‘Leaky Gut’ is a term that is being thrown around a lot on social media, in natural health forums and on health and wellness product marketing, but what actually is leaky gut?
Leaky Gut is an intestinal issue that is at the root cause of so many health issues, from acne to autoimmune conditions. In fact, 90% of all autoimmune issues are associated with leaky gut.
Leaky gut is essentially when the intestinal wall lining gets damaged. Didn’t know your gut had a wall? Ok, let’s start from the top. The walls in the intestines are made up of single-layer cells called enterocytes. The gut is made up of three major parts that operate together: one, the enterocytes and tight junctions which are responsible for sealing the gut wall to avoid permeability. Two, the mucosal lining, which acts as a barrier to protect the intestinal cells and control the bad bacteria from spreading. Three, the good bacteria which is vital for digestion and prevents bacterial or yeast overgrowth or gut dysbiosis.
If one of these vital processes malfunctions, inflammation will occur. Over a long period of time this will become chronic, and uncomfortable symptoms will occur. Leaky gut is when the tight junctions of the intestinal wall weaken and, as a result, bacteria, toxins and undigested food particles can pass through. The body recognises these as foreign invaders, which sets off an immune response, and inflammation occurs as a by-product of this response.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut
-Unexplained Weight Gain
-Mental Health Issues
When you have increased intestinal permeability, undigested food particles can enter your bloodstream more easily and over it confuses your immune system. As a result, your immune system can trigger an inflammatory-based reaction to harmless foods, causing uncomfortable digestive symptoms, skin rashes, acne, bloating, headages and fatigue.
When the body is under stress it doesn’t produce enough stomach acid, which is vital for digestion. This means your body will find it more difficult to digest foods and and as a result, you will not absorb enough nutrients to fuel your body properly, which results in fatigue.
Additionally, 20-30% of your overall energy per day is used for digestion. When the digestive system is not functioning optimally, your body will have to use more energy to effectively digest your food, resulting in less energy for other tasks and feelings of tiredness.
On top of this, leaky gut is triggering your immune system every time you eat or drink, this is exhausting! Plus, when your immune system is held up attacking harmless foods and the toxins and bacteria that is passing through your permeable intestinal walls, it can’t be as well equipped to protect you from actual threats. Consequently, you will be more run down and prone to illness in general. Are you constantly fighting infections? If so, I couldn’t recommend enough looking into your gut health.
As this goes on, you are more and more likely to develop chronic inflammation, chronic fatigue, or even autoimmune issues.
Your skin reflects what is going on within. So, it makes sense that if you are experiencing chronic inflammation from a leaky gut, your skin is going to show signs of inflammation. This can manifest in acne, rosacea, psoriasis, itchy scalp, dermatitis, eczema and just general uneven skin tone.
In addition to reflecting inflammation, skin issues can be a direct result of candida and/or bacteria spilling into the blood stream and being pushed out through your skin. Your body needs to detoxify somehow, and your skin is your biggest detoxification organ!
Weight Gain & Cellulite
When unwelcome toxins find themselves in our bloodstream, our liver becomes overwhelmed and is unable to detoxify as quickly and effectively as it should. These toxins are then pulled into adipose tissue (fat cells), causing swelling. The result? Puffiness, bloating and cellulite.
A large amount of the weight gain experienced is actually water weight. Your body holds all the excess toxic water weight, which visually makes you look like you are holding more body fat than you actually are.
Migraines & Mental Health Issues
Our brain and gut are linked, often referred to as the ‘gut-brain-axis’, and this connection means that what affects one will affect the other. Therefore, if you have leaky gut, then this can quickly result in leaky brain which refers to a dysfunction of this integral barrier.
Inflammation is the common denominator in so many conditions: depression, anxiety, migraines, brain fog and even alzheimer’s, parkinson’s, autism, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and so many more.
Plus, if your digestive system is not functioning properly, there is going to be some level of hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalance. GABA and serotonin are manufactured in the gut and are essential for managing feelings of anxiety and depression. So, if your gut is malfunctioning, your moods will too!
Leaky gut can result in joint pain for lots of reasons. For example, poor gut health will impact your sleep quality, and if your sleep is negatively affected, then your pain threshold will be weakened. This results in more pain.
Additionally, many chronic and autoimmune issues have joint pain as a common symptom. Rheumatoid arthritis, for example, is absolutely connected to gut health, especially increased intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut).
Bloating, Gas & Constipation
Every time you put food into your body, it begins to ferment. If your digestive system is not functioning optimally, this food will ferment for a longer period of time, as it is taking longer to break down the food and pass it through the system.
This fermentation process then creates bacteria, which will show up as acid reflux, indigestion, gas, bloating loose stools and/or constipation.
What Causes Leaky Gut
Unfortunately, lots of things can cause leaky gut – some more avoidable than others – but it is usually a combination of lifestyle and nutritional factors.
Leaky gut can start at birth. If you were born by C-section, rather than natural birth, you weren’t exposed to a large number of good bacteria when passing the vaginal canal. This can cause gut dysbiosis or bacterial overgrowth early on, which will impact your digestive health, and can lead to leaky gut.
Antibiotics, processed food, birth control, tap water, painkillers, refined sugar, stress, yeast overgrowth poor sleep, lack of fibre, alcohol, environmental toxins and pre-existing gut dysbiosis can all result in leaky gut. Basically, anything that negatively impacts your gut health over an extended period puts you at risk of developing leaky gut. This is because the good bacteria protect the gut lining, when this is disrupted the gut lining is at risk of being weakened. Read more about what causes leaky gut here.
The Bottom Line
Ok, so leaky gut sounds like it causes havoc with your health, right? Correct. Leaky gut isn’t a condition to be taken lightly or ignored, but it’s not all doom and gloom! Your gut lining can be healed even quicker than it took to break down, as long as you commit to your gut healing journey and follow proper, expert guidance from an integrative health practitioner.
Now, I’m aware that not everyone can afford to work one-to-one with an integrative health practitioner. I believe everyone is entitled to living life symptom-free, with a healthy gut that supports their mind and body. This is why I developed the GI Protocol – a 12-week protocol designed to do four main things. One, remove the triggers that are triggering your symptoms and worsening your leaky gut. Two, replace the essential good bacteria that has been stripped from your gut. Repair the gut lining. Rebalance via nutrition and supplementation.
In just 3 months you really could see the most dramatic improvement to your overall health, and watch your uncomfortable symptoms slip away. This is because the GI Protocol rebalances your body at a root cause level. And 3 months might seem like a long time to you but that’s what it takes to truly heal the gut. The time is going to pass anyways so you might as well do it once but do it right!
Whilst the GI Protocol is phenomenal for healing your gut, I always recommend my clients start with the 21 Day Reset. This is because it gives you the best foundation for optimal healing. The 21 Day Reset will help lower inflammation levels and open the detoxification pathways, allowing the body to assimilate to the GI Protocol better and speed up the removal of toxins and pathogens.
The Surprising Link Between Sunglasses and Hormonal Imbalance: Understanding the Impact on Your Health