If you suffer digestive problems or have an interest in gut health then I’m sure you’ve heard the term ‘leaky gut’ by now. It sounds a bit weird and can leave you wondering if it’s actually a real thing. The more technical term for leaky gut is Intestinal Permeability, and it is just as it says – gaps in the gut wall.
The gut wall lining is made up of a single layer of epithelial cells, each connected by proteins called “tight junctions”, then covered in a layer of mucous. This relatively simple combination forms a selective barrier which plays an enormous part in our defence against the outside world!
The incredibly important role of the gut wall is to be choosy: absorbing helpful nutrients and keeping out nasty organisms, toxins, and other waste products.
What causes leaky gut?
Leaky gut can be caused by a number of different factors which trigger toxin production, a weak mucosal barrier, imbalanced gut bacteria, and inflammation, all contributing to damage to the gut wall and reducing the capacity of this barrier to protect us.
The gut then begins letting in partially digested food particles, antigens, bacteria, and toxins, which are permitted to make their way into the bloodstream to be taken up by various tissues. This triggers the immune system, drives up systemic inflammation and results in widespread symptoms.
Factors contributing to leaky gut can include:
What are the symptoms of leaky gut?
The presentation of leaky gut can look different for everyone depending on various factors like the severity, level of damage and length of time it’s been happening for. Symptoms may include:
How do we test for leaky gut?
Testing can be done to help us know if this is going on for you or not. With test results, a streamlined treatment protocol can be created and if necessary, a re-test can be performed to check results of treatment.
This involves drinking a solution containing a large molecule (lactulose) that should not be absorbed due to its size. If it appears in your urine during the test, it signals a leaky gut.
This is a protein that opens the tight junctions in the gut lining and is used as a marker of intestinal permeability via stool test.
Certain other markers on a stool microbiome test can give us clues too, like secretory IgA and certain bacteria including Akkermansia muciniphilia, which regulate our protective mucous layer. Sometimes a practitioner may also recommend food intolerance testing to help identify foods which may be contributing to leaky gut.
So, how do we fix leaky gut?
For a well-rounded approach, the 4R’s are a common protocol to help heal a leaky gut and repair digestion. Many of these overlap or can be done at the same time, having a practitioner guide you through is ideal for streamlined and effective tailored treatment.
Learn all about the 4R’s of gut healing in this blog
Originally written by Leila DiQuinzio for I Quit Sugar