Leaky gut syndrome is one of the most talked about conditions of the past few years. Some celebrity doctors call the condition an unseen epidemic, and claim it causes everything from IBS to autism. Is leaky gut syndrome a health crisis we’ve been ignoring, or is it just the latest fad illness meant to sell supplements, advice, and advertising revenue?
What is leaky gut syndrome?
Here’s the basic theory behind the condition called “leaky gut syndrome”:
- A layer of cells lines the walls of your intestines. These cells act as a barrier to separate intestinal contents from the bloodstream while letting nutrients pass through as needed.
- Acting like intestinal gatekeepers, normally a tight junction between these cells keeps anything potentially harmful from slipping past.
- In leaky gut syndrome, things like diet, medications, and chronic stress are believed to increase the space between these cells. This allows particles other than nutrients to enter the bloodstream.
- Those foreign particles are then said to cause problems like digestive upset, autoimmune disorders and inflammatory responses.
- Frequently listed symptoms of leaky gut syndrome include diarrhea, constipation, bloating, food sensitivity, nutrient deficiencies, skin conditions, mood disorders, fatigue, headaches, brain fog, and arthritis/joint pain.
Most proponents of leaky gut syndrome identify it as a cause of illness rather than a symptom of conditions that may be affecting the gut. Recommendations vary, but common treatment plans to cure leaky gut syndrome involve:
· Eliminating gluten (some suggest all grains), dairy, sugar, GMOs, and alcohol from your diet.
· Drinking filtered instead of tap water.
· Eliminating NSAID and antibiotic usage.
· Taking probiotics, digestive enzymes and supplements like L-glutamine.
Does the medical establishment recognize leaky gut syndrome?
The term “leaky gut syndrome” isn’t used by most medical professionals. But they do agree that sometimes the tight junctions between cells are opened, leading to a compromised intestinal barrier.
· Increased intestinal permeability is a medically recognized condition involving the widening of tight junctions between cells, which can allow substances to pass into the bloodstream.
· Changes to intestinal permeability often appear in people with conditions like IBD, IBS, celiac disease, diabetes, and even MS.
What’s the difference between leaky gut and increased intestinal permeability?
There isn’t really a difference between the biological changes that are said to occur in both leaky gut syndrome and increased intestinal permeability.
But “leaky gut” has become a catch-all term that gets blamed for a wide array of medical issues, often without evidence. The list of symptoms associated with leaky gut syndrome includes such a wide range of concerns that most people with a medical complaint could diagnose themselves.
What if I think I have leaky gut/increased intestinal permeability?
· If you’re experiencing unusual symptoms like fatigue, chronic digestive issues, joint pain, or mood changes, it’s important to see your physician. Medical professionals can conduct examinations and diagnostic tests to investigate whether you have increased intestinal permeability.
· Making diet changes can potentially help symptoms, but most people don’t need to cut out entire food groups unless they’ve been found to have a sensitivity or allergy.
· Increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables and plant proteins, while reducing processed foods, added sugars, and red meat tend to have a positive impact on health whether or not you have a problem with intestinal permeability.
· Be wary of websites that claim to sell the specific products you need to diagnose or treat leaky gut syndrome without first speaking to a medical professional.
The gut represents a new frontier of medical innovation as microbiomes, the brain-gut connection, and intestinal permeability continue to be researched. It seems clear that what’s going on in our guts has a far-reaching impact on health, but it can be difficult to decipher exactly what those connections are.
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