Five Not-So-Obvious Signs You Have A Leaky Gut
You’ve heard the words “Leaky Gut” but you might not think you have it: no diarrhea or constipation, no nausea or gurgling noises from your stomach, everything seems to be coming out the right way and often enough, so what’s the problem? Unfortunately, leaky gut is often a master of disguise and its long term not-so-obvious signs can cause some major health issues.
If you’d like to make an appointment you can contact Wolfe Functional Medicine at (303) 447-2225. Please note, if you have developed leaky gut due to an infection (this could be silent or acute) you will also need to remove that infection in order to effectively heal your gut.
So, let’s break it down. What is a leaky gut?
Your gut lining has a series of folds, kind of like an accordion that’s closed. In between those folds are something called tight junctions which, you guessed it, keep the gut lining tight and sealed up. If it doesn’t keep its seal, then the wrong things can slip through the openings in the lining and into the blood stream. This is where your immune system comes into play.
Your immune system says, what the heck is that and why is it in our blood stream? It then sends off a combat team called “cytokines” to attack the foreign particles. This causes an infamous condition known as “inflammation.” Having an inflammatory response is necessary for the body to keep things in check and fight off the bad guys.
The problem with leaky gut is this inflammatory process is not short term. Let’s take gluten for example since everyone seems to be talking about it these days. Gluten contains a protein called gliadin which some people are sensitive to. This can be (non-celiac gluten sensitivity). Gliadin can trigger a protein in your gut lining called Zonulin. When Zonulin gets triggered, it causes your tight junctions to open and allows toxins and food particles to slip through into the blood stream.
So, you ate a sandwich for lunch. No big deal. You have team cytokine coming to the rescue! That is until you have pasta for dinner. And then another sandwich for lunch tomorrow. This example shows how it’s possible to develop chronic, low level, persistent inflammation and leaky gut without even knowing it! Over time, this low-level inflammatory response can cause some not-so-obvious symptoms to occur like the ones listed below.
Joint Pain - you wake up achy, you go to bed achy, you’re popping Advil like its candy- You might have a Leaky Gut! When an inflammatory process is prolonged it goes into overdrive and you get stuck in a viscous inflammatory cycle. One of the most common places to feel that is in your joints. You may even notice that your overall appearance is “puffy”.
You’ve got Acne or Skin Problems - If your blood stream is overflowing with toxins, your liver becomes backed up and you will circulate dirty blood. Your body will often try to remove those toxins through the skin. This can present as acne, skin rashes, and even eczema or psoriasis.
Thyroid Problems and Hormone Imbalance - Your endocrine system is highly dependent on the health of your gut. In my office we manage the thyroid and treat the gut- the root cause of most hypothyroidism. In respect to hormones, high levels of stress can increase your cortisol levels.
Over time, high cortisol levels will decrease the amount of Secretory IgA (your immune system’s first line of defense in your gut) and weaken your immune system. If cortisol is spiked chronically, it can also cause an imbalance in the production of other hormones like estrogen, testosterone and progesterone.
So, healing and sealing your gut lining can improve your thyroid/hormone function and keep your immune system check. (P.S. 70% of your immune system is in your gut lining!)
Food Sensitivities - Think of food sensitivities as mini auto-immune responses to some of the foods you eat. Food sensitivities are unique to each individual and can occur in response to even the healthiest of foods! We aren’t talking “food allergies” (although that can happen when your immune system is wonky too) like peanuts and shellfish.
Food sensitivities can happen in response to anything from bananas to almonds to kale- they can lead to fatigue, weight gain, increased inflammation, insomnia and a host of other symptoms. In order to find your specific food sensitivities and allergies, we can run a test for IgG, IgG4, IgA, and IgE antibodies against several foods.
Anxiety and Depression - There’s a neurotransmitter called Serotonin that helps us deal with stressful situations, stabilizes our moods, brings us happiness and keeps us from wanting to strangle our coworkers (just kidding!). Most all your serotonin (90%) is produced in your gut lining.
So, when you have a leaky gut, it disrupts and alters your serotonin levels and causes imbalances in associated neurotransmitters. This is what we refer to as the “gut-brain axis”. When you disturb the healthy balance that occurs in the gut, you also affect the brain and your neuro-chemistry. Often this presents as anxiety and depression.
Do any of these signs and symptoms relate to your health?
If so, here are five supplements that can help improve your immune function and heal and seal your leaky gut!
L-Glutamine - Glutamine helps build the protective mucous layer in your GI lining. It is theoretically a non-essential amino acid but absolutely essential for healing leaky gut! We make glutamine in our own bodies but if we’ve have developed a leaky gut, we need to supplement in order to replenish what is needed for repair.
Probiotics - Probiotics are like candy for your gut lining! Often a leaky gut is caused by dysbiosis (when the bad bacteria out-weigh the good ones). A good pharmaceutical, high-potency probiotic helps to re-populate the GI tract and create a healthy balance again.
Immunoglobulins (IgG) - Serum-derived immunoglobulins such as SBI Protect by OrthoMolecular help to build up the immune system in someone who is struggling with a leaky gut. It’s like calling in the back up team when our own immune system can’t handle the fight. Immunoglobulins also help to bind microbe and toxins which will speed up the healing process.
Mushroom Supplements - Mushroom blends help to down regulate the pro excitatory activity of cytokines and decrease inflammation. Simply put, they put out the fire. This helps to block the inflammatory response that can occur when the gut lining is compromised.
DGL (deglycerized licorice) - This is not the same as licorice you buy on the candy shelf! DGL has been “deglycerized” and refined to produce the healthy components of licorice root. DGL helps by improving and thickening the mucous membrane in your gut lining and helping to seal up any leaks. DGL also has the added benefit of being anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory which makes it a perfect supplement to help heal leaky gut!
Dr. Ginger Wolfe, D.C.
*These protocols are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or disease. They are for information and educational purposes only. The FDA has not reviewed these statements or suggestions. The information contained in these protocols has been developed by clinical research and empirical evidence. They have been used safely by the author and other practitioners in clinical practice, but the author makes no claims of safety or efficacy when used by others. It is up to the attending practitioner to make sound clinical judgments and to always individualize recommended treatments.*
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