What you should know about ‘leaky gut syndrome’

This representational picture shows an illustration of the human gut. — Harvard Health/File
This representational picture shows an illustration of the human gut. — Harvard Health/File

You are a potential patient with leaky gut syndrome if you experience regular diarrhoea or constipation, skin issues, or headaches. Leaky gut syndrome and other gut-related topics are frequently discussed on #GutTok, a popular TikTok section.

Before determining whether you have leaky gut syndrome, there are a few other things you should know.

Leaky gut, also known as the potential for objects to pass through the intestinal lining, is the term used to describe the concept of relative intestinal permeability.

Dr William Li, a physician and the best-selling author of “Eat to Beat Your Diet: Burn Fat, Heal Your Metabolism, and Live Longer,” explains that the intestines are a part of the digestive system and are about 25 feet long.

They have a strong protective lining inside that keeps food, digestive juices, and bacteria from leaking out.

“When that lining is damaged, these substances leak from inside the gut to its outside, like a punctured garden hose, and can cause a severe inflammatory response in your belly,” he added.

What can cause a leaky gut?

Harvard Health suggests that every individual’s gut “leaks” to some extent because the barrier is “not completely impenetrable (and is not supposed to be).” This allows things like water and nutrients to pass through, but it can cause problems if the permeability increases.

According to research, people with specific chronic gastrointestinal diseases have leaky guts that permit larger molecules, including potentially toxic ones, to pass through.

Dr Li says that conditions like celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease may be the cause of a leaky gut. Additionally, it may be linked to other autoimmune conditions, such as asthma, food allergies, excessive medication use, chemotherapy, or ongoing stress.

“We know that the condition of having intestinal permeability, or a ‘leaky gut,’ is real, but we don’t know that it’s a disease in itself or that it causes other diseases,” the Cleveland Clinic says, but adds, “It’s not currently a recognised medical diagnosis.”

What are the symptoms of a leaky gut?

According to CBS, Li claims that typical emotions related to a leaky gut include indigestion, stomach pain, burning sensations, bloating and gassiness

“The constant irritation from these symptoms can lead to fatigue and irritability,” he says.

Naturally, it is possible to experience these symptoms without having a leaky gut, so it is crucial to talk to your doctor about your symptoms.

How can you treat a leaky gut?

Li asserts that there is no simple treatment for the leaky gut because the condition is still poorly understood, but some interventions can help heal the leaky gut.

For instance, consuming foods that promote gut health with a balanced, healthy diet can promote a healthier microbiome or gut flora.

Additionally, avoiding foods that cause stomach irritation and modifying lifestyle variables can also improve gut health.

According to Li, improving your gut health can be facilitated by exercising, getting enough sleep, and reducing your stress levels.

Treatment of the underlying condition may also be helpful if you have a leaky gut brought on by another gut problem.

“Specific treatments for (inflammatory bowel disease), celiac disease, and others associated with intestinal permeability have been shown to repair the intestinal lining in those who were affected,” the Cleveland Clinic says. 

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