimmune issues.
Leaky gut is characterized by a damaged or weakened intestinal barrier. This allows material to pass from the intestine into the rest of the body. As a result, microbes, antigens, and other potentially harmful substances can migrate throughout the body, and important nutrients may not be fully absorbed.
If you typically eat a Standard American Diet — one that consists of low-quality meat, conventional dairy products, refined flours, sugar, and other processed foods — you’re probably going to have gut problems. Unfortunately, chronic inflammation and impaired digestive functioning are both outcomes of feeding the body these modern day toxins. Over time, these digestive issues can turn into leaky gut syndrome.
Common causes of leaky gut syndrome
- Genes: Many of us are simply predisposed to developing leaky gut syndrome because we’re overly sensitive to environmental conditions that bring about an autoimmune response.
- Stress: Chronic stress disrupts gut balance, and leads to a wide variety of digestive health issues.
- Standard Western/American Diet: This way of eating is no good for your gut health. Too many chemicals, artificial sweeteners and preservatives, refined oils — all these toxins take a major toll on digestive health.
- Imbalances in gut bacteria. Dysbiosis is an imbalance in the gut between good and bad bacteria.
- Too many toxins. Toxins add up, and some of us have far too many lurking in our bodies. Exposure to chemicals from over-the-counter drugs, medications, conventionally grown foods, personal care products, air pollution, plastic food containers — all of these add up and can result in a high internal toxic load.
- Gluten. Some people can eat gluten, but many cannot. And for those with gluten intolerance, it can cause leaky gut syndrome.
8 signs and symptoms of leaky gut
Know that you need to have the following symptoms over a period of time to indicate leaky gut syndrome — most doctors say between three and six months.
Sometimes, your body changes and symptoms arise due to other circumstances, such as a period of intense stress, which can cause intestinal distress. A woman’s menstrual cycle can also cause digestive issues. Pay attention to what else is going on in your life and try to gain an understanding of how it affects your health. Your body is constantly changing depending upon the normal ups and downs of life.
The following signs, if you continue to experience them over an extended period, may indicate that you have a leaky gut:
1. Food sensitivities
Many scientific studies point to a connection between leaky gut and food sensitivities. Your gut becomes inflamed when you eat something you’re sensitive to, and inflammation often causes leaky gut.
On the flip side, leaky gut also contributes to inflammation. It’s a vicious cycle. If you think you have food sensitivities, eliminate some of the more common culprits. These include eggs, dairy, gluten, corn, soy, peanuts, and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant).
2. Mood issues
Mental health conditions like mood swings, anxiety, depression, ADD, and ADHD are linked to leaky gut. These are all neurological symptoms of leaky gut syndrome. There’s something called the gut-brain axis, and it basically describes the neural pathway between our digestive system and the brain. As much as 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the digestive tract. So if your digestive system is faulty, it can have a direct impact on your mental health. In Western medicine, this is a rather recent discovery.
3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Gas, bloating, and diarrhea are all symptoms that point to leaky gut. But irritable bowel syndrome is probably the most telling. IBS is a digestive disorder characterized by changes in bowel movements and stool appearance, stomach cramping, gas, bloating, heartburn, and appetite loss. In many cases, if you have IBS, you also have leaky gut as the two are interconnected.
4. Malabsorption of nutrients
Sometimes we have gut issues because we’re not properly absorbing nutrients from the foods we eat, and we need to take digestive enzymes to aid the process. If you think this describes you, there’s no harm in taking a high-quality multivitamin, along with a digestive enzyme supplement, and also magnesium and B12.
5. Autoimmune diseases
If you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, celiac disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis, there’s a good indication you also have leaky gut syndrome. If this is you, try eliminating gluten and other inflammatory foods from your diet for a few weeks and see if you experience positive changes in digestion.
6. Inflammatory skin disorders
Inflammatory skin disorders like rosacea, acne, and eczema are linked to leaky gut syndrome because of the gut-skin connection. Some studies show that even simple skin issues like acne arise because of gut inflammation.
7. Thyroid issues
There’s a link between low thyroid function and leaky gut syndrome. Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder also referred to as chronic thyroiditis, might be affected by issues in the gut, and leaky gut syndrome in particular. Low thyroid function often results in chronic fatigue, lower metabolism, weight gain, and depression.
8. Difficulty losing weight
A leaky gut can make it hard to lose weight. A study from Brazil found that intestinal permeability is linked to gut dysbiosis, an unhealthy diet, and nutritional deficiencies — all factors that can impair the metabolism and make weight loss difficult.
If you think leaky gut may be contributing to your health issues, we can help. Our customized SmartFit weight-loss plans are designed to address the underlying health issues that can make weight loss difficult — including chronic inflammation, hormonal imbalances, and leaky gut syndrome. Contact us today for a no-cost consultation to learn more!