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What is Leaky Gut?

Posted By: Leena Mahtani

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You may have heard the term “leaky gut” and not been sure what it means. You aren’t alone. The application of the term does mean that something is wrong even if that something is still somewhat of a mystery. In these cases, the word “leaky” is equated with permeability and it means that the linings of the intestines are allowing bacteria and toxins to pass through them and out into the bloodstream. When this bacterium makes its way through the body, it can trigger troublesome reactions from the immune system including inflammation.

What exactly causes “leaky gut” is still a bit of a mystery. Doctors and alternative health practitioners alike are working to understand the causes and the ramifications, but here are some of the things that are known about “leaky gut.”

Symptoms

Your gut health may be compromised if you are experiencing any of these indicators including:

  • Sensitivities to certain foods,
  • Bloating caused by excess intestinal gas,
  • Fatigue caused by increased inflammation,
  • Digestive issues including Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), or constipation, and
  • Skin problems like acne breakouts and rashes that can be caused by immune system responses.

Causes

Although more research needs to be done, there are some agreed upon risk factors. These are things that work to weaken intestinal linings and include:

  • Insufficient nutrients – specifically the lack of vitamins A and D and zinc,
  • Excessive yeast – yeast is present in intestines but too much causes problems,
  • Too much sugar intake – fructose in particular weakens intestinal barriers,
  • Inflammation – chronic inflammation contributes to digestive issues,
  • Use of NSAID medications like ibuprofen, and
  • Uncontrolled consumption of alcohol.

Getting Help

According to medical professionals, “leaky gut” isn’t an actual diagnosis so there are no current prescribed treatments, but if you are concerned about your gut health, there are several things you can do to feel better.

  1. Limit your intake of refined sugars and fructose.
  2. Don’t overuse NSAID medications or ibuprofen.
  3. Get more fiber into your diet.
  4. Add probiotics to your diet. Microbiome health prebiotics work to restore the healthy bacteria to your digestive system which takes some pressure off of your immune system and improves your overall health.
  5. Work toward a healthy lifestyle – eating the right foods and exercising can go a long way toward reducing bloating and constipation.

Even though your symptoms might not be referred to as “leaky gut” issues, doctors do recognize that any of these clues point to a bigger problem. If you aren’t feeling any better after taking measures like exercising and incorporating probiotics and healthy foods into your diet, go ahead and see a doctor. If he or she can’t identify the overall cause, at least there are ways to treat the individual sources of discomfort.

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