Whenever you make a big life decision, you trust your gut, right? I “listen to my gut” when I weigh all sorts of choices. Your gut can tell you when something feels off, or may be dangerous … or even when something feels “just right.”
But, your gut health can indicate other important things too – things that might be going on inside your body. In fact, your gut “flora” ecosystem could be the source of symptoms or discomforts that seem totally unrelated.
And I bet you didn’t know, your gut has a surface area of almost 200 square meters. That’s like the surface area of a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom house – with a 2-car garage! The gut is where your body comes into greatest contact with the outside world.
Your gut also has the biggest number of immune cells, making up about 70% of all lymphoid tissues in the body.1 Lymphoid tissue makes up the system responsible for ridding the body of toxins, waste, and other types of unwanted matter.
So, you can probably guess that things like gas, constipation, regular diarrhea, and bloating could be related to your gut. Did you also know that some other symptoms might stem from your gut health as well? Things like:
- Food Allergies (general and food)
- Fatigue and a Sluggish Immune System
- Joint Pain
It’s possible. And doctors and scientists are currently investigating what’s become known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. While physicians haven’t yet agreed to make it an official diagnosis, the medical world is asking …
Just what the heck is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The intestines, which are a part of your digestive tract, are lined with a mucus-like intestinal barrier. It’s sort of like a screen or a net. And it’s got lots of tiny holes all over it. These holes serve as protection, allowing only certain substances to pass through. Bigger, unwanted particles are kept out.2
When you experience Leaky Gut Syndrome – also called Increased Intestinal Permeability – the holes in your net grow bigger.
This is bad, because all of the particles the net is meant to filter away, are now able to pass through where they shouldn’t.
When the net weakens or becomes damaged, things like viruses or undigested food, waste, and gut bacteria (bad bacteria) can literally leak from inside your intestines, through the net, and into your bloodstream. This can end up causing strange reactions that feel like they’re coming out of the blue, including headaches, rashes, bloating, fatigue, food allergies, and inflammation.3
How Do You Know if You Have Leaky Gut Symptoms?
Increased intestinal permeability can be a bit mysterious. Here are some possible leaky gut symptoms that could indicate you’ve got it.
Take a look at what’s below. And, if it turns out you’re experiencing a combination of some of these signs, you might want to visit your physician or check out some ways to help take care of Leaky Gut.
1. Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities
These “holes” in the net or lining of your gut are actually referred to as “tight junctions.” When they grow in size, they allow undigested food proteins and fats from the food you’re trying to digest to pass through the digestive tract and into the bloodstream.
But, there’s a problem when tight junctions occur – your body’s negative response. These substances can cause allergic responses or food sensitivities. The allergic responses can then result in varying symptoms like rashes, certain skin conditions, or gastrointestinal health issues.4
It’s important that your body absorbs the proper amount of nutrients from the foods you eat. Nutrients give you the fuel you need, so your body can create energy and grow healthy, new cells. These tight junctions can impair this process.
Certain nutritional deficiencies could be a result of a damaged intestinal lining. Turns out that the intestinal lining of the small intestine isn’t just an “intestinal wall.” It’s made up of a bunch of tiny, finger-like parts responsible for absorbing those important nutrients. When they get damaged, they can’t do their job – and your body suffers.
When foreign particles (like food particles) infiltrate your small intestine, and its intestinal lining, your gut is forced to fight against harmful toxins. The gut’s smart. And so is your immune system. So they fire off their defenses.
This defensive process can cause inflammation, a key leaky gut symptom. In addition, the process of protecting your body from foreign particles can make your body really tired, slowing down your immune system and causing all sorts of other issues.5
In fact, the more toxins that enter the bloodstream, the more your immune system must defend your body, and the more fatigued you’ll feel.
3. Joint Pain
As I mentioned above, Leaky Gut triggers the immune system to get defensive about blocking unwanted materials from invading the intestinal wall and therefore the bloodstream.
One of the ways in which your immune system tries to help you is inflammation. That’s right, your body actually causes inflammation around a wound or the site of an infection, because it’s trying to heal the issue. The problem is, inflammation isn’t comfortable. And, if it goes on too long, it’s not healthy, either.
Because Leaky Gut results in increased inflammation. If you have a predisposition to inflammation in your joints, this general increase can result in worsening joint pain.6
Your gut flora is directly linked to your immune system and is responsible for getting rid of most of the things which can make you feel sick or in pain. Your skin, on the other hand, is your body’s largest eliminative organ. So, of course, it’s affected when toxins make their way into your bloodstream.
A rash (or even more persistent skin issues) can be a sign your body is trying with all it’s might to shed these harmful toxins. Your body is doing it’s best to get rid of the problem, but it can’t always help but expose the unsightly and annoying side effects of Leaky Gut in your skin.
So, if you see dry, flaky, rosey or bumpy areas, it might just be another sign that Leaky Gut has started to take its toll on your body.
5. Your Gut
Finally, your stomach might also clue you into the fact that you’re experiencing Leaky Gut Syndrome directly. Symptoms like constipation, regular diarrhea, gas, and bloating are loud and clear indications that you might be dealing with Leaky Gut.
Can you Heal Leaky Gut?
All hope is not lost. If you think you might suffer from increased intestinal permeability, there are things you can do to help heal leaky gut.
First, you can eliminate the foods in your diet that are currently causing harm to your gut flora. Lots of these foods happen to contain processed sugars, sugar, and dairy. It’s a good place to start. Try eliminating foods from these categories to see if they might be affecting your gut. My hunch is, even if you don’t suffer from Leaky Gut Syndrome, you’ll notice a big difference in the way you feel.
Then, you want to do your best to include foods that can heal leaky gut in your diet. These foods include, but aren’t limited to –
- Sweet potatoes
- Wild-Caught Fish
- Steamed broccoli
- Coconut oil
- Bone Broth
For some, a gluten-free diet may also be useful. This is because gluten can cause great sensitivity in some people.
Finally, make sure to start adding more probiotics into your diet.
These can be in the form of supplements or they can be fermented foods (like yogurt, sauerkraut, or tempeh) that are packed with “good gut bacteria” and support good digestive health. The good bacteria found in probiotics can be your greatest defense against illness and stomach upsets. You can also utilize prebiotic supplements which contain fibers that help to feed probiotic bacteria.
Some people also like to supplement with formulas that contain digestive enzymes. During digestion, digestive enzymes assist the body in breaking down food, but some factors, like aging, can reduce the number of digestive enzymes we have naturally available.
For what it’s worth, your body was built to defend itself against all sorts of possible dangers. And with a little help from you, it can clear up a lot of distressing issues. So, be proactive. Talk to your doctor, and make smart changes to your lifestyle. You’ll feel better physically, and you’ll likely be happy that you’re finally in control.
Here’s to your healthy gut!
1. Campbell A. Autoimmunity and the Gut. Autoimmune Diseases. 2014;2014:1-12. doi:10.1155/2014/152428.
2. Travis S Menzies I. Intestinal permeability: functional assessment and significance. Clinical Science. 1992;82(5):471-488. doi:10.1042/cs0820471.
3. Vajro P, Paolella G, Fasano A. Microbiota and Gut–Liver Axis. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2013;56(5):461-468. doi:10.1097/mpg.0b013e318284abb5.
4. Fasano A. Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Diseases. Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology. 2011;42(1):71-78. doi:10.1007/s12016-011-8291-x.
5. Campbell A. Autoimmunity and the Gut. Autoimmune Diseases. 2014;2014:1-12. doi:10.1155/2014/152428.
6. Orchard T. Management of Arthritis in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. PubMed Central (PMC). 2017.