What Is A Leaky Gut? How To Know If You Have It, And What To Do About It

April 11, 2018

"Leaky gut syndrome" has become a buzzword these days. It's widely used by people who practice alternative medicine. Naturopathic practitioners offer various natural remedies and supplements to treat a leaky gut, which supposedly causes a wide variety of health issues that extend beyond the GI tract. But is leaky gut syndrome even real? And can it be classified as a separate condition? The answer is not as clear as it may seem.

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What is a leaky gut?

The term "leaky gut" describes increased intestinal permeability. Healthy intestines with normal permeability allow nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream, but keep bacteria and harmful substances at bay. If the intestinal permeability is increased, harmful agents can get into the bloodstream and surrounding tissue from the gut. According to some alternative medicine practitioners, a leaky gut is the root of all evil in the human body (that includes autism, various skin conditions, thyroid disorders, and depression).

A leaky gut is claimed to cause symptoms that include bloating, gas, indigestion, cramps, persistent tiredness, mood swings, and skin problems such as acne.

Medical conditions and a leaky gut

A leaky gut may not cause as much harm throughout the body as some alternative medicine practitioners suggest. But increased gut permeability has been linked to a variety of health conditions recognized by the medical community. They include the following:

  • celiac disease;
  • Crohn's disease;
  • irritable bowel syndrome;
  • type 1 diabetes;
  • food allergies;
  • cystic fibrosis.

It's much more likely that a leaky gut is a symptom, not a cause of these conditions.

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Factors that may make you more likely to develop a leaky gut

There are several factors that are believed to cause the gut to become leaky, and not all of them are linked to health conditions mentioned above. These factors include the following:

  • eating foods you're sensitive to;
  • drinking too much alcohol;
  • eating too much sugar;
  • overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs;
  • lack of certain vitamins and minerals in your diet;
  • chronic stress;
  • overgrowth of yeasts in the gut;
  • imbalances in the intestinal microflora.

What to do if you think you have a leaky gut

Leaky gut syndrome is not recognized as a separate medical condition. If you think you have a health issue that may be causing your gut to leak, it's best to consult a gastroenterologist who can also tell you whether any supplements and herbal remedies you want to try are safe.

Here are a few steps you can take to improve your gut health, whether you have a leaky gut or not:

  • eat foods such as yogurt that contain live bacteria to improve your intestinal microflora;
  • limit your sugar intake;
  • limit processed foods, such as processed meats and refined grains;
  • eat more foods rich in fiber, such as crunchy vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains.

Source: HealthLine, Harvard Health, WebMD, NHS UK

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This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.