What Is A Leaky Gut?
A new buzzword in the health world you may have heard is "leaky gut." Sounds crude and descriptive, but actually it's right to the point. A leaky gut, or Leaky Gut Syndrome, is a condition when the lining of the digestive tract becomes compromised and larger food particles than normal can pass through to the blood stream.
I enjoyed learning in my nutrition classes that food passing through your digestive tract is actually outside of your body, not inside. Sounds funny, but it's true! Food you eat goes through your digestive tract but it is not actually IN your body. It's a long tunnel that passes through your body.
Your digestive system when working properly breaks down your food into tiny particles like glucose, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. These molecules are small enough to pass through the tight junctions in your digestive tract. Once they pass through, then they are IN your body. The cells in your body can only utilize these foods in their smallest form. That's what digestion does, breaks your food down so that the nutrients can pass through into your blood stream and to your cells and tissue.
It is possible for the lining of your digestive tract to suffer damage (enteropathy). Possible causes of leaky gut include gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Also a bad diet of refined processed food for many years; parasitic and bacterial infections (H. Pylori for example); and candida albicans infections are also possible causes of leaky gut syndrome.
When this damage to the villi (hair like cells of the intestinal tract) occurs, the tight spaces between the cells in the intestines become larger. If the spaces become large enough, then larger food particles can pass through and enter the blood stream and into the body. Foods that have not been properly broken down yet can enter the body and cause upheaval. The immune system identifies these food particles as intruders and launches an immune response that can result in many different immune related conditions.
It is common for people that have food allergies to have a leaky gut. This is one possible cause of food allergies. Leaky gut is also a symptom of Celiac Disease and is often a symptom of gluten sensitivity as well. For those with food allergies caused by a leaky gut the good news is that it is possible to heal a leaky gut, and those food allergy symptoms should disappear.
There is new testing that is showing promise in identifying a leaky gut through blood tests. It is especially important for those people with autoimmune conditions to identify leaky gut. As we have seen, leaky gut can trigger an immune response by the immune system, something an autoimmune patient needs to avoid.
In a later post I will discuss how to naturally treat and heal a leaky gut.