Gut Health

6 Warning Signs of Leaky Gut & What to Do

Did you know that the digestive tract, or the gut, is semi-permeable? That means it’s supposed to only let very small select nutrients pass through into the bloodstream, while larger proteins, toxins, bacteria and food particles are stopped from leaving the gut.  The term leaky gut, or ‘intestinal permeability’ means the gut has become too permeable and is leaking and allowing larger particles to pass through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream.  Our immune system detects the presence of these invaders and attacks them, thus, creating an immune response. This response may lead to a number of symptoms in the body.

6 Warning Signs of Leaky Gut

Digestive complaints:Bloating
Gas, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, stomach pain after meals, and reflux can all be signs that there may be dysbiosis in your gut, or an imbalance in your microbiome (the bacteria in your digestive tract).

Brain fog & fatigue
Brain fog can hit soon after inflammatory meals or even hours to days later. You should be very suspicious of a leaky gut if brain fog or sluggishness is usually worse after eating.

Skin conditions
Leaky gut can contribute to common skin conditions, such as, acne, cystic acne, eczema, and rosacea.  If inflammation is showing up in the skin, you can be sure that there is inflammation already in the digestive tract.

Joint pain
Joint pain can be a sign that there is inflammation in the body.  Like the skin, pain in the joints is an alarm system that lets us know the digestive tract is likely already inflamed.

Seasonal allergies or asthma 
That slimy tissue that makes up the inside of our sinuses and mouth is the same delicate tissue that makes up the inside of our digestive tract.  If you have sensitivity to allergens, smells, chemicals, or have been diagnosed with asthma, you likely already have some level of leaky gut.  By healing that lining in your digestive tract, you will also be strengthening the inside of your sinuses, making you more resilient to allergens.

Autoimmune diseases, such as, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Lupus, psoriasis, Celiac disease, Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s, Ulcerative colitis) are all conditions where the body’s immune system has an inappropriate response that damages specific tissues in the body. When the immune system is activated it can get confused and also attack the body’s own tissues, a process called “molecular mimicry”, which may lead to autoimmunity.

What Causes Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut can be caused by anything that increases inflammation in the digestive tract. Some examples are: 

  • Food sensitivities
  • Dietary choices: 
    • High sugar diet, high fructose corn syrup
    • Processed foods, seed oils (high omega-6 oils), fried foods, etc.
    • Food additives, preservatives and dyes
  • Dysbiosis (imbalance of bacteria in gut):
    • Bacterial overgrowth in large or small intestine
    • Candida/yeast
    • Parasites or worms
    • Viral infections
  • Mold exposure
  • Antibiotic use
  • Long-term use of certain medications 
  • Heavy metals
  • Plastics (BPA)
  • Organophosphates: pesticides, herbicides (glyphosate)
  • Chronic stress

How Do I Know if I Have Leaky Gut?

If you suspect that you have Leaky Gut, you may considering integrative testing:

Comprehensive Stool Analysis
This test looks at levels of beneficial and harmful bacteria, yeast, parasites, worms, digestive enzymes, fat digestion, blood in stool, gut inflammation, immunity in the gut, and zonulin (if zonulin is high, you can be certain that you have leaky gut).

Food Sensitivity Testing
This test looks at 190 common foods to see if you have an IgG immune reaction to them; this is considered a “delayed allergy”, which is non-life threatening but may cause many common symptoms and contribute to inflammation and leaky gut.

Food Allergy Testing
Food allergies cause an IgE immune reaction.  Some allergies may be life threatening and require emergency care, causing face swelling, rashes or hives, and even throat closing.  It is important to avoid allergies while healing from a leaky gut.

Other environmental testings:
– Heavy metals testing
Glyphosate testing
Mycotoxin testing (toxic mold)

Can I Heal My Leaky Gut?

The short answer is, absolutely yes!

“Remove obstacles to health” is the first, and most important, step of the therapeutic order in Naturopathic Medicine.

Anyone can start the healing process by being more conscious of removing inflammatory triggers, such as, processed foods, high sugar foods, known or suspected food sensitivities (most common is gluten), heated plastic products, non-organic produce (pesticides, herbicides), and others discussed above.

Healing leaky gut may involve addressing the root cause(s). The digestive tract may need temporary support to aid in proper digestion.  The microbiome may need balancing by addressing specific findings in stool tests (yeast, excess or low bacteria, parasites, etc.).  The gut barriers may need help rebuilding using herbal or food based support.

It is recommended to work with a practitioner who will look at the bigger picture to assess if testing is recommended and what testing is best to start investigating your symptoms . Individualized support is recommended based on your unique symptoms, medical history, medications, test results, and lifestyle.  Certain conditions may require care from a specialist.  

This is not medical advice nor does it replace care from a medical practitioner.

Article written by: Fernanda (Fern) Moreno, ND, MPH

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