What is a Leaky Gut ?

What is a Leaky Gut ?

What is a Leaky Gut?

A healthy gut is the foundation of good health. The gut (small intestine and large intestine) is the organ that digests food and absorbs nutrients into the body. In a healthy gut, the cells should fit together nice and tightly so there is a good barrier between you and the food that you eat. After a meal, your body produces enzymes that break down food to the very smallest particles of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and nutrients that then get actively transported into the blood stream. That healthy gut is a good barrier between you and the food that you eat … a nice clean system.

When a person experiences excess stress (physical, emotional, chemical, etc.) two things happen. First, the digestive enzymes are not produced in the amount needed to appropriately break your food down to those smallest particles, thus leaving larger, less digested particles. Secondly, stress results in inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the gut causes the cells of the gut to swell. This results in microscopic holes in the wall of the gut that then allow those larger proteins to ‘leak’ into the blood stream. This leak can be the causative agent in many illnesses.

Since many more toxins are able to get through that “leaky” barrier, the body is then burdened with an excessive toxic load. This overworks the liver. And, since the nutrients haven’t been broken down into useable sized particles, the liver and body are not getting the appropriate nutrients they need to work optimally. The result is that liver is “overworked and underpaid”. This can result in hypoglycemia, hormonal imbalance, and toxic overburden on the body.

Another consequence of poor digestion is the development of food sensitivities or, as some people call them, “allergies”. When those larger proteins (improperly digested pieces of your food) leak into the blood they stimulate the body to mount an immune response against them. This means that the body manufactures an antibody to bind to the antigen (that protein that leaked through). Once those antigens have been formed, they will recognize that food any time it gets through the barrier. Now when you eat that food, your body is actually fighting against it which is why you may not feel too well.

Now, when that newly formed antigen/antibody complex is floating around in your bloodstream, eventually it will bump into and adhere to a mucous membrane in the body and cause more inflammation. Depending on where that happens, the result can be asthma, arthritis, constipation, diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, headaches, or many others. If you think of a place where you have inflammation, you have to wonder if it has anything to do with the health of your gut.

It is important to know that your gut can seem healthy yet still be ‘leaky’. Luckily there is an easy way to test your gut to truly see how healthy it is. Food allergies and chronic inflammation should not exist. Your gut is your foundation. It should support your health and vitality. If it is leaky, it can be the reason why nothing works and why you have to work so hard to feel simply okay.

By | 2020-02-12T10:53:57-07:00 October 6th, 2010|Categories: Healthy Living|6 Comments

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  1. Kristen January 15, 2012 at 11:06 am

    What does the test entail to detect leaky gut?  Is the antidote to leaky gut addressed by diet change and/or medications?

    • Dr. Cari January 30, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      There are a couple of ways to test for a leaky gut. The one we currently use involves looking at your immune response to improperly broken down particles that have “leaked” into your blood stream. If you have a perfectly healthy gut, nothing is leaking through, so your immune system is not fighting those “foreign invaders” by making antibodies. If you do have a “leaky gut”, the opposite is true. So, we draw your blood and send it to a speciality lab. They basically throw food at your blood (at least that is my kindergarten understanding of the test). Based on how many foods your blood reacts to and how much it reacts, they calculate a score which tells us how “leaky” your gut is.

      As for the question about addressing it. Avoiding certain foods (especially the ones you are reactive to) and possibly some of the more inflammatory ones (like gluten, dairy and soy) can definitely help the healing process. However, if you think about it, the problem is not really the food. Your immune system will only react to the foods that actually get through the “leaky” barrier. And those don’t have to be any of the allergenic foods. If you have a “leak”, anything you are eating can be getting through. So, we use the avoidance of foods temporarily to decrease the inflammatory affect they have on an already inflamed gut. Then we use supplements (also temporarily) to allow the gut to heal.

      I hope that answers your question!
      Dr. Cari

  2. Megan Heffentrager January 27, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I am wondering how important it is to suppliment your diet with certain key digestive enzymes if you have leaky gut? Does this speed up the healing process or help in anyway?

    • Dr. Cari January 30, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      Hi Megan,

      Great question! Using digestive enzymes is definitely one of the keys to healing a leaky gut. We use them to make sure that all of your food is broken down properly. This way we minimize the number of “unbroken down” particles that could possibly “leak” through your gut, be absorbed and trigger an inflammatory and immune response. You also want to make sure you are giving your “gut” the nutrients it needs to heal (glutamine is the main one), probiotics to replace the good bacteria, anti-oxidants to neutralize toxins and fiber to bind up the toxins while keeping your bowels moving.

      Hope that helps!
      Dr. Cari

  3. Megan February 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    So, you are saying that fasting temporarily will reduce the inflammation in the gut and during this time supplements are taken? How long do you recommend fasting?

    • Dr. Cari February 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm

      I don’t really recommend fasting in the way that most people think of it. I recommend eliminating the foods that are most likely problematic for each person. I use that test to help guide me in individual cases. However, some general guidelines of foods to consider eliminating are gluten, dairy, processed/refined sugars and anything you happen to eat every day. And as far as how long you do this, of course, that depends. Sometimes you can begin to add the foods back into your life after just a couple of weeks. Most likely it will be for 1-6 months.

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