I’m sure most of us have heard the term “leaky gut” and have wondered exactly what it is.  The condition is actually more common than one would think.  It also can be difficult to diagnose because it’s associated with a wide range of seemingly unconnected symptoms. 

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky-gut syndrome occurs when the wall of the small intestine is damaged (leaks into the lining), thus affecting the immune system and contributing to a variety of diseases (it is estimated that over two thirds of all immune activity happens in the gut).  Once the integrity of your intestinal lining is compromised and toxic substances are “leaking out” into your bloodstream, your body experiences significant increases in inflammation.  Although it is not a disease itself, leaky-gut plays a part in other diseases.  The leaky gut syndrome is so substantial because it is almost always associated with autoimmune disease and its reversal depends on healing the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.  Autoimmune diseases that may be triggered by this condition include lupus, Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, etc.

What Causes Leaky Gut?

Some possible causes of leaky gut are chronic stress, a bacterial imbalance in the gut, eating a diet high in refined sugar, preservatives and chemicals in processed foods, food sensitivities/allergies, excessive aspirin or ibuprofen, certain antibiotics, excessive alcohol intake, a compromised immune system or a parasitic infection. There is also a growing body of scientific evidence showing that grains, as well as legumes, contain anti-nutrients and other problematic substances that may contribute to leaky gut.  Gliadin is the primary immunotoxic protein found in wheat gluten and is among the most damaging to your health.  Specifically, gliadin increases the production of a protein called, zonulin, which open up gaps in the normally tight junctures between our intestinal cells.

Steps to Take to Heal Gut Lining

There certainly are steps you can take to help reduce the inflammation and restore the integrity of your gut lining.  An anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates refined sugars, dairy, gluten, alcohol and artificial sweeteners can be very helpful.  Identifying reactive foods (food sensitivities) and avoiding them for a period of time will allow the gut lining to begin to heal on its own.  Taking optimal amounts of omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, consuming plenty of green leafy vegetables, high fiber and fermented foods can all help to promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut.