Leaky gut is a condition that has recently caught the attention of the medical and wellness community. Leaky gut is a layman’s term of describing intestinal permeability, as we have mentioned previously. In a healthy digestive tract, the walls of the small intestine create a barrier to keep the food we eat away from the rest of our body. This gatekeeper role is extremely important to our health. In fact the entire gastrointestinal tract is one long, continuous tube from mouth to anus for the important function of not giving toxins access to the rest of our bodily system.
The small intestine is like a bouncer who decides what can pass through to the blood and to our organs. Our digestive tract breaks down food and picks out the nutrients we need and sends it into our bloodstream. When the walls of our small intestine weakens or becomes damaged, it’s goalkeeper function declines and some foreign substances pass through the walls. This causes systemic inflammation and can trigger flare ups in other autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, Crohn’s and inflammatory skin disorders. (“Does Gluten Cause Leaky Gut Syndrome?,” n.d.)
Some other common symptoms of leaky gut include:
- Chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas or bloating
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Poor immune system
- Headaches, brain fog, memory loss
- Excessive fatigue (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)
- Skin rashes and problems such as acne, eczema or rosacea
- Cravings for sugar or carbs
- Arthritis or joint pain
- Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease or Crohn’s (“10 Signs You Have a Leaky Gut—and How to Heal It | HealthyWomen,” n.d.)
The causes of leaky gut is still being researched but most scientists can agree that some people have a genetic predisposition to have greater permeability. The modern diet that is low in fiber, high in sugar and processed fats; heavy alcohol consumption and stress are all believed to be contributors to a leaky gut. (Campos, 2017)
Another major culprit is gluten. Many recent studies have shown that gluten can increase intestinal permeability and cause an immune response in the body by triggering persistent inflammation. These studies show that gluten activates a protein called zonulin that causes the walls of the small intestine to open slightly which results in higher permeability. (Fasano, 2012)
People with celiac’s disease have more of this protein in their gut than people without the allergy. However, even people with gluten sensitivity should be careful consuming gluten especially if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome as well. Zonulin affects each person differently. Even in non-celiac patients, gluten can activate zonulin and create intestinal permeability. (Drago S, n.d.)
So if you have celiac’s, crohn’s, gluten sensitivity or even stress induced IBS, it is best to limit your consumption of gluten to promote better overall health.
Read further some of our previous advice on how to balance your gut.
10 Signs You Have a Leaky Gut—and How to Heal It | HealthyWomen. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2019, from HealthyWomen website: https://www.healthywomen.org/content/blog-entry/10-signs-you-have-leaky-gut%E2%80%94and-how-heal-it
Campos, M. (2017, September 22). Leaky gut: What is it, and what does it mean for you? – Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved June 21, 2019, from Harvard Health Blog website: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/leaky-gut-what-is-it-and-what-does-it-mean-for-you-2017092212451
Drago S, E. al. (n.d.). Gliadin, zonulin and gut permeability: Effects on celiac and non-celiac intestinal mucosa and intestinal cell lines. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved June 21, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16635908