The gut is the gateway to health. If your gut is healthy, chances are that you’re in good health. However, there’s a condition called leaky gut that can lead to a wholes host of health problems. It is estimated that 80% of all Americans suffer from some form of Leaky Gut syndrome – are you one of them?
What is a leaky gut?
The gut (intestines) is naturally permeable. This means that while the cells that line the stomach and intestinal tract are stacked very tightly together (like shingles on a roof) to form a barrier between the gut and the blood stream, there are very small gateways between these cells that allow very small particles to cross over into the blood and also allow water into the gut…much the way roof vents allow air in but keep moisture out. Regulating intestinal permeability is one of the most basic yet important functions of these cells that line the intestinal wall.
But some people have problems with this gateway due to damage to the cells and the gut can become too permeable or LEAKY. Just like a storm can damage your roof and allow unwanted moisture to leak in and cause water damage to the interior of your home, (perhaps slowly and unnoticed over time), problems with this cellular barrier in the gut can allow toxins, bacteria, undigested proteins or waste to leak out of the get and into the body. This can happen slowly and without notice or symptoms for a long period of time, or it can happen swiftly. So, the symptoms can be like a slow poisoning over time or it can be urgent like food poisoning.
How does the gut get damaged?
People who have food allergies or sensitivities, like to gluten, for example, may develop Leaky Gut. When a person consumes foods that they are sensitive to, this can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, a protein that can break apart tight junctions in the intestinal lining creating the leak. The main culprits in this scenario are foods, infections, and toxins. Gluten, Dairy, Sugar, Alcohol (to name only a few) are inflammatory foods and are the first to be investigated in patients with leaky gut. The most common infectious causes are candida overgrowth, intestinal parasites, and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). However, with the overprescribing of drugs that goes on in America, toxins more often present in the form of medications, including NSAIDS like Motrin and Advil, steroids, antibiotics, and acid-reducing drugs. In my practice, I encounter more food and drug causes of leaky gut than I do infection. Environmental toxins like mercury, pesticides and BPA from plastics should also be ruled out as a cause. Unfortunately, excessive stress and age are also contributors to the condition of leaky gut.
When the gut is leaky, things like toxins, microbes, undigested food particles, and more can escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream and cause problems anywhere your body. Then, your immune system tags these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and calls in the troops to attack and quarantine them. Your immune response to these invaders can appear in the form of any of the nine signs indicating that you may have a leaky gut.
9 Signs You Have a Leaky Gut
- Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Seasonal allergies or asthma.
- Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or PCOS.
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease.
- Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia.
- Mood and mind issues such as depression, anxiety, ADD or ADHD.
- Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema.
- Diagnosis of candida overgrowth.
- Food allergies or food intolerances.
How do you heal a leaky gut?
In my practice, I have all of my patients follow The Myers Way comprehensive elimination diet, which removes the toxic and inflammatory foods for a certain period of time. In addition, I have them follow a 4R program to heal their gut. The 4R program is as follows.
- Remove the bad. You must get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract, such as inflammatory and toxic foods, and intestinal infections.
- Replace the good. In order for the gut to heal properly, it is essential to add back the important nutrients for proper digestion and absorption, such as digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile acids.
- Reinoculate. It’s critical to restore beneficial bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of good bacteria. Look – in your intestinal tract, it is a constant war between harmful microbes and bacteria and symbiotic microbes and bacteria. If you have leaky gut, the “bad guys” are likely overpowering and outnumbering the “good guys” and it is time to restore the balance.
- Repair. It’s essential to provide the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself and to support the liver and glandular system in detoxing. This means certain vitamins, minerals and enzymes are vitally important to full recovery and to prevent relapse. This idea that you get everything you need from your food is nonsense in today’s day and age…otherwise, you likely wouldn’t have these problems, right?
