How healing your digestive tract promotes total wellness
Did you know that your digestion is the absolute foundation of our health? Because of the way our bodies are connected, inflammation in the gut can eventually lead to inflammation in the bones, heart, brain, or beyond, making osteoporosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, or other diseases you may have a genetic predisposition for more likely as you age. Problems like ‘leaky gut’ have been associated with allergies, autoimmunity and toxicity in your body.
What is leaky gut?
Along the lining of healthy intestines, cells are sealed together by what are known as tight junctions. These junctions are the gatekeepers that allow or prevent particles from the gut’s interior to move into the body’s circulatory system. When your intestinal lining is compromised, particles can “leak” inappropriately through these cells and their junctions, and pass into the bloodstream or lymphatic system. In a normal funcitoning gut we want to have nutrients, trace elements and certain hormones absorbed through the intestinal wall. In leaky gut, particles that normally should be excreted end up in the blood stream, leading to inflammation and other issues. These particles may be incompletely digested chunks of food, or microbes, or wastes, toxins, and even antigens and pathogens.
The leaking of these particles alerts your body that something is wrong, and your immune system tries to come to the rescue by igniting inflammation. As inflammation increases, the layer of beneficial bacterial colonies lining the intestines decreases, which only makes the problem worse.
There are two major concerns with leaky gut; one is the inability to digest and absorb food and nutrients properly. The other is a compromised immune system, which is the source of most of the symptoms you feel with leaky gut. Your gut plays a crucial role in immune function because it contains special areas called gut-associated lymphatic tissue (GALT) that protect you from allergy-causing food antigens and disease-carrying microbes. With leaky gut, these and other harmful substances can gain access to your blood stream and travel far and wide throughout the body.
What causes leaky gut?
Leaky gut is most commonly caused by food intolerances (which cause inflammation and damage to the intestinal wall), prolonged periods of stress stress and nutrient deficiencies which allow the gut wall to weaken. Certain medications and a high intake of alcohol or soft drink can also contribute.
How do I know if I have leaky gut?
As the digestive system is complex you may not know you have leaky gut without seeing a naturopath to assess you. Some of the signs fo leaky gut can be symtoms like bloating and digestive discomfort and an increase in immune related problems. Patients with leaky gut are more prone to an ‘upset’ stomach and irregularities to their bowel movements.
Is there a test for leaky gut?
Yes, there is a test for leaky gut that your naturopath can order, although often signs can be present that would give a good indication if you have leaky gut without testing.
If required or requested, we can order you an intestinal permeability test, also known as the lactulose–mannitol challenge. This test measures how quickly the sugars lactulose and mannitol cross the lining of the gut, thus indicating the presence of a leaky gut.
How do you treat leaky gut syndrome?
Our naturopaths help patients with leaky gut every day. Treatment invovles using specific herbs to help to heal the lining as well as nutrients which ‘feed’ the intestinal wall to allow them to function well without leaking. Every patient is unique and you will be assessed for your whole health to determine the best treatment for you. Eating a diet which is low in reactive foods such as wheat, dairy and sugar can greatly help many patients.
Want to find out more? Make an appointment with a Brisbane Natural Health naturopath by calling 07 3367 0337 or click here.