Ugh, leaky gut — doesn’t that sound lovely? Although this condition sounds gross, there are greater concerns, including its connection to chronic disease. Due to chronic stress levels, toxic overload, poor diet and overall bacterial imbalance, leaky gut is sweeping the nation.
This is alarming, given that intestinal permeability has been mentioned in medical literature for the past century. Researchers may understand the ins and outs of your gut, but do you?
If you are experiencing some or all of these signs, it’s critical that you review the current state of your health and make some key lifestyle changes.
Signs that you have a leaky gut and what to do about it
Leaky gut syndrome is just as it sounds. It’s an abnormal increase in the permeability of your small intestine. Once this lining is damaged, compounds escape into your bloodstream, making your immune system hypersensitive and leading to autoimmune reactions. If you do have leaky gut syndrome, here’s how you’ll know.
1. Chronic fatigue
Don’t worry, if you’re tired all the time, it may not necessarily be leaky gut syndrome. On the other hand, if you’re always tired, there is a reason and you should dig a little deeper to find out why. When you experience increased inflammation, compounds known as cytokines increase, which is directly linked to fatigue.
More specifically, for those who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, you need to address your gut health based on a recent study published in Microbiome. For the first time, researchers have now identified biological markers of this condition in the gut bacteria, as well as inflammatory agents in the blood.
Researchers concluded that the gut bacterial microbiome in chronic fatigue syndrome patients is abnormal. They also discovered that bacteria in the blood triggers an immune response and specific markers of inflammation are likely due to a leaky gut.
2. Increased food allergies
Unfortunately, food allergies and leaky gut syndrome seem to create a vicious cycle, as one affects the other. As undigested food particles pass through the intestine, these allergies get worse, then these allergic reactions increase permeability even further. Meaning, this syndrome can actually make you allergic to foods that you would normally digest.
3. Joint pain
If you suffer from joint pain, you know that it can disrupt daily functioning. Do you suffer from aching knees? Perhaps a sore back? Well, believe it or not, this could be linked to your gut. Researchers have found that there’s a clear link between your gut and inflammation throughout the body, leading to conditions such as arthritis.
As the production of antibodies increase, your body may experience a cross-reaction, resulting in autoimmunity. Meaning, if you suffer from increased inflammation due to leaky gut syndrome and have a predisposition within your joints, higher levels of inflammation will likely result in pain.
4. Skin rashes and increased acne
You can often tell a lot about your overall health based on your skin. As you would expect, as inflammation increases internally, you begin to show symptoms externally. It’s believed that gut inflammation can actually impair the protective function and integrity of the epidermal barrier.
As fewer antimicrobial peptides are produced in the skin, the severity of inflammation and the possibility of infection increases. This connection has also been seen within studies that have focused on probiotics and skin health. As you introduce these “healthy” bacteria, you promote optimal balance.
Within one Korean study, acne patients drank a Lactobacillus-fermented dairy beverage to examine the effects on skin health. After just 12 weeks, it was found that these individuals reduced their total acne lesion count and decreased overall oil production. This just goes to show that the gut-brain-skin axis is significant.
5. Weakened immune system
Do you get sick often? When you do catch a common cold or flu, does it take you a long time to recover? When it all boils down, if you don’t have your health, you have nothing. If you begin to notice that you’re often sick or are not healing as rapidly as you once did, your immune system is more than likely weak.
If you are suffering from a leaky gut, toxins are being spilled into your body each and every day, overwhelming your liver. As toxins leach into your blood, this places immense strain on your immune system, as it is hyper-stimulated. This is what often leads to autoimmune disease and allergies.
6. Poor mood
Our gut and brain are directly linked, as one influences the other. In fact, our gut is often referred to as our second brain, influencing hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate emotional stability. Amazingly, your gut is currently lined with an extensive network of neurons.
Within one study, it was found that approximately 35 percent of depressed patients showcased signs associated with a leaky gut, based on blood tests. Once again, researchers believe that increased inflammation and autoimmune responses result in the onset of depression.
We’re seeing a pattern here, aren’t we? It’s clear that everything is interconnected. When inflammation increases throughout the body, all systems and functions are at risk. For those who are already depressed, a leaky gut can exacerbate symptoms if left untreated.
7. Brain fog
It’s not just your mood that you need to be concerned about either — your level of cognitive functioning will also be significantly affected. When you suffer from brain fog or mental confusion, this is generally a sign of inflammation in the body. And in this case, it may be your gut.
More specifically, it’s been found that a certain harmful bacteria, which is actually the main cause of stomach ulcers, may escape the gut and lead to cognitive impairment. This bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori may sneak into the brain, potentially increasing one’s risk of Alzheimer’s.
On a day-to-day basis, if increased inflammation is occurring in the brain, your neurons will not fire as effectively or rapidly, resulting in symptoms of brain fog. Some of the most common signs will include increased confusion, an inability to focus, poor memory and a reduction in processing time.
Although there are many possible factors, it’s believed that migraines often occur due to issues within the digestive system. If you often react to foods you eat and also get frequent migraines, you’re more than likely suffering from leaky gut syndrome. In fact, this has been reported among patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Within one study, it was found that more than half of migraine patients suffered from IBS, where another study found that IBS patients are 2.7 times more likely to suffer from migraines. Once again, this makes sense — as inflammation increases, other symptoms begin to surface.
I may have leaky gut syndrome, what now?
If it’s determined that you do have leaky gut syndrome, then there are a few ways to approach treatment. You’ll need to focus on healing your gut and in turn, you’ll improve your health. Here are a few simple steps in order to successfully heal when suffering from leaky gut.
Eliminate problematic foods
It’s recommended that while you heal, you stay away from grains, as well as conventional cow’s milk. Not only does the protein A1 casein harm your gut, but since milk is pasteurized, it destroys vital enzymes, making sugars like lactose hard to digest. Some healing foods include fermented vegetables, coconut products, sprouted seeds and bone broth.
To encourage a healthier digestive system, take beneficial supplements, such as glutamine, digestive enzymes, probiotics, and licorice root.
Begin to practice meditation, take a walk in nature or get into the habit of drinking calming herbal teas. Most importantly, eliminate key stressors in your life.
Depending on the severity of your leaky gut, the healing process could take days, weeks or years. In order to ensure long-term health, you need to create balance in your life. Just remember, health is wealth. Unless you work with your gut, unfortunately, it will continue to work against you.
— Krista Hillis