Leaky gut occurs when food that is not fully digested “leaks” through the intestinal walls, triggering an immune response. Dr. Doni explains why this causes chronic health problems and how to heal it naturally.
Part 1 of 3: Dr. Doni’s Leaky Gut Basics
Leaky gut, otherwise known as intestinal permeability, is a major underlying cause of many health issues. These may include: IBS, headaches, weight gain, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, anxiety, depression, autoimmune conditions, allergies, fertility issues, dementia, and even viruses like HPV.
So, why is it so often not identified or addressed? Let’s get to the bottom of this and help you understand how leaky gut is relevant to your health.
What Is Leaky Gut?
While it sounds like it would mean your gut is full of holes that allow liquid to leak out, leaky gut actually happens at such a microscopic level that you can’t see anything at all. Let me explain what it really is.
Leaky gut happens in the small intestine, the section of your digestive system that lies between your stomach and large intestine. When food arrives at the small intestine, it should be partially broken down or digested. Then, in the small intestine, pancreatic enzymes and bile finish digestion of fats, carbohydrates, and protein. This puts them into their smallest form possible… glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids.
Look Between the Intestinal Cells
This is important because in order for us to get those nutrients from our food into our body, they have to get across the walls of the intestines. This requires healthy intestinal cells, lined up perfectly next to each other. This prevents larger substances, bacteria, and viruses from leaking through the gaps between the cells.
The intestinal cells also produce enzymes to further ensure that every last bit of food is digested. When this happens, your body gets all the nutrients out of it. Anything not digested will continue on down through the intestines and out of your body.
The cells that make up the walls of the intestines replace themselves every 72 hours and are quite vulnerable to stress.
So if you are under psychological or physical stress (which we all are) or if your digestive tract is under stress – from exposure to medications, antibiotics, alcohol, or caffeine to name just a few examples – then the cells making up the intestinal walls are not as healthy as they should be and the spaces between the cells is more open than is optimal.
A Cycle of Inflammation
The spaces between cells can allow food that is not fully digested to “leak” through the intestinal wall and into the body. In the meantime, your immune system is on guard for anything that shouldn’t be there, like viruses and bacteria. If your immune system notices partially undigested proteins and food, it mounts an immune response to get rid of these foreign substances (undigested food appears foreign) that are threatening your health.
This immune response leads to inflammation which can spread throughout your body. It doesn’t just stay in your digestion. That is why you can notice symptoms of leaky gut anywhere in your body (see list below).
And not only that, but the inflammation also causes further damage to the intestinal wall, perpetuating leaky gut.
So you see, the leakier your intestinal wall, the leakier it will become. At any point in time, you might have mild, moderate, or severe leaky gut. It’s a vicious cycle where, what starts off in most of us as a small problem can become quite a severe source of inflammation throughout your whole body making you feel horrible.
How Do You Know It’s Leaky Gut?
In some, but not all cases, the inflammation caused by leaky gut causes digestive symptoms such as heartburn, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, and/or hemorrhoids. However, it is important to know that 50% of people do not experience any digestive symptoms.
Leaky gut can also be an underlying cause of the following health issues:
- Weight issues – weight gain or you find it hard to gain weight
- Achiness and pain, such as muscle or joint pain
- Allergies and/or skin rashes
- Anxiety and/or depression
- PMS and/or menstrual cramps
- Fertility issues
- HPV and cervical dysplasia
- Chronic EBV and other viruses
- An autoimmune condition, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or M.S.
- Fatty liver, metabolic syndrome and diabetes
- Memory issues and dementia
Why Is It Often Missed or Not Mentioned by Your Doctor?
Although there are hundreds of studies on leaky gut several decades, it is not well recognized by conventional medical doctors or gastroenterologists. Don’t be surprised if they don’t mention it at all.
Neither an endoscopy nor a colonoscopy will show leaky gut, so it won’t be reported there either. There are, in fact, a couple of specialty tests currently available. But at this point in time, I find the best way to identify leaky gut is a IgA and IgG food sensitivity panel.
IgA and IgG are antibodies made by the immune system to protect us from foreign substances such as undigested food that leaked through the intestinal wall. When we see that your body is making antibodies to the foods you eat, we know your intestinal lining is leaky. No further testing is needed to figure that out.
Plus, the results will also give us the information we need to help you heal it. The first step to healing leaky gut is to avoid reactive foods. So we need to know which foods your immune system is trying to protect you from. Then we can determine how to modify your diet to decrease the inflammation and damage that is perpetuating leaky gut.
I’ll be discussing how to know whether you have leaky gut in the next article in this series. You can also learn more and order a home test for food sensitivities here.
Can the Gut Be Healed?
That is the best news! While I know many of you have been told by many health practitioners that your health issues will never heal, this is not the case with leaky gut. It can be healed! Because of this, leaky gut is the perfect example of a condition where a completely different approach to health is beneficial.
Remember, the cells of the intestinal wall renew themselves every 72 hours. So it stands to reason that all we need to do is to remove or stop what is causing damage to the intestines. Once we do that, we can then add in nutrients and herbs* to assist and support the process. This can greatly speed up the healing process.
So yes, the good news is that leaky gut can heal. And as it does so, you are likely to feel better and better over several months or years. Here’s a quick overview of my 5-step plan for healing leaky gut.
I help patients day after day to heal leaky gut. While it is something you can do at home, it is often overwhelming and confusing to do on your own for the first time. That’s why I offer one-on-one consultations in-person and/or by phone and video calls to guide you through the process. It can make every difference to feel that you are not alone in the process, and to know what works and doesn’t work.
Leaky Gut Treatment Options
I’ve also created a way to help you in a group, online. It is my Healing Leaky Gut Course. It includes a food sensitivity test kit, and a one-on-one session with me, along with group sessions to help you get the information you need to heal.
Click here to find out more about the group course, and when the next LIVE version is starting.
If you prefer to work with me one-on-one, check out my Leaky Gut Solutions Program. It includes consultations with me, a food sensitivity panel, and support for implementing dietary changes and integrating supplements to help heal leaky gut.
To find out exactly how to heal leaky gut and get started with the process without having a consultation, the 21-day Stress Remedy Program is the perfect way to jump right in. Click here for more information and to sign up.
Don’t delay! Leaky gut can go away, but not if you ignore it – all you have to do is start taking steps to eliminate the causes and introduce support to help your body heal.
30th April 2020
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements – nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other – should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.