What is Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS)?
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is a tube of connected organs that runs from the mouth to the anus. The organs of the GI tract include:
- the esophagus
- the stomach
- the small and large intestines
Digestive enzymes in the stomach and small intestine break down nutrients in food and drink into smaller molecules that the body uses for energy, growth, and maintenance. The intestines also play a vital part in protecting the body from harmful bacteria and toxins.
Tight openings in the intestinal walls allow water and nutrients to pass through into the bloodstream while keeping harmful substances inside. In LGS, these openings become larger, allowing food particles, bacteria, and toxins to pass directly into the bloodstream.
The intestines are also home to a wide variety of bacteria called the gut microbiota. These bacteria help digestion, protect the intestinal wall and support normal immune function. LGS can involve imbalances in gut microbiota.
According to a 2016 article, imbalances in the gut microbiota can activate the body’s immune response. This causes gut inflammation and increased intestinal permeability (IP). IP refers to how easily substances can leak out of the intestines and into the bloodstream.
Leaky gut shares many of its symptoms with other health conditions. This can make the condition difficult for doctors to diagnose.
Leaky gut may cause or contribute to the following symptoms:
- chronic diarrhea, constipation, or bloating
- nutritional deficiencies
- trouble concentrating
- skin problems, such as acne, rashes, or eczema
- joint pain
- widespread inflammation
Causes and Risk Factors
Professionals do not yet know exactly what causes leaky gut syndrome. However, several risk factors can disrupt the gut microbiota and contribute to increased IP. Examples include:
- poor nutrition
- alcohol consumption
- autoimmune disorders, such as lupus
Treatment and Improving Gut Health
Because a lot of doctors do not consider leaky gut to be a genuine medical condition, there is no standard treatment.
However, certain dietary and lifestyle changes may help people to improve their gut health. This, therefore, might alleviate leaky gut symptoms.
The following dietary tips may help to improve gut health:
- consuming more probiotics to boost beneficial gut bacteria
- consuming foods abundant in prebiotic fiber, such as vegetables and whole grains
- eating less meat, dairy, and eggs
- avoiding added sugar and artificial sweeteners
The following lifestyle adjustments can improve digestion and support a healthy gut:
- exercising consistently
- getting adequate sleep every night
- reducing stress
- avoiding unnecessary use of antibiotics
- quitting smoking
For further information about Dr. Stengler’s practice and his clinic in Encinitas, California, please visit our website at MarkStengler.com or give us a call at (760) 274-2377.