What Is Leaky Gut And Do You Have It?
Updated: May 27, 2020
Leaky gut sounds like something from a weird sci-fi movie, Grey's Anatomy, or House - right? Well that's just the common (and kind of gross) name for a condition called increased gut permeability. And contrary to some of the crazy things I've seen on House, this is actually extremely common. Many doctors have speculated that up to 80% of Americans have signs and symptoms of leaky gut! Today I'm sharing the info you need to know about this condition, what it is, how it occurs, and what you can do to reverse it. You ready for the science?!
What does the research say?
Research on leaky gut has been going on for decades. One review found that leaky gut is associated with an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer's) and autoimmune diseases. There's also direct research that shows leaky gut leads to gut inflammation and possibly the cause of Crohn's Disease! Studies have also linked it to asthma, type 1 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, and arthritis. How can all of these diseases be linked back to your intestines?! Well, in order to understand that, you have to understand what the role of your gut is.
What your gut does
You know that I can't NOT explain the deets of how something works so that you can better understand the process! So what does your gut do? It actually has a much bigger role in MANY functions than you may have realized! Yes, it helps to break down and absorb food, water, minerals, and vitamins into your body. But it also plays a key role in your immune system, mental health, and weight loss goals! It also has its hand in many, many other aspects of your health that I will dive into in future posts.
Your gut and your immune system
Your gut plays an essential role in your immune system by acting as a line of defense to pathogens (bad bacteria). It does this two ways: first, it forms a tightly sealed lining in order to keep pathogens from passing through your gut and into your blood supply. Second, your gut has healthy gut bacteria that essentially "fights off" the bad bacteria simply by just being present! So a healthy gut means less sick days and feeling better!
Your gut and mental health
The majority of your serotonin (aka feel good hormone) is produced in your gut. In fact, about 95% of all of the serotonin in your body can be found in the gut! Increased gut inflammation, leaky gut, and/or an imbalance of healthy gut bacteria can lead to an imbalanced production of serotonin. There's a TON of new, very interesting research on the gut-brain connection. Research is showing that healing the gut is something that may become standard protocol for many psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Your gut and weight loss
An inflamed or leaky gut can cause the rest of your body to become inflamed as well. It is well known in the health industry that inflammation of the body causes you to hold on to weight, feel puffy, and decrease your ability to lose weight. This is because increased inflammation causes increased cortisol (stress hormone) levels which causes the body to store weight - specifically around the abdomen.
What IS leaky gut?
Your gut has very small "holes" that only allow for the smallest broken down forms of what you eat to pass through. In theory, nothing smaller than amino acids, simple carbs, and broken down fats should pass through. However, from increased stress levels, a diet high in sugar/carbohydrates, toxic exposure, certain medications, and other daily factors, these "holes" can get bigger. This allows for partially broken down food particles and bacteria to pass through much easier ~ aka "leaky". These are things that should never be in your blood, so your body sees it as a foreign invader and fights back. This is why you may have strange food allergies to foods like celery, strawberries, and cucumbers. This increased response by your body can lead to total body inflammation, autoimmune disorders, gut inflammation, and a chronic state of fight or flight.
How do you know if you have leaky gut?
Common signs of leaky gut include bloating, food intolerances/allergies, acne, rosacea, anxiety, inability to lose weight, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune conditions. There are tests you can take, but if you have any of these symptoms, it's likely that you also have leaky gut.
What can you do about it?
One of the easiest ways to allow your gut to heal itself is by giving it a break. Some people utilize long periods of fasting in order to achieve these results. However, you can also implement intermittent fasting, which is much more do-able on a daily basis and still allows you to achieve the health benefits. If you're interested in healing your gut, I highly recommend that you read THIS article.