You’ve almost certainly heard of “leaky gut” and the health issues it can cause. But you might not truly understand this dangerous condition. Today, I’ll show you what leaky gut is and how it is caused so you can begin to take steps to heal your gut... and improve your overall health.
How Does Your Gut Become Leaky?
In a healthy body, the digestive tract serves as a barrier between our gut and our bloodstream.
But the lining of your gut can easily become compromised. This porous barrier allows undigested food, yeast, pathogens and other foreign matter to enter the bloodstream. In turn, this can cause chronic inflammation, allergic reactions and a variety of seemingly unrelated symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Because the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome are so varied, many sufferers go undiagnosed. Doctors and patients focus on the symptoms… while ignoring the underlying cause. In general, the symptoms of leaky gut fall under two categories: body and brain.
Body Symptoms of a Leaky Gut
1. Nutrient Deficiencies – When the gut is chronically inflamed, food and nutrients are not properly broken down and absorbed. This can lead to deficiencies.
2. Food Allergies – Undigested food particles that leak into the bloodstream are seen as foreign invaders. Sensitivities to gluten, dairy, soy, egg and other foods are common.
3. Seasonal Allergies – A hyper-vigilant immune system is primed to respond to any threat, causing seasonal allergies to develop or worsen.
4. Immune System Exhaustion – Your immune system is not designed to participate in a never-ending war. As an overtaxed immune system grows weaker, you become more susceptible to colds, flu and other infections.
5. Chronic Fatigue – A common sign of a damaged gut. Feel wiped out, no matter how much rest you get? Leaky gut may be at the root.
6. Joint & Muscle pain – Occasional joint and muscle pain can be a sign of exertion. Chronic pain is usually the result of inflammation caused by an overactive immune system.
7. Rashes – Gut health and skin health are closely connected. The development of chronic skin rashes could be a sign of a leaky gut.
8. Gas – Uncomfortable or offensive gas can be a sign of leaky gut.
9. Bloating – A bulging tummy isn’t always a sign that you’ve overindulged. It could be a sign of inflammation, trapped gas and compromised digestion.
10. Diarrhea – If your intestines are not able to digest and absorb food properly, it could “run right through you” and send you rushing to the bathroom.
11. Constipation – When digestion slows and your intestines become sluggish, you may find yourself uncomfortably constipated.
Brain Symptoms of a Leaky Gut
Your digestive tract contains the second highest number of nerves in your body. Your gut is constantly communicating with your brain. And if you have leaky gut, these messages can cause unusual neurological symptoms.
In the words of neuroscientist, John F. Cryan, PhD: “There is no question that the gut microbiome regulates fundamental brain processes important for the development of neurological diseases.”
Let’s take a look at the common neurological symptoms linked with leaky gut:
1. Anxiety & Depression – Studies show that increased inflammation is associated with anxiety and other mood disorders.1
2. Brain Fog – A common complaint among those with autoimmune disease and chronic pain. Digestive inflammation impairs gut-brain communication, which can lead to a numb feeling of unreality, poor focus, impaired learning and memory.
3. Muscle Twitches – Leaky gut can cause deficiencies of magnesium and potassium, which can lead to muscle twitches, cramps and spasms.
4. Schizophrenia – A study published in Schizophrenia Research, showed that inflammation in the circulatory and nervous systems can be linked to mental illness.2
In addition to these neurological conditions, leaky gut syndrome has also been linked to Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, chronic migraines, autism and neuropathy.
What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?
A leaky gut can be caused by many common foods and toxins including:
1. An Inflammatory Diet: Gluten, grains, legumes, sugar, trans fat, lactose, MSG and food dyes can all contribute to leaky gut.
2. Environmental Toxins: Exposure to toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury or cadmium can cause irritation in the intestinal lining and promote leaky gut.
3. Genetically Modified Foods: GMO foods are believed to cause the formation of pesticides in the gut, risking your health with every bite.
4. BPA: This common chemical has been shown to damage intestines, allowing toxins and pathogens to more easily enter the body.3
5. Medications: NSAID pain relievers, antibiotics, steroids, birth control pills and acid-reducing drugs can greatly increase risk of leaky gut.
6. Parasites, Yeast & Harmful Bacteria: Candida yeast overgrowth, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and intestinal parasites all increase the risk for intestinal permeability.
7. Stress: Often overlooked, stress is another contributing factor to the development of leaky gut. A study published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology showed that usually harmless microbes actually turned pathogenic in response to stress hormones.4
Leaky gut is a great imposter. Its symptoms often have nothing to do with your digestive system. And it is not always associated with abdominal discomfort. But this common condition can be extremely serious. I hope this article helps you understand the severity of this condition and the potential causes to avoid.
In my next article, I will reveal the foods you should remove from your diet, ones you can use to replace them and how to naturally repair, heal and seal a leaky gut.
Ed Note: Kelley Herring is the founder of Wellness Bakeries, makers of grain-free, gluten-free and low-carb baking mixes for cakes, cookies, breads, pizza and more. If you’re following a paleo diet (or working to restore your digestive health) it’s important to avoid grains. Wellness Bakeries can help you enjoy your favorite comfort foods and sweet treats… without souring your health! Check out their products on the US Wellness Meats store here.
- Foster, J., McVey Neufeld, K. Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in Neurosciences. May 2013. Vol 36, No. 5
- Severance, E. Autoimmune diseases, gastrointestinal disorders and the microbiome in schizophrenia: more than a gut feeling. Schizophrenia Research. Sept 2016. Volume 176, Issue 1, P 23-25
- Braniste, V., Jouault, A., Gaultier, E., et al. Impact of oral bisphenol A at reference doses on intestinal barrier function and sex differences after perinatal exposure in rats. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jan 5; 107(1): 448–453.
- Konturek PC1, Brzozowski T, Konturek SJ.Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011 Dec;62(6):591-9.