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Leaky Gut Syndrome

Updated on April 24, 2009

Leaky Gut

Drawing of Leaky Gut
Drawing of Leaky Gut

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome ?

Leaky gut syndrome is a condition in which the intestines are more permeable than they should be. Think of a balloon that's filled with water and imagine that there are microscopic holes all over its surface. The holes aren't big enough for the balloon to empty immediately or burst, but over time drops of water would form on the surface as the balloon leaked. With leaky gut syndrome, the intestine is like that balloon, its walls slowly deteriorating and allowing the contents of the intestine to literally leak through.

Tiny spaces between the cells of small intestine allow the bacteria, undigested food and other contest of the intestines to leach into the person's bloodstream. This then causes the body to fight those foreign substances in the bloodstream which cause symptoms like swelling, fever and allergic reactions.

Bacteria and other toxins leaking into the bloodstream is only part of the problem with leaky gut syndrome. Because the intestinal walls are damaged, the tiny finger-like protrusions on those walls that normally absorb nutrients from food are damaged an unable to work properly. Normally those little protrusions called microvilli produce a substance called an enzyme that helps break down food and absorb nutrients from it. Since they can't function properly, food isn't digested properly. And that can cause a whole new host of problems.

Leaky gut syndrome (LGS) is believed to play a part in many other conditions that have causes the medical community hasn't quite pinned down yet. Chronic fatigue syndrome, inflammatory bowel, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus and a number of other auto-immune, inflammatory and digestive disorders may be caused at least in part by LGS.

Like some auto-immune disease, leaky gut syndrome is believed to be caused by eating certain foods that cause an allergic reaction. Celiac Disease, for instance, is an auto-immune disease that causes malabsorption among other symptoms, and is caused by a person having an allergic reaction to wheat gluten in food. LGS can't be pinned down to gluten or any one food, however, so someone eating a food his body responds to poorly, no matter what the food, could be a candidate for LGS. And there are believed to be other conditions and causes that can be responsible besides food allergies.

Poor overall diet could be a factor, as could poor digestion. Either of these could be hard on the small intestines and potentially cause the damage that results in LGS. Parasites could easily damage the walls of the small intestines, and some medications like certain antibiotics and even common medicines like ibuprofen and aspirin can upset the balance of bacteria in the small intestine, possibly doing damage.

Some nutrient deficiencies like a zinc deficiency could be the culprit, and drinking too much alcohol, which can wreak havoc on the digestive system, could cause the damage attributed to LGS.

And some conditions that could be caused by leaky gut syndrome and are sometimes symptoms of LGS are also considered possible causes of the disease, like inflammatory bowel syndrome and candidiasis.

Leaky Gut Image

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See how the particles fall through the intestinal wall?

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Explaining Leaky Gut


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