You may have heard the catchphrase “leaky gut”, but what does it mean and why does it matter?
First, it’s important to know that gut health is vital to your overall health, so poor gut health, including leaky gut, may be the culprit in any number of symptoms or ailments you experience in your body.
Due to a variety of reasons – the standard american diet, conventional farming, environmental factors, and more – our digestive systems have a lot to handle.
In a healthy gut, the tight junctions between the epithelial cells in your intestinal lining are nice and tight. They keep everything in your intestines (like microbes, digested food particles, and waste) that needs to be kept in.
Leaky gut happens when those tight junctions between the epithelial cells in your intestinal lining stop being so tight, which allows material from your colon to leak out into your system (where they shouldn’t be) and cause all kinds of mayhem!
This is called “microbial translocation” and we’ll be referring to this a lot today, because this is the main element of leaky gut that causes so many negative reactions and often eventually leads to disease. Basically that means that leaky gut is a potential precursor or first step leading up to chronic disease, especially autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, eczema, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, and many many more.
So, if you think you may have leaky gut or are experiencing anything I just mentioned, keep reading! I hope this will help you hone in on what exactly is going on in your body, and whether or not you actually have a leaky gut.
Common Symptoms of Leaky Gut
#1: Autoimmune Disease
To be clear, leaky gut doesn’t cause you to have an autoimmune condition, but if you are genetically predisposed to express an autoimmune disease, leaky gut can trigger a reaction in your immune system that causes your autoimmune disease to become active or to flare up.
The “microbial translocation” I mentioned earlier can trigger a variety of different immune responses because these microbes look like foreign invaders to your body when they are outside your gut. Your immune system reacts accordingly by sending out an inflammatory response and triggering immune cells to attack the “invaders” that have leaked from your gut. If you are susceptible to autoimmune conditions this may send your immune system into overdrive.
For example, your own body will attack your thyroid cells like we see in grave’s disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or attack your joints and joint capsules like in rheumatoid arthritis, or attack your pancreas like with type 1 diabetes.
Fibromyalgia, lupus, type 1 diabetes, thyroid conditions, and eczema and psoriasis – all autoimmune diseases can be activated or worsened by leaky gut.
#2: Chronic Bloating & Bathroom Irregularities
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you have experienced phases of chronic bloating and either diarrhea, constipation, or both. This symptom of leaky gut is caused by the intense inflammation in the epithelial tissue that lines the gut, which is also often the thing that causes your gut to be leaky in the first place, so it’s a cyclical chain reaction.
Inflammation in the gut lining is often caused by improperly digested food, which causes bloating. Your gut doesn’t have the capacity to process improperly digested food so it ferments and causes gases, which feel like bloating.
This improperly digested food combined with the intestinal inflammation can cause food sensitivities like we just talked about, and can create an emergency evacuation situation where, again, your body thinks the lingering food is the thing that’s hurting you so it expels all of the contents post-haste.
Alternatively, high levels of inflammation in the intestinal walls can swell the tissues to the point where it prevents the normal muscular contractions that are supposed to happen in the large intestine to move everything along down the colon out the back door, and we call this constipation.
And it’s also not uncommon to have alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea, where your body gets stopped up for a while and then suddenly has to evacuate everything all at once.
#3: Food Sensitivities
Food Sensitivities are another very common symptom of leaky gut. This can happen because when the epithelial tight junctions are loose, theories suggest that small amounts of food particulates can also be transferred from the digestive tract and gut out into the body the same way the microbes are.
Remember, anything that’s supposed to be inside your intestines and somehow moves outside can trigger an immune response.
If you happen to be eating a particular food at the same time that this immune response is being triggered, your body will begin to associate that food as a foreign invader and your immune system will mark it, so the next time you eat that food your body can launch an effective immune attack against it thinking it’s harming you, when really it’s the leaky gut that’s the problem.
The food isn’t harming you, it’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I also want to take a second to point out that acne is often associated with food sensitivities, so you can see how you may have more than one symptom that points towards having leaky gut.
The good news about food sensitivities is that food sensitivities are different from true allergies because they can be recovered from. If you remove the offending food and heal the leaky gut, 9 times out of 10 you can add that food back into your diet and feel totally fine.
In addition to the autoimmune skin conditions eczema and psoriasis, acne is another skin condition linked to leaky gut. Simply put, acne may be your body’s reaction to the increased inflammation caused by the immune response generated by leaky gut.
Remember, when those microbes migrate outside of your intestines they cause all kinds of mayhem, including systemic inflammation. Acne may be one expression of inflammation in your body.
#5: Headaches and Migraines
Lastly, headaches and migraines can be a reaction to the “microbial translocation” mayhem caused by leaky gut. The microbes that migrate outside your intestines not only cause chronic system-wide inflammation, but this transference also carries with it toxins that would otherwise be contained by and excreted from the colon. The body reacts to these toxins by releasing specific inflammatory compounds that can trigger headaches and migraines. One study showed a 40-80% increase of reports of migraines in IBS patients.
What to Do if You Experience Symptoms of Leaky Gut
These 5 symptoms are some of the most common that people experience and report about, but they’re not the only symptoms people have. There are a lot of different ways your body can respond to leaky gut.
And remember, if leaky gut is the culprit you’ll likely have more than one of these symptoms going on at the same time.
So you can have headaches and acne and bloating, or you can have autoimmune flare ups and food sensitivities, or any other combination going on.
If you think you may have leaky gut and you want to heal once and for all, make sure to download my free 101 Gut Healing Foods list. Different foods can affect your health both positively and negatively….but small adjustments can lead to big changes!
With this list of 101 foods, you’ll know exactly what to focus on to begin to heal your leaky gut so you can eliminate bloating, headaches, skin conditions, alleviate autoimmune flare-ups, and overall feel better and more comfortable and confident in your body.