First of all, what really is leaky gut?
The lining of your gut is a very delicate and specialised thing. A single cell separates your gut contents from your blood stream. Between each cell there are gateways known as gap junctions. These gap junctions control what leaves the gut, and enters the blood such as very small nutrient particles. Larger particles are too big to be passed through these gateways, remaining in the gut until they are either broken down into small enough components to pass through, or passed out of the bowel in the form of waste.
If an aggravating factor (such as a food allergen, bad pathogen, poor diet, stress or medication) causes the gut to become inflamed, these gap junctions begin to widen, allowing larger and larger particles ‘leak’ through into the blood stream. When this happens the white blood cells notice these big foreign particles and mount an immune response. The immune system is alerted and informed that there are foreign invaders in the blood, similar to an infection from a virus or bacteria. The immune system then sets to work ‘killing’ the foreign partial. They break it up, transport it via the blood stream to the liver where it is filtered and detoxified, until it is finally returned to the elimination systems of the body, and removed as faecal material or as urine.
This is a fair enough question to ask. The process above sounds like the body has leaky gut well under control. But the relentless leaking of large particles into the blood stream, the constant activation of the immune system, and the continual need for extra filtration of the blood through the liver puts an enormous burden on the body as a whole.
With constant immune system activation, food intolerances are likely to develop. If there is a predisposition for an autoimmune condition to develop, for example there is a family history of autoimmunity, constant immune activation can encourage this disease to manifest. Inflammation also increases leading to a worsening of inflammatory conditions such as fibromyalia, arthritis, etc. The liver struggles to detoxify an ever-increasing burden of waste as toxins leak back into the blood time and time again in a continuous cycle. The other organs of elimination may try to relive the burden of toxic overload, and skin conditions such as eczema, dermatitis and acne can develop. As the body becomes more inflamed, more toxic and more exhausted, your energy levels can quickly suffer. The good thing is this is not a life sentence- it is easy enough to fix; you just need knowhow and commitment.
First of all we need to identify the aggravating factor (or factors) of the leaky gut. As mentioned above it might be food allergens in the diet, a bad pathogenic infection, a poor diet, stress or a particular medication. Once the factors have been identified they need to be removed or managed.
Once the trigger has been dealt with, healing can begin to occur. This will usually involve a low allergenic, healthy diet, and various naturopathic supplements depending on what is going on for your body. If there is a pathogenic infection, it needs to be eliminated. Naturopathic healing will often include things like slippery elm, the amino acid glutamine, glucosamine, aloe vera, mastic gum, probiotics, liver support and detoxification, and immune support. Diet and lifestyle changes will usually be recommended.
With these elements combined into a healing protocol designed specifically for your needs, the immune system will be supported and encouraged to return to normal activity, the burden will be taken off the liver, and liver support provided, the gap junctions between the gut cells will be tightened, the inflammation reduced and gut function will return to normal.
So there you have it. Leaky gut is not something you have to suffer with all your life. Just because you were ‘diagnosed’ does not mean you will have it forever. It is very easily treated. If you think you might have leaky gut, come in and talk to me, or book in for a naturopathic consultation to get you on your healing journey as soon as possible.