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If you’ve been researching your bloating and food intolerances for a while now, then you may have come across the phrase “leaky gut.”
It can actually be the root cause of your food intolerance.
But what exactly is it?
Leaky gut is defined as “a dysfunction in the permeability of the gut lining.” This means that “holes” have formed in the lining of your intestines. What that means is that toxins, bad bacteria, and big chunks of food can pass through those walls. So, they escape from your intestines and reach parts of your body that they’re not meant to. This is what leads to inflammation and can cause autoimmune issues, like chronic fatigue, autism, and food allergies.
How does this work?
When those undigested food particles escape through the gut lining, they make their way into your bloodstream. They then trigger antibodies to be produced by your immune system. That puts your immune system on edge. It’s then on the lookout for any other “invaders,” so then, if another food particle even touches the intestinal wall, it’ll produce an inflammatory response.
This becomes a vicious cycle, and things become worse over time, leading to food intolerances, because your immune system is reacting to certain foods, thinking they’re potential invaders.
How do you know if you have it?
It’s difficult to diagnose leaky gut, because there are a lot of common symptoms. There’s no one obvious sign.
Common symptoms of leaky gut:
>> Brain fog
>> Other gut symptoms
>> Food intolerances and allergies
>> Autoimmune conditions
>> Skin issues (rash, eczema, psoriasis)
>> Joint pain
>> Thyroid issues
>> Mood swings
>> Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
I know that’s a long list! All of these symptoms can be caused by a leaky gut because, when the gut is leaky, your immune system is constantly focusing its energy there and has less energy left over for any of the rest of your body. This can lead to various infections and illnesses, as your immune system doesn’t have the energy to fight them off.
Over time, the microvilli that line your gut can also become damaged. These are the guys in charge of absorbing nutrients from your food. So, when they’re damaged, you can’t absorb nutrients properly, which leads to deficiencies.
The consequence of this can be any one of the symptoms listed above. Therefore, it’s hard to diagnose leaky gut by symptoms alone.
One I would take particular note of is if you develop a food intolerance out of nowhere. With leaky gut, it’s common to suddenly develop an intolerance to foods that you eat all the time. If this has happened to you and you’re feeling totally confused because you haven’t changed anything, it could be a sign of a leaky gut.
Testing for leaky gut
If you feel like you might have it, there are tests you can get done to find out. Leaky gut is quite a new concept, so these tests might not be offered by all doctors. There are three options though, so hopefully you’ll be able to access one of them.
ELISA test. This is a blood test that measures your zonulin levels. Zonulin is in charge of loosening the junctions in your intestinal walls and causing them to become leaky, so high levels of zonulin indicates a leaky gut.
Lactulose/Mannitol test. This is a urine test that assesses your intestinal permeability by measuring the ability of these two sugars to cross the gut lining.
IgE test. This is a blood test to detect if the body is producing antibodies for certain foods. If it is, it shows you have become intolerant to them. If you’re intolerant to a variety of foods, it’s a sign that you’ve got an issue with digestion and a leaky gut could be at the root.
Hopefully that’s been helpful.
Do you feel like you might have a leaky gut? Let me know in the comments!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and letting me be a part of your journey in taking control of your gut, eating well, and living your life.