This is a very common condition that people often don’t know they have. Over a period of time due to damage, the gut lining can become disrupted from constant irritation allowing food molecules to pass through the tiny holes in the bowel lining and leak into the blood stream. A healthy mucosal lining in the gut provides a barrier and houses an extensive number of immune cells. This increased permeability of the gut or intestine allows bacteria, toxins and food to leak into the bloodstream via the cells of the gut lining. The intestinal lining can then be damaged by the passage of these substances, which can cause it to become inflamed and damaged. These inflammatory cells can travel anywhere in the body where there is connective tissue, for example the brain, the lungs and muscles. Lack of minerals gives rise to more inflammation and bad bacteria in the bowel feeds the inflammation. This alarms the immune system and something called immunoglobulins are produced. These immunoglobulins are known as antibodies which are set up to attack these particles called antigens as though they were a poison. This can mean that every time you eat the suspected food your immune system puts alarm bells on as it recognises these particles as foreign and produces antibodies to attack the food (antigen). Then, when you eat that food again the antibodies keep attacking as they have seen that food particle as harmful (a known criminal by the body) and this sets off allergic reactions.
Leaky gut is common after intestinal infections, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, coeliac and crohn’s disease. It is also common in people with AIDS. In crohn’s there is a relation to the severity of the disease and the degree of permeability.Allergies can also occur as this reaction to the particles leaking into the blood stream takes place. Leaking toxins can also damage the liver, which can become overworked and valuable nutrients and other blood components may be also be lost, which over time will result in you becoming run down and lethargic.
A simple whole food diet is necessary to allow the gut lining to heal. Foods containing zinc like sunflower and pumpkin seeds, plain yoghurt, kefir and aloe vera all help. A detox is beneficial as discussed later in the book; the foods in the kitchen pharmacy, recipes and fermented food chapters will all help.You can have a test done by your naturopath to determine if you have a leaky gut and usually herbs and nutrients are used as part of the healing process but diet is a key factor for healing. Taking all processed foods, gluten and sugars out of the diet helps it to heal as well as having foods high in antioxidants and introducing ferments (see Ch.9).
There are a variety of potential symptoms of leaky gut syndrome, which can include: abdominal pain, eczema, insomnia, fatigue, bloating, stress, anxiety, irritability, food intolerances, malnutrition and muscle cramps. It has also been linked to patients who suffer from crohn’s disease and coeliac disease.