Have you heard about “leaky gut“? Researchers have finally proven what the holistic/functional side of healthcare has been saying for decades. Leaky gut is not just some phenomenon practitioners outside of mainstream medicine came up with long ago. What is leaky gut you ask? First, a little anatomy lesson about the digestive system. Picture yourself as a doughnut. Your digestive system, which begins at your mouth and ends, well at the other end, is the hole in the doughnut. Nothing can enter into the body via the bloodstream (represented by the doughnut itself) to be utilized unless the digestive system allows it in. Your digestive system is your main layer of protection from the outside world, just like your skin. In fact, it is made up of the same types of cells that make up the skin and is one continuous piece with the skin (thus, the doughnut example). Speaking of layers, did you know that your digestive system is only one cell layer thick? The “tube” that is your digestive system is one cell after the next neatly lined up end after end, side by side. Picture a bunch of cells holding hands. The hand holding represents the “tight junctions” of the digestive system. When the digestive system is working properly, these tight junctions are sent messages at appropriate times to allow fully digested proteins (amino acids), carbs (sugars), fats (fatty acids) and other nutrients into the bloodstream to be shipped around the body for utilization. One cell layer thick is not much protection between your body and the outside world. Think about it, whatever you’re putting into your mouth, breathing in, drinking, etc. has only one cell layer monitoring what is allowed to enter and what is not. Is that a scary thought at all? Do you know exactly what you’re putting into your body? Believe it or not, this one cell layer thick digestive lining is enough assuming this system is actually healthy and working properly. This is where we fall apart. Most Americans do not have a healthy gut. When the gut is not healthy, it leaks. Meaning those tight junctions (cells holding hands) open at inappropriate times. When this occurs, partially digested foods, bad bacterias, GMO’s, sugar substitutes, toxins, etc. enter into the bloodstream. What’s the big deal? The immune system kicks into action because these substancs are recognized as foreign. The immune reaction can happen locally within the gut. If this occurs, you may experience digestive symptoms like gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, pain or any other GI complaint. The immune reaction can also occur elsewhere in the body. For example, research and science are showing the immune reactions involving gluten have a high affinity for the nervous system, specifically the brain. This person, whether they’re “sensitive” to gluten or not may end up experiencing brain fog, short term memory issues, headaches, dizziness, mood instability or any other neurologic complaint. If an immune reaction occurs within the knee joint, a person could experience stiffness, discomfort, inflammation, etc. For some of us, immune reactions will happen in several locations.
Medicine has recognized inflammation as being the root cause of all disease. Now they’re going a step further to determine what is causing the inflammation in the first place. All disciplines of medicine are turning their focus to the gut as being one of the main causes of the problem. Stay tuned on how to determine if you have a leaky gut and how to repair a leaky or keep from developing a leaky gut in the first place.