Experts say that leaky gut syndrome is one of the most misunderstood concepts in medicine today.
Leaky gut syndrome (LGS), also known as increased intestinal permeability, is not a disease in itself. It is a type of pathological condition which is now being associated with most inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.
The problem starts due to an abnormal increase in the permeability of the small intestine, one of the body’s largest organs in which a major part of the immune system lies within its walls.
This increased permeability occurs as a result of malfunction in the intestinal “tight junctions” that tie together the epithelial layer of the intestinal lining. The tight junctions do not allow things like toxins and undigested food particles to pass to the bloodstream.
The malfunction, however, causes separation in the tight junctions, thus leaking bacteria, viruses, undigested food particles and toxic waste products from the inside of the small intestines through damaged intestinal lining into the bloodstream.
The immune system marks these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and attacks them. This ultimately results in increased inflammation in different parts of your body, leading to a wide range of signs and symptoms.
The number one cause of leaky gut syndrome is gluten, which can trigger inflammation in the intestinal lining. High intake of dairy products (casein), sugar, alcohol, and any food you are allergic to can also cause this problem.
Leaky gut can also be caused by medications, such as antibiotics, steroids or over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin and acetaminophen.
This mysterious condition is linked to different types of diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, several types of arthritis, acne, psoriasis, liver disease, and pancreatic disease.
LGS is difficult to diagnose because it cannot be found with the usual tests, not even with an endoscopy or colonoscopy. But for those who suffer from LGS, identifying and treating it can be life changing.
Here are the top signs and symptoms of leaky gut syndrome and simple tips to promote healing.
1. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease that causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and gas is another common sign of LGS.
Inflammation in the gut leads to irritability and irregularity in the movement of both the small and large intestines, which in turn causes inflammatory bowel disease.
A 2012 study published in Digestion reports that leaky gut is common in patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D) and inactive ulcerative colitis (UC). In fact, elevated gut permeability is localized to the colon in both IBS-D and inactive UC patients.
A 2014 study published in World Journal Gastroenterology reports that gut microbiome can influence both the cardinal symptoms and other prominent features of irritable bowel syndrome.
2. Chronic Fatigue and Tiredness
If you are feeling tired and fatigued all the time, the reason can be leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome causes an increase in certain inflammatory compounds called cytokines. These inflammatory compounds are directly associated with fatigue.
Leaky gut also stresses the adrenal glands, making adrenal burnout more likely, leading to frequent tiredness. It disrupts other hormones in the body as well, leading to fatigue.
In a 2016 study published in Microbiome, researchers identified biological markers of chronic fatigue syndrome in gut bacteria and inflammatory microbial agents in the blood.
3. Inflammatory Skin Conditions
If you suddenly suffer from inflammatory skin conditions like acne, rosacea, psoriasis, dermatitis or eczema more frequently, it can be a sign of a leaky gut.
Intestinal hyperpermeability can cause the skin to become inflamed. Inflammation is linked to a slew of skin conditions, especially acne and psoriasis.
Plus, an increase of harmful bacteria causing an imbalance in the gut is another contributing factor behind chronic skin problems.
A 2011 study published in Gut Pathogens reports that there appears to be more than enough supportive evidence to suggest that gut microbes, and the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract itself, are contributing factors in the acne process.
4. Pain in Multiple Joints
Stiff, painful joints as well as chronic pain in the muscles are one of the most common signs of LGS.
Although people tend to link joint pain to arthritis, an imbalance in the healthy microbes in the gut can contribute to this pain.
A 2013 study published in eLife found that people with rheumatoid arthritis were much more likely to have a bug called Prevotella copri in their intestines as compared to people who did not have the disease.
Another study published in 2015 in Arthritis & Rheumatology found that people suffering from psoriatic arthritis, a kind of autoimmune joint disease, had significantly lower levels of intestinal bacteria.
5. Mood Issues
LGS triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and other chemicals, which have a direct impact on mood-related disorders like anxiety and depression.
Harmful bacteria in the intestines produce toxins that can travel right through your bloodstream to the brain. These toxins can disrupt the production of neurotransmitters in your brain and negatively affect your mood.
A 2008 study published in Neuro Endocrinology Letters reports that leaky gut has been shown to cause various neurocognitive disorders. It also triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and other chemicals that induce depression.
Other common signs of LGS include:
- A feeling of being infected but your doctor can’t find the infection
- Food allergies or food intolerances
- Thyroid problems
- Various nutritional deficiencies
- Seasonal allergies or asthma
- Hormonal imbalances, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Candida (yeast) overgrowth
- May trigger or worsen conditions like celiac disease, crohn’s disease, and asthma
Tips to help heal LGS:
- Try oil pulling by swishing 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin coconut oil in your mouth for 15 minutes. Do this daily in the morning on an empty stomach. This will help remove toxins from your body and reduce inflammation.
- Stop drinking alcohol for at least a month.
- Avoid using aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Have your stool tested for intestinal parasites.
- Follow an anti-inflammatory diet plan.
- Remove all known and suspected problematic foods, such as gluten, dairy products and sugar, from your diet.
- Eat foods high in probiotics.