I know that sorting through all of these symptoms can be overwhelming especially if you start googling your symptoms. That’s why it is important to find Functional Medicine Physicians (like me) are to help you sort out the symptoms and identify which are related and which are not. Otherwise, you might find yourself seeing a dermatologist, then an allergist, a GI specialist and a rheumatologist and never get to the root cause of your problems. Let me help you sort it out as I did for these folks:
- I want to let everyone know that Dr. Hoch is AMAZING!!. The month of May 2015 had to be one of the worst in my life starting in the ER with a bad diagnosis and a gall bladder being removed, only to find out my gallbladder was not the problem causing the pain I was feeling. I just didn’t think the Doctors were listening to me, and just doing test after test only relying on the results of those tests. Dr. Hoch was the first one to actually listen to me explaining the pain and symptoms I was having. As it turns out, years of antibiotics at various times along with acid reflux and a daily prescription of omeprazole from my primary doctor, I believe caused this end result of major stomach pain after eating. Within a few minutes, she diagnosed the issue, gave me Natural Supplements to help restore enzymes and good bacteria in my body to get my stomach working again. Within 1 day of starting her recommendations, I was already feeling better and the pain was not lasting as long after each meal, and now 10 days later I have no pain. It’s a much longer and painful story, but I am so glad my sister recommended her to me as she has CHANGED MY LIFE!! ~Jason Huff
- Dr. Hoch was right – we shouldn’t need to give our baby enemas and now we don’t have to! My daughter was born with Celiac disease. Luckily for us, she was diagnoses right away and we have had her on a gluten free diet from a very early age. She has been plagued with insomnia, chronic colds and illness, mood swings and bloating, belly aches and constipation for as long as I can remember. While we thought the constipation was related to her celiac (despite the gluten-free diet), we always thought the other issues were just normal “kid stuff” that she’d grow out of. In the past year, the constipation issue has really been problematic. It’s painful for her to poop, so she avoids the bathroom and she’s getting older and is starting to fight me more and more on getting the fleet enemas that always gave her relief. Dr. Hoch had helped me to get my hormones balanced naturally and even helped he to lose 40+ pounds – I figured if anyone could help my daughter she could. Dr. Hoch went over all my daughters’ symptoms with me – she asked about everything from play, attention, schoolwork, sleep, eating habits – we talked about everything. She explained that just because a food was gluten-free, didn’t mean that it was a good food. She also said that some of the mood swings, anxiety and insomnia was part of the same picture as the constipation…when you don’t eliminate waste from the body regularly, it becomes toxic. Not only that, the constipation was a sign that she is having difficulty digesting her food properly and without proper digestion, she can’t absorb important nutrients form her diet. Dr. Hoch typed up a treatment plan for my daughter. It was actually explained really well and easy to follow: A change in what she was eating and adding some supplements. I thought this would be tough, but she actually likes her supplements – and likes even better how good they make her feel. This has been completely AMAZING! In just a week’s time of following these instructions, my daughter was having regular bowel movements without pain!! And, She stopped being afraid to go to the bathroom. She actually loves her supplements and asks to take them. It’s been several months following this plan and taking these supplements and she is a completely different kid! She sleeps through the night, wakes up with energy (I no longer have to drag her out of bed), and the moodiness and recurrent colds are a thing of the past!!! If you or any member of your family are having any of these symptoms, you should take them to see Dr. Hoch right away! She will figure out the correct diet and supplement combination like she did with me and my daughter! ~One Grateful Mom!
Dr. Hoch (pronounced Hoke), is a 1988 Graduate of Peotone High School and a 1990 Graduate of Joliet Junior College. She Received both her B.S. in Human Biology (1991) and her Doctorate of Chiropractic (D.C.) (1993) from The National College of Chiropractic in Lombard, IL. She also received her graduate and post-graduate certifications in Acupuncture from NCC. This article is copyrighted and may not be copied or duplicated in any manner including printed or electronic media, regardless of whether for a fee or gratis without prior written permission of Dr. Hoch.