Leaky Gut Syndrome
When someone has increased intestinal permeability or “leaky gut syndrome,” gaps in the lining of the intestines allow bacteria, toxins, and undigested food to enter the bloodstream. This can trigger inflammation, bloating, gastrointestinal and digestive system problems, skin conditions, and fatigue. Leaky gut can impact the functioning of the immune system and has been linked to autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and other chronic conditions, including depression. Gut bacteria imbalances, hidden parasitic infections, stress, alcohol, long-term antibiotic use, a diet high in fat and sugar, and genetics can also play a part—as can food allergies, though they may be a consequence of leaky gut, too.
The best starting place for treating leaky gut and increasing gut health may be through the stomach—specifically, through dietary actions such as watching what people eat and drink. People with leaky gut may deal with sensitivities like food allergies and celiac disease. Cutting out alcohol and sugar and eliminating foods that people may be sensitive to, such as gluten, dairy, or coffee, can be helpful. Although there have been limited studies on the health benefits of fermented foods, which are rich in probiotics (think kefir or kimchi), they’re believed to boost good bacteria in the gut. From there it is vital that people with leaky gut get evaluated and treated for the underlying cause, whether it is bacterial, viral, toxin, stress, or other. Sticking to a regular exercise routine also can strengthen the gut; even taking a 15- to 20-minute walk after a meal can help. Leaky gut is a somewhat new term and isn’t recognized by everyone yet, but there are lots of functional medical practitioners out there who can help.
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- Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. The role of gastrointestinal permeability in food allergy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29803708
- Front. Immunol. Leaky gut as a danger signal for autoimmune diseases. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00598/full
- Curr Opin Biotechnol. Health benefits of fermented foods: microbiota and beyond. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27998788
- Gastroenterology. A high-fat diet is associated with endotoxemia that originates from the gut. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22326433
- Alcohol. Alcohol, intestinal bacterial growth, intestinal permeability to endotoxin, and medical consequences: summary of a symposium. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18504085