Leaky Gut Syndrome can be very difficult to understand, but the truth is, it doesn’t have to be. Nowadays there is a growing acceptance between the connection of leaky gut syndrome with autoimmune conditions. However, many of the causes of leaky gut (and their treatments) are still up for debate.

Most doctors are already aware of this condition, but are still struggling to understand its symptoms, signs, and treatments. This article will talk about how to treat Leaky Gut Syndrome , what causes it, and why the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) diet and other leaky gut syndrome diets are an essential component for improvement.

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome

The term Leaky Gut Syndrome is used to describe a condition called “hyperpermeable intestines,” a medical term used when the intestinal lining no longer works properly. This condition results in all kinds of molecules and particles reaching the bloodstream directly. Things like:

  • Bacteria and bacterial toxins
  • Viruses, yeasts, parasites and other organisms of the intestinal flora
  • Partially digested food molecules
  • Metabolites and Acids

Normally your body does not allow any of this to happen. Our body has a very sophisticated system to ensure that only the correct size of food and the correct type of particles enter the bloodstream.

Is that how it works:

The intestinal lining is the first line of defense for our immune system. The outer layers of intestinal (epithelial) cells are connected by structures called tight junctions. At the tip of the mucosal cells are microvilli, which absorb properly digested nutrients and transport them through the epithelial cell into the bloodstream.

During a normal digestion process, the tight junctions remain closed forcing all the molecules to be selected and absorbed through the cells of the mucosa.

For reasons that we will mention later, these tight junctions can become “open” or permeable allowing any type of molecules to flow directly between cells. And when this happens, the blood flow just behind the mucosal cells fills with bad stuff.

How our immune system is activated

The first reaction your body has to the presence of these “foreign” bodies in your blood is to truly fight with all its might. The immune system jumps into action immediately. It needs to neutralize, undo and send the signal to the rest of the body about the attack of this intruder.

To do this, the immune system increases inflammation around the intestinal wall where the “problem” is. But it also increases the levels of inflammation throughout the body in general.

This increased inflammation, especially in the gut wall, can begin to damage the cells of the gut wall, which can quickly turn into a self-perpetuating cycle of cell damage and worsen leaky gut if left untreated.

Chronic inflamation

As more foreign particles leak out of the leaky gut , the immune response increases and this results in chronic inflammation. This cycle can lead your body to fight itself and the formation of a variety of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and Raynaud’s disease.

On top of all this, the immune system can either bypass some dangerous invaders or if it is too permeable it can let too many harmful bodies pass through.

This puts a strain on the liver and the blood detoxification system. Remember that just behind the intestinal wall there is a direct transport of blood to the liver. And if you start mistreating your liver with a bunch of toxins, this will start to cause problems in the detoxification system.

Leaky gut causes food allergies

Increased inflammation throughout the body is bad enough, but then the next phase occurs. In this, the immune system begins to create antibodies that are specific for the types of foreign particles that have infiltrated. This is for the purpose of alerting the rest of the body to the attack that is occurring in the intestine.

These specifically engineered antibody soldiers are made to fight these foreign objects (which can be things like casein protein in the milk you drink or other proteins in nuts, grains, meat, or eggs).

Even chemicals like phenols and glycerin that are normally found in food can trigger immune responses when they enter the body.

If you experience sensitivities to a few foods, a dozen, or even more, then you most likely have a leaky gut.

Lack of digestive enzymes in leaky gut

When you have leaky gut syndrome, damaged microvilli along the intestinal lining cannot make the digestive enzymes needed to break down food for proper digestion.

This condition of the gut allows food molecules that have not been properly broken down into nutrients your body needs to flow into the bloodstream.

So if you have food sensitivities, it really isn’t the fault of the food itself. It is thanks to the leaky gut that allows food molecules to enter the bloodstream. Of course, you always have to watch out for serious food allergies, like gluten, celiac disease, or deadly peanut allergies.

Do you have symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?

The symptoms of leaky gut may vary from person to person depending on the level of damage and the affected tissues. This is largely due to how long you’ve had leaky gut and family history.

And by family history we mean genetics and epigenetics (which genes are on or off).

Therefore, it is likely that your symptoms may be different from someone else’s, since you both have different family backgrounds, and one of you has dealt with the condition for more or less time. However, these can be grouped into four main categories:

  • Skin – rashes, itchy skin, psoriasis, rosacea, hives, acne
  • Brain – headaches, migraines, brain fog, memory loss, depression, anxiety
  • Immune: autoimmune conditions, food allergies, excessive fatigue, high inflammation
  • Intestine – nutritional deficiencies, chronic diarrhea, belching, bloating, gas, constipation

Understanding the damage caused by leaky gut

It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on how all of this happens, and hopefully understand how it might happen in the first place. Remember that when your gut is chronically leaky , the body reacts in the following ways:

  1. Increases inflammation of the intestine and the system in general
  2. Creates specific antibodies against invading particles
  3. Hormone and detox systems will have an additional burden

Therefore, take into account how long you have experienced this condition, perhaps a week, a month or years. Then consider your family history which could include autoimmune diseases, cancers, or any number of other chronic diseases.

