A few years ago, if you told someone you thought you were suffering from leaky gut syndrome, you would have been laughed out the door. Now, though, more research is surfacing than ever before, and it’s indicating that this condition is a serious problem.
Leaky gut syndrome—more formally known as intestinal hyperpermeability—affects much of the population to some degree and has been linked to a number of chronic diseases, especially autoimmune diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease.
Are you suffering from leaky gut syndrome? If you’re experiencing any of the common symptoms listed below, there’s a chance you could be. Read on to learn what signs to look for along with some practical tips on ways you can start healing your gut today.
What is Leaky Gut?
First, let’s clarify what leaky gut syndrome actually is.
The intestinal tract is protected by a layer of epithelial cells. These cells are linked together by special proteins known as tight junction proteins. In people with leaky gut syndrome, the tight junctions become compromised and start to allow a variety of toxins, bacteria, and antigens to enter the bloodstream.
When this happens, it can set off an inflammatory response in the body. This, in turn, can trigger a variety of symptoms.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
There are a number of issues that can contribute to tight junction malfunction in the intestinal tract. Some of the most common causes include:
- Poor diet (especially one rich in foods like unsprouted grains, sugar, GMO foods, refined oils, food additives, and conventional dairy)
- Chronically elevated stress levels
- Toxicity caused by extreme alcohol or drug consumption—or consumption of products like antibiotics, NSAIDs, pesticides from non-organic foods, or unfiltered tap water
- Bacterial imbalances
Signs of Leaky Gut Syndrome
Some of the most common symptoms that people experience when they’re dealing with leaky gut syndrome include:
If you have a bad reaction to certain foods (stomachaches, skin problems, etc.), leaky gut syndrome may be the culprit.
This is due to the fact that when foreign invaders make their way into your bloodstream, your immune system as a whole has to produce more antibodies to try and keep you healthy. This can make you more susceptible to the antigens in certain foods, especially inflammatory ones like dairy and gluten.
2. Digestive Issues
Common digestive issues that show up when people are dealing with leaky gut syndrome include:
- Abdominal pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Sometimes these symptoms are brought on or made worse by certain foods, but they can also be present without an apparent cause.
3. Nutrient Malabsorption
If your gut lining has been compromised, you’re going to have a hard time getting sufficient amounts of nutrients from the food you eat.
Nutrient deficiencies caused by poor digestion are extremely common in people with leaky gut syndrome since they have a hard time breaking down and absorbing food properly.
Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies that people experience include:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
4. Mood Issues
Many people also experience mood imbalances and mental health issues when their gut health is compromised.
This is partly because the majority of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut. Although gut-derived serotonin does not pass through the blood-brain barrier, it is still important because it modulates inflammation throughout the body.
Increased levels of inflammation have been linked to issues like depression and anxiety. If you’re struggling with these issues, it’s important to take a look at your gut health (in conjunction with other doctor-recommended interventions) to get to the root of the issue.
How to Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome
If you think you are suffering from leaky gut syndrome, start a dialogue with your doctor about healing your gut and preventing further damage. There are some steps you can take today, however, to start moving the process along:
- Remove potentially damaging foods like dairy and gluten for 3–4 weeks
- Reintroduce them one at a time to identify which foods trigger symptoms
- Restore beneficial bacteria (probiotics) to rebalance and nourish the gut
- Introduce supplements like L-glutamine and collagen peptides to start repairing the damaged gut lining
Remember to be patient during this process—it can take a while to identify what’s causing your symptoms and heal the damage to your gut lining. But if you’re diligent and work together with a professional, you’ll be on your way to feeling better than before.