Symptoms, tests and healing of a leaky gut
We've already established that a leaky gut is weakening, inflammation or damage of the lining of the intestines (the gut barrier). And since it's not widely recognized by the medical community, finding symptoms gets a little tricky, not to mention, many of the symptoms are shared with other health conditions, making leaky gut syndrome even more difficult to identify.
But there are symptoms, right?
Yes, there are: based on the gut damage level, the symptoms may vary from mild or none to extreme, but overall if you notice:
Bloating and/or gas
Abdominal pain and/or cramps
IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome), Colitis, Crohn’s, IBD (Inflammatory bowel disease)
Headaches and brain fog
Skin problems, such as acne, rashes, or eczema
chances are there is some gut inflammation happening.
These symptoms overlap with many other health conditions, leading experts to believe that leaky gut may actually contribute to their manifestation. That’s why it is so important to work on resolving the leaky gut ASAP!
Leaky gut healing
To heal a leaky gut we want to focus on lowering the inflammation, irritation and toxic load of GI mucosa and gut lining through:
Focusing on eating a large variety of vegetables (including fermented ones) and fruits, clean protein of choice (grass fed meat, poultry, wild caught sea food, sprouted nuts and seeds), healthy fats like avocados, coconut and EVOO (extra virgin olive oil).
Avoiding gluten (wheat, rye, barley) and dairy (because the dairy proteins may look very similar to those of gluten in a process what's called “molecular mimicry”). Try this for at least 4 weeks (and no cheating!) to see if any of diarrhea, fatigue, joint pain, skin issues, bloating, gas disappear and then slowly introduce them again to see if you react to these foods. This is an overly simplified explanation of the infamous "elimination diet" so make sure you work with someone truly knowledgeable.
Eliminating added sugar and artificial sweeteners, alcohol, processed, pre-packaged foods, industrial, highly-processed industrial seed oils, like canola, soy, and cottonseed, food additives and gums (MSG, aspartame, artificial and "natural" flavors, food dyes, carrageenan gum etc.)
Then we would want to provide soothing, nurturing and antioxidant and anti - inflammatory support for gut healing with carefully selected herbs, probiotics, enzymes and supplements. -
This is a highly individualized process because we have to take into consideration everything else that's may be happening in your body (possible pathogens like bacteria, yeast, parasites, SIBO etc.). And I'm here to help you with that!
Leaky gut tests
If you prefer not to play a guessing game while also implementing these recommendations and go for testing, there are many ways to measure the intestinal permeability and integrity so let's focus on two most popular ones.
Intestinal Permeability Test aka Drinking Test
You fast overnight, mix pre-measured amounts of lactulose and mannitol (two non-metabolized sugar molecules), drink the challenge substance and collect urine 4 hours later (depending on the test, some require two urine samples). Pretty easy and straight forward!
The Intestinal Permeability Test directly measures the ability of two non-metabolized sugar molecules to permeate the intestinal mucosa and their ratio. Mannitol is readily absorbed and serves as a marker of transcellular uptake (through the cell) and helps to assess condition of the cells. Lactulose is only slightly absorbed and serves as a marker for mucosal barrier integrity between the cells.
GI MAP (Gastrointestinal Microbial Assay Plus or stool test) provides data on inflammation and how well you digest and absorb the food you eat. Additionally, the profiles provide a detailed picture regarding the balance of yeast, parasites, and healthy and unhealthy bacteria that live in our large intestine (the microbiome).
These are great insights but what do they have to do with a leaky gut?
GI MAP measures levels of certain immune system and digestive proteins which are considered to be especially good signs of digestive function and gastrointestinal health. Too much or too little of these proteins can be a sign of a range of gut issues, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD or IBS) or Leaky Gut Syndrome.
One of these important proteins is zonulin which is secreted by the intestinal tract to regulate the opening and closing of tight junctions between epithelial cells to prevent against inflammatory particles, toxins, gliadin (gluten) protein and infectious diseases. Zonulin is on guard for gut bacteria and will also transport leukocytes into the gut as needed for defense. So elevated levels of zonulin may suggest that intestinal permeability is increased.
Additionally, GI MAP provides insights on an imbalance of gut microbiota, known as dysbiosis, that may play a role in the development of leaky gut. The microorganisms of the digestive tract are a part of the physical barrier, protecting against colonization by opportunistic bacteria (they are considered opportunistic pathogens, as they only cause disease and illness in some individuals, particularly the immune-compromised) and regulating the absorption of nutrients to provide energy for the epithelial cells of the gut. Overgrowth and excessive colonization by opportunistic bacteria may occur when the commensal bacteria are impaired by poor diet, antibiotic use, parasitic infection, or a weakened immune system. When intestinal permeability is present, these microbes could escape the lumen ("inside space of intestine") of the gut and infect extraintestinal (outside of intestines) sites.
As you can see, healing a leaky gut is a multi-faceted process but it can be done and your overall health and wellbeing will greatly benefit from it!