The point is that every genetic and epigenetic lineage has weak points. We all have them.

And your weak spots are likely to be the ones that will start to experience all this inflammatory damage.

As this happens, your body begins to try to calm the inflammation through the use of hormones and other means. It also has to deliver a large amount of nutrients to support the detoxification process and cell repair.

This can create nutrient deficiencies over time that will only worsen the health of the body.

As you can see, Leaky Gut Syndrome is a serious digestive tract problem that can overload the immune system, the hormonal system, and the detoxification system.

The longer and more severe the leaky gut syndrome, the higher your risk of developing a chronic disease.

What are the causes of a leaky gut?

Your story: Chronic antibiotic use, traumatic brain injury, chemotherapy or radiation treatments, cesarean delivery, intestinal dysbiosis, hormonal imbalance, chronic inflammation, vitamin / nutrient deficiencies.

Your diet: Gluten, nightshades, sugar, industrial seed oils.

Your lifestyle: Environmental toxins, sleep deprivation, alcohol, chronic stress, liver toxicity.

The list of the causes of leaky gut grows every year as more research is done on it. So it can be quite overwhelming trying to process all this information. Which of these symptoms do you know you have? What have you had? Could you keep them a secret and not know it?

This can drive anyone crazy.

However there is an easier way to think about this:

  • Immediate activation of leaky gut by events
  • Long-term chronic inflammatory causes

Almost all types of causes of leaky gut syndrome fall into one of these two groups.

Leaky intestine caused by events

These are events such as a concussion, a stressful traumatic event (divorce, death, etc.), chemotherapy or radiation, living in a house full of mold, etc.

Basically, the event you experience is so strong that within a week your gut becomes leaky, and it will get worse if you continue to be exposed from the event.

This can make the situation worse if you were already experiencing any of the causes of leaky gut from chronic long-term inflammations.

However, this is very common, living these experiences is normal and there is no reason why you should feel bad if it has ever happened to you. Well, this is how it works in the first place.

Leaky gut due to long-term chronic inflammation

There are all kinds of long-term causes of leaky gut that are inflammatory in nature. Sometimes some people do many of these things at the same time, causing a leaky gut quickly.

But the most likely thing in your case is that you are doing only some of the behaviors that will be mentioned below, and that they are constantly damaging your intestinal wall. So your body is always on guard to cleanse and repair itself.

These are some of the more “common” causes:

Diet

Consuming large amounts of refined sugars, processed foods, preservatives, refined flours, and flavorings introduces massive amounts of chemicals into the body that are considered toxic. If your body has a hard time fighting toxins, they will start to build up and cause inflammation (as we mentioned earlier).

Chronic stress

Chronic stress almost always causes a weakened immune system. A weak immune system cannot do its normal job and is easily and quickly invaded by pathogens. This increases general intestinal inflammation leading to increased permeability of the intestinal lining.

Inflammation

Any type of intestinal inflammation can lead to leaky gut. This inflammation can be caused by a low level of stomach acid, yeast overgrowth (Candida), bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), infections, parasites, and an excessive amount of environmental toxins.

Medicines

Any kind of prescription drugs or even over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin or acetaminophen irritate the intestinal lining and lower mucosal levels (a membrane produces mucus in the intestinal lining as a natural protective measure). This can start or aggravate the cycle of inflammation (more bacteria, yeast, and digestion problems) and promotes increased permeability.

Lack of zinc

Zinc is a critical element in maintaining a strong intestinal lining. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause the mucosal lining to lose strength and become more permeable. Studies show that supplementing with zinc when it is deficient can dramatically improve the integrity of the intestinal lining.

Alcohol

Alcohol consumption is a major stressor on the intestinal wall. It is not really the amount that matters, as even small amounts are toxic to the body. The truth is that it is very difficult for the digestive system to process every glass of wine that we drink during the day.

With all this we are not saying that you should abstain from all your favorite fried foods, or alcohol, and that you should not take a pain reliever if you need it.

Remember that chronic refers to how often you expose your gut cells to these troublesome triggers.

The more frequently, and the more things at the same time, the greater the chances of leaky gut occurring.

How to treat leaky gut syndrome

The medical community is still quite divided about the methods that can be used to treat leaky gut. It turns out that many things can cause leaky gut, so there are plenty of ways to fix it too. However, they all seem to take a multi-faceted approach.

This is divided into 3 basic steps

  • Eliminate Leaky Gut Triggers
  • Rebuild the gut (by eating a leaky gut diet and supplements)
  • Fix the underlying causes

This approach exists in the form of a complete program that will walk you through each of these steps in depth, but for now you will be given a simplified version that will really help you get started.

