The gut is an integral part of our immune system, but to many people, including in the medical community, it can be a mystery. You may have heard of a “leaky gut.” It’s a concept that some believe to potentially be a hard-to-diagnose autoimmune reaction that may lead to gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort, food sensitivities and more. While clinical research behind the topic is inconclusive, we found some interesting details that may make a difference to your health.
What is a Leaky Gut?
Although research is mixed regarding the idea of a leaky gut, it refers to the theory that if the mucosal lining of the small intestine becomes permeable, it may enable waste, undigested food molecules, yeast and toxins to leak into the bloodstream. The intestinal lining is the first defense of our immune system. When the small intestine is impaired, it may have difficulty filtering out pathogens and other foreign bodies, which could be dangerous to your health. (Source)
Andrew Weil, M.D., further summarizes the mystery behind a leaky gut. “Leaky gut syndrome is not generally recognized by conventional physicians, but evidence is accumulating that it is a real condition that affects the lining of the intestines. The theory is that leaky gut syndrome (also called increased intestinal permeability), is the result of damage to the intestinal lining, making it less able to protect the internal environment as well as to filter needed nutrients and other biological substances.”
If your immune system isn’t able to fight off the “bad stuff,” pathogens may transfer from the bloodstream and be absorbed into bodily tissues, which could trigger inflammation or infection. In response, your body tries to fight off the pathogens even harder. There is some evidence to suggest that a leaky gut may be connected to adverse autoimmune reactions, which are characterized by tissue damage and loss of function due to an immune response that is directed against specific organs. Read more about autoimmune reactions in our blog.
What Are Possible Symptoms?
Symptoms of an autoimmune reaction, which may be attributed to a leaky gut, can vary from person to person. However, the following adverse reactions may be a result of toxin buildup in the body and may be signs that you need to talk to your doctor.
- Multiple food allergies
- Skin rashes (psoriasis and eczema)
- Poor concentration
- Inflammation in the gut
- Excessive gas and bloating
- Yeast overgrowth (Candida)
To learn more, read our blog.
How Can I Support a Healthy Gut?
Even without a clear diagnosis behind a leaky gut, supporting the health of your GI tract, and thereby also the health of your immune system, is always important in maintaining optimal health.
When the immune system is compromised, your body tries to wage war on itself and ignores many of the viruses and bacteria it encounters on a daily basis, so you may be prone to getting sick often.
Common contributors include a poor diet, chronic stress, inflammation, reactions to medications or radiation therapy, yeast, and zinc deficiency, which may all lead to impaired intestinal barrier function. (Source)
Here are some basic ways you can promote a healthy immune response and support your gut health.
Diet: Eliminate sugars, starches, grains and junk food to starve out any yeast overgrowth. Dr. Weil recommends avoiding alcohol and NSAIDS. He also recommends eating plenty of fiber, taking a probiotic, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet, including essential fatty acids from fish oil.
Nutritional supplementation: Taking certain dietary supplements may help support tissue growth and durability of the mucosal lining in your small intestine, support gut health and promote the body’s detoxification processes. Consider a multivitamin like Permeability Complex by Pharmax, which includes zinc, to support a healthy immune response, or GI Sustain by Metagenics, which delivers amino acids, macronutrients and prebiotic fiber to nourish the good bacteria in the GI tract for digestive support.
Digestive enzymes: Digestive enzyme supplements such as Leaky Gut from Professional Botanicals or GlutenEase Extra Strength from Enzymedica may support your body’s ability to break down food particles, and remove toxins, bacteria and damaged cells of the mucosal lining.
Do you suffer from a leaky gut? What do you use for support? Share your story in the comments below!