In keeping with our latest Facebook post/article "That Anxiety May Be in Your Gut, Not Your Head", lets talk about functional medicine and leaky gut.
One of the philosophys of functional medicine is centered on the premise that a breakdown of the intestinal mucosa lining can lead to dysbiosis (imbalanced bacteria colonized in the small intestine) and increased permeability of the gut lining known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. The breakdown of the intestinal lining results in allowing food based toxins, viruses, bacteria and partially digested food proteins to pass through the gut lining into the body's blood supply causing increased toxic load. When undesirable bacteria,viruses and food proteins(gluten from wheat,casein from dairy, soy and egg protein) get into your blood stream, your body mounts an immune response in order to attack, kill and get rid of these undesirable invaders!
So now imagine a protein, virus, bacteria foreign invