By TJ Williams, DC, PhD
(This is part 1 of a 2 part article. Part 2 will appear in the May edition of The Healthy Planet magazine)
Chances are you have heard of leaky gut, but you may not know exactly what it is. It sounds disgusting, right? While over 10,000 research articles have been written on the condition, leaky gut is just beginning to be recognized by the medical profession. In fact, it is often referred to as the “disease your doctor can’t diagnose.” However, leaky gut is not so much a disease, but a mechanism by which a number of different conditions can develop. A leaky gut is the pathway for how toxins can enter the body through the gastrointestinal tract and create all kinds of mayhem once they’re in—like party crashers who slip through security and proceed to trash a venue.
What Is Leaky Gut?
Our digestive lining serves an important barrier function. It’s like a net with very small holes that allows only certain substances to pass through it (i.e., those that are small enough to fit through the holes in the net) and it keeps out larger potentially harmful particles. With leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, the net gets damaged, resulting in bigger holes that allow more things to pass through that normally couldn’t. When the barrier function becomes compromised, larger, undigested food particles and other “bad stuff” (like yeast, toxins, bacteria, and other forms of waste) can leak from the inside of your intestines through the damaged digestive lining into your bloodstream.
Since these substances aren’t meant to leave your digestive tract, your body will set off “alarm bells” to tell your immune system that foreign invaders have entered your bloodstream. To get these particles out of your body, your immune system reacts aggressively and attacks the particles by eliciting an immune response. While this is intended to protect you, each time an immune response is triggered it causes inflammation, which can jump-start the development of chronic disease. So, instead of keeping the bad stuff out, the delicate lining of your intestine is letting all the bad stuff in and your body begins breaking down from the inside out.
Do You Have A Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut is a tricky condition because it can manifest in so many different ways. In fact, only about 70% of people with leaky gut have any digestive symptoms. And yet, most of the patients we see who are suffering from leaky gut have one thing in common: they have been to multiple doctors trying to make sense of their symptoms, and conventional tests and imaging studies have been unrevealing. Leaky gut can lead to a WIDE range of symptoms, including:
- Food sensitivities
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas, or bloating
- Headaches, brain fog, and memory loss
- Excessive or chronic fatigue
- Hormonal imbalances, including low thyroid
- Weight gain, digestive problems, or cravings for sugar or carbs
- Skin issues like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea
- Fibromyalgia, joint pain, and arthritis
- Asthma, allergies, or chronic sinus infections
- Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADD, ADHD, and Autism
- Autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, Hashimoto’s
- thyroiditis, Crohn’s disease, and lupus
These are just some of the symptoms that can indicate leaky gut. In fact, leaky gut has been liked to diabetes, infertility, cancer (especially with chemotherapy or radiation treatments), autism, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease… the list goes on and on.
Look for Part II of this series on leaky gut in next month’s issue of the Healthy Planet where we’ll explain what causes leaky gut and what you can do to fix it. In the meantime, if you would like more information on leaky gut or other conditions, testing, or treatment, please contact us at (314) 293-8123 or visit us at the theinstituteofnaturalhealth.com. Dr. TJ Williams is the Clinic Director for the Institute of Natural Health and the host of the radio program Wellness 101, which provides common-sense, science-based strategies for a healthy life. Wellness 101 airs Sundays at 3:00pm on FM NewsTalk 97.1.