The intestinal tract compromises the largest boundary between us (i.e. the host) and our environment. Such a multifaceted barrier system aims to protect us from external toxins, bacteria, parasites, dietary antigens, and other potentially hazardous substances. The intricacies and complexities of this incredible system do a fairly amazing job at protecting us when we support it (through diet and lifestyle factors), however when this barrier becomes compromised due to certain stimuli whether it be chronic stress, dietary stimuli, invading pathogens, and so much more, the integrity of the gut is affected and permeation is enhanced – in other words larger particles begin to pass from the gut into the outer mucosal layers and bloodstream, where they shouldn’t be. The scientific technical term for this is ‘increased intestinal permeability’. Most of us may be familiar with another commonly used term, that being Leaky Gut.
Our gut is naturally permeable to allow for the uptake of minerals, nutrients and water with the natural movement and diffusion protecting the gut lumen from damage due to harmful substances. When healthy, the gut wall lining is compact and uniform and allows for the natural flow of nutrients through for your body to utilise and function efficiently. When we consider optimal gut function and overall health, how we absorb and assimilate the nutrients from our food is of the highest priority, and leaky gut poses one of the most significant threats to this.
What can increase our chances of developing leaky gut?
The most prevalent factors include chronic stress, environmental toxins and pollutants, infections (viral, bacterial, parasitic, and fungal), medications, nutrient deficiencies and of course diet, including known allergens or unknown food intolerances. Genetics may also play a role in intestinal permeability challenges, but through a holistic lens it is important to understand that our individual epigenetics (expression of genes) are influenced by the environmental, dietary and lifestyle factors as discussed above, and it is within our control as to whether this is a positive or negative expression.
When leaky gut becomes chronic and what enters the bloodstream becomes uncontrolled, the resulting consequence is a diverse range of inflammatory and immune system responses. This may include, chronic fatigue syndrome, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, inflammatory joint conditions, metabolic dysfunction and insulin resistance, female reproductive imbalances including PCOS and endometriosis, IBS, eczema, acne, mood imbalances and psychological conditions. We also know through extensive research, the connection between increased intestinal permeability and its involvement in the development and perpetuation of Autoimmune conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s), Coeliac disease, Hashimoto’s, type 1 diabetes and even atopic dermatitis.
What to do if you suspect you have Leaky Gut
Whilst the scientific evidence is yet to definitively show direct causal links between leaky gut and certain symptom or condition onset, the correlative associations are there. From the very commonly documented digestive symptoms such as bloating and reflux to symptoms such as brain fog, sinus congestion or heightened anxiety, from a functional medicine perspective the involvement of leaky gut is considered. Because of the sheer diversity of symptoms that someone may present with, and there also not being one gold standard test to measure intestinal permeability, understanding our own potential for leaky gut and how we go about repairing this can be overwhelming. A skilled healthcare practitioner can provide the in-depth investigation, empowerment, and education necessary to piece together your individual health puzzle and support you on a path to optimal gut health. Whether it is the removal of certain inflammatory foods, introducing key herbal and nutritional supplements, addressing lifestyle factors in reducing chronic stress or going down the path of certain testing such as comprehensive stool or food sensitivity testing, a healthcare practitioner can approach leaky gut in a variety of ways. There is no one-size fits all treatment plan, and that is the beauty of our individual health.
With the rise in autoimmune conditions and other chronic health concerns noted in our modern society, it poses the question of whether this could be due to ongoing changes in our gut bacteria, resulting in this increased intestinal permeability and a vicious cycle of poor digestive function? It’s a question that is as multifaceted as the treatment approaches required, however I believe it is such an important one to be asking, and on a health foundational level supports the holistic practice notion of ‘getting to the root cause’.
Who you can contact for more information
If you’ve been suffering with leaky gut symptoms and want to get to the root cause of your symptoms, book a consultation with our In-House Nutritionist, Danielle to discuss further.
Danielle is a qualified Clinical Nutritionist, with a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutritional Medicine. She believes no two cases are the same, as each person is unique in their biochemistry and make-up, as well as their lived experiences, which is the beauty of an individualised approach to health.
Forming the foundations of optimal health and wellbeing, Danielle believes diet, lifestyle and prioritising emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing are the keys to nurturing our longevity, vitality and wellness.
Danielle deeply values the merging and synergy of Eastern and Western holistic philosophies to health, which is further strengthened through her ongoing Ayurvedic study.
Click here to book an initial consultation with Danielle.