Leaky gut, what the heck is it actually?
Why does it matter?
Leaky gut also known as "intestinal permeability" is a situation in which the integrity of the small intestine becomes compromised. You see, your intestines are pretty cool.. and pretty vast (like up to 20 feet in length kinda vast). It's where we absorb about 90% of the nutrition from the food we eat. Super significant!
Leaky gut occurs when the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged.
How does the intestinal lining become damaged?
- Insulin Resistance
- Parasitic Infection
- Too many lectins in the diet (found in grains + legumes)
- Chronic Stress
- Vitamin C Deficiency
- Alcohol Abuse
- NSAIDS (Advil, Ibuprofen, etc.)
- Antibiotic Use
- Poor diet
- Dysbiosis (bacterial imbalance)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Disease
- Allergies + food sensitivity
- Physical injury
What does this damage look like?
The mucosal cells of a healthy gut typically bind tightly together and control what is allowed to pass through the intestines into the bloodstream. When the gut becomes compromised, these junctions between these cells become loose--and begin to separate. This separation allows undigested food particles, bacteria, yeast and microbes that would of typically never made it to the bloodstream, into the bloodstream. Not cool.
This "leakage" of stuff into the blood that shouldn't be there in the first place, kicks off an immune and hormonal response in the body to deal with these foreign substances. Essentially, the body goes into a high drive attack mode and creates antibodies, so the next time certain foods are consumed-- the body is prepared to deal with it. You can see how this sort of response happening every time we eat can lead to larger issues long term. The whole cascade is very inflammatory-- and our body reacts to this inflammation and this response in different ways. In some advanced cases, the body starts tagging it's SELF as an invader too-- this can happen throughout the body-- like on the the thyroid or the intestines, for example. This can result in the development of autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto's or Crohn's disease.
If you are experiencing any auto-immune type condition, you can't go wrong by loving up you GI and improving your gut health!
Here are some common signs and symptoms that you might have a leaky gut:
- Brain fog or memory loss
- Poor immunity
- Joint Pain
- Depression, Anxiety, ADD, ADHD
- Nutritional Deficiencies
- Skin Conditions (Eczema, acne, psoriasis, rosacea)
- Food sensitivities
- Painful digestion
- IBD (Crohn's, Colitis, Diverticulitis)
- Autoimmune Conditions
The thing is, when your digestion is compromised, vitamin deficiency and malabsorption are common. This can lead to symptoms that can radiate through the entire body-- like adrenal issues, thyroid imbalance, joint pain, autoimmune conditions, and anxiety and more.
If you've been struggling with your health and are having trouble pinpointing the root cause, it can never hurt to check in with your digestion and give your inner plumbing system a little TLC.