‘Leaky’ Gut (Intestinal permeability)

Leaky Gut and You — What can you do?

“Leaky Gut Syndrome” is somewhat of a nebulously defined health buzz-word. While it sounds big and scary — “what’s that? Guts are leaking?” — it’s actually neither as scary nor as simple as it sounds.

Let me break it down for you. “Leaky gut” seems  to be a the less-scientifically-correct name for a condition that’s known in the medical world as intestinal permeability.

The intestines are a bit of a complicated machine. They take in chewed food, add their own mobility and a healthy helping of acids and enzymes, and then they expel the nutrients into the bloodstream and the waste out of the body. Intestinal permeability — or leaky gut — occurs when a person’s intestines let too much through their “tight joints” (the part of the intestine that sends nutrients to the bloodstream), and things like food particles and bacteria get into the bloodstream. A healthy intestine has *some* amount of permeability — without that, nutrition could never leave our digestive tract and would all be passed through the body as waste.

So, when we talk about “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability, we’re not talking about a digestive system that let’s molecules through into the bloodstream. All digestive systems do that. Instead, we’re talking about a digestive system that lets the *wrong* molecules through into the bloodstream.

Scientifically, “leaky gut” seems to be talked about as a symptom of certain underlying conditions, and not a condition in and of itself. It can also occur at the same time as certain conditions or diseases, but there is not much evidence to tell us whether or not it was it was the cause of these diseases.

For example, people who have Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory condition affecting the intestines and digestive system) tend to also have leaky gut more often than people who don’t have Crohn’s.  But, right now, it’s unknown whether Crohn’s causes leaky gut, leaky gut causes Crohn’s, or they are both caused by the same or separate conditions that often happen together. Intestinal permeability itself isn’t high enough on the medical radar to have a standard test or to merit a diagnosis.

For now, what we’re saying, is that the scientist don’t know enough about the intestines and “leaky gut” to tell us whether or not it’s likely to happen to mostly healthy adults, and whether or not the condition in and of itself is dangerous or uncomfortable. It may be the the other conditions that tend to happen at the same time are what causes discomfort; we simply don’t know.

We could focus on this; we could let it eat away at us at night: “is my gut leaking? Am I getting bacteria into my bloodstream? What exactly is going on in there?”

But the truth is we don’t know. So rather than focus on what we don’t know or understand, let’s focus on what we do know and understand.

What we do know is this: some healthy adults are suffering digestive problems for no apparent reason. Symptoms including gas, bloating, and a feeling of a “rock in the stomach,” malnutrition, lethargy, and weight gain or weight loss, are all reported as occurring together and individuals believe and report that it is because of leaky gut syndrome.

The question is not “does leaky gut syndrome exist?” but rather “do these symptoms exist?” And the answer is a huge yes. With so many people concerned about these symptoms, we clearly need treatment to prevent and to cure this discomfort.

Sometimes things that are not extremely painful or very uncomfortable are easy for doctors to overlook or ignore — after all, think of all the people they see in pain every day! For a doctor, a minor stomach upset may mean nothing more than “oh the patient ate too much.”  But for the person who constantly feels too full, it’s an ongoing concern. This may be one explanation for why the medical community has yet to weigh in on the symptoms, causes, and cures for leaky gut.

If you have any of these symptoms and suspect or wonder if you have leaky gut, there are plenty of suggestions available for you. They tend to be generally good suggestions for maintaining an overall healthy digestive system.

Suggestions for treating or preventing leaky gut include chewing food thoroughly, increasing fiber intake and decreasing the intake of fats and sugars, staying hydrated, and exercising regularly. Implementing these suggestions seems simple. Slow down during meal time, eat a few more veggies and fruits, cut back a little on the junk food, drink lots of water,  and go for a nice evening walk.

For some people, however, even following these suggestions does not quite alleviate their symptoms. They still find that they feel bloated bloated or have difficulty in the bathroom.

For some people, their work life, home life, or income make it difficult or impossible for them to follow all the suggestions available, and they find themselves unable to eat, drink, and do all the things suggested to help their digestive system function properly.

So, you’ve made all the healthy changes you possibly can; you’ve been to your doctor and been told it’s minor stomach upset; you’re very worried you may have leaky gut and you’re wondering: what do I do now?

This is a time when adding a supplement to your daily health routine can be helpful. If a healthy lifestyle does not help you to feel better, or if  your work, home, or personal life makes it difficult to maintain a healthy life, a digestive enzyme may at least relieve some of the symptoms.

Digestive enzymes are suggested because of the nature of leaky gut — too much getting through. Essentially, a digestive enzyme is something produced by the body to help the intestines break down food to the molecular level. It’s what enables us to absorb nutrients in the first place. Adding a digestive enzyme supplement will assist your stomach in the breakdown of food molecules, so that it is easier for the right stuff to be absorbed and harder for the wrong stuff to get through the intestinal wall.

As an added, beneficial side-effect, many people report that taking a digestive enzyme not only helps their digestive symptoms, but also reduces their stress. Since they know they are doing something to help their body get better, they find they spend less time worrying and have less anxiety about food, eating, and how their stomach feels.

Sometimes, people even find that once they start feeling better about one thing, it’s easier to do other things to help them feel better in their life. For example, once your stomach is feeling less upset after mealtime, it may be easier to take that fifteen minute break at work to walk around and stretch, rather than spending it in the restroom. One healthy change can lead to another!