The Guts of the Matter - Leaky Gut Syndrome

Hippocrates theorised that all disease starts in the gut. 2000 years later modern medicine is only just beginning to understand that our gut health plays a critical role to our overall health and poor gut function has been linked to mood disorders such as depression, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, autism and chronic fatigue. Supporting intestinal health by restoring the integrity of the gut barrier will significantly improve nutrient absorption, reduce inflammation and restore many health conditions.

Approximately 70 percent of our immune system relies on our gut, so if this is out of balance our immune response will suffer. Food intolerances, skin eruptions, bloating, poor digestion and lethargy are all signs of dysbiosis or gut flora imbalance. What many people don’t realise is that there is a strong connection between our brain and our gut, in fact approximately 95 percent of the body's feel-good chemical serotonin is found in the gut. If the bad bacteria outnumber the good, our mood can therefore also be affected, sometimes leading to anxiety and depression.

Antibiotics are particularly harmful to our healthy gut flora as the antibiotics can kill off healthy bacteria causing an unhealthy gut flora composition. This does not balance itself unless we consciously replace the lost flora with probiotics and fermented foods.

‘Leaky gut’ is a term often used by natural health practitioners but is not something that is acknowledged in mainstream medicine. Having healthy intestinal cell walls provides a necessary barrier by preventing foreign substances from entering the body. The term leaky gut means that the intestinal barrier has weakened and has become more permeable to foreign invaders hence the term leaky gut. If our gut barrier has become weak, this can cause an immune system response to foreign invaders such as poor quality tap-water, yeasts, viruses and other types of fungi giving rise to autoimmune problems and increased internal inflammation within the body. Autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimotos thyroid disease can be worsened (some studies even suggest that they may be brought on) by a poor functioning gut. Anyone with autoimmune problems may well have internal gut health problems and not even know it. A weakened gut barrier often shows no obvious digestive signs but can appear in the form of food intolerances, celiac disease, allergies and chronic silent internal inflammation.

Possible signs of a leaky gut:

  • Food intolerances

  • Arthritis

  • Allergies

  • Histamine reactions

  • Skin disorders

  • Skin reactions and sensitivities

  • Autoimmune Diseases

  • Neurotransmitter and neurological diseases

  • Unexplained fatigue

  • Depression

  • Ridged fingernails

Low gastric acid can lead to poor digestion and absorption of nutrients which can lead to an inflamed and weakened gut barrier. Some medications can also cause localised inflammation leading to cell damage, increased intestinal permeability and poor nutrient absorption.

Possible causes of a leaky gut and poor digestion:

  • Medications such as proton pump inhibitors and anti – acids

  • Anti-inflammatory medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s), chemotherapy, prolonged use of stimulant laxatives

  • Antibiotics

  • Low HCL/Gastric acid

  • Alcohol

  • High sugar diet

  • Low fibre diet

  • Age

Having a healthy functioning digestive system is paramount when it comes to absorbing your nutrients effectively. We may have a healthy diet but if our digestive system is not working well the cells of our small intestine cannot uptake the necessary nutrients for transport to the blood or lymph to be used for vital biochemical processes within the body. Following a gut healing protocol is an imperative first step towards good health.

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