Leaky gut syndrome, also known as intestinal permeability, is a growing problem among many in the United States today. Leaky gut syndrome can be a difficult diagnosis to make, due to its range of unrelated symptoms. Nutritional deficiencies, weight loss, autoimmune conditions, sleep disorders, and even food sensitivities can be attributed to this mystifying condition. Unfortunately, there is still much to be learned about this disease process. With as elusive as solid information is on intestinal permeability, it could prove to be one of the more serious issues in medicine today.
How the Gut Works
To understand leaky gut syndrome, you must have a basic understanding of the way the human digestive tract works. The digestive lining works as a barrier to keep certain substances and particles out and other ones in. Leak gut syndrome happens when this lining has been damaged, leading to the intestinal lining not functioning as a correct barrier. Instead, it lets substances pass through it that should not be.
The Problem with Intestinal Permeability
Once this vital barrier has been compromised, it opens the door to many new problems and health issues. Substances such as toxic waste products, bacteria, viruses, and even undigested food particles can seep through the damaged intestinal lining and travel via the bloodstream to all parts of the body. This, in turn, causes the body’s immune system to react to the foreign substances being where they should not be. It is best to think of leaky gut as a process that can cause diseases and not a disease itself. Leaky guts are a portal of entry for toxins and foreign substances to enter the body and cause havoc in multiple ways.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome
Once the body is exposed to these leaked substances, the inflammation caused can produce a variety of symptoms, which can be different for each person. Common symptoms include:
• Abdominal cramping
• Food sensitivities
• Aching joints
• Chronic sinus infections
• Brain fog
Leaky Gut Syndrome, Food Sensitivities, and Other Symptoms
Many different food sensitivities are now being highly attributed to intestinal permeability. This is because food particles and proteins are exposing the body where it is not naturally supposed to be exposed. Food proteins where they do not belong in the body cause the body to present an allergic response. In addition to food sensitivities, leaky gut syndrome can also be related to several other conditions, such as, asthma, eczema, arthritis, psoriasis, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis.
What Causes Intestinal Permeability?
Much more research still needs done in this area. However, what we do know is that the following all can be factors in developing leaky guy syndrome:
• Diet, especially one high in refined sugars, which leads to yeast overgrowth. In addition, a diet that contains gluten, or one that is high in chemicals and preservatives. All of these diet factors can damage the intestinal lining causing it to be more permeable.
• Chronic stress, which can weaken the body’s immune and natural defense systems. This increases the risk of being infected with a virus or bacteria and exacerbates the symptoms of leaky gut.
• Medications, such as antibiotics, aspirin, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) have the potential to damage the lining of the gut.
Other Risk Factors include too much alcohol consumption, being infected with parasites, radiation and chemotherapy. All of these risk factors have the potential to make the lining of the intestines more permeable.
Diagnosing Leaky Gut Syndrome
With all of its various symptoms, this syndrome can be difficult to diagnose. There is no one specific test to rule out or rule in intestinal permeability. However, doctors can order lab testing to check the levels of mannitol and lactulose in the blood. For these tests, patients are given lactulose and mannitol as drinks. Then a 6-hour urine lab sample is taken. Mannitol is a smaller molecule and is generally used as a factor in nutrient absorption. Lactulose is a large molecule and should not pass easily through the intestine. If the levels come back low, malabsorption should be expected. If they return high, it is indicative of increased intestinal permeability. The ratio of mannitol to lactulose can also give clinicians a good indication as to what is going on with the patient.
There is no magic pill or cookie cutter treatment for patients suffering from leaky gut syndrome. There are, however, a few steps that patients can take to try to heal their guts and reduce flare-ups. These include:
• Diets without refined sugars, dairy, gluten, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol.
• Increased consumption of essential fatty acids, fiber, green leafy vegetables
• Probiotics in large doses
• Supplements of glutamine
Here is a good book on leaky gut syndrome.
It can take months or years to heal from intestinal permeability. Though with these changes, some patients will notice a difference within about 6 weeks.
Leaky gut can be a frustrating syndrome. Many patients explain that they feel like they were poisoned and that there is some connection to all of their unrelated symptoms. Seeking the care of a doctor and learning about natural and traditional remedies can put patients on the road to recovery.