Do you often experience abdominal pain but can’t quite place a finger on what caused it or why it happened? Reeling from bouts of gastrointestinal distress can be both frustrating and embarrassing, but it can be helpful to know more about your situation even before you visit your doctor. Read on to find out if you might be suffering from “leaky gut” syndrome.
What is “leaky gut” syndrome?
The small intestine is a thin tube-like structure that secretes digestive juices and absorbed the digested nutrients into the bloodstream through small projections in the lining called microvilli.
Absorption of substances through the small intestine is very selective and precise. However, when these projections aren’t working properly, other substances besides digested food – possibly harmful substances – can enter the bloodstream.
The term “leaky gut” thus refers to the fact that unwanted substances can “leak” out of the small intestine to enter the bloodstream. As a result, the gut suffers from inflammation, and some essential nutrients fail to get absorbed by the gut properly and remain unutilised. The inflammation also causes an immune response that tends to leave you feeling less than well.
Symptoms of “leaky gut”
As with most instances involving inflammation, symptoms of “leaky gut” are not pleasant at all. Here are some of the more common ones:
- Consistent dizziness and tiredness that interferes with your daily tasks
- Sudden adverse reactions to food that you can normally eat
- Frequent and continuous headaches
- Problems with bowel movement such as constipation and diarrhoea
- Weakened immune system, thus causing continuous sicknesses like colds, flus and sore throats
- Growth of the fungus Candida, contributing to various symptoms such as consistent tiredness, joint pain, weakened immunity and oral thrush (white growth on the tongue
- Mineral and vitamin deficiencies
- Concerning results from a lactulose/mannitol test as it shows how “leaky” your gut is
How to recover from it
1. Re-evaluate your diet
Sometimes, we tend to unknowingly consume certain types of food that lead to irritation in our stomachs. Taking an elimination approach to your diet whereby you eliminate specific foods at a time can help in identifying the culprit.
2. Exercise moderately
Intense workouts and exercises are not for everyone. Each body has its own limits and an ill-conceived extreme workout can lead to inflammation. That is not to say to stop exercising altogether. Instead, scale it appropriately to fit your current level of strength and conditioning.
3. Cut down on caffeine
Caffeine is a great stimulant that can provide you with some quick energy and increase your productivity. However, consuming too much caffeine can have adverse consequences. For the average adult, four cups of coffee a day is plenty enough.
4. Get your zinc and collagen
Zinc and collagen are great when it comes to gut recovery. Ensuring that your diet is rich in both is a good first step to healing a leaking gut. Some good examples include beef, oysters, spinach and salmon.
5. Treat your gut well
Despite the evidence being inconclusive, some people believe that probiotics, colostrum, extra fibre and glutamine can be beneficial for gut health and keep it healthy. It’s not wrong, since these substances do promote a healthier gut. However, take note that not everyone will respond to this approach in a similar fashion.
What makes a “leaky gut” tricky to diagnose is the fact that the symptoms are not exclusive, as they are common in many other conditions. To confirm whether your gut has high permeability, the most accurate method would be through the lactulose/mannitol test. Most clinics administer this test, so don’t be shy in asking your doctor for one!