Gastrointestinal disorders are incredibly common, and they range from simple stomachaches to full-blown disorders like celiac disease. Because gastrointestinal issues happen to everyone from time to time, it’s tough to differentiate them from one another.
Folks who experience long-time digestive issues or abdominal discomfort may come to wonder if they have a leaky gut. They may feel as though their intestinal barriers aren’t working properly, allowing toxins and bacteria to poison the body.
Not sure what leaky gut is or whether you even have it? No worries – this helpful guide will break down everything you need to know about leaky gut and help you treat the condition ASAP. Let’s get started.
What Is Leaky Gut?
“Leaky gut” is an unofficial term for an intestinal condition that sometimes crops up as a side effect for other issues or illnesses. Let’s break it down.
Your intestines are lined by millions of cells, each of which joined together to form a tight barrier to both allow nutrients into the bloodstream and prevent stuff from leaking into the abdominal cavity.
In some cases, your gut can become unhealthy, which may lead the intestinal lining to weaken. When this occurs, the barrier may develop a few holes, allowing bacteria and toxins to leak into your body. This, in turn, will trigger additional side effects like cramping, bloating, gas, and more.
Leaky gut is sometimes called increased intestinal permeability. But it’s important to note that it is not a condition in and of itself, so you won’t be diagnosed with it.
Leaky gut is usually thought to be caused by conditions or illnesses like celiac disease, HIV, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease. All of these can lead to a weakening of the intestinal tract through bacterial infection or other problems.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Leaky gut, despite being not a full condition by itself, can produce a number of uncomfortable symptoms or side effects. These include:
- Allergies or allergic reactions
- Bloating and gas
- Pain in the abdominal area
- Widespread infection
- Skin disorders
- Chronic fatigue
- And more
Since these symptoms are so varied, it’s always a good idea to speak to a doctor if you think you are suffering from a leaky gut. That’s the best way to get as close to an official diagnosis as possible and potentially identify any underlying condition that may be causing the leaky gut in the first place.
In most cases, your symptoms will be caused by the underlying issue at hand. For example, irritable bowel syndrome often causes abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, and more, all of which are also potential side effects of a “leaky gut.”
Healing Leaky Gut
If you’ve already visited a doctor and think you have a leaky gut, there are multiple ways in which you can pursue treatment. It all depends on the underlying cause, just like the symptoms.
If your doctor believes that a medical issue is causing your leaky gut, you may be prescribed various medications.
For instance, if you have irritable bowel syndrome, you’ll be prescribed various anticholinergic medications, antidepressants, antibiotics, pain relievers, and more. You might also be prescribed medications designed to treat IBS, like alosetron, linaclotide, and more. Note that most of these medications can only be prescribed by a doctor.
It’s important to build your health before and especially once you start developing symptoms so that you can not only find relief but begin to heal yourself from the inside out. Medications never heal and true gut health must be built. Although medications may be necessary for some conditions repairing the damaged gut should always be the focus.
Changing your diet might also do wonders when dealing with leaky gut and any associated symptoms or root illnesses.
For example, if your leaky gut is caused by celiac disease, you’ll need to adopt a gluten-free diet ASAP. A gluten-free diet will prevent your intestinal tract from being as irritated and potentially damaged by products that contain gluten.
Your doctor may further recommend additional dietary changes. Specifically, they might recommend that you get rid of any inflammatory foods that can impact your gut flora or microbiome. These foods include any highly processed foods, high fat or high sugar foods, and any other foods that could trigger an allergic reaction. Alcohol may also be excluded from your new diet.
The low FODMAP diet is another alternative. This diet is ideal for people who have irritable bowel syndrome, which may mean that it could work for your leaky gut symptoms. The low FODMAP diet will have you lower your consumption of various carbohydrates that are frequently responsible for digestive symptoms such as stomach pain, gas, and bloating.
Preventing Leaky Gut
Treating a leaky gut is all well and good, but you’ll be better off if you can prevent your leaky gut from happening in the first place.
To do this, it’s recommended that you follow several dietary rules in the future:
- Try to eat more high-fiber foods. Various healthy fibers, such as those found in vegetables like broccoli and legumes, can support positive bacteria in your gut. This will, in turn, strengthen your intestinal tract
- You should simultaneously lower your intake of refined carbohydrates. If your body absorbs too much refined sugar, your gut’s barrier functionality may be reduced
- Try to reduce how many non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs you take. These include medications like aspirin and ibuprofen
- Take some probiotic supplements, which will provide your intestines with helpful bacteria to alleviate gastrointestinal symptoms or conditions
- Lower your alcohol intake, as alcohol is known to increase intestinal permeability to some extent
In the end, healing a “leaky gut” is very similar to treating other gastrointestinal disorders or short-term conditions. Eating healthily and reducing your intake of potentially harmful compounds, like trans fats or overprocessed carbohydrates, can help lower the impact of a leaky gut plus make it less likely that you experience other issues, such as IBS.
Dr. Livingood, yes that is his real name, is the Founder of drlivingood.com natural health site and also the founder of Livingood Daily. He has authored two Amazon #1 Best Selling Books Livingood Daily and Make Food Simple. In 2007 after nearly losing his father to health conditions, Dr. Livingood was prompted to find a health care system to save his father’s life. Where medicine failed Dr. Livingood discovered solutions that got his father off 15 medications and overcame major heart and autoimmune conditions. As a Doctor of Natural Medicine and DC he now serves thousands of people in Morrisville, NC, and millions through his online and media presence. Dr. Livingood, his wife Jessica, and three kids spend their lives leading people nationally and locally in the hopes that others can experience real health.