Just be sure to do several of these at the same time, as it will be basically impossible for you to fully heal simply by changing your diet or just taking supplements.

This is how the Leaky Gut treatment works.

Eat a Leaky Gut Diet

Without a doubt, the first and most powerful means of treatment is to follow a leaky gut diet . But what does this mean in an age when “everyone” is eating a diet that is considered “the best”?

It is best if you look beyond the “black and white” experts and realize that there are many leaky gut diets that may work for you. And if you look closely enough, you’ll see that the ones that work are very similar.

Here’s what the best leaky gut diets have in common : removing sugars, starches, grains, processed oils, nightshades, dairy, food additives, and any other irritating foods, relieves inflammation, and eliminates excessive yeast build-up / bacteria (both the SCD diet and the leaky gut diet work this way).

Reducing any yeast allows the intestinal tract to begin to heal. In addition to eliminating inflammatory foods like grains, sugars, and dairy that often cause intestinal cell problems, they reduce overall inflammation and increase digestion.

If we stop any excessive build-up and eliminate naturally inflammatory foods, the intestinal walls will begin to heal faster, the flow of foreign bodies into the body will be reduced, and we will begin to feel well-being.

Actually the specific carbohydrate diet or the leaky gut diet is the foundation of healing leaky gut. And with that said, there are plenty of other gut-healing diets that can work.

Also keep in mind that you shouldn’t try to restrict the food you eat forever. The goal should always be to eliminate harmful foods and foods that you are sensitive to, heal and then add the best again (and this is or what you will do with these two diets).

Supplements for leaky gut

The next important step in healing is using the right leaky gut supplements . If you research this, you will find that there are many ideas about what to take to heal the gut. Here are the most important supplements you should start using:

Basic Nutritional Supplements

Conditions that lead to leaky gut can also lead to absorption problems and poor digestion, both of which will lead to nutritional deficiencies. First, supplementing with a good multivitamin, large amounts of vitamin D, and zinc will help the intestinal lining return to normal (assuming irritants are removed from the diet).

Fish essential oils have also been shown to actually help improve the condition of the intestinal lining (omega-3s greatly reduce inflammation among a host of other benefits).

Digestive enzymes

Digestive enzymes are critical to properly breaking down the food we eat. Why are they so important in treating leaky gut? First, enzymes break food down into very small particles, preventing large, undigested molecules from irritating the intestinal lining and limiting nutritional absorption. They also work in your intestines by acting as shields to remove toxins, bacteria, and damaged cells from the mucosa.

This whole process provides the intestine with many healthy cells with which to rebuild itself. The enzymes bromelain and papain have been shown to reduce inflammation in the intestinal lining and other tissues of the body, allowing the immune system and liver to rest and soothe itself. Don’t overlook animal-based enzymes, as these can help improve fat and protein absorption.

Betaine HCL

Remember that digestion begins in the stomach. If you have low stomach acid, no matter what you do, you are unlikely to be able to cure your leaky gut syndrome. The acid must break down the food so that the molecules are not too large. The easiest way to correct this common problem is by taking a betaine HCL supplement test.

L-Glutamine

A supplementation with L-glutamine can be an essential change for those who have food allergies and have struggled with intestinal problems for years. This is used in hospitals in large doses to treat burn victims, and is used by bodybuilders to recover from overtraining.

But we can use it to promote the healing of intestinal cells, since they need L-glutamine to rebuild themselves. It is very important to use it in large quantities. At least 5 grams several times a day.

These are the supplements you can start with to treat leaky gut . After this, if you want to try other more advanced ideas like colostrum, probiotics, prebiotics, and immune system regulators, go ahead.

These are not recommended as supplements to start treatment because many people can react to them. Also the dosage can be confusing, as the options for each are endless.

Look for the main causes of your leaky gut

The last step is to search and find the root of your leaky gut. This process is commonly done in conjunction with a medical professional, but there are also many things you can do on your own.

The first thing you can do for yourself is get more rest. The body needs energy and space to heal. In this fast-paced world we live in, we often forget about this. The easiest thing you can do tonight to feel better is to take an Epsom salt bath.

The other thing you’ll want to do is check yourself for persistent gut infections or parasites. These hidden infections are a very common cause of constant leaky gut. If you find any and eliminate them, you will be surprised at the amount of energy, sleep and improvements in your body weight that you will notice.

Final Note on Leaky Gut Treatment

There are a few ways to detect leaky gut, but the digestive system is such a dynamic and complex place that it is often a waste of time and money. If you’ve already detected most of the symptoms of leaky gut, especially if you have food allergies or autoimmune conditions, this is a very good sign that you have it.

It’s not the end of the world if you suffer from leaky gut.

This is a completely reversible condition if you follow the multi-phase approach outlined in this article.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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