The medical world is still playing catch-up when it comes to intestinal permeability – more commonly known as leaky gut syndrome. It may sound like something you’d call on a plumber to fix! Then again ‘friendly’ bacteria didn’t sound very medical either when it first arrived on the health scene, but look at it now. Recognised by most as an essential part of your healthy gut population.
Speakers at January’s “Heal your Gut Summit” discussed leaky gut at length, explaining that people experiencing allergies, especially multiple sensitivites, or eczema, asthma, or psoriasis, unresolvable digestive problems, or suffering an IBD or an auto immune condition, should consider leaky gut as being part of the root cause of their symptoms.
Please note that I write this row of ‘or’ intentionally since you may only have one, or a couple, of the above-mentioned symptoms/conditions. You don’t need the lot to have intestinal permeability. And it’s not something to be scared of – just aware of, so that you can start an action plan either on your own or with the support of a therapist.
A healthy gastro-intestinal tract is like a tightly woven mesh of tissue, working as a barrier and keeping undigested food particules, or bacteria, from entering into your bloodstream.
When you experience chronic inflammation in the gut, brought on by a bacterial imbalance (not enough of the above-mentioned ‘friendlies’ or a hidden infection a.o.) or a poor diet, or toxic overload (environmental toxins a.o.), or chronic stress, this mesh loosens. The junctures in the gut wall let undigested food and harmful substances ‘leak’ into the bloodstream, causing an immune reaction.
This, in turn, leads to inflammation throughout your system, and can lead to symptoms such as bloating, food sensitivities or fatigue or joint pain, headaches or skin problems and more.
And It also means you won’t be absorbing all the important minerals and vitamins from your food – or from the supplements you’re buying.
The interesting point to keep in mind is that leaky gut does not necessarily mean you will have obvious digestive or gut problems (and I speak from my own experience here).
Your leaky gut may be linked to your skin or bronchial reactions to something like dustmite or pollens. Or it may be linked to joint pain or brain fog or to low immune health (because you’re not absorbing enough nutrients from your food, due to leaky gut). Also, you may have no digestive symptoms because you intuitively – or through long-forgotten experiences – avoid foods which ‘don’t agree with you’, thus escaping any regular digestive challenge, and keeping your gut in a fairly stable state. And if you do have an occasional glitsch, you might be putting it down to eating too much, or a very ‘heavy’ protein meal or a stressful day – all of which would certainly be implicated. The presence of multiple sensitivities is a good benchmark for leaky gut – and of course any of the above-mentioned symptoms, or conditions.
There are numerous studies which have been done on intestinal permeability, and many link it to the onset of all disease – which aligns with the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, who said, ‘All disease begins in the Gut’.
Considering that about 70% of your immune system is in your gut, it makes a lot of sense to begin your body’s overall healing process by starting with your digestion.
And the best place to start is by REMOVING foods which are irritating or damaging your gut. This is probably the hardest first step for anyone. Often they are the very foods to which you are addicted, or ones which form part of your daily routine. And routines are comforting. They often define who you are, hence changing them may feel very difficult, or make you feel out of your comfort zone or just ‘not you’.
“I know bread makes me bloated but..”, or, “I love cheese but it doesn’t agree with me”, are common statements I hear in clinic but there’s just so much abuse a digestive system can take. In the end, it’s little wonder you feel unwell, or get some inexplicable symptoms – joint aches and pains, headaches, rashes, chest congestion, repeated infectioins – after years, or decades, of eating that same ‘ole something which ‘doesn’t agree with you.’
If you keep in sight the reason you’re removing these foods - to feel better and happier if your symptoms are making you miserable. Or to stop current health ‘niggles’ from progressing to something more difficult to support, such as an auto immune condition, then the dietary changes will be easier to make.
And sometimes the removal of your culprit foods will be short-term (all depends on your health status. Your own individual symptoms). Over time, once gut health has improved, you may find you can eat small quantities with no adverse reactions at all. Or you may just decide you’re better off without these troubling foods.
Having family support is wonderful but not essential. In the end it’s your choice, your body and your health.
Alongside removing culprit foods, you should be REPLACING them with healthier options – supporting GI tract health with collagen and glutamine foods (think chicken soup or the currently trendy bone broth), fermented vegetables or coconut products such as coconut kefir or yoghurt (to replace dairy).
Then the focus is on REPAIRING and REINOCULATING your gut with specific supplements whilst REBALANCING with a few different probiotics. This is bascially the same 5R approach which I’ve talked about in an earlier post. A logical peeling back of the layers before repairing and replenishing. Lots of ‘Rs’!
If you think any of the above is singing out to you – but you want more specific, individual advice do contact me. And if you really want that written proof to help you make the necessary dietary changes, there are laboratory tests for intestinal permeability as well as tests to measure your nutrient levels Email or call me for details.