Our gut lining allows important nutrients into the body and at the same time it keeps out harmful particles. But when the gut is damaged, it can't select what should enter the body. This is what is referred to as Leaky gut or intestinal permeability.
What happens when we have leaky gut?
The inside of the small intestine is covered with billions of tiny fingers called villi. They secrete mucous, enzymes and hormones and all have a specific effect and purpose on the body. Below is an image of healthy vs unhealthy villi.
When the villi are damaged, they can't make sufficient enzymes, mucous, hormones. Also, the tight junctions open up and large undigested food particles, bacteria and toxins can enter the blood stream. This causes system wide inflammation and chaos and the immune system is compromised.
Having leaky gut is like leaving the front door open in your home, anyone and anything can enter.
Symptoms of leaky gut
When unwanted particles (pathogens) leak into the body, the immune system kicks in and creates antibodies to remove them. Unfortunately, the immune system can mistake healthy tissue as a pathogen, because of something called molecular mimicry.
In this way autoimmunity and systemic inflammation starts.
Symptoms and conditions linked to leaky gut are numerous, including:
- Autoimmune disease - Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, Sjogren's, rheumatic carditis, celiac disease etc.
- Joint pain / fibromyalgia
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Mental health issues - depression, anxiety, ADHD, ADD
- Skin inflammation - Psoriasis, acne, eczmema
- Alzheimer and Parkinson disease
- Thyroid diseases
- Inflammatory bowel diseases and irritable bowel
- Allergies - Food and chemical sensitivities & intolerances
- Hormonal imbalances
What damages the gut?
There are many things that can damage our gut, including:
The protein (gluten) in wheat can make leaky gut worse. Gluten stimulates the tight junctions in the gut to open. So, people on a healing program should avoid gluten grains like wheat, barley and rye for a period of time while the gut heals.
Certain medications like NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) also damage the gut lining making healing virtually impossible. Alternative medications should be used during healing.
How to heal leaky gut?
Healing leaky gut and the immune system, needs a multifaceted approach.
It involves addressing the root cause, whilst adopting an anti-inflammatory, low allergen diet during healing. Specific foods, herbs and lifestyle factors can be used to help relieve Inflammatory symptoms. This is covered in my anti-inflammatory program.
There is a big difference between a good diet and a healing diet. To learn more about how to eat a healing diet, click here.