By nutritiontogo, Sep 29 2015 09:25AM
Almost everyone you talk to these days seems to experience IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) type symptoms, have a food allergy or intolerance, or just generally suffer with some form of digestive complaint (including excessive wind, diarrhoea, bloating and stomach pains after eating etc).
The modern lifestyle, with its hectic schedule, fast pace and stressful ways, can have a lot to do with this. Often, poor dietary habits are also key, not least because so many of us find ourselves forced to eat in a rush or on the go. Processed, refined foods, ready-meals and most other convenience foods do little (if anything) to support digestive health! In fact, they can often make the problem a lot worse - particularly when coupled with a a lifestyle that is not digestion-friendly.
Unfortunately, with digestive disorders and sensitivities coming in so many different forms and levels of severity, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint exactly what is going wrong. Symptoms can be vague, broad and ambiguous, sometimes only presenting many hours after eating or coming and going without any definite pattern.
If you find yourself getting down about persistent digestive troubles and have real concerns, it is always worth having a chat with your doctor or a qualified digestive health expert. They will be able to help you work out the potential causes, including any offending foods. A meal plan (and early elimination diet) is also often called for. It is never a great idea to self-diagnose!
Having said that, you may be wondering about the possibilities in the meantime. Perhaps you've read about, or heard friends referring to, leaky gut syndrome and wonder what it is?
Could I have leaky gut syndrome?
During the complex process of digestion, food passes from your stomach into your small intestine. There, it is broken down into even smaller molecules so that it can be transported into your bloodstream for the purposes of delivering nutrients around the body as needed.
At this critical stage of the process, your small intestine effectively acts as a protective "gatekeeper", allowing only what is essential and beneficial to pass into the rest of your body from the digestive tract. Many kinds of friendly bacteria and yeasts live in the small intestine, helping us to digest and absorb substances.
The small molecules that have been broken down are permitted to pass through the tiny holes in the intestinal wall, while larger molecules, toxins and harmful bacteria and other micro-organisms are prevented from getting through. At least, this is how things should work...
Leaky gut syndrome is the term used to describe an extremely common condition, whereby large pieces of undigested or partially digested food are able to "leak" through into the bloodstream. This is because the mucous lining of the small intestine has been compromised and become too porous, as a result of inflammation and irritation.
What can cause leaky gut syndrome?
Leaky gut causes
As is the case with so many other digestive disorders, leaky gut syndrome can be brought on by a range of factors (acting alone or in combination). Common causes or contributing factors include:
high levels of stress (which also contribute to a reduction in digestive enzymes)
the overuse of medication (such as antibiotics, steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen)
dysbiosis (an imbalance of the good and bad bacteria in the body and the overgrowth of harmful gut flora as a result)
poor diet (particularly those high in sugar, alcohol, refined carbohydrates and processed foods, which can aggravate the gut and also feed harmful yeasts and bacteria (such as Candida))
food allergies and intolerances
food poisoning and gastrointestinal infections
and high toxic load (e.g. brought on by poor diet, medication or environmental contaminants).
When the large food particles are inadvertently allowed to pass through the now over-porous intestinal wall, they are treated by the body as foreign objects and get attacked. Your body ends up creating antibodies, causing an immune system reaction and, potentially, creating intolerances.
In this way, leaky gut syndrome is strongly associated with several autoimmune diseases.
Get it sorted!
Fix a leaky gut
If you suspect that you have leaky gut syndrome, or any other digestive condition for that matter, don't just ignore it! It is all too easy to get used to experience griping, bloating and pain after eating but this shouldn't just be accepted as part of your daily life. While it is normal to experience a bit of tummy ache from time to time, if it is persistent your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong.
Untreated, leaky gut syndrome (for example) can lead you to become more susceptible to illnesses and other gastrointestinal symptoms. After all, 70% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract, so it is perhaps not all that surprising that a whole host of conditions are related to leaky gut (such as irritable bowel syndrome, acne, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, allergies, coeliac disease, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and bronchitis).
And aside from placing ever-increasing strain on your digestive and immune systems, it can lead to a higher toxic load and other chronic problems. So there is a possibility that a leaky gut could be at the root of many of your health problems.
What's more, 95% of the serotonin in your body is created and located in your gut. Known as the "happy hormone", serotonin is actually a neurotransmitter which influences your mood, appetite and sleep patterns. As such, if you have a leaky gut, there is a good chance you may also be dealing with weight issues, sleep problems and/or feelings of depression.
If this all sounds familiar, get yourself tested. A practitioner can advise on practical steps, nutrition and supplementation as appropriate. Whether it is leaky gut or not, it needs to be sorted!
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