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What is Leaky Gut Syndrome and What Does It Mean for the Digestive Tract?

When you start to feel like you’re not at your best, it’s tough to decipher when and where exactly illness can begin. Whether you’re feeling stressed out at work, drinking a little bit too much alcohol, or feasting on bad-for-you processed foods, it might be time to look into what causes leaky gut. Unfortunately, leaky gut can lead to some serious health concerns.

Now, you may have read about leaky gut before, but how much do you really know? Let’s start by answering some essential questions about
your gut microbiome and how its health can become compromised.

What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

what causes leaky gut | Gundry MD

What is a leaky gut? Having a “leaky gut” is actually a medical condition referred to as It’s leaky gut syndrome.
To better understand it, let’s first start with the basics. Your intestinal lining has two big jobs to do:

  1. Enable the absorption of essential nutrients into your bloodstream
  2. Act as a barrier to keep dangerous toxins from entering your bloodstream1

Because your intestinal lining has protective tasks to accomplish, it really is the first line of defense for your immune system. It’s meant to protect the bacteria in your gut microbiota and your overall gut health. But how does it work exactly?

Well, your gut barrier consists mostly of epithelial cells. The outermost layer of your small intestine is bound by tight junctions. At the tips of your epithelial cells are little bristles known as microvilli. These microvilli actually absorb the nutrients your gut digests and then it passes them into your bloodstream.2

But your tight junctions are supposed to remain locked during digestion. Essentially, they screen the molecules of different foods before allowing them to enter your bloodstream.3

Leaky gut syndrome (otherwise known as increased intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability) can occur if your gut lining becomes torn or swollen. The tight junctions will actually remain open or even widen, allowing dangerous undigested food particles and other toxins to pass into your bloodstream.4

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How To Recognize Leaky Gut Syndrome, And What Happens To Your Digestive System?

Leaky gut syndrome can be a little mysterious at first. But it’s better to see a doctor if you feel compromised digestive function because leaky gut syndrome might actually lead to other digestive health issues.

With a leaky gut, gut dysbiosis becomes almost inevitable. Gut dysbiosis is when there’s an imbalance of microorganisms inside the intestines. And because the gut is at the center of all health, leaky gut syndrome could be linked with other medical concerns and serious health problems.5

Are You Experiencing A Nutritional Deficiency Or Sensitivity To Certain Foods?

In the case that your gut lining becomes swollen or subject to damage, your gut barrier can become permeable and allow for toxic substances to pass through your system. However, leaky gut syndrome can sometimes also be responsible for partial nutrient absorption. The swelling of your gut lining will likely affect the function of your microvilli – those are the little bristles lining your gut barrier that help with nutrient absorption.6

If your tight junctions expand in width or stick open as you digest, unprocessed fats and proteins can pass through them and infiltrate your bloodstream. In this case, your body will react negatively to these threats and may greenlight allergic responses which can complicate the following symptoms:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Breathing issues
  • Skin irritation7

What Does It Mean If You’re Fatigued Or Feeling Low?

fatigue | Gundry MD

Constantly feeling fatigued can be another signal that you’re experiencing leaky gut syndrome. That’s because harmful bacteria in your gut let off toxins that cause swelling in your body. So, when your immune system releases fighter cells to take down these substances, it can get really tiring.

Fighting off bad bacteria is no easy task. And the more toxic bacteria and particles that enter your bloodstream, the more your immune cells get ready for battle and the more tired you can become.8,9

What Are Potential Causes Of Leaky Gut Syndrome?

brain fog | Gundry MD

Another way to think about leaky gut syndrome is to consider your intestinal barrier as similar to a net. Usually, the net is tightly woven and things can not pass through it that aren’t supposed to pass through it. But with leaky gut syndrome, the joints where the net meets itself get distorted and the holes in the net get wider. This means your intestinal wall gets weakened. It can’t really do its job.

Now, your digestive net is meant to allow small nutrients to pass through your intestinal system. But with a leaky gut, the net lets a lot more through than it should. Those larger, more dangerous molecules and bad bacteria get into your bloodstream before they’re properly broken down.

Suddenly, your body thinks these undigested food particles and bacteria are threats – so, it tags those foods (and the bacteria in them) when you digest them. Then, the next time you consume them, your body thinks you’re allergic to them.

Sometimes when you have leaky gut syndrome, you may also experience symptoms that don’t seem entirely gut-related. Of course, there is the usual bloating, gas, constipation, discomfort, and diarrhea. But you might also feel –

  • Swollen
  • Itchy
  • Like you have trouble breathing
  • Irritable or down in mood
  • Brain fog
  • Stressed

If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor.

Your Lifestyle Can Affect Your Digestive System

leaky gut diet | Gundry MD

Remember, it’s always smart to protect your outside by managing what goes inside. What you eat is a big factor when it comes to your gut health and your overall health.

The sooner you start taking care of what you put in your body, the more likely you’ll be to avoid issues brought about by unhealthy eating.

There’s so much to control these days, and life can be a struggle. And, if you’re having a hard time with your job, financial stability, your relationship, or other stressors, you might start to overlook your physical well-being.

Do your best to make your health a priority and avoid gut permeability. If you think you might have leaky gut syndrome or are struggling with increased intestinal permeability or some other issue with your gut health, visit your doctor as soon as possible. Your healthcare professional will be able to help you answer specific questions about leaky gut syndrome and what you can do in order to prevent it from lasting too long.

You might also wish to try some gut health supplements and/or energy supplements to further strengthen your gut and fight fatigue.

Learn More:

How to Kick-Start a Lectin-Free Diet

Differences Between Casein A1 and A2 Milk



Disclosure: The GundryMD team creates these articles as a way to provide you with the latest information on health and nutrition. Unfortunately, we cannot make specific product recommendations for our website visitors, such as “Total Restore” or “Lectin Shield.” Please consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best products for you.

6 Responses

  1. I’m trying to research your supplement to heal a leaky gut. I’m sensitive to many did and supplements si I need to know what’s in it before I can choose whether to try it or not. Where can I find the ingredient list and description of the product?

    Thank you!

  2. Thank You for letting me know about apple cider vinegar. I want to purchase leaky gut formula & feel better.

  3. I read a recommendation for a gut cleanse product in a Dr. Gundry magazine article. I have severe constipation and need a good product.

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