Leaky What?? Leaky Gut!
If you’ve ever dealt with digestive woes, you’ve probably heard the phrase “leaky gut”. Leaky gut syndrome has become a trendy, catch-all diagnosis for many gut-related issues and digestive imbalances. The name, however, can be slightly misleading.
Leaky gut typically refers to increased permeability of the intestinal walls. This occurs when the tight junctions of our epithelial cells become looser, or “leaky” (Byers, n.d.).
But is the gut actually “leaky”? Not exactly… Believe it or not, intestinal permeability is actually a normal phenomenon. In their natural, healthy state our intestines are selectively permeable membranes. They choose what to take in and what to keep out so that we can properly absorb nutrients in our food. Nutrition would not actually occur if your gut was completely impermeable (Yarnell, 2011).
When leaky gut begins it doesn’t mean that all of a sudden the gut is leaking all of its contents out into our bloodstream. What it means is that key junctions in the gut’s membrane are actually functioning poorly, allowing more substances to cross over into our bloodstream than normal. The gut membrane has become hyperpermeable. This can be caused by a combination of possible triggers.
While leaky gut syndrome is just starting to be professionally researched, we are just starting to demystify what is really going on in that dark, secretive gut of ours. Since leaky gut’s actual mechanisms are just starting to be understood the term is often used to describe a set of symptoms that indicates an underlying imbalance in the body.
Other Possible Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Another reason why leaky gut syndrome can be so confusing is that not everyone’s symptoms looks the same. The label “leaky gut,” often encases a broad array of different digestive symptoms including gas, bloating, abdominal distention, diarrhea, constipation, and more.
It all starts in the gut, and what starts in the gut doesn’t usually stay in the gut.
Digestive issues are often connected to other symptoms that we can experience throughout the rest of the body.
Common symptoms experienced alongside digestive issues include: headaches, chronic fatigue, brain fog, memory impairment, lowered immunity, joint pain, skin rashes, anxiety, depression, and many others.
Additionally, the gut has its own nervous system. It produces 80% of our serotonin for example, and communicates with other organs and systems in the body (particularly the brain) which can lead to a cascade of potential issues further down the road.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
Like most health conditions, the direct triggers of leaky gut are always unique to the individual and can vary substantially from person to person.
Common triggers that can impact leaky gut-type symptoms in the body include: STRESS (this is a big one!!), medications, NSAIDS (ibuprofen in particular), antacids, oral birth control pills, alcohol, infections (viral, bacterial, and fungal), impaired liver function, and food sensitivities.
What Can YOU Do About It?
Here’s some good news:
If you struggle with leaky gut, there is hope!
Your gut can be repaired using completely natural methods. Be forewarned, however, healing the gut isn’t usually an instant fix and will require a healthy amount of personal diligence in identifying and addressing your own triggers.
At our clinic we have found Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to be very effective support for your journey back to health.
One of the first things we try to do is to get you out of the stress response and into the relaxation response.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have the potential to get you unstuck from the fight or flight conditioning courtesy of our modern world.
When we finally get unstuck, our bodies are able to self-organize and we are finally able to self-heal.
In our clinic we use specific nutritional therapeutics that have been proven to restore healthy gut function. L-glutamine and zinc are two that play essential roles in helping rebuild the lining of the gut by modifying the tight junctions of the intestinal walls.
All Disease Begins In The Gut
Hippocrates said it long ago: “all disease begins in the gut.” As we learned in this article, leaky gut symptoms don’t only present in the gut itself, but can affect our cognition, emotions, and even our sleep!
Curious to learn more about leaky gut syndrome? Looking for support with your digestive issues? Contact the Boulder East West Acupuncture & Wellness Center for more information and to schedule an appointment.
Byers, S. (n.d.). What is “leaky gut syndrome”? Retrieved from: https://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/sites/default/files/stephen_byers_-_leaky_gut.pdf
Holmes, P. (1989). The energetics of western herbs (Vol 1). Boulder, Co: Lotus Press.
Yarnell, E. (2011). Natural approach to gastroenterology. East Wenatchee, WA: Healing Mountain Publishing, Inc.