What is Leaky Gut?
If you’re wondering “what is leaky gut”, you’re not alone. It’s gaining a lot of attention in the media as a growing body of research links the gut to a number of seemingly unrelated health concerns and chronic diseases from allergies, to depression, anxiety and joint pain.
Leaky gut can be tough for medical doctors to diagnose for a number of understandable reasons: It’s associated with multiple body systems that until now were thought to function independently. Also, it has multiple causes and risk factors AND there’s no specific test to confirm it 100%. Plus, evidence tying it to other conditions can be cloudy at first glance. As a result, there’s a fair amount of skepticism in the mainstream medical community about the legitimacy of leaky gut as a diagnosis. And it’s new (entered the medical literature in the late 1990’s) so your medical doctor may not know much about it yet.
But as the evidence of this recognizable condition grows, opinions are slowly changing. And that’s a good thing, because leaky gut is likely to emerge as one of the most significant medical concepts of our time. See Dr. Oz interview on Leaky Gut Syndrome
Rise of the Microbiome
Over the past few decades, medical researchers have begun exploring an uncharted world of immense complexity and importance residing in a place few of us suspected: the human gut. Although the central role of our gastrointestinal (GI) tracts to our immune systems has been long established, its myriad functions on a microbial level remained a mystery.
When revolutionary genomic testing arrived to identify the microbial communities and their genes (the “microbiome”) that populate all the permeable membranes of the body (including the gut), it led to a dizzying number of studies indicating its prominent role in our overall health and susceptability to various diseases. The gut microbiome has now been linked to an ever-increasing number of clinical fields beyond gastroenterology, including immunology, rheumatology, diabetes, and neurology. (2)
When the microbiome is in a state of imbalance, increased permeability in the surrounding membranes is often also present. This state of “hyperpermeability” then allows partially digested food particles and other environmental agents to slip through into the bloodstream where they don’t belong. Once inside the bloodstream, these food particles, (or pollens or dander) trigger a series of inflammatory responses from the immune system that can affect any of the body’s systems including the brain.
When chains of partially digested food enter the bloodstream the immune system triggers an alarm that floods the site of the breech with histamines and inflamatory proteins to swell the openings shut and prevent any further leakage.
This may be the gut wrench you feel after eating really cheesy pizza, or after indulging in high carb foods, or eating only wheat products day after day. In addition, as the immune system begins creating a blacklist of offending allergens, the offending molecules in some of these proteins have a similar molecular structure to the proteins that form our own tissues and organs. In a dangerous case of mistaken identity, the immune system then begins attacking its own body tissues in self defense, creating a state of “auto-immunity”.
What’s most exciting about these new findings is that a number of incurable medical conditions can now be addressed and ameliorated by focusing on the billions of creatures living within us…and their impact on the permeable membranes they inhabit.
Prevalence of Leaky Gut in Autoimmune Disease
What has some medical circles spinning is the apparent connection between leaky gut and the multitude of auto-immune diseases that until now have had no cure but to treat symptoms individually with medications.
A recent review by Autoimmunity Research Foundation, says autoimmune disease results from a common underlying ‘pathogenesis’ and the successive accumulation of pathogens not only interferes with function of surrounding tissue but dysregulates gene transcription (that can’t be good), gene translation, and human metabolic processes.(3)
Among these autoimmune diseases and inflammatory states are:
- Arthritis (inflamed joints)
- ADD/autism (inflamed nervous system)
- Asthma (inflamed bronchials)
- Cancer (yeast fermentation replaces cell respiration)
- Chronic fatigue (inflamed bowel)
- Crohn’s disease (inflamed bowel)
- Diabetes (inflamed pancreas)
- Epilepsy (inflamed central nervous system)
- Eczema (inflamed skin)
- Fibromyalgia (polysystemic inflammation)
- Heart Disease (inflamed heart and lining of blood vessels)
- Hashimotos /Graves Disease
- Kidney stones (elevated acid levels – oxylates)
- Multiple Sclerosis (polysystemic inflammation)
- Osteoporosis (calcium leached from bones to buffer candida acid)
- Parkinson’s disease (dopamine destruction, brain cells suffocate)
- Schleroderma (inflamed joints, neuropathy, glycation of skin and organs)
As the model goes, by healing the cause of the leaky gut and healing the gut itself, the same trigger foods in their whole and natural state can be tolerated once again and a life free from inflammation, discomfort and “dis-ease” regained.
Leaky Gut Syndrome Symptoms
Because our billions of microscopic hitchhikers inhabit the membranes integral to nearly every body system, the symptoms of imbalance range from gut discomfort (gas, bloating, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea), skin rashes (eczema, itchy skin, hives), joint pain in any moveable joint, brainfog (also depression, anxiety, memory loss), respiratory (asthma, allergies) and cardiovascular (irregular or elevated heartrate). Leaky Gut Syndrome Symptom List
What causes Leaky Gut?
The primary cause of a leaky gut is the overgrowth of various microorganisms within, primarily Candida yeast and molds that thrive on simple sugars and normally live in limited numbers in all the mucous membranes of the body.
EVERYONE has Candida yeast. But problems arise when it overgrows. To understand why the symptom list for Leaky Gut can be so vast, consider the following:
90% of your body is composed of epithelial and Connective tissue membranes. Of these, another 80% are semipermeable, designed to keep the outside world out of you, and to keep essential parts of you “in.”
- They cover surfaces (like your skin)
- Line body cavities and
- Form protective (and sometimes lubricating) sheets around organs.
- They line the gastrointestinal tract and respiratory system including ears, nose and throat.
- They also line the skeletal structure, the muscles and skin of the body, allowing our parts to move comfortably around each other.
- Mucous membranes are also part of the reproductive and urinary systems
- And finally, they exist to protect the brain and spinal cord from toxins circulating throughout the rest of your bloodstream. They’re everywhere!
Just think of all the uncomfortable symptoms you could create by increasing the permeability of and inflamation in one or more of these soft linings inside of you.
Ask any medical professional (doctor or nurse) and they will tell you that 80% of your bodies defense against disease occurs in the gut. Of course how we treat it, and feed it will influence how we feel.
So, be good to your mucous membranes. And thank them for doing what they do every day to keep you well. And tell all your friends, “Hey, your mucous membranes are SO important!” Just how important, science is only beginning to deeply understand.