Leaky Gut: The Hidden Cause of 6 Chronic Health Issues

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Leaky Gut: The Hidden Cause of 6 Chronic Health Issues

How Can I Have Leaky Gut If I Don't Have Digestive Symptoms? Dr. Doni Wilson talks about the underlying cause of 6 common chronic health issues.
Leaky gut doesn’t always express itself in the form of digestive issues. That means it can go on undetected for years, growing into a bigger problem that will almost certainly lead to noticeable symptoms and common chronic health problems.

Did you know that the root cause of most chronic health issues is in the gut? Yet more than 50% of people don’t have any digestive symptoms. So they don’t know that they may have leaky gut.

“Having leaky gut” does NOT necessarily mean that you are going to experience diarrhea, bloating, or stomach pain. And it certainly doesn’t mean that there is a leak at the end of your intestines.

However, it does mean that there are microscopic leaks between your intestinal cells that are allowing undigested food particles, bacteria, and toxins to leak THROUGH the intestinal wall INTO your body.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of research articles exist documenting leaky gut[1], what causes it, and the health issues that result from leaky gut.

And this can go on undetected for years, cascading into a bigger problem that will almost certainly lead to noticeable symptoms.

Leaky gut is caused by stress of various types – emotional, physical, toxins, certain foods, medications – which we are all exposed to, so we ALL have some degree of leaky gut at any point in time.

This insight was a “wow” moment for me.

I realized that I need to consider leaky gut in every patient condition and concern. So, I started to test for leaky gut and what I discovered might just blow your mind.

6 Surprising Health Issues Caused by Leaky Gut

  1. HPV and abnormal pap smears
  2. Anxiety and depression
  3. Weight gain
  4. Migraines
  5. Autoimmunity
  6. Fertility issues

To understand how these conditions are all linked to leaky gut, we first need to understand what leaky gut is.

Leaky Gut 101

We define leaky gut as damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract which then becomes too porous or permeable. A permeable gut membrane allows undigested food particles and toxins that would normally stay in the digestive system to penetrate these openings and end up outside of the intestines, into the space surrounding the intestines and, in some cases, even into the bloodstream.

When this happens, the immune system is alerted that it needs to come to the rescue. As the immune system meets these rogue particles, it tags them as intruders resulting in chronic inflammation and host of other chronic diseases.

Soon your immune system starts to protect you from the foods you are eating. Some people discover after a food panel that they are reacting to nearly all the foods that they eat. In other words, they are not digesting food well. Particles are leaking through the intestinal cells and triggering an immune response.

Additionally, undigested food also overfeeds gut bacteria, causing them to overgrow. Those overgrowing bacteria can produce toxins and inflammation that perpetuates damage to the gut lining. An imbalance in the gut biome adds to the vicious cycle of leaky gut.

Our bodies continually make new intestinal cells, just like we grow new skin. But when our intestinal lining is constantly bombarded and overwhelmed, our bodies can’t keep ahead of the increasing rate of permeability.

What could cause that much trouble?

The Stresses That Cause Leaky Gut

There are many substances and exposures that can damage intestinal cells and make it harder for the body to replace them fast enough. The key contributors include:

  • Alcohol
  • Antibiotics
  • Bacterial imbalance (dysbiosis)
  • Caffeine
  • Chemical additives
  • Foods with antibiotic residues
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Genetically modified organism (GMO) foods
  • Gluten
  • Glyphosate (an herbicide) – contaminated foods
  • Pesticide-contaminated foods
  • Pain medications
  • Processed foods
  • Stress 
  • Sugar and refined carbohydrates
Leaky Gut Guide from Dr. Doni

To learn more, get my free Leaky Gut Guide here.

Over the past 22+ years, as I tested for leaky gut and helped patients with all different health issues, I began looking for patterns and what I saw is that patients who don’t have ANY digestive issues HAVE leaky gut. I also noticed that patients with health issues related to the nervous system, immune system and hormone imbalances, TEND to have leaky gut.

Why is that?

The digestive system is always sending messages to other parts of your body via signals from hormones, neurotransmitters, nerves, the immune system, and the gut bacteria. When the gut is stressed, these messages are communicated throughout your body.

In research these connections are referred to as “psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrin-ology,” which I find to be the most fascinating research because it helps us to ultimately understand how we are living in fully interconnected bodies.

