I keep reading about ‘leaky gut syndrome’ and that it can cause a range of issues from allergies to autism. So I wanted to find out exactly what is ‘leaky gut syndrome’ and the symptoms. Here’s what I found.
Basically, the gut and all the connecting tissues from our mouth to the anus is a tube. The role of this tube is twofold; to extract nutrients and energy from the food we eat and expel waste. This tube is the gateway for external things such as food and water to enter our internal environment (i.e. the bloodstream).
The lining of our gut is a crucial barrier that controls what goes into our bloodstream. While we absorb the goodness from our food, we don’t want to absorb the waste, toxins and bad bacteria. The lining of our gut is designed to let through the good stuff and prevent us from absorbing anything potentially harmful.
So, the lining of our gut involves complex physiological systems of defense. Firstly, the cells which line our gut are designed to be tightly packed together, in order to prevent large molecules from squeezing through before they have been digested and broken down. Furthermore, up to 75% of our immune cells are stationed near our gut wall, to act as further guards against unwanted intrusions into our bloodstream.
In ‘leaky gut syndrome’, a few aspects of the defence system in our gut break down. Firstly, inflammation in the intestines can damage the cells that line our gut, essentially making the lining more permeable. Secondly, the immune cells in the gut wall tend to work less effectively. Rogue substances are therefore able to enter your bloodstream, such as proteins, food particles, toxins and bad bacteria.
However, the bloodstream is filled with immune cells that locate foreign invaders and disable them. So when foreign substances leak across the gut and into the blood where they don’t belong, the immune system mounts an inflammatory response that is designed to disarm these potentially harmful particles.
Inflammation from an acute injury (like a bee sting) is helpful and healthy. It’s when we are chronically inflamed that things can go wrong. Leaky gut syndrome is believed to cause chronic, low – grade inflammation. This is because the immune system is constantly fighting those particles from the gut that aren’t meant to make it through to the bloodstream. Systemic, chronic inflammation of this nature is associated with a higher risk of getting the following conditions:
- Certain immune disorders and thyroid issues,
- Food intolerances,
- Joint pain and arthritis,
- Anxiety, depression and other mood disorders,
- Skin breakouts and rashes,
- Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s Disease,
- Frequent colds and infections.