Leaky gut is a condition affecting the lining of the intestines, creating a dysfunctional environment for proper digestion. It is also called “increased intestinal permeability”, because with leaky gut, the intestines lose some of their ability to filter nutrients and other substances. When this happens, particles of incompletely digested foods, bacteria, other waste by-products may leak through the intestines into the bloodstream. It is usually caused by some form of damage to the intestinal lining.
Our intestines are lined with cells, which are sealed together by something called “tight junctions”. In healthy intestines, these junctions work like gatekeepers, which essentially allow or prohibit particles to move through the gut and into the circulatory system. With leaky gut syndrome, particles can slip through the cells and tight junctions and literally leak into bloodstream or lymphatic system, and move freely throughout the body.
When the body recognizes these foreign substances and detects something is wrong, the immune system kicks in, and tries to fight what it perceives to be danger in the intestines. This causes inflammation and inhibits functioning. In this situation, a woman’s ability to digest food and absorb nutrients is decreased, and her immune system can become compromised. Impaired immune functioning here is extremely important, as our guts contain tissue known as gut-associated lymphatic tissue (GALT) which helps protect us from antigens causing food allergies as well as microbes carrying disease.
When the body is continually trying to repair itself from the effects of leaky gut, it can be caught in a never-ending cycle, especially when the source of the problem is not diagnosed. For example, if unrecognized food allergies are creating leaky gut, and the same foods are consumed over and over, a self- perpetuating, inflammatory cycle will be triggered, and the intestinal lining cannot heal.
How do you get leaky gut?
Sometimes digestive problems originate early in our lives–such as lactose intolerance or food sensitivities. The problems may ebb and flow, especially during busy or stressful times. Other times we can develop issues related to taking certain medications or medical treatments that may have caused damage in our gut. Things like radiation, chemotherapy, corticosteroids, and even long term use of aspirin and antibiotics can wreak havoc with our intestinal flora, or the “good bacteria” that keep our digestive system functioning properly.
Any abundance of toxins in the system can burden our bodies. It is important to recognize imbalances and try to repair them naturally, before they lead to other disease and disorders.
How can this be fixed?
In functional medicine, we look at the underlying causes of a disorder, and address it with a patient-centered focus. We evaluate lifestyle factors, environment, genetics, and history, and address individual aspects with a systems-oriented approach. The Institute of Functional Medicine developed a tool for clinicians to use when treating digestive disorders, called the Four “R” Program: remove, repair, replace, reinoculate and regulate.
- Remove: Undertake an elimination diet
- Replace: Investigate digestive aids
- Reinoculate: Rebalance your gut flora
- Repair: Rebuild your intestinal cells
Before taking any form of prescribed medication for your leaky gut syndrome, consider alternative medication. Book a consultation with Dr Alain Sanua, a doctor who practices alternative methods of health care with longer lasting results. From acupuncture to hypothyroidism, Dr Alain Sanua will be able to assist you.