The Healing Plate

Leaky Gut: A Likely Cause of Your Gut Issues

Leaky gut

Written by Werner van Zyl and Rentia Greyvenstein (Registered Dietician, New Zealand)

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘leaky gut?’ Do you think of a sieve that’s gushing out its partially digested gunk all over the place? As much as the search for the words like ‘leaky gut’ and ‘intestinal permeability’ has been increasing, so much has Western medicine been ignorant about a leaky gut.

The previous article looked at the relationship between allergies and inflammation. Allergies always lead to inflammation, which is your body’s way of protecting against threats to your immune system (e.g. infections, toxins and food). The reverse is also true: inflammation could also cause allergies. Inflammation can be short-lived (acute) or last for weeks, months or years (chronic) and frequently leads to inflammation in your gut.

In this article, we look at how inflammation can lead to a ‘leaky gut’, what exactly a leaky gut is and hopefully plug a few holes in some ignorant myths. 

Your gastrointestinal (GI) tract runs from your mouth, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon. The GI tract’s role is to break food down so it can be absorbed by your cells. Think of a healthy gut as a chain of perfectly interlocked fingers. Between the fingers, there are small gaps that allow only specific, well-digested food particles to go through. 

When the intestinal lining becomes damaged or inflamed, the tight junctions between the cells can loosen, allowing larger molecules, undigested food particles and toxins to ‘leak’ into the bloodstream, which leads to inflammation and the release of mast cells to fight off the ‘invaders’.

This can lead to problems anywhere in the GI tract:

  • Low stomach acid
  • Digestive enzyme insufficiency
  • Parasites
  • Overgrowth of bad bacteria
  • The right bacteria populating the wrong location in the gut
  • Colon (large intestine) becoming spastic (irritable bowel syndrome)

A range of symptoms can result when your gut becomes leaky, such as 

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • bloating 
  • gas 
  • abdominal pain 
  • fatigue 
  • skin rashes 
  • joint pain 
  • brain fog 
  • sleep problems

Naturally, leaky gut has also been linked to a variety of conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), autoimmune disorders, and food sensitivities.

Some causes of a leaky gut

  • Stress
  • Medication
  • Parasites
  • Gluten

Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat as well as other grains like rye, spelt, kamut,  semolina and barley.  When you eat gluten, it causes the release of zonulin. That opens up the tight junctions of your intestinal wall, creating a leaky gut.

  • Dairy:

The protein in dairy is tough to digest and causes inflammation in most people which could lead to a leaky gut

  • Drinking alcohol, especially on an empty stomach

As you can see, one of the first things you can do to heal a leaky gut is to remove all the potentially offending foods from your diet. Keep a look out for the next article in which we will discuss the healing protocol in detail.

About Werner van Zyl

Werner was diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) in 2016. He has since made a remarkable recovery. Werner is passionate about empowering people with similar conditions with the knowledge and tools they need to make sustainable lifestyle changes and address the underlying imbalances that support their unique health goals