Posted on May 29, 2023, 3 p.m.
Our gut health is directly related to how we feel overall and our immune system. With ever-changing diets and how our body processes food, one condition that has started to be talked about is leaky gut syndrome. You may have heard about it in the discussion of increased intestinal permeability.
Here we take a deeper dive into the condition, diagnosis, and most importantly, what to do to help improve gut health.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky gut syndrome is not something everyone may be very familiar with. This is when the intestinal barrier becomes compromised and allows undigested food particles, toxins, and bacteria to leak into the bloodstream because the intestinal lining becomes impaired and disrupts the normal function that the gut is meant to perform.
Since it is a relatively new condition, being discovered in the early 2000s by doctors in Boston, there is still debate within the medical community as to what qualifies as the criteria to diagnose a leaky gut.
- Digestive issues include abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, bloating, or constipation. Some people may experience alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation.
- Leaky gut syndrome is closely tied to sensitivities or intolerances to certain foods.
- Feeling constantly tired, lethargic, or experiencing general unwell symptoms without a direct reason to point to.
- Sometimes there can be joint pain, stiffness, or even inflammation. There have been associations with rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune disorders and leaky gut syndrome.
- Leaky gut syndrome and skin issues such as rashes, eczema, acne, or hives have correlated. At times these conditions may worsen or improve based on the health of the gut.
- Individuals may experience symptoms that closely resemble autoimmune diseases. These can include joint swelling, muscle pain, general inflammation, and fatigue as listed above.
- Some doctors have suggested that a compromised gut barrier can impact mental health. Anxiety, depression, brain fog, poor concentration, and memory problems have been associated with the condition.
- The absorption of nutrients can decline with a leaky gut. This can potentially lead to deficiencies in essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Diagnosing Leaky Gut Syndrome
Because of the debate on what actually qualifies as leaky gut syndrome, there are no universally accepted criteria or diagnostic tests. However, healthcare professionals are likely to take a look at the following.
- Your medical history. Doctors will go over your complete medical history, specifically gastrointestinal issues, chronic illnesses, or autoimmune diseases.
- Symptom evaluation. Your doctor will go over any digestive issues such as fatigue, food sensitivity, joint pain, and skin problems that may be closely related to leaky gut syndrome.
- Lab tests will be done. There is no specific lab test for leaky gut syndrome, but other tests may be able to indicate poor gut health. This is usually through blood tests, stool samples, or other intestinal evaluations.
Steps to Improve Gut Health
When you have poor gut health, everything feels a bit off. That’s why taking the necessary steps to improve your gut health can help not only leaky gut syndrome but other parts of your immune system. Let’s look into some useful strategies.
Diet Is Crucial
When you eat a gut-friendly diet, symptoms are likely to improve tremendously. Individuals with gut issues should prioritize whole, unprocessed foods that are rich in essential nutrients. This includes fiber and antioxidants. You may also want to consider probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir, as they help to promote a healthy gut microbiome.
Knowing What Sets You Off
A big part of the diet is knowing what foods and beverages can set your stomach off. These are usually processed foods, heavy and greasy foods, caffeine, artificial additives, and other potential food allergens. With these types of food choices, they can cause further inflammation and damage to your gut lining can occur.
Chronic stress can also contribute to as well as increase your chances of bad gut health. High-stress levels disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and decrease optimal gut functioning. Utilizing good stress management techniques is important for reducing stress levels. Techniques such as meditation, yoga, or regular exercise are great examples to assist in stress management.
Gut Supported Supplements
There are a number of safe and healthy supplements as well as natural alternatives that might help your gut heal. Certified healthcare professionals and dieticians can help you to come up with an appropriate plan for your needs which will most likely include L-glutamine, omega-3 fatty acids, aloe vera, probiotics, and other beneficial compounds.
Caution of Supplements
Not all supplements are created equal, as such not all supplements are safe to take or have quality ingredients, making it important to only buy from reputable sources. It’s equally important to consult your doctor before taking a supplement to prevent further damage or alternate medical issues. For example, you may unknowingly be ingesting too many probiotics, taking too many probiotics is another caution to address with a certified medical professional
Overall Healthy Lifestyle
There are a number of things you can do to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle, such as exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol, keeping stress levels in check, getting enough sleep, following a healthy balanced diet, having a positive mindset, walking in nature, and nurturing close social bonds with family/friends.
Speaking With Professionals
Since leaky gut syndrome is still relatively new it remains a topic of debate in the medical community. But with many individuals experiencing these common symptoms, it’s becoming more talked about and analyzed. Healthcare providers that are specialized in gut health and our intestinal tract are working to provide more accurate diagnoses and treatment plans.
On your own, taking control of your diet and specifically avoiding triggers can go a long way in prevention. Furthermore, certain supplements and following a healthy lifestyle further promotes optimal gut health. If you think that you may have leaky gut, consult a certified healthcare professional for diagnosis and develop a plan to learn your triggers as well as manage your gut health.
This article was written for WHN by Nicole McCray who is a free-spirited creative content word ninja, who has been obsessed with beauty and fashion since she was a young girl. She’s a former wedding makeup artist who still loves spending her free time testing products and staying up to date on new fashion trends. On top of that, she’s a self-proclaimed health nut who loves to explore and write about holistic, healthy living.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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