Understanding Leaky Gut Syndrome
Although leaky gut syndrome (also known as intestinal hypermeability) isn't generally recognized by conventional physicians as a real medical condition, there is increasing evidence that the problem is genuine. Leaky gut syndrome is the result of damage to the intestinal lining.
A healthy intestine is lined with permeable mucosal tissues that regulate the passage of nutrient particles from the gut into the blood stream, acting as a safety net to determine which particles are safe to crossover through the intestinal wall and which ones should be removed from the digestive system. When the intestinal lining is damaged it can "leak," making it less able to protect the internal environment and filter nutrients. This allows larger-than-normal particles such as undigested food, microbes, wastes, and toxins to get into the lymphatic system or bloodstream, triggering an immune response that causes inflammation.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome
While the inflammation response is a normal protective mechanism, if the inflammation continues, it can lead to a myriad of gastrointestinal problems, including:
- Cognitive problems
- Excessive gas and cramps
- Food sensitivities
- Joint and muscle pain
- Shortness of breath
Leaky gut syndrome may also trigger or worsen other disorders, such as Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma.
Anything that alters the mucosal lining of your GI tract can contribute to leaky gut syndrome. Some causes include:
- Chronic inflammation
- Consuming excessive amounts of refined carbohydrates and sugars as well as highly processed foods
- Food allergies
- Lactose intolerance
- Ingesting large amounts of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)
- Cytotoxic (cancer) drugs and radiation
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Compromised immune system
If you're experiencing leaky gut symptoms, see your doctor for an evaluation.
Taking the steps below may help repair the damage to the lining of your intestine and relieve your symptoms:
- Chew your food slowly. Eating fast and swallowing unchewed food makes your digestive system work harder.
- Avoid alcohol and NSAIDs, as well as any food you may be allergic to, such as dairy or yeast products.
- Add more fiber to your diet gradually. Because high fiber intake can exacerbate symptoms until the gut is healed, try slowly adding more easily digestible types of fiber to your diet, such as bananas, pears, applesauce, and well-cooked squash.
- Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet that includes whole grains, beans and legumes, fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines and healthy fats like olive and canola oil.
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