Could you have a leaky gut?

Tired? Bloated? Down? Your gut might literally be leaking.

leaky gut, stomach, abdominal pain, intestine, digestive issues

Have you heard of ‘leaky gut’ syndrome? Could you have it? Squirm-worthy name aside, the condition – which has been ignored by conventional medicine for quite some time – is finally being recognised, and for good reason.

With increasing research, leaky gut is being linked to a host of chronic health issues, from digestive problems and acne, to autoimmune diseases, thyroid concerns and depression.

So if you’re feeling tired, bloated, have skin concerns, or suffer from a chronic health problem, read on to find out if your gut might literally be leaking.

What is leaky gut?

Leaky gut refers to a condition where the intestinal lining becomes increasingly permeable, allowing unwanted substances to enter the bloodstream. In the conventional medical world it may be referred to as, ‘intestinal hyper-permeability’, ‘compromised intestinal integrity’, or ‘LPS passage’ (LPS refers to endotoxins which can enter the body as a result of leaky gut).

“The lining of our intestines is made up of a single layer of cells that are tightly packed together – with ‘tight junctions’ between them. This lining is essential as it protects the internal environment of our body from many undesirable products that may be consumed within our food,” says Bioceuticals Dietitian and Education Manager, Belinda Reynolds.

The issue arises when the gut lining becomes damaged and these junctions are loosened. “Once ‘leaky,’ the lining begins to be less selective in regards to what it grants entry into the body,” says Reynolds. Substances that should remain in the gut – like toxins, microbes and undigested food particles – begin to pass through into the bloodstream, triggering an immune response.

“The immune reaction is often only quite mild, however if the gut leakiness persists, so too does the immune reaction. The result is chronic inflammation, which can manifest in many different ways depending upon your genetic predisposition and other imbalances/depletions that may be present in your body.”

To find out more about chronic inflammation, including its cause, effects and treatment, read here. 

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via iStock

What can cause leaky gut?

A number of factors can contribute to a damaged intestinal lining. Those most frequently sited include excessive stress, poor diet, deficiency of certain nutrients and bacteria imbalance in the gut.

A diet high in inflammatory food is believed to be a culprit, and gluten certainly gets the pointed finger. Research conducted by the Mucosal Biology Research Centre found that humans are unable to digest gliadin (the protein found in gluten), which can cause intestinal permeability whether you’re coeliac or not. Studies also suggest that inflammatory compounds formed through cooking or processing foods at high temperatures, called AGEs (advanced glycation end products), may play a role.

“Having the balance in your gut bacteria out of kilter can be a big contributor to leaky gut. With the excessive use of antibiotics, the over-sanitisation of our environment, the lack of fibre in many diets, the high use of the pill, and the chronic stress everyone seems to experience, it’s no wonder that many end up with compromised gut integrity (as all of these things impact bacteria balance, thus contributing to a leaky gut),” says Reynolds.

Over-exposure to toxins is also believed to be a trigger, including the overuse of NSAIDs, a class of drugs including ibuprofen and aspirin.

For now there seems to be no consensus on a singular cause for increasing intestinal permeability. Instead, it may prove to be a culmination of factors as many go hand in hand and are linked to overall poor lifestyle choices.

pea soup, soups, green soup,
via pinterest

How do you heal leaky gut?

According to Lee Holmes, author of Heal Your Gut, “the way to heal the gut involves a dual focus: improving the balance of good bacteria in the gut, and healing the intestinal walls to decrease intestinal permeability.”

This can largely be done through diet and lifestyle choices. Leaky gut treatment plans often recommend avoiding inflammatory foods including gluten and alcohol, decreasing stress, and limiting external toxins and antibiotics. Along with this, one needs to repopulate and rebalance their gut bacteria. To do so, one should eat probiotic-rich foods, follow an anti-inflammatory diet and consume only unprocessed, whole foods.

 

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Growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney with a love of the outdoors, Georgia has always led an active lifestyle. She has a passion for health, fitness and fashion, and loves to travel and try new things. Along with her position at Sporteluxe, Georgia works as a fit model for global fashion brands including Bassike and Christopher Esber, combining her interest in fashion with her dedication to healthy living. She graduated from the University of NSW with a Bachelor of Media (PR and Advertising) and initially pursued the public relations field but was always drawn to journalism due to her love of reading and writing. For Georgia, life is about balance. She leads an active and fulfilled lifestyle and nourishes her mind and body but won't shy away from a burger and wine!