“Leaky Gut”. Just that term alone gives me a chill. It makes me think that my insides are going to start oozing out everywhere or that my intestines have sprung a leak. But thankfully, that isn’t what is happening. But what exactly is happening?
What is ‘Leaky Gut’?
Leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability (which sounds only slightly better) make it seem as though there are huge holes in our intestines which pieces of food can escape from. Thankfully, this is not accurate. What it does mean is that the integrity of the cell wall is compromised. When our gut is working properly, only healthy nutrients can escape our gut and enter our bodies, fueling our bodies appropriately. When it is not working properly, and leaky gut has formed, this means other things can get released into our bodies as well, like bacteria, infectious organisms or waste products.
Right on the outside wall of our gut, is our immune system, that is ready and waiting for the cells to exit the gut. If they are healthy cells no negative reaction occurs. But if they are some of the bacteria or infectious organisms mentioned above, our immune system begins to attack immediately. Sometimes the end result of this attack is system wide inflammation and sometimes it can be specific to a part of the body. The issues that are caused by leaky gut, are due to this inflammatory response by the immune system.
What can cause leaky gut in the first place? A variety of things can harm the gut and it’s cellular lining. Infection, medications, lifestyle factors, certain foods, etc.
Leaky gut and Autoimmunity
So what does a leaky gut have to do with an autoimmune disease? Anytime it is tested, a leaky gut is present in an individual with autoimmune disease. This is true for any autoimmune disease, not just autoimmune diseases of the digestive system, like Crohn’s, but it has been shown to be true of rheumatoid arthritis, MS, etc.
For many years people are wondering what came first? Leaky gut or autoimmune disease? It seems that the research has concluded leaky gut will be present BEFORE an autoimmune disease will develop. Leaky gut will stimulate the immune system, cause system wide inflammation, then combine that with other specific issues an individual has (deficiencies, genetics, environmental exposures) and BAM. Autoimmunity.
How do you find out for sure if you have leaky gut? And what on earth do you do about it? If you have a diagnosed autoimmune disease, I’m sorry to say that it’s pretty positive you will have leaky gut. There is a test available to see if you have it. It will cost a pretty penny, and it is available through Cyrex labs. (When I went to see my functional medicine doctor a few years ago, she tested me, and I had it as well. This was not ground breaking news to me, as I knew this above information. It was more of a confirmation of the work that I needed to do and that AIP was the right direction to be going in.)
So what do you do about it? That’s a bigger answer, and one that I will tackle in the next few weeks. So stay tuned!! Many people find that they need ongoing gut healing measures for awhile to heal their leaky gut. I will be continuing to talk more about specific gut healing tips, foods to eat, foods to avoid and if you’re ever ‘finished’ with gut healing.
Some people can also benefit from seeking help with a coach or functional medicine practitioner during this process as well. This can help so you don’t feel as though you are doing this tough process alone. This is why I am in the final stages of creating something super special for you all, on just this topic!
As always, if you want to stay connected, join the LissMS Community! I’m always sharing insights, tips and tricks!