Is Leaky Gut real?

Eoin Roe, Chiropractic

Call 087 958 2362

The short answer is yes and there are many scientific research papers written about this phenomenon where it is not called ‘leaky gut’ but intestinal permeability.  

Intestinal permeability is an important concept to understand. In the realm of overall health your gut is essential because it is not only involved in the digestion of food, absorption of water, and elimination of waste; but is also home to a huge number of beneficial bacteria, which have far-reaching effects and have influence on our immune function, neurology, blood sugar stability and even hormone production.

The gut is designed to be specifically leaky i.e. it has to let certain nutrients in, but not others, and also needs to keep pathogens out of the blood stream. It does this through the control of tight junctions between the cells lining the gut and various transcellular absorption methods. Leaky gut causes inflammation and the cells are then unable to perform these functions properly.

There are many reasons why your gut can become leaky – there are around 20 mentioned in the literature and some are more obvious than others. Coeliac disease is a common cause of leaky gut; this is an autoimmune condition where sufferers produce an immune response to gluten and receptors in the gut, which control the tight junctions in the gut wall. Whenever this immune reaction happens (every time gluten is consumed for coeliac sufferers) an immune response is triggered and, as well as making the gut leaky, will also cause inflammation. Another more surprising cause of leaky gut can be from a concussion. Whilst the exact mechanism is not clearly understood ,a person’s gut can become leaky hours after a concussion and stay that way for weeks or even months. It is also likely that those suffering with persistent IBS will also have intestinal permeability issues.

Understanding if you have leaky gut is important. The reason for this is, once the gut becomes leaky, things that shouldn’t be able to get into your blood stream can. This means that you can have translocation of bacteria and their bi-products into systemic circulation – prompting an immune reaction and all the associated inflammation related to that.  

People with leaky gut can find that they start to react to foods that they have always eaten previously with no ill effect. In order to understand why this happens, we need to understand a little of how the immune system works. The immune system looks at the protein structure of molecules: When your immune system comes across a protein that it doesn’t recognise, it launches an attack and destroys the cell with the offending protein.

Foods also have protein sequences (chains of animo acids) and, through normal digestion, these protein chains are broken down into smaller chains called peptides and eventually into amino acids, which are small enough to be absorbed. When your gut is leaky it can let in chains of amino acids, which trigger the immune system. The immune system will attack these molecules causing further inflammation, which will exacerbate the leaky gut.

Food proteins and their by-products can also have other far-reaching effects, not only on the gut, but also throughout the body, brain and multiple organs.  

It is possible to check if you have leaky gut using a specialised blood test. Further testing can reveal issues with gluten and other food proteins and implementing a diet based on these findings, as well as specific protocols to heal the gut lining. This may not only help to resolve uncomfortable gut symptoms but also relieve issues such as brain fog, fatigue and other more serious problems like autoimmune conditions.

Eoin Roe is a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner and Chiropractor based in Skibbereen. You can make contact with Eoin through the website or call 087 9582362.

WCP Staff

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