Don’t be fooled by the way the medical system is split up based on specialties. You have to go to different doctors for different body parts, and yet, your body is fully integrated and communicating all the time.

For example, your gut issues are connected to issues in your nervous system, immune system, and hormones, and they are all affected by stress exposure, which is referred to as “epigenetics” – how stress affects gene expression and turns on genetic tendencies.

That’s why it is so important to address your gut health first and foremost.

Let’s dig in and understand these connections even more.

The Gut-Brain Connection

Did you know that millions of neurons run between your gut and brain? That’s right. The vagus nerve is a superhighway sending messages both from the brain to the gut, and from the gut to the brain.

The gut also communicates with the nervous system via hormones that are produced in the gut, or triggered by stress in the gut, such as cortisol, insulin, and leptin, which is the hormone that signals hunger and fullness.

Plus some of our most important neurotransmitters (messengers in our nervous system) are made in our gut. Ninety percent of serotonin is produced in the intestines. GABA, which is a buffer to stress, is made by bacteria in the intestines. Isn’t that amazing?!

Another important point to consider is that our gut bacteria communicate with our nervous system. Referred to as “psychobiotics,” studies[2] show that having enough of the right bacteria supports mood and focus.

At the same time, our gut bacteria and gut-brain connection, in general, is greatly affected by stress, both past and present, and both emotional and physical stress. Pesticides, molds, and medications all disrupt the careful balance of gut bacteria, leaving you vulnerable to them sending “stress signals” from your gut to your brain (and your whole body).

Actually, there is evidence that shows a direct correlation to anxiety, depression and other psychiatric and neurologic conditions (such as migraines). Further exemplifying the effect that – yes, you know what I’m about to say – stress has on our digestive function and microbiome composition, and in turn our central nervous system.

And by knowing this, we can turn it all around and reverse the effects of stress on our gut and brain.

You can read more about this in my article, The Second Brain: How Stress Affects the Gut-Brain Axis.

Understanding how the gut functions as a sort of "Second Brain."

You may also want to listen to this podcast (or watch the video): Gut, Brain, Immune, Hormone, Microbiome Connection (Episode 19 of How Humans Heal).

The Gut-Immune Connection

One more thing. The gut communicates directly with our immune system[3]. Actually more than 70-80% of our immune system exists in our gut. Wow!

For example, when leaky gut exists, undigested food can leak through the walls of the intestines to where the immune system is on guard ready to protect you from foreign substances. IgA and IG (as well IgE and in some cases IgM) antibodies are produced by the immune system to fend of proteins in food. This is what we refer to as “food sensitivities” and food allergies (IgE is associated with allergy).

The most common food sensitivities are gluten, dairy, eggs, and nuts. The best way to find out if you have IgA or IgG delayed immune responses to foods is with a blood panel. The most accurate panels are NOT offered through standard labs. You need to use a specialty lab that provides accurate results. I have partnered with a lab that I have reviewed and trust.

There are other immune mediators that can get involved too. Histamine is a well known immune mediator that can be triggered by particular foods, such as dairy, gluten, aged meats, fermented foods, and certain fruits, such as pineapple and strawberries. Read more about histamine here.

Those immune responses don’t just stay in the gut. They send signals throughout your body causing inflammation in the nervous system, leading to brain fog, fatigue, headaches, anxiety and depression. It also sends inflammation to the skin, joints, sinuses, bladder, vagina… everywhere!

Then there is the effect that leaky gut and stress have on immune function.

It is well established that intestinal permeability and imbalance gut bacteria (dysbiosis) are linked to autoimmunity[4], where the immune system tries to protect us from our own tissue. This is the case with Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Hashimoto’s, and many other autoimmune conditions.

And finally, what I noticed by helping thousands of women and men with HPV, is that HPV (and other viruses) is associated with leaky gut.

I want to say that again: Leaky gut is making us susceptible to viruses. This isn’t a connection that researchers often think of, but with COVID, it is becoming more well known.  

One possible mechanism is that the gut inflammation, commonly associated with leaky gut, has been known to negatively affect the body’s ability to produce immunoglobulin A (IgA). Without adequate IgA, pathogens can enter the bloodstream and move throughout the body. 

Another mechanism is the imbalance of bacteria – both in the intestines and vaginally – that results from stresses and leaky gut. The imbalance of bacteria is known to make viral infections more likely[5].

A way to think of it is: When the immune system is overwhelmed and bombarded by leaky gut and overgrowing gut bacteria, it is  too-busy-to-help with more critical needs such as fending off viruses, and other infections for that matter. 

