6 Ways to Improve Your Leaky Gut – Part 1

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

Do you have aches and pains, bloating, gas, cramps, and food sensitivities? Have you had tests done but each come out showing nothing is wrong? Do not despair and don’t start to think you are losing your mind. You might have a little-known of condition known as leaky gut.

What is Leaky Gut?

digestive issues involving leaky gutYour question may be – so, exactly what is leaky gut?

Leaky gut syndrome, also referred to as leaky gut, is the result of certain medications, lifestyle behaviors, or conditions that cause increased permeability of the gut lining.

When healthy, the gut lining is responsible for the absorption of nutrients while preventing large molecules and germs passing through from the bowel into your bloodstream. The gut lining is one cell layer thick and is responsible for this. Cells are tightly lined next to each other, making the lining impermeable to toxins. The space between one cell and the next is called the tight junction. When this space widens, toxins are able to pass between the cells and trigger inflammation as they enter the hepatic circulation on route to the rest of the boyd. Leaky gut therefore can be very serious.

Causes of Leaky Gut Syndrome

There are a number of varied standpoints as to just what causes a leaky gut. Although the complete verdict is still not out, most medical practitioners are in agreement on certain aspects, their causes, and the treatment of leaky gut.

Certain drugs and alcohol are known to irritate the bowel lining and possibly causing damage to the seals between your cells, thereby allowing substances to pass into your bloodstream. The result is inflammation in that area of the bowel. In most instances, the condition improves once you stop ingesting the cause of the problem. The worst case scenario in most instances is the development of ulcers.

There are, however, a number of illnesses and treatments that add to a disruption in the proper functioning of the bowel lining. These include infections such as giardiasis and salmonella, certain inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease, certain chemotherapy medications, radiotherapy to the abdominal area, cystic fibrosis, diabetes type-1, chronic kidney problems, complicated surgeries, and sepsis.

Homeopaths and other alternative healthcare practitioners who tend to look at the body from a more holistic viewpoint link leaky gut to a wider number of existing health-related problems. Amongst these are chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue, multiple sclerosis (MS), food allergies, eczema and other skin conditions, lupus, asthma, migraine, and even autism.

Symptoms Associated with a Leaky Gut

There are quite a number of general symptoms most often associated with the condition. They include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Food and/or seasonal allergies
  • Bloating / gas
  • Constipation / diarrhea
  • Joint pains / arthritis
  • Skin rashes
  • The occurrence of a candida infection
  • Nutritional deficiencies due to them not being absorbed by the gut lining as they should
  • A weakened immune system usually due to overexertion

The Gut-Brain Connection

The gut is connected to the brain by means of nerves. The part of the brain influencing gut activity is the hypothalamus, which is also part of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Besides keeping the body in a state of homeostasis, the hypothalamus also either starts, or stops, the production of various hormones throughout the body. As far as the stomach and intestines are concerned, it plays a role with regards to glandular secretions, body weight, appetite, and fluid and electrolyte balance.

However, leaky gut interrupts effective communication between the brain, stomach, and intestines, producing a range of symptoms that are specifically brain-related. These include anxiety, depression, mood swings, and brain fog.

Autoimmune Disorders and Neurological Problems

the immune system and leaky gutWhen your immune cells come into contact with infected cells, they at times become ‘killer cells’ due to working overtime and becoming stressed, accidentally attacking healthy cells and causing autoimmune disorders. These include Crohn’s, diabetes, lupus, Hashimoto’s, and celiac disease.

Studies have shown that there is also a correlation between leaky gut and neurological problems, such as Alzheimer’s, autism, migraines, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, and multiple sclerosis (MS).

The Effects of Stress on Leaky Gut

We are constantly affected by different types of stress, whether of a physical, psychological, or environmental nature. When exposed to any stressful situation, our body, via the adrenal glands, release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin that are directly responsible for putting our bodies into a state of heightened awareness on the one hand, while it prepares us to flee or fight if necessary on the other. These stress hormones are thus our body’s protectors when we are in a heightened state of awareness and readiness to take action, and they directly increase our heart rate and breathing while storing energy in our muscles.

During this stressful period, the brain indicates that processes (including hormone production) considered non-essential to the immediate preservation of your life either cease or diminish in their function, as all systems are concentrating on short-term survival. The bacteria that is present in our digestive systems actually detect the stress hormones in our bodies. Under normal conditions, when the stressful situation is of short duration, all systems start functioning properly once more.

If, for whatever reason, the stressful situation continues for an indefinite period, problems start to arise. Your cortisol levels rise, which, if left unchecked, cause the adrenal glands to work overtime. The adrenal glands, at some stage, are not able to keep up the body’s demand for cortisol, and the body’s natural stress response calls on other parts of the body to help with the constant need for this hormone. The consequences are far-reaching, impacting your stomach and intestinal tract as well.

the stress of having a leaky gutMicrobes in the gut that are harmless become pathogenic in response to the constant release of stress hormones, often mutating in the process, resulting in infections. Your gut’s ecology is no longer in a state of homeostasis or balance. The result is that the digestive and immune systems are compromised and we are more vulnerable than usual to infection. We are then presented with a wide range of health conditions that often seem totally unrelated.

Unfortunately, functional medicine often seeks to treat the different symptoms suffered and does not seek out the root cause of the problem which, more often than not, is a condition known as adrenal fatigue. Very few practitioners of conventional medicine, however, recognize adrenal fatigue as a health condition, although most homeopaths and alternative healthcare practitioners realize that it is the root cause of a number of health conditions.

Read Part 2

© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

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