I have been hearing a lot about a condition known as “leaky gut” in the many health circles that I am involved in. But what exactly is it and why is it generating so much buzz?
Well that is not exactly an easy question to find an answer for. Depending on who you ask, you will get all kinds of answers and a lot of the time, those answers are driven by potential profit.
So-called “experts” are going to tell you about what the condition known as leaky gut is in a certain way to make you buy one or a few products that they are selling.
Other “experts” just flat out deny that it is even a real thing and that it is just alternative medicine hogwash. That is why I decided to do my own research and come up with a neutral answer to the question that is not driven by any product that I may be selling.
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Let’s look at the truth about the condition known as leaky gut so that you can know what it is and what steps you can take to treat it if you have it and prevent it if you do not.
I am going to start this off by saying that I am of the opinion that the condition known as leaky gut is a real thing. I find it unfathomable that some so-called “experts” have written it off as nothing.
Unfortunately, many of those deniers are in the mainstream amongst health experts and the belief that it is a real health condition resides along the fringes of the medical field.
However, I am not going to let my opinion guide this article as my goal is to take an objective in depth look at the condition known as Leaky Gut Syndrome and you can decide for yourself whether it is real or not. Let’s get started.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Before we can determine if it is real or not, we should first take a look at what exactly this condition called leaky gut is.
Basically, the “gut”, or the digestive tract in our body is where everything we eat is broken down and whatever nutrients are in what we eat are absorbed into the body. The gut also functions as a sort of border wall – it chooses what can go into your body's bloodstream. And once those substances go into your bloodstream, they can be carried to various systems all over your body.
Unfortunately, not everything we eat is 100 percent healthy and bacteria from those foods and just regular bacteria that we encounter throughout the day finds their way into our bodies.
This means that a lot of nasty bacteria reside in your gut as well until they can be properly excreted (I am sure you know what this means).
How Does the Gut Work?
Basically, the few tiny narrow openings in the border wall-type mechanism I mentioned earlier are known as tight junctions. And these openings are so narrow that only water and various nutrients can go through and then go into the bloodstream.
When dangerous materials such as bacteria try to go through, they are not able to fit and thus can't pass into the bloodstream.
Leaky gut occurs when those tiny narrow openings start opening wider.
This allows all of those nasty toxins and bacteria to seep through the gut into the bloodstream and thus, be able to travel all throughout the body.
And this flooding of toxins and bacteria into the body causes irritation all over the body and can also stimulate a response from the body's immune system to fight the “infection”. How would a person know if he or she has the condition known as leaky gut?
Well, some of the most tell-tale symptoms of it are a tired feeling, a sudden sensitivity to certain foods, a bloated feeling, having trouble digesting foods, and skin irritation and even rashes on the skin.
Unfortunately, if you go to the doctor's office and complain about these symptoms, they will not diagnose you with the condition known as leaky gut. As I said, only those on the fringes of the medical field think it is a real condition.
And this widespread disbelief could end up being a huge problem as many of those who believe that leaky gut is the real deal also claim that it is the underlying cause of many more serious health conditions.
Some of those conditions and illnesses include multiple sclerosis (MS), autism, bipolar disorder, severe and chronic migraines, severe and chronic feelings of fatigue, and fibromyalgia.
I think a big factor behind the widespread disbelief and disregard towards the condition known as leaky gut is due to the fact that scientific trials and studies never mention it by name.
It is instead regarded as intestinal permeability, which is most always looked at as a symptom of another condition instead of a separate standalone condition.
Leaky Gut Syndrome Causes
A lot of the specifics of this condition are still unknown due to the lack of research into it as a separate condition. Therefore, experts have not really pieced together actual causes for the condition.
That said, the scarce research into intestinal permeability has revealed that there is a certain protein that controls the permeability of your gut. It is known as zonulin and is believed to only cause problems in people who have genetic irregularities.
So, where does this protein come from? Well, it is believed that zonulin is triggered and released into your body when you consume gluten, which is available in high concentrations in grain and wheat foods.
The problem with this theory is that the only scientific research done into it has revealed that gluten only causes leaky gut in those who are suffering from other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and celiac disease.
This means that gluten consumption can't be pinpointed as a concrete cause of leaky gut.
However, from the limited research we do have, it is possible to identify certain risk factors that can increase your chances of developing leaky gut.
Eating Too Much Sugar
The effectiveness of the “border wall” around your gut can be severely diminished if your diet consists of a lot of sugar, especially fructose.
Drinking Too Many Alcoholic Beverages
If you go to the bar too often, you may be causing damage to your gut that makes it easier for bacteria and toxins to permeate it and go into your bloodstream and wreak havoc.
