Many of you, no doubt, will have heard the term “leaky gut”, as it’s become a popular topic in health and wellness circles and online. But I’ve heard that if you mention it to certain doctors, they can have a somewhat negative reaction, or even say they “don’t believe in that”. If, however you look up another term, “intestinal permeability” you’ll find many well researched articles in medical journals about just that, and the fact is that the two are exactly the same thing.
So, why is leaky gut important? How do we get it, and what happens if we have it? The gastrointestinal tract or “gut” isn’t just the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach and then ushers the waste out at the other end. The lining of the gut is complex and has many functions, one of which is to make sure that only the good things are getting absorbed into the bloodstream, things like food, vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
If the gut lining is exposed to certain irritants, it can get leaky. These irritants can be things like foods we might be sensitive to, environmental toxins that can come in through our food and water supply, viruses, bacteria or parasites that can come from contamination, pharmaceutical waste also found in unfiltered or questionable water sources, and since the gut and the brain are very connected, even having stress can cause the gut to become leaky.
To visualize what that leakiness entails, you can imagine the surface of the gut lining as being made of cells that are shaped a little like columns, and those columns are so closely knit together, they’re almost fused; these are called tight junction cells. But they’re not completely fused, because all the good things we mentioned above need to be able to pass through into your bloodstream to nourish the rest of your body. But when the gut is exposed to these irritants, those tight junction cells start to open up much more widely, letting not only the good stuff pass, but also the not so good ~ viruses, allergens, toxins, parasites, pharmaceuticals. Yikes!
When this happens, your immune system starts to respond, just as it should, thinking that these agents are foreign invaders and must be stopped. So, in your best interest, your immune system goes into high gear and starts reacting.
It could start reacting to foods you’ve normally eaten without any problem, and all of the sudden you find you can’t tolerate some of your favorite things. Or you could start getting skin eruptions, itches or rashes. Or maybe you start feeling fatigued, anxious, depressed. Or perhaps your joints or muscles start to get stiff and achey. Maybe you even get a diagnosis like Hashimoto’s or another autoimmune condition. All of these problems can be related to those loosening tight junction cells, to the gut becoming leaky and exposing your immune system to things it shouldn’t normally be seeing.
Don’t despair! Leaky gut is very responsive to the treatments functional medicine uses all the time to help people feel better and regain their health and vitality. And we do this without pharmaceutical drugs, but rather working with safe and natural approaches such as exploring diet changes, using appropriate healing supplements, working on lowering stress and practicing ongoing self care.
Curious? Make an appointment for a free discovery call to see if this could be causing your symptoms!
~ Victoria :-