You've been bloated, gassy, crampy, and just plain miserable for weeks. You're too tired to exercise - and even more tragic - you can't fit into your skinny jeans anymore. Before you reach for that MuMu or another roll of Tums, you might want to ask your doctor if you could be suffering from Leaky Gut Syndrome.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Most people are surprised to learn that the small intestine is the largest organ in the body, and houses two-thirds of your immune system within its walls. The lining of the small intestine acts as a barrier, allowing only necessary nutrients to pass through into the blood stream. But sometimes, gaps develop between the cells in the lining, and then in comes the riffraff: undigested food, bacteria and metabolic waste (yuck!), hence the term "leaky gut." These toxins now floating freely through the blood stream put stress on the immune system and lead to tummy troubles as well as fatigue, skin rashes, joint pain, infection and allergies.
Causes of Leaky Gut Syndrome
A poorly understood and difficult to recognize disorder, Leaky Gut Syndrome is usually diagnosed after an underlying condition such as Celiac, Crohn's or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) has been ruled out.
Then it's time to look at potential lifestyle factors such as:
Diet: Many believe that food allergies are the main culprit behind Leaky Gut Syndrome. For some individuals, eating certain foods such as gluten can trigger an inflammatory response that weakens the walls of the small intestine.
Chronic Stress: Whether the stress is mental, emotional or physical, the body reacts the same way by releasing hormones including cortisol, which triggers the fight-or-flight response. This continued emotional stress can suppress your immune system leading to bacterial overgrowth, infection and a leaky gut. The food allergens then pass into the bloodstream causing the immune system to launch a "Code Red" response, and the results are not pretty: migraines, joint pain, rashes, depression, diarrhea, fatigue, asthma and weight gain.
Other theories on what causes Leaky Gut Syndrome include the consumption of too much aspirin or too much sugar, the buildup of environmental toxins in the body, and antibiotic overuse. Genetically modified organisms have also been pinpointed as a possible culprit.
How to Reduce Leaky Gut Symptoms
There are actually a number of things you can try to help identify and then ease the symptoms that come with Leaky Gut Syndrome:
• Eliminate the most common food allergens such as gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, yeast, peanuts and soy for 3 weeks. If you feel better, reintroduce one food item each week to discover which are causing the discomfort.
• Avoid alcohol, sugar, processed foods and refined flours.
• Incorporate more plant-based, whole-foods into your diet to help eliminate toxic waste.
• Stop using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) including aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.
• Take a daily, high-quality probiotic to replace the good bacteria in your intenstines.
• Try stress reducing activities including meditation or yoga.
• Enjoy the healing properties of a cup of peppermint or chamomile tea (but be careful to avoid chamomile if you suffer from seasonal ragweed allergies).
Have you been diagnosed with Leaky Gut Syndrome? What steps have you taken to heal yourself?