Taking Too Many Painkillers
When most people get an annoying headache, they usually just pop an Acetaminophen pill or some other kind of painkiller. Doing this too often can have disastrous effects on your gut and can lead to leaky gut by making your gut more permeable.
Being Stressed Out All Of The Time
If you are constantly stressed, you are putting your gastrointestinal health and well-being in jeopardy. Leaky gut is just one of the many gastrointestinal issues that can stem from constant stress and anxiety.
Not Getting Enough Vital Nutrients And Vitamins In Your Diet
When your body is low on vital nutrients such as vitamin D, zinc, and vitamin A, your gut may become more permeable. The condition known as leaky gut is soon to follow if you do not curtail those deficiencies.
Having An Imbalance Of Bad Bacteria To Good Bacteria In Your Gut
This might be a newsflash to some people, but there are good types of bacteria out there. And those are the kinds of bacteria that you want in your gut. When you do not eat healthy enough, you are allowing bad bacteria to start outnumbering the good bacteria in your gut.
When this happens, increased permeability and leaky gut are soon to follow. One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to consume many probiotic foods and supplements, such as yogurt.
What Can Leaky Gut Syndrome Lead To?
Since many experts in the health field refuse to recognize leaky gut as a standalone condition and instead wish to characterize it as just a symptom of other illnesses, let's take a good look at what those illnesses are.
You can then determine for yourself if you think leaky gut is just a symptom of those diseases or one of the root causes of them.
When your gut becomes easier for bacteria and toxins to permeate, diabetes can be the result.
Researchers have delved deep into the causes of diabetes, more specifically type-1 diabetes, and found that various toxins pouring out of the gut into the bloodstream can cause the disease.
This is because type-1 diabetes develops when beta cells in the pancreas of the body that are charged with producing insulin for the body to consume are killed off by the immune system.
When the bad bacteria and toxins go through the bloodstream and interact with these cells, the immune systems senses them as a foreign threat and destroys the cells along with the bacteria and toxins.
Without those cells around to produce insulin for the body, you end up getting diabetes.
Do you remember the protein zonulin that I mentioned earlier was consistent with those who have gut permeability issues?
A study discovered that as much as 42 percent of those suffering from type-1 diabetes have much higher levels of zonulin in their system compared to other people.
And for those who think that leaky gut is just a symptom of diabetes, a study on rats concluded that the gut became more permeable prior to the onset of diabetes.
It is not yet known whether or not leaky gut causes celiac disease, but the two are definitely intertwined. Celiac disease is a hypersensitivity to anything with gluten in it. And guess what?
Consuming gluten is believed to trigger the production of the zonulin protein.
And while some studies show that it only has that reaction on people who are already suffering from celiac disease, more research will need to be done so that we can pinpoint the exact link between leaky gut and celiac disease.
The link between leaky gut and Crohn's disease is a far more obvious and apparent one. Crohn's disease is chronic irritation and inflammation of one's intestinal tract.
And you can imagine that if someone's gut is easily permeated by nasty bacteria and toxins, irritation and inflammation of the intestines is sure to follow.
And it comes as no surprise that researchers have found that sufferers of Crohn's disease have much higher gut permeability than healthy people.
Think it is just a symptom? Think again. Crohn's disease is a hereditary disease and a few studies have discovered that family members of Crohn's disease sufferers also have higher than normal gut permeability.
This indicates a strong link between leaky gut and the hereditary element of Crohn's disease.
Allergic Reactions To Foods
Similar to how the pouring of bacteria and toxins led the immune system to attack cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, proteins from certain foods we eat can pour into the bloodstream and cause an immune response as well.
If toxins are attached to them and cause the immune system to attack them, it ends up causing an allergic reaction to whatever food you ate that had that protein. And the very textbook definition of an allergy is an immune reaction to some harmless food proteins.
And the correlation to leaky gut (if it isn't obvious already) can be more assertively drawn thanks to some studies that were conducted that discovered that the intestinal border wall of those with food allergies does not operate at normal optimal levels.
What that means is that their guts are more easily permeated, and thus, leaky gut. It all comes full circle.
Leaky Gut Syndrome Conclusion
The debate about whether leaky gut is a real condition or not will rage on for years until we get some concrete science to support whichever sides ends up being right.
I obviously think it is a very real condition that medical experts need to start diagnosing and treating, but only time will tell if I am right or not. Another debate that will rage on is whether leaky gut is just a symptom of certain diseases or one of the root causes.
I lean towards the root cause side but more research and data will be needed. I hope the information presented in this article has allowed you to formulate your own opinion on the matter.