Leaky Gut - What Is It, and Do You or Your Child Have It?

A New Year, a new Iyashi Wellness Health Series!

(The previous series on Healthy, Happy Eating the Whole Family Can Enjoy is found here.)

This is the Leaky Gut Series, and there will be a total of 12 articles written to educate the public on Leaky Gut - what is it, Chinese Medicine approach to treating leaky gut, the Four R approach to healing leaky gut, diets that can help heal leaky gut, the reality of implementing these diets, the importance of parental and child involvement in healing leaky gut through nutrition, and sample meals and swaps to start implementing these changes.  

Part 1 is What is Leaky Gut?

 

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut has been somewhat of a buzzword for the past decade or so, becoming increasingly more talked about as gluten-free and paleo diets continue to gain new devotees. Former vegetarians and sugar addicts everywhere claim going grain-free, gluten-free, or paleo has helped them lose weight and overcome chronic illness. The term “leaky gut” is tossed around amongst Crossfitters, yogis, and Whole Foods shoppers as if it’s something that everyone has heard of and is familiar with. You may have overheard something like, “Excuse me, does this have gluten in it? I’m trying to fix my leaky gut and I absolutely cannot have gluten!”

But what is leaky gut exactly? The term conjures up images of intestinal matter leaking out into places where it shouldn’t be. It sounds pretty gross. Why would anybody admit publicly to having their poo leak out all over the place? Well, leaky gut is not really what it sounds like it is! The proper medical term for it is intestinal hyperpermeability, and it actually is becoming more common than previously thought. It can’t be diagnosed just by looking at a person (or their bowel movements, for that matter), and it can’t be diagnosed based on symptoms alone.

Intestinal hyperpermeability (AKA leaky gut) is a condition in which the semi-permeable membrane of the gut is damaged and becomes too permeable. Instead of simply being a conduit for digested micronutrients to enter the body, the single cell layer of the intestines develops enlarged spaces in which larger, incompletely digested materials are allowed to enter the bloodstream. This creates a variety of vague symptoms that are often hard to diagnose. Sufferers of intestinal hyper permeability - adults and children alike - may experience headaches, skin rashes, acne, eczema, asthma, allergies, bloating, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies/sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, psychiatric disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, fatigue, chronic pain, infertility, or other conditions. Some experts believe that conditions such as autism may even be a result of leaky gut.

If leaky gut is becoming so common, what causes it?  The general consensus seems to be that leaky gut may result from a combination of genetic predisposition in addition to environmental factors. Processed foods found in the modern diet such as breakfast cereals, crackers, cookies, wheat bread, gluten, soda, candy, and all the things that contribute to food cravings and obesity are the usual dietary suspects for causing inflammation in the gut lining that eventually leads to the gaping holes known as leaky gut. There is also some contention that genetically modified foods (GMOs) and foods sprayed with glyphosate (Roundup) also may lead to leaky gut. The mainstream medical community is in agreement that NSAIDS such as aspirin can also cause leaky gut. Avoiding processed foods, genetically modified foods, and any foods that you may be allergic to, as well as avoiding foods sprayed heavily with pesticides is critical to repairing a leaky gut and preventing its reoccurrence. As a result, your grocery bills may go up, but your medical bills will likely go down. If changing your diet means no more suffering from chronic migraine headaches or fibromyalgia, for example, most individuals feel that the investment in better quality food is well worth it.

How is leaky gut diagnosed? Intestinal hyperpermeability or leaky gut can be diagnosed by either a urine test or a blood test. For the urine test, you will need to drink a premeasured amount of lactulose and mannitol. The urine sample is collected over the next 6 hours and the amount of lactulose and mannitol in the urine is measured. If either of these parameters is elevated, it is indicative of leaky gut.


Next article, Part 2, I will discuss how leaky gut is addressed in Chinese Medicine, including the Four R approach and traditional pattern diagnosis. Join my email newsletter to be notified when future articles are posted!

 Part 2:  Leaky Gut According to Chinese Medicine  Part 3: The 4 R's to Gut Healing:  Removal (Step 1)  Part 4: The Feingold Diet for Behavioral Problems  Part 5:  Real Food 101  Part 6: Autoimmune Paleo Protocol for Leaky Gut  Part 7: The 4 R's to Gut Healing: Replacement (Step 2) and Part 8: Reinoculation Phase for Healing Leaky Gut  Part 9: Repair Phase for Healing Leaky Gut  Part 10: Challenges of Going Through Dietary Changes and How To Succeed  Part 11: Raising Kids with Healthy Cravings   and Part 12: Leaky Gut: Tying It All Together