Leaky Gut Explained In One Post
I remember the first time leaky gut was suggested to me, I’d heard of it in passing several times but never understood it or realised just how common and easy it is to actually have.
A Leaky gut can cause digestive upset, is linked to creating allergies, and I believe is a likely contributor to auto-immune diseases (which makes some sense when you realise that 80% of your immune system lives in your gut).
It’s worth noting here that as our gut lining is only about one cell thick, it makes a lot of sense that the gut walls can get inflamed and pull apart causing chronic inflammation and a raft of other health issues.
But what actually is it?
Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, is the product of a digestive system that has been under attack for so long that the intestinal lining becomes weak and separated.
Imagine linking your fingers together to form a cup with your hands, nice a tightly meshed together so nothing falls through - just as your gut walls should be.
Now think about the last meal you ate, let's pretend we are pouring some of that meal into your hands (btw I am not responsible for the mess if you try this at home!).
Next slowly pull your hands apart just a little bit, what happens?
The smaller bits of food fall through (hopefully not onto any carpet since this was imaginary right!).
Going back to your gut - think of those intestinal walls being in a constant state of slightly apart, every time you eat anything little particles of those foods move through the gaps and into your body.
Okay, so what does that even mean?
Well, it means that there is a whole lot of particles floating around outside of the specially designed walls built to contain them and these escaped bits do nothing but cause havoc.
You see your body doesn't know what they are, only that they are foreign invaders, and so just as your body is designed to do it prompts a swift immune response and attacks them.
I know, I know, if its an invader and my body attacks it - isn't that a solution to the problem?
It is not that simple. In mounting an immune response to the invaders (which is the coolest process of foot soldiers and sniper attacks - but I won't go all immune geek on you right now), your body is also smart enough to store a special memory of the attack and what it attacked.
Let's say it was gluten that leaked through, your body fought the invader, stored the memory and so when you eat gluten again repeatedly the body recognizes it and instantly mounts another attack - for it is doing what its sole purpose is to protect you and keep you alive in the present moment.
Hello food intolerance's!!
Now you understand what it actually is, I want to explain what it is that causes it in the first place.
For many people it is in fact food, what exact food will differ from person to person but there are the common culprits of gluten, soy and dairy, often a food that is eaten regularly.
For example, each time I eat gluten my body attacks it, producing antibodies that trigger the immune response that results in manifestation of symptoms, usually cramps, headaches and a likely quick trip to the toilet.
But its not just food that sends our guts out of sync, but medications like antibiotics, steroids and over the counter pain relief which all have the ability to damage the protective layers of the intestinal walls, either starting inflammation or continuing it - ultimately leading to Leaky Gut.
Do I have it?
Unfortunately with the way in which most of our population eats the chances are high.
Some of the symptoms that could suggest a leaky gut is involved include:
- Chronic diarrhoea, constipation
- Abdominal bloating and gas
- Impaired Immune function
- Headaches, brain fog, memory loss
- Depression, anxiety, ADHD
- Autoimmune diseases
- Skin conditions, like eczema, acne rosacea
- Nutrient deficiencies
The thing with this is, it is not like the minute your gut becomes leaky you will know about it like with other chronic issues.
The status of your intestinal walls is something many of us would have no clue about, or would not even consider need support until we are much sicker or start to understand where our health issues might have started.
Truth is, I believe most of us have some form of leaky gut (that may have even been what started other health issues that feel more important), and need some gut healing to restore that all important intestinal wall that is designed to protect all outside matter from getting inside your body.
I mean your intestinal tract is just a long tube from end to end - technically it is 'outside' your body as nothing that passes through that entire tube should ever get into the rest of your body (except all the nutrients we absorb out of course).
Healing a leaky gut takes time, and takes patience.
There is no magic pill (although speaking of magic pills, please check out The Magic Pill on Netflix if you haven't already - well worth the watch) to cure this, healing requires elimination of the things you body has deemed toxic and is attacking.
This can be a full elimination of common inflammatory foods and go from there (each person will be different of course) or you could remove things bit by bit as you work to figure out what your body cannot tolerate to enable your gut lining to heal.
For me, years of antibiotics, pain medication (not to mention alcohol and drugs) surely left my gut lining in a special state.
My recovery from pancreatitis and all the resulting issues that have presented themselves, is an ongoing journey but one that would not be progressing had I not addressed my leaky gut.
Gluten, processed dairy, and all grains had to go for me - instead focusing on soothing gut healing foods to ease inflammation and allow the gut to heal.
Leaky Gut might be a little known syndrome, but its a presence in our bodies is unfortunately not.
So many of us are going about daily lives with one, two or many of the symptoms of leaky gut, yet we write it off as just something happening to us today, or the result of some bad food, or what we are dealing with seems so far removed from our gut we make no connection at all .
Truth is, all disease starts in the gut (to quote someone slightly famous by the name of Hippocrates), and no matter what issues you are facing right now, I think taking a look at the health of your gut is a good starting point.