Intestinal Hyperpermeability, In a Nutshell
Over the last 30 years, thousands of scientific papers have been published discussing the relationship between modern diets and the negative effects they can have on our gut.
Essentially, the gut is a long tube that connects the mouth to the anus. Everything that enters through the mouth, is technically outside of the body. The lining of the gut has a surface area of approximately 400 square meters and uses twice as much energy as the brain, in order to function effectively. The health of our gut is a direct indication of our overall health.
When intact, the intestinal barrier of the gut plays the role of gatekeeper. It should be strong and tight, protecting us from the entry of food particles, waste, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. Selectively, it allows for the crossing of important nutrients. When the barrier is damaged or weak, the lining becomes hyperpermeable, and exposes the body to a wide array of dangers, immunological reactions, painful symptoms and potential for chronic disease.
Intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut” occurs on a spectrum. There are varying degrees of severity, induced by a wide range of triggers, resulting in a wide array of symptoms. Inflammation, however, is the driving force of this syndrome.
Common Inflammatory Offenders, Causing Leaky Gut
• Medications (NSAIDS and Aspirin)
• Low stomach acid
• Sleep deprivation
• Environmental toxins
• Bacterial Dysbiosis
• Heavily processed & refined foods
Symptoms of leaky gut will manifest based on the level of hyperpermeability, the status of the immune system, and the individual’s overall inflammatory load.
Common Signs & Symptoms of Leaky Gut
• Anxiety & depression
• Mood swings
• Difficulty concentrating
• Chronic fatigue
• Joint pain
• Nutritional malabsorption
• Seasonal allergies
• Multiple food sensitivities & allergies
• Psoriasis, eczema & other skin conditions
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Ulcerative Colitis
• Crohn’s Disease
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, there is a good chance that the health of your gut is compromised. However, gut health is not synonymous with intestinal permeability.
The best way to identify leaky gut, is to test levels of a protein called zonulin. This inflammatory molecule opens the otherwise tight junctions of the gut lining and increases permeability. As such, this biomarker is the gold standard for diagnosis of this condition.
Remarkably, cells that make up the lining of the gut regenerate every two to three days. Appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress, eliminating highly refined and processed foods, removing gluten, reducing the use of pain killers and eating a whole-food, nutrient dense diet can significantly improve gut health by lowering inflammation, improving the gut microbiome, optimizing digestion, and healing the damaged tissue.
As always, seek the guidance of a licensed and credentialed health practitioner for proper testing and interventions.