What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
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 repair.
The intestines also play an essential 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 range of bacteria called gut microbiota. These bacteria aid digestion, protect the intestinal wall and support normal immune function. LGS may include 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 describes how easily substances can leak out of the intestines and into the bloodstream.
Leaky gut shares a lot of its symptoms with other health conditions. This can make the disorder hard for physicians to diagnose.
Leaky gut may cause or contribute to the following symptoms:
- chronic diarrhea, constipation, or bloating
- nutritional deficiencies
- difficulty concentrating
- skin problems, such as acne, rashes, or eczema
- joint pain
- widespread inflammation
Causes and Risk Factors
Experts do not yet know exactly what causes leaky gut syndrome. However, various risk factors can interfere with the gut microbiota and contribute to increased IP. Examples include:
- bad nutrition
- alcohol consumption
- autoimmune disorders, such as lupus
Treatment and Improving Gut Health
Because many physicians do not consider leaky gut to be a genuine medical condition, there is no standard treatment.
Nevertheless, certain dietary and lifestyle adjustments may help people to improve their gut health. This, therefore, may reduce leaky gut symptoms.
The following dietary suggestions may help to improve gut health:
- eating more probiotics to boost beneficial gut bacteria
- eating 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 changes can improve digestion and support a healthy gut:
- exercising regularly
- getting enough sleep every night
- reducing stress
- avoiding unnecessary use of antibiotics
- quitting smoking