In a previous article we gave a basic answer to the question, “What is leaky gut syndrome?” This is a medical condition that healthcare practitioners are just now beginning to consistently recognize and treat.
In short, leaky gut syndrome is exactly what it sounds like: the lining of the gut becomes more permeable (or “leaky”) than it should be, allowing leaks from the gut into the bloodstream. What leaks into the bloodstream? Parasites, bacteria, fungi, toxins, plus undigested proteins, fats, starches, and waste.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome
Symptoms of leaky gut syndrome are widespread and varied, since the health of the gut affects many areas and functions of the body. According to Bruce Gordon, MD, chief of otolaryngology at Cape Cod Hospital and clinical instructor at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, symptoms of this condition can include (but are not limited to):
- Joint and muscle aches
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Food allergies
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Skin rashes
- Confusion and memory loss
But don’t be surprised if your doctor doesn’t immediately consider leaky gut syndrome as a cause of your symptoms. Gordon adds, “There are plenty of people doing work on leaky gut syndrome, but almost nobody wants to talk about it for fear of being considered a quack. Leaky gut symptoms are widely recognized in the ear, nose, and throat allergy community, but we don’t talk about it because we want to be considered mainstream.”
Pretty amazing, right?
Leaky Gut Syndrome and Immunity
According to gastroenterologist Donald Kirby, MD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Cleveland Clinic, “Physicians don’t know enough about the gut, which is our biggest immune system organ.”
Whether or not physicians know enough about the gut, and its connection to immunity, your body’s immune system is nevertheless compromised when you have leaky gut syndrome. In fact, leaky gut syndrome actually causes the body to attack itself, a condition also known as autoimmune disease, by creating antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues.
Says Dr. Zoltan P. Rona, MD, MSc, “The leaky gut syndrome is almost always associated with autoimmune disease and reversing autoimmune disease depends on healing the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Any other treatment is just symptom suppression.” She adds that autoimmune conditions associated with a leaky gut include “lupus, alopecia, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Sjogren’s Syndrome, vitiligo, thyroiditis, vasculitis, Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, urticaria;hives, diabetes and Raynaud’s disease.”
How does the autoimmune process really work? In short, having a leaky gut causes the body to produce antibodies that attack its own tissues. When the antibodies encounter a particular type of tissue, inflammation occurs. Over time, this inflammation becomes the chronic conditions listed above. For instance, if the inflammation occurs in a joint, the result may be a form of autoimmune arthritis called rheumatoid arthritis. If inflammation happens in the brain, the person may end up with chronic fatigue syndrome. Inflamed lungs can lead to asthma, while an inflamed gut can result in colitis or Crohn’s disease. As you can see, the inflammation caused by these leaky gut-created antibodies can wreak havoc just about anywhere in the body!
Next Up: Healing the Gut
As the above statements from physicians make clear, healing the gut is one clear way to support the body in recovering from a number of chronic autoimmune conditions resulting from leaky gut syndrome. In upcoming articles, we will discuss the lifestyle habits that can lead to this condition, as well as natural solutions for supporting gut health and restoring gut integrity… so stay tuned!
Iliades, C, MD, “What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?” http://www.everydayhealth.com/digestive-health/what-is-leaky-gut-syndrome.aspx?source=dlp-pdr(accessed 6/12/13)
McMillen, M., MD, Chang, L., M.D. (reviewer). “Leaky Gut Syndrome: What Is It?” http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/features/leaky-gut-syndrome (accessed 6/12/13)
Rona, Z, MD. “Altered Immunity and The Leaky Gut Syndrome.” http://www.mold-survivor.com/leaky_gut_syndrome.html (accessed 6/12/13)