Signs You Have "Leaky Gut," Say Physicians
In recent years, science has uncovered more and more evidence for the importance of the gut microbiome, the beneficial system of microorganisms in the stomach and intestines that have a role in immunity and overall health. But when something goes wrong in this intricate environment—such as the development of leaky gut syndrome—it can cause uncomfortable symptoms and a wide range of health issues. These are the signs that you have leaky gut, according to physicians. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
What Is Leaky Gut?
"Leaky gut describes the breakdown of the integrity of the gut lining," says Lynn K. Wagner, MD, an integrative medicine physician in De Pere, Wisconsin. "It occurs when the tight junctions between our intestinal cells are disrupted, creating gaps or holes in the gut. When this happens, undigested food particles, microorganisms and toxins can enter the bloodstream when they would normally be eliminated in your stool." This can cause a variety of systemic problems throughout the body.
Most Common Symptoms of Leaky Gut
"Initially, leaky gut can be silent, meaning you may not even know you have it," say Wagner. When symptoms of leaky gut appear, they commonly include:
- Irregular stools (diarrhea or constipation)
- Abdominal cramping
- Food sensitivities
- Generalized aches and pains
- Memory or mood changes
Risks of Leaky Gut
"Potential risks of leaky gut include malnutrition as the body's damaged gut lining is unable to absorb nutrients from the food we eat," says Jonathan Kung, MD, a gastroenterologist with Mount Sinai in New York City. "Malnutrition can manifest as changes in the skin, changes in vision acuity, weaker bones, changes in mood, and trouble concentrating, essentially a function of poorly absorbed essential vitamins. Other risks include ongoing fatigue affecting someone's ability to function properly at home or at work."
Leaky gut has been linked to autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto's thyroid disease, says Wagner. "It can cause systemic inflammation, which can manifest as chronic aches and pains, generalized fatigue, and a higher risk of chronic disease states that are triggered by inflammation."
How to Avoid Leaky Gut
According to Wagner, the best ways to avoid leaky gut include:
- Avoid gluten-containing foods
- Eat a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet, high in fruits and vegetables
- Eat enough fiber
- Avoid foods high in sugar and highly processed foods
- Avoid chronic use of anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen
- Avoid excessive use of alcohol or antibiotics
- Manage stress
How to Treat Leaky Gut
"The medical community has worked for years on trying to reverse leaky gut by increasing intestinal permeability," says Kung. "Some have found that changes in diet and avoiding certain foods which cause changes in the gut flora have been helpful. The Low FODMAP diet is a good example of a diet good for the gut. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, spinach, kale, green tea, and even dark chocolate may help prevent or decrease gut imbalances."
Probiotics can rebuild healthy gut flora, says Wagner. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove "bad" bacteria and pathogens from the gut with supplements, or in severe cases, antibiotic therapy. Supplements that target gut healing include zinc, carnosine, quercitin, L-glutamine, and aloe.
Kung recommends supplementing with liposomal bovine colostrum."It has been shown in clinical studies to balance intestinal permeability and its growth factors work to restore the integrity of the tight junctions, making it a top superfood for remedying a leaky gut."
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