Could leaky gut be the root cause of your health issues?
Symptoms are not necessarily connected to the location they are associated with. So, if you have asthma or eczema, the root cause may not be located in your lungs or skin. Most symptoms originate from a systemic imbalance and, often, that imbalance will be in the gut/gastrointestinal tract. This can even be true for those with no obvious digestive problems.
If you do have obvious digestive symptoms such as reflux, gas, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhoea it is likely you may have got a diagnosis of IBS and possibly some medication to reduce your symptoms, but this is just addressing the symptoms and not the root cause!
Whilst many of us know that a properly functioning digestive system is essential for the correct absorption of nutrients from food, you may not be aware the gut contains 70% of our immune system, a massive neural network that produces 90% of the body’s serotonin (a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, sleep and relaxation) and houses 10 times more bacterial cells than actual body cells and is why scientists are now referring to the gut as the second brain!
What might be going wrong with the gut?
When things start to go wrong with our gastrointestinal tract it may cause widespread symptoms throughout the body. Let's look at four reasons behind why the gut may malfunction.
1. Malabsorption of nutrients due to damaged intestinal cells.
The small intestines absorb nutrients from our food. However, due to food intolerances, stress, medications, bacterial overgrowth and low stomach acid, the microvilli can get damaged and are no longer able to effectively absorb nutrients which can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, even if you are eating a good diet.
2. Low stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes
Stomach acid is especially important for protein digestion and absorption of B12 and other nutrients. It is also our first line of defence in killing pathogens that come into our body via the food we eat.
Pancreatic enzymes are important for fat, carbohydrate and protein digestion and help gall bladder function.
3. Leaky gut or increased gut permeability
The lining of the digestive tract works as a protective barrier that keeps unwanted particles from entering our bloodstream. If this barrier gets damaged then particles (like bad bacteria, proteins like gluten, partially digested food particles and toxic waste) that normally cannot pass through, now can and this may lead to inflammation, food intolerances and immune system overwhelm.
4. Microflora imbalance or dysbiosis
This is when there is an imbalance between the beneficial and pathogenic (harmful) bacteria in the gut. Many things can contribute to this imbalance; C-section births, not being breastfed, overuse of antibiotics and certain prescription drugs, poor diet, stress, alcohol, smoking, to name a few.
Dysbiosis is now believed to be a contributing factor to many chronic and degenerative diseases such as: IBS, IBD, chronic fatigue syndrome, auto-immune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto's.
What can we do to heal the gut?
Follow a four Rs gut healing protocol, the functional medicine approach to healing the gut.
1. Remove pathogens via a herbal cleanse. Remove foods that feed pathogens, create inflammation and contribute to leaky gut.
2. Restore healthy digestive function via support of pancreatic enzymes and stomach acid.
3. Repair the gastrointestinal mucosal lining with specific nutrients.
4. Reinoculate with beneficial bacteria to rebalance gut flora.
Always work with an experienced nutritional therapist who can not only guide you through this protocol but develop a personalised nutrition and lifestyle plan that is tailored to your unique symptoms, circumstances and health conditions.