Till today many healthcare professionals do not recognize leaky gut syndrome as a condition which can be diagnosed. However, increasing medical research suggest the possibility that leaky gut syndrome is related to a range of medical conditions.
Let’s refresh our knowledge of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This GI tract begins from the mouth, the esophagus, the stomach, the small and large intestines, and ends off at the anus.
Digestion starts in the stomach and small intestine, where digestive enzymes break down the food and allow nutrients, calories, vitamins and water to pass through tight openings in the intestinal walls for the body to use as energy, repair and growth. The process of passing through the openings in the intestinal walls is called intestinal permeability or IP.
The harmful substances are moved along the small intestine to the large intestine before departing as poop.
In leaky gut syndrome (LGS), the openings in the linings of the intestines become wider, allowing bacteria and other toxins to pass through the intestinal walls and enter directly into the bloodstream.
Your intestines house a range of bacteria called “gut microbiota”. This good bacteria has three main functions, i.e., they aid digestion, support immune functions and protect the intestinal wall.
Medical research shows LGS involves imbalances in gut microbiota. According to an article that appeared in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design in 2016, studies by the scientists showed imbalances in gut microbiota can trigger the body’s immune response, resulting in gut inflammation and increased IP.
How LGS contributes to other health conditions
Medical research has shown LGS has been linked to several health conditions, which include:
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- chronic liver disease
- certain food allergies
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
There is ongoing research to determine if LGS is a cause or a symptom of these medical conditions. Scientists are also carrying out further research on the gut-brain axis, i.e., the link between the brain and GI tract, to see if there is a connection between LGS and mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression).
LGS is difficult for doctors to correctly identify on its own, as it shares similar symptoms with many other health conditions. However, the main common symptoms to look out for include:
- feeling bloated
- chronic constipation or diarrhea
- confusion or difficulty concentrating
- joint pain or inflammation
- skin problems – acne, eczema, rashes
Possible causes and risk factors of LGS
The exact cause or causes of LGS are still not clear, but there is a possibility that various risk factors can contribute to increased IP and disrupt the gut microbiota balance, such as:
- substance abuse
- poor nutrition
- autoimmune disorders
Treatment for LGS
Todate there is no standard treatment for LGS. Here again, certain lifestyle and dietary changes can play an important role to improve gut health and boost overall health as well.
Here are some suggested dietary ways to improve gut health:
- consume more probiotics (yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, tempeh, miso) – live bacteria that are good for the digestive system.
- consume foods rich in prebiotic fiber (vegetables and whole grains) – they serve as food for probiotics.
- reduce your consumption of meat, dairy and poultry.
- reduce your sugar consumption, artificial sweeteners included.
The dietary suggestions go in hand with lifestyle suggestions such as:
- regular exercise
- sufficient sleep
- reduce stress
- avoid substance abuse
We hope our readers have found this general article on LGS informative, though the contents are not meant to be taken as medical advice. Readers are always advised to seek proper medical information from their doctors, especially readers who are on medication for current medical issues.
4th September 20:30 2020