This can lead to a predisposition to viruses, such as HPV, which can cause abnormal cells on the cervix for women, and other areas of the body for women and men. What I’ve found is that by helping to heal leaky gut, and optimize the microbiome (in the gut and vaginally), women (and men) are able to fend off HPV for good.

Find out more how I help you to Say Goodbye to HPV here:

Say Goodbye to HPV: Heal your cervix and clear HPV with this 12-week guided program from Dr. Doni Wilson.

The Gut-Hormone Connection

I mentioned that stress within the gut, caused by leaky gut, can trigger a cortisol response, which sends a stress signal out to your whole body. Cortisol is one hormone, but it communicates with all the other hormones in our bodies.

This means that leaky gut can affect all our other hormones, including thyroid, insulin, and the hormones made by the ovaries (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) and testes.

Studies[6] have shown a connection between leaky gut, overgrowing gut bacteria, and hormone-related issues such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), endometriosis, PMS, PMDD, as well as fertility issues and pregnancy loss.

It is also associated with weight gain, metabolic syndrome and diabetes[7]. Essentially, leaky gut makes it more likely you’ll have high blood sugar levels, which contributes to inflammation, weight gain, fatty liver and rising cholesterol levels.

Now that you understand that the digestive system has the ability to communicate with the rest of your body and be linked to the six conditions mentioned at the start of this article, I want to help you to heal your gut!

What To Do About Leaky Gut

My first recommendation is to do a food sensitivity panel to determine your IgA and IgG antibodies to certain foods. Once we know which foods your body is trying to protect you from, the most common being gluten, dairy, and eggs, we can eliminate those inflammatory foods from your diet.

The results of a high quality IgA and IgG food panel also indicate to me whether you have mild, moderate or severe leaky gut. From there we can become proactive at healing it.

Some of you may have heard of gut repair commonly suggested by functional medicine practitioners. They all learned it from the same place.

I, instead, developed my own protocol for healing leaky gut. That is because I’ve been healing leaky gut since BEFORE that functional medicine approach was taught. And I find that my protocol is way more effective.

Not that I’m attached to “my way”. It’s that I’m attached to being strategic, efficient and effective, so my patients can heal faster and get on with enjoying their lives.

To get a sense of my leaky gut protocol, here is where you can start today:

To learn more from me about the most common misconceptions about leaky gut, and where I see most people fail to heal it successfully, I encourage you to listen in to my free masterclass on leaky gut.

Announcing My New Leaky Gut Masterclass

You are invited to learn more in my Leaky Gut Masterclass. The free online class is for people who are tired of debilitating symptoms of leaky gut and imbalanced gut bacteria. I’ll be teaching you how to gain control of your leaky gut so that you can enjoy optimal health. Save your seat now:

Connect with Dr. Doni:

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Disclaimer: This specific article and all other Content, Products, and Services of this Website are NOT intended as, and must not be understood or construed as, medical care or advice, naturopathic medical care or advice, the practice of medicine, or the practice of counseling care, nor can it be understood or construed as providing any form of medical diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease.

12th August 2022


[1]The Leaky Gut: Mechanisms, Measurement and Clinical Implications in Humans https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6790068/

[2] Psychobiotics: Mechanisms of Action, Evaluation Methods and Effectiveness in Applications with Food Products https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7767237/#:~:text=Psychobiotics%20are%20defined%20as%20probiotics,has%20not%20been%20completely%20elucidated

[3] The Interplay between the Gut Microbiome and the Immune System in the Context of Infectious Diseases throughout Life and the Role of Nutrition in Optimizing Treatment Strategies https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33803407/#:~:text=With%2070%2D80%25%20of%20immune,the%20local%20mucosal%20immune%20system

[4] Leaky Gut and Autoimmunity: An Intricate Balance in Individuals Health and the Diseased State https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7767453/

[5] Depiction of Vaginal Microbiota in Women With High-Risk Human Papillomavirus Infection https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2020.587298/full#:~:text=We%20found%20that%20hr%2DHPV,alterations%20in%20the%20vaginal%20microbiome

[6] Recurrent pregnancy loss is associated to leaky gut: a novel pathogenic model of endometrium inflammation? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5905157/

[7] Hyperglycemia drives intestinal barrier dysfunction and risk for enteric infection https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.aar3318

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