- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Leaky gut syndrome – Diet, Test, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Leaky gut syndrome refers to an abnormal condition wherein the intestine is damaged or altered. It may be noted that the intestinal wall is structured to allow tiny nutritional matter to pass into the bloodstream. This wall however turns excessively permeable in patients of leaky gut syndrome, thereby allowing hazardous and larger particles to pass into the bloodstream.
When the immune system comes across these toxic substances it tries to attack and destroy such matter. This response of the immune system in turn results in a variety of autoimmune conditions.
Symptoms of leaky gut syndrome
Some of the signs and symptoms of leaky gut syndrome are listed below:
Respiratory anomalies like asthma, shortness of breath, etc.
Neurological problems like confusion, poor memory, mood swings, nervousness, elevated anger, etc.
Gastrointestinal irregularities like abdominal cramping, bloating, sensitivity to food, gas, etc.
Some patients may also elicit other symptoms like chronic infections of the bladder, pains, muscle and joint aches, mild fever, fatigue, rashes on skin, etc.
Causes and diagnosis of leaky gut syndrome
The cause of leaky gut syndrome is still a subject of research and a mystery to medical experts. It has however been hypothesized that the condition arises due to elevated permeability of the intestinal wall, which in turn can be caused due to a poor diet, toxins, infections, parasites, and medicines. It has also been found that inflammation of the gut resulting from intestinal dysbiosis causes the spaces between the cells to widen, thereby allowing the passage of endotoxins and other materials. Such matter is then attacked by the immune system antibodies leading to development of immune complexes, which in turn results in mild infections that are transferred to different parts of the body via the bloodstream.
Researchers have stated that leaky gut syndrome is a ‘very gray area.’ It has been widely accepted that despite being the largest organ in the body, very little is known about the intestine and its functioning.
Medical facilities and centers do not teach diagnosis of leaky gut syndrome, but it is still open for identification. There are no sure shot methods that can be used to check for the presence of leaky gut syndrome or its causes. Its existence is however accepted in the medical fraternity. Since the knowledge about the causes and varied aspects of this intestinal condition is limited or absent, doctors are usually unable to offer a standard therapy for it.
Permeability of the gut: Different theories
It has been theorized that permeability or hyper permeability of the intestine leads to leakages in the gut. This directly affects the body and provokes an immune response. Such action and reaction can be the causative basis of leaky gut syndrome.
The permeable gut lets different matter such as microbes, toxins, waste, undigested food, or bigger macromolecules to pass through its walls into the abdominal cavity. Areas of the gut which do not function properly or are wound too tight are most likely to develop such excessive permeability. Such toxic leaked matter is then carried by the bloodstream to different areas of the body.
It has also been observed that individuals suffering from Crohn’s disease or celiac disease are at greater risk to such intestinal permeability. Crohn’s disease may also allow the passage of large molecules. It is however a matter of debate whether the leakage occurs due to the underlying conditions or only because of the gut permeability.
It has also been argued that leaky gut syndrome may not occur in isolation, but can be present along with a host of other health disorders. A few doctors are of the understanding that leaky gut syndrome may act as a possible symptom of different serious conditions such as diabetes, asthma, scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, lupus, colitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis.
There are no other known causes of leaky gut syndrome, although some have been associated with radiation therapy, food allergies, and certain medications.
Test to determine leaky gut
Here are the questions that may be posed by the doctor to determine if you have leaky gut –
Are you constipated on a frequent basis?
Do you have diarrhea on a frequent basis ?
Do you experience abdominal bloating?
Do you have air-borne allergies like hay fever, asthma?
Do you suffer from chronic fatigue?
Have you noticed blood or mucus in your stool?
Do you have sinus-related issues?
Do you experience pain or swelling in joints?
Do you feel sick after consuming alcohol?
Do you have a persistent itchy skin problem?
Treatment of leaky gut syndrome
A majority of diagnostic tests generally do not result in an effective diagnosis of leaky gut syndrome. Hence, without knowing the causes doctors cannot prescribe a relevant treatment. It is therefore important for patients to consult a doctor who is willing to thoroughly check into the anomalies and efficiently address your health concerns.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of knowledge about leaky gut syndrome, patients often have to run from one doctor to another for therapies, but mostly end up consulting their usual health care provider for treatment. All physicians tend to prescribe alternative drugs after checking the medical records of the patient. This may or may not resolve the health problem. Patients can however take solace from the fact that there are many doctors who make sincere efforts to find out the root causes of leaky gut syndrome, on an individual basis.
Currently, all the available treatment options for leaky gut syndrome are carried out without any empirical data.
Some physicians suggest the use of L-glutamine supplements so as to toughen the walls of the small intestine. However, this therapy has not been validated or approved by researchers. Also, this treatment does not guarantee a cure.
In some cases, treatment of celiac or Crohn’s disease helps in alleviation of the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome.
Lifestyle changes including intake of a balanced and healthy diet, decrease in overall levels of stress, exercising, etc. can also help improve the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome
Leaky Gut Diet
Almost all doctors are of the opinion that the diet plays an important role in causing leaky gut syndrome. Patients can follow the below listed diet to ease their symptoms:
Intake of processed foods, vegetable and soy oil, regular salt, artificial sweeteners, refined and processed carbohydrates like cookies and candies, hydrogenated oils and fats, white flour, and pasteurized milk products should be stopped or decreased.
Try to eat small meals after every three hours. Protein rich foods are essential. Yogurt, fish, and chicken broth soup are good foods for leaky gut syndrome.
Eat green leafy vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, and leek. They must be very well cooked to facilitate easy digestion.
Blueberries, bananas, and other fresh fruits should also be part of the daily diet.