Leaky gut syndrome. What is it about?

For many years, syndrome X (currently known as the metabolic syndrome) was debated among scientists with contradicting views. Many claimed it didn’t exist, but it is now recognized as a reversible medical entity that allows doctors to detect and treat diabetes before its onset. Something similar happens with the leaky gut syndrome.

While some deny its existence, others attribute a series of signs and symptoms to this health problem. Meanwhile, this diagnosis gets a lot of coverage and attention from the medical community and the general public. But what is it exactly?

What is leaky gut syndrome?

In simple words, we can say that the name “leaky gut” is given to an increase of permeability in the intestines. This structure is made to absorb nutrients, it is in direct contact with the bloodstream, and it allows certain substances and nutrients to pass through.

However, in leaky gut syndrome, this permeability is increased. Thus, a series of proteins and waste material start passing through the tight junctions of the intestine cells. They make direct contact with the blood, triggering an immune response and a series of consequences.

Causes and consequences

The permeability of the gut depends on various factors, including food allergies and intolerance, the presence of certain digestive enzymes, and the concentration of stomach acid. There’s a strong association between gluten intolerance and the leaky gut, which reveals the deep connection between what we eat and our gastrointestinal function.

When gut permeability is increased, a series of consequences may ensue:

·   An abnormal immune response: There will be close contact between different proteins and the blood, which carries a variety of white blood cells. After detecting these proteins, white blood cells become activated under the belief that there is an ongoing infection.

·   Food intolerance: When specific food proteins trigger an immune response, the organism becomes susceptible to foods containing this protein. This causes celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and other types of food intolerance.

·   Inflammatory diseases: The immune response triggered by the leaky gut can become as severe as to trigger an inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis).

·   Gas, bloating, and abdominal pain: All of these pathologic processes will ultimately lead to abdominal pain and bloating, which results from an increase in gas production by pathogenic bacteria.

·   Diarrhea and constipation: Patients with leaky gut syndrome may experience either diarrhea or constipation. This is due to the release of inflammatory exudate and the alteration of the intestinal motility.

Is there a quick fix?

Treating leaky gut syndrome can be as difficult as diagnosing the disease in the first place. It might be helpful to keep a food diary and pay attention to any association between gastrointestinal symptoms and food choices. In some cases, clinicians would start eliminating foods one by one to trace problematic foods and reintroduce safe foods shortly after.

Either way, it is a long process that will require your collaboration by providing accurate information to your doctor. Throughout the process, it is possible you will be advised to avoid all inflammatory foods, which include saturated fats, trans fat, refined sugar, milk, red meat, and others. So, be patient and follow instructions, and you will soon get relief from your symptoms.

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