Hello, everyone! Welcome to the Restorative Health Solutions blog! Today, we are going to talk about one of the biggest and most popular subjects in functional medicine: Leaky Gut.
Leaky gut is also commonly referred to as “intestinal permeability.” When you do a search on Google Scholar (search engine that indexes published medical research) for “leaky gut”, you get about 36,000 results. When you search for “intestinal permeability” you get 1,340,000 results. We wanted to inform you of this because some practitioners use the intestinal permeability term instead of leaky gut and it’s important that you understand they are the same thing.
The reason this topic is talked about so much is because the gut is responsible for many critical functions in the body. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract, or gut, houses the vast majority of your immune system, allows you to digest food and absorb nutrients, helps reduce inflammation and also aids in keeping your brain healthy. Leaky gut can wreak absolute havoc on your health with or without gut symptoms. A healthy gut is one of the most important foundations to build your health on. So, let’s get into what it is and what the research has to say on this topic.
So, What is Leaky Gut?
In the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, you have a protective barrier that prevents foreign substances (antigens) from getting through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. These foreign substances or antigens could be undigested food proteins, bacteria/microbes or toxins.
What Happens Once the Antigen Slips into the Bloodstream?
If an antigen (food, microbe, toxin) enters the bloodstream, the immune system then has a decision to make: is this antigen a friend or an enemy? Things like vitamins, minerals and amino acids are considered “friends” to the immune system and they are allowed to pass on by without a reaction since they are necessary components that we need to have optimal health. If an undigested food protein, bacteria or toxin slips into the bloodstream, then your immune system will mount an immune response since it doesn’t recognize what it is and it’s now considered a threat. The T-cells of the immune system are asked to get rid of the problem while the B-cells are asked to make antibodies to the antigen so that if it happens again, the immune system has a planned/automatic response to take out the threat. This, of course, is a mechanism that can cause inflammation to occur throughout the body.
If You Have Leaky Gut, What Symptoms Will You Have?
This is always a question we get with leaky gut. You may think that everyone with leaky gut has stomach or GI symptoms. However, there are many patients with no GI complaints, but have significant leaky gut.
Again, when the antigen passes by the protective gut barrier and gets into the bloodstream, an immune response is mounted and inflammation is likely the result. This underlying inflammation can contribute to a whole host of symptoms.
Here are the common symptoms we see with leaky gut:
- Digestive symptoms (bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, IBS-like symptoms)
- Multiple food sensitivities/food allergies
- Skin reactions/eczema/dermatitis
- History of autoimmune conditions
- Brain fog (slow mental processing speed, decrease mental clarity, decreased focus)
- Seasonal allergies
- Chronic Pain
- Many more
What Causes Leaky Gut?
You are probably hoping that I’m going to say only one thing causes leaky gut, right? I wish it was that straight forward!
When you think of the protective barrier in the gut as something that is supposed to protect us against any potential threat, what would cause that to break down? What places a lot of stress on this barrier system? What does the body perceive as a threat? What causes inflammation?
Here are some common culprits that can contribute to leaky gut:
- Poor diet (too much alcohol, processed food, sugar, gluten, dairy, etc)
- Infections (bacteria, yeast/fungi, parasite, virus, tick-borne infections)
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Concussion/Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Hormone imbalance
- Poor blood sugar regulation
How Do You Know for Sure if You Have Leaky Gut?
In our opinion, the best way to test for leaky gut is to do an intestinal permeability panel through a reputable lab. The test is a blood test that looks at antibody levels to determine: if you have leaky gut, what type of leaky gut you have and if you have endotoxemia? Briefly, you can have leaky gut where the tight junctions (protein structures that keep the intestinal cells close together) between the cells are damaged (paracellular) or you can have leaky gut that damages the intestinal cell itself (transcellular). Endotoxemia means that bacteria are leaking into the bloodstream due to leaky gut.
Here are the labs we currently run to determine if the patient has Leaky Gut:
- Vibrant Labs Intestinal Permeability Panel
- Cyrex Labs Array 2 Intestinal Antigenic Permeability Screen
- GI Maps Stool Test
If You Have Leaky Gut, is There Anything You Can Do About It?
This, of course, is likely the question you had on your mind once your started reading the blog. Understandably, if you think you have leaky gut, you want a potential solution.
We address leaky gut by looking at 5 different phases: Remove, Replace, Repair and Reinoculate in addition to brain rehab. Each phase will be broken down in detail in future blogs, but we will summarize each stage today
Step 1: Remove Phase
In this stage, we focus on eliminating the factors that are contributing to underlying inflammation and wear-and-tear.
Step 2: Replace Phase
This step is all about using specific supplements to help improve digestion and the breakdown of food proteins to their most simple elements to minimize inflammation.
Step 3: Repair Phase
In this phase, we start to introduce supplements that have been shown to help restore the protective barrier of the gut.
Step 4: Reinoculate Phase
This section focuses on increasing the population of good bacteria in the gut.
Step 5: Brain Rehab
Due to the significant communication between the brain and the gut, we apply specific exercises to the brain to help optimize gut function. This is called the Brain-Gut Axis or Gut-Brain Axis, which you will be learning more about in a future blog.
What Can Restorative Health Solutions Do For You?
As you can see, we evaluate many different factors. Along with your history, physical and functional neurological examination findings and lab testing, this makes for an extremely individualized plan. Having the same protocol for everyone that walks in with a certain condition will never work perfectly because it’s not individualized to fit each person’s needs. This is why our guarantee is to replace the one-size-fits-all approach with a personalized plan for YOU!
At Restorative Health Solutions, we strive to get to the root cause of the symptoms/condition and help patients reach their optimal health. If you or a loved one is having any suspicions of leaky gut or is interested in getting a thorough and complete work-up, we’d be happy to help. To schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with one of the doctors, please call 952-479-7801 or CLICK HERE to fill out our contact form.