Our gastrointestinal tract is host to over a trillion microbes that plays a significant role in our health and how we feel. The incredible inner environment of the gut has now been shown to play in role in a whole host of conditions including development of:
- autoimmune disease
- food intolerances
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- anxiety and depression
- neurodevelopment conditions such as autism
- neuro-inflammatory disorders
- gut bacteria imbalances (dysbiosis)
Our microbiome (gut bacteria) is pivotal in gut function and how the intestinal cells (epithelial cells) that line our gastrointestinal tract work. In the recent decade the term ‘Leaky gut’ has been used and research now demonstrates this as a major contributing factor in the onset of many conditions and diseases.
So…what is leaky gut?
What is leaky gut?
Within our gastrointestinal tract there is a single layer of intestinal cells that line our inner surface known as epithelial cells which are held closely together with tight junctions (proteins). In conjunction with products secreted from these cells this layer of epithelial cells assist in making sure our internal environment is separated from contents that travel through our digestive tract. Our gastrointestinal tract is exposed to all of our intestinal content thus making this a major entry point for pathogens (undesirable bacteria, virus, fungi etc).
Increased permeability of the intestinal cells refers to the cells becoming separated which allows for substances to penetrate through the gut barrier into our blood that usually wouldn’t be able to get through. Examples of substances that may get through the barrier include larger proteins in food, bacteria, virus and toxins.
Causes of a intestinal damage (Leaky gut)
There are triggers that are now known to cause damage to our intestinal tract and cause leaky gut. Some of these include:
- blood sugar issues
- food allergies
- low stomach acid
- diet and nutrition
The consequences of intestinal damage and increased permeability of the gut barrier has far reaching effects throughout the body. Once entering into the blood and lymphatic system, pathogens and toxins can disrupt many tissues, organs and systems within the body, in particular the brain and the immune system. Some signs and symptoms that you may have a leaky gut include:
- development of food intolerances
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- bloating, pain
- changes in bowel movements
- Neuro-inflammatory disorders
- behavioural issues
- diagnosis of an autoimmune condition
The good news is that through targeted treatment, the gastrointestinal tract and gut barrier integrity and function can be improved to help reduce symptoms and allow the intestinal tract to function well. Some key treatment interventions include:
- identifying and removing the triggers
- repairing the gut with specific probiotic and prebiotic therapy
- assessment of dietary and lifestyle factors (remember stress?)
The use of functional testing to assess gastrointestinal function and the microbiome (gut bacteria) can be important for helping to identify the underlying cause and potential pathogens. Other testing options that can help to identify the cause of an individuals symptoms include IgG food intolerance testing and routine blood pathology.
Treating the individual and not the disease is important to maintain and sustain great health and wellbeing. There is a mutually beneficial relationship between ourselves and our gut bacteria meaning that the bacteria are really important for our overall health.
There are great treatment options if you have been experiencing long term symptoms of poor gut health that is beginning to impact you quality of life.
We all deserve to Be Well, Feel good and truly Thrive to live our best life.
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