In my role as a naturopath at Live Well, one of the conditions I get asked about a lot is leaky gut. With more awareness about the massive impact of gut health on our wellbeing lots of my clients seek support to maximise the health of their digestive system.
What is leaky gut?
Leaky gut occurs when the lining of your digestive tract is damaged causing the gap junctions in your digestive tract to become porous. The increased permeability of the gut lining allows particles like food molecules, toxins and bacteria to pass into your bloodstream causing a myriad of health issues.
In a healthy body, our intestinal lining provides a barrier to keep harmful substances away from the bloodstream, but when that barrier is compromised our immune system detects these invaders and goes into attack mode. The result of this attack causes inflammation, which puts a lot of stress on the body. The longer the digestive lining is permeable and allows invaders to leech into the bloodstream the greater the damage caused by the inflammation.
The build up of stress and accumulation of toxins causes the liver to work over time to keep up with filtering these substances out of the body. More often than not the toxic load is too great and it builds up faster than it is eliminated. As a result, symptoms continue to worsen.
Can you test for leaky gut?
Thankfully if leaky gut is suspected there is a simple and reliable test, called the Lactulose/Mannitol Test that we can do to determine whether or not you have leaky gut. The test involves drinking two substances (lactulose and mannitol) and assessing their concentration in the urine. Lactulose is made up of large particles that are difficult to be absorbed through healthy intestinal lining, so high concentrations of lactulose in the urine indicates that the digestive lining is too permeable. Mannitol, on the other hand, is made up of smaller particles that should be well absorbed, however if the mannitol concentration is too low that can be indicative of absorption issues
Signs of leaky gut
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?
- Food intolerances and allergies – this can be a sign that the body is developing antibodies to fight off certain foods
- Irritable bowel syndrome – caused by the inflammation and damage of the digestive lining
- Fatigue, brain fog – this occurs as a result of toxic overload
- Eczema, dermatitis, rashes – as the skin is an organ of elimination, the body may try to release the toxins through the skin if the other pathways of elimination are congested
- Poor nutrient absorption – caused by impaired breakdown of food and absorption of essential vitamins and minerals
Next week: Part Two
How to heal a leaky Gut
Carla's interest in natural health began at a young age, sourcing remedies from the backyard and kitchen where possible. After living in China and Papua New Guinea, where she got to experience alternative health practices, Carla’s interest in natural medicine developed into a passion.
Carla’s main areas of interest include digestive disorders, immune dysfunction, and female health issues. Her aim is to educate her clients so they can take pro-active steps to take control of their health.