Leaky gut syndrome is a medical condition that is still being defined by the medical community. Currently, the diagnosis is not taught in medical school, and there are questions as to whether the condition actually exists. Dr. Donald Kirby, from the Cleveland Clinic, believes that if you’re diagnosed with leaky gut syndrome, “you’ve got a diagnosis that needs to be made.” Most physicians agree with his assessment that leaky gut is a variety of symptoms, not necessarily a diagnosis.
What is Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut is described as increased intestinal permeability that causes molecules to leak from the stomach into the rest of the body. The digestive track lining may have large cracks or holes. With proper gut health, gut lining is non-porous and molecules stay within the digestive track, with no chance of passage into the bloodstream.
Leaky gut symptoms include bloating, gas, cramps, food sensitivities, aches and pains. Leaky gut symptoms are shared with numerous other digestive issues, which explains why the syndrome is still such a gray area.
How Leaky Gut Develops
Studies are still being conducted regarding leaky gut syndrome, but professionals in the field believe they have identified a few factors that may play a role in its development. Below are the top five contributing factors believed to aid in the development of leaky gut.
- Excessive sugar consumption. A diet high in sugar has been shown to harm the gut lining, contributing to the imbalance of gut bacteria and yeast.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Warning labels for NSAIDs indicate long-term use can cause stomach issues. Researchers believe they also increase intestinal permeability, possibly developing into leaky gut syndrome.
- Excessive alcohol intake. Consuming too much alcohol disrupts gut health and can also lead to intestinal cracks and permeability.
- Stress. Long-term stress has been shown for years to upset the entire digestive system, increasing the risk of leaky gut.
- Poor gut health. An imbalance in gut bacteria has detrimental effects on the digestive tract; hence the popularity of probiotics and prebiotics. A leaky gut diet may feature an abundance of fried foods and lack of nutrient diversity.
Connection to Autoimmune Diseases
Intestinal permeability is now shown to be a contributing factor in the development of autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. When the molecules and toxins from your digestive track leak into your bloodstream, your immune system responds by using inflammation to kill them. This is a natural process of a healthy immune system, but as more toxins are released into your body, inflammation levels rise. High levels of inflammation will then wear down the immune system, leading to autoimmune disorders.
It has been found that 80% of your immune system involves your digestive tract, demonstrating that gut health affects the entire body.
Leaky Gut Treatments
A change in lifestyle is currently the best recommendation for treating leaky gut syndrome.
Decreasing sugar and alcohol intake is important to begin gut healing. The use of NSAIDs should be weighed with your physician to ensure the benefits outweigh the risks. Stress also needs to be reduced, so your entire gut can remain healthy. Probiotics are a popular choice for balancing gut bacteria, which can also aid in healing gut lining.
These suggestions are important factors not only for leaky gut syndrome, but also overall health and wellness. If you have leaky gut symptoms, be sure to discuss them with your physician to find the root cause of your symptoms.
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