Leaky Gut, or “intestinal permeability,” is a condition in which the intestines lose some of their ability to filter nutrients and other substances. This permeability affects the lining of the intestines creating a dysfunction at the microscopic surface of the intestine that impairs the ability to properly digest foods. When the intestines cannot filter properly, tiny pieces of incompletely digested foods, bacteria, and other waste by-products may leak through the intestines into the bloodstream where they do not belong.
The intestines are lined with millions of cells which are sealed together by “tight junctions.” In healthy intestines, these tight junctions work as barriers to allow or prohibit particles from moving through the gastrointestinal tract and into the circulatory system. When a person has Leaky Gut syndrome, particles can slip through the cells and tight junctions and leak into the bloodstream or lymphatic system then move freely throughout the body where they do not belong.
There are four main causes of leaky gut:
- Poor Diet
- Chronic Stress (physical and mental)
- Toxins (dietary, environmental, cosmetic, etc.)
- Bacterial Imbalances inside the gastrointestinal tract
How Diet and Food can Trigger “Leaky Gut”
As previously mentioned, inflammation can wreak havoc in the body. Inflammation is not limited to swelling at the surface of the skin. In fact, tiny cells inside the body that line the gastrointestinal tract are prone to both acute and chronic inflammation since they are in direct contact with food particles, bacteria, and other substances throughout the day.
Ongoing inflammation in the gut causes a dilation of the vessels lining the GI tract, or the “tight junctions” as a way for the body to protect itself. When the vessels dilate, they allow fluid in to “flush” out the foreign invader. This is why we get diarrhea when we get food poisoning. While diarrhea is an extreme example of this dilation, the signal for these junctions to open over and over again is similar to leaving the screen door open at your house at all times. The screen door keeps bugs and other “imposters” out, but if left open, allows all of those to enter when they are not welcome.
The body does not like foreign substances floating around and the immune system will kick in and try to fight whatever it thinks is a danger in the intestines. This will cause inflammation and inhibit functioning. When this happen the ability to digest foods and absorb nutrients is decreased and the immune system can be compromised.
Chronic inflammation in the intestines is a real concern. It has the potential link between serious disorders like:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Irritable bowel disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis