What Is Leaky Gut and how do I know if I have it?

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Leaky Gut, aka Intestinal Permeability is a vastly misunderstood concept. The gut refers to the intestines (small and large)- a tube where digested food particles from the stomach get pushed along for further degradation and nutrient absorption. The wall of this intestinal tube provides a barrier between the products of food digestion on the inside of the tube to the blood stream just on the other side of the tube. Only the smallest particles (nutrients) pass from the gut into the blood.
When the gut is inflamed, the walls get “leaky” letting larger particles get out into the blood. The immune system can go rogue and attack these “foreign” proteins in the blood creating more inflammation in other parts of the body. That’s the confusing part. Many people with abdominal symptoms do not have leaky gut. Its people with persistent headache,joint pains, rashes, fatigue, and those with autoimmune conditions that need to be evaluated for leaky gut. Inflammation that can lead to leaky gut occurs from the use of antibiotics, ibuprofen or aspirin, steroids, processed food (especially gluten), chemicals and additives in foods, cigarette smoking, chronic stress, unbalanced bacterial flora, infections and genetic predisposition to inflammation and inflammatory bowel conditions.
The best test for leaky gut is the new biomarker Zonulin. A comprehensive functional stool test can reveal gut function imbalances. Food sensitivity tests can also be useful. To resolve leaky gut one needs to eliminate inflammatory triggers, improve digestion, support beneficial bacteria, and use herbs that soothe and heal the intestinal cells. With systemic inflammation controlled and nutrient absorption improved, many chronic health conditions from brain fog to eczema improve. Gut health is fundamental to functional medicine doctors and is often the first evaluation for both chronic conditions and prevention protocols. After all, Hippocrates taught us. “All disease begins in the gut.”

Dr Kate Thomsen’s office for holistic health care is located in Pennington, NJ. She is trained in Family Medicine, and Board Certified in Integrative Medicine, and is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner. She has been practicing Functional Medicine for 20 years. For more information see www.drkatethomsen.com or call the office at 609-818-9700.