Healthy Living

Leaky Gut Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Leaky Gut Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Key Takeaways

  • A leaky gut is due to a damage to the intestinal lining. This damage reduces the intestine's ability to protect the internal environment and filter any kind of nutrients or biological substances.
  • Due to a leaky gut, the damaged cells in the intestines are not able to produce the required enzymes for the process of proper food digestion. 
  • A leaky gut can be healed by doing certain modifications to the diet and understanding the exact cause of the problem.

What is leaky gut syndrome?

Leaky gut syndrome is often associated with symptoms such as gas, stomach bloating, being sensitive to certain kinds of foods, and abdominal cramps. However, it is not easy to recognize the signs of a leaky gut, which is why the condition still remains an unsolved mystery. 

It has been seen as a real condition, which tends to affect the lining of the intestines. This syndrome is caused by an increased intestinal permeability, which is often caused by intestinal lining damage. This damage reduces the intestine's ability to protect the internal environment and filter any kind of nutrients or biological substances. This would result in certain types of toxins, bacteria, proteins, or fats that do not get properly digested or any waste, which does not get absorbed normally and starts to leak out to the intestines and goes into the bloodstream.

A leaky gut then triggers an immune reaction, which could cause gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, excessive gas, abdominal cramps, pain in the joints, skin rashes, and being sensitive to certain food items. It has been said that a leaky gut can lead to other medical conditions, which is why it has become a matter of concern.

Due to a leaky gut, the damaged cells in the intestines are not able to produce the required enzymes for the process of proper food digestion. Because of this problem, the body is not able to absorb essential nutrients from the diet, leading to a hormonal imbalance along with an impaired immune system. A leaky gut can be healed by doing certain modifications to the diet and understanding the exact cause of the problem.

Causes of leaky gut syndrome

There can be various factors that could have triggered the cause of a leaky gut. Some of the causes include:

  • Chronic inflammation
  • Sensitivity to food items
  • Frequent intake of NSAIDs 
  • Use of cytotoxic medications
  • Antibiotic use
  • Consumption of too much alcohol
  • Radiation or chemotherapy
  • Impaired immune system
  • Changes in lifestyle
  • Poor food choices
  • Chronic stress whether physical, mental, or emotional
  • Imbalance of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract

Another common cause of a leaky gut can be from the components found in certain food items such as proteins found in unsprouted grains, sugar, and conventional dairy items. Unsprouted grains are known to contain a huge amount of antinutrients or nutrient blockers such as lectins and phytates.

Lectins are defined as sugar-binding proteins that act as a natural defense of the plants. They tend to protect the plants from outside invaders, which could be parasites or molds. Although lectins are good for plants, they do not work well in the human body. The human body’s digestive lining is covered with sugar, which contains those cells that help break down the food items. What lectin does is that it gravitates towards this area and when they get attached to the digestive lining of the intestine, the gut gets damaged causing inflammation.

There are many food items that contain lectin aside from unsprouted grains. However, if an individual consumes these unsprouted grains in smaller amounts, then it wouldn’t pose much of a problem. One should be careful of consuming higher amounts of food items that contain lectin. Some of the examples would be rice, spelt, soy, and wheat.

The process of fermentation and sprouting reduce the content of lectin and phytates in food items, thereby making it easy to be digested. When people consume GM foods and hybridized food items, then they should be careful since these foods contain high amounts of lectin. This is due to the fact that these food items are modified to keep of any kind of bugs. Grains that contain gluten are also known to damage the intestinal lining leading to a leaky gut syndrome.

Bearing all these causes in mind is very important, especially for individuals who want to repair their leaky gut and cure any kind of autoimmune diseases. Once you are treated, then you can go back on adding grains into your diet. Just make sure that the food items are sprouted or fermented.

Another cause of a leaky gut is the cow’s milk. Its main component, which is known to harm the gut, is the protein called casein. The process of pasteurization tends to destroy all kinds of vital enzymes and produces sugar like lactose, which the body finds difficult to digest. Also, if you have a leaky gut, then it is better to stay away from sugar since it can also lead to trouble in the digestive system. Sugar consumption would only lead to an increase in the growth of bacteria or yeast such as Candida, leading to further gut damage. An increase of bad bacteria in the gut can cause a hormonal imbalance. It also releases exotoxins that tend to damage the healthy cells of the body. In some cases, it can lead to a hole in the intestinal wall.

Symptoms of leaky gut syndrome

How will individuals know if they have a leaky gut? Below are some of the leaky gut symptoms:

  • Sensitivity Towards Food: Individuals with a leaky gut usually find it difficult to take in certain kinds of food. Due to the onslaught of various toxins that enter the bloodstream, the immune system of individuals suffering from intestinal hyperpermeability starts to have an overdrive of mass-producing various kinds of antibodies. This process leads to the body becoming more prone to different antigens in certain kinds of foods, which would include dairy items and gluten.
  • IBS or Inflammatory Bowel Disease: It has been found out in research that an increased permeability in the gut is mostly linked to the colon of individuals who are suffering from ulcerative colitis or IBS. According to certain studies, it has been found out that individuals suffering from Crohn’s disease have seen a major case of leaky gut syndrome. In such cases, zinc supplements are found to be very beneficial in tightening up the intestinal junctions.
  • Malabsorption: Due to a leaky gut, an individual would start to suffer from various types of nutritional deficiencies, which would include vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and any other types of key enzymes. Thus, it is very important that those suffering from a leaky gut should take supplements along with whole food-based multivitamins and probiotic foods. This would not only help digest the food better, but it would also ensure that the body gets the vital nutrients, which are very much needed for the smooth functioning of the body's system.
  • Thyroid Problems: Leaky gut syndrome is known to have a direct impact on Hashimoto’s disease. This medical condition is also known as chronic thyroiditis. Because of this thyroid gland disorder, other medical conditions may emerge such as an impaired metabolism, hypothyroidism, weight gain due to a faulty metabolism, easily getting tired, mood changes, and heightened depression, among others.
  • Autism and changes in mood: There have been various neurocognitive issues linked to the leaky gut syndrome. A few examples would be the release of pro-inflammatory cytokins and other forms of chemicals, which would increase the risk of depression.

Apart from the above symptoms, the other signs of a leaky gut include:

  • A chronic case of diarrhea
  • Stomach bloating
  • Impaired immune system
  • Brain fog or loss of memory
  • Headaches that tend to get severe over time
  • Skin rashes leading to eczema
  • Craving for sugary food items and other forms of carbohydrates
  • Joint pain or arthritis
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and celiac disease

Risk Factors

Hippocrates once said that all diseases begin in the gut, and research has also proven his point. Leaky gut syndrome is known to happen due to a malfunction of the intestinal tight junction. These tight junctions are the gateways, which are laid between the intestines, and should be allowed to pass into the bloodstream. These tight junctions are very helpful in terms of keeping away any kind of harmful toxins, food particles that are not properly digested, and microbes flowing into the bloodstream. This syndrome is linked to various types of acute and chronic conditions such as autism, eczema, allergies of various kinds, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, asthma, and any type of autoimmune disease.

Treatment for leaky gut syndrome

A leaky gut has led to a lot of health problems, but it is possible to get it healed successfully by diligently observing the following tips:

  • Avoid foods and factors that can damage the gut.
  • Include healthy food items in your diet. Get rid of highly processed foods such as junk food and sugary food items.
  • Take specific supplements to repair the gut as well as not allowing any kind of deficiency in the body.
  • Rebalance with the help of probiotic foods.

It is very important to get rid or avoid foods high in sugar, grains, dairy, and meat in the diet. Also avoid the use of NSAIDs, certain antibiotics, tap water, and pesticides. Do take supplements and medications for your condition without consulting a doctor. 

Below are the foods or supplements that one can take to help heal a leaky gut:

  • Raw Dairy Items: Raw dairy contains both probiotics as well as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which would help in healing the gut without causing any damage as it is with the conventional dairy items. One can go for pasteurized kefir, yogurt, butter, and cheese in raw form.
  • Coconut: All products made from coconut are very good for the gut. Coconut has medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), which are easier to digest than other types of fats, which is why it works well for a leaky gut. You can also go for coconut kefir, which has probiotics that help to support the digestive system.
  • Bone Broth: Bone broth is known to contain amino acids and collagen. It helps heal damaged cell walls. After consultation with the doctor, see if you can restrict your diet to bone broth for a period of 3-4 days. It would help cure any kind of autoimmune disease as well as a leaky gut.
  • Fermented Vegetables: These vegetables contain organic acids that help balance the pH level of the body. It also contains probiotics, which help support the gut. The excellent sources of fermented vegetables are kimchi and kvass.
  • Seeds in Sprouted Form: When chia seeds and flaxseeds are sprouted, they become good sources of fiber, which help support the growth of good and beneficial bacteria in the body. However, when an individual is suffering from a severe case of leaky gut syndrome, then it is best to consume steamed vegetables and fresh fruits.

You can also include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids since they contain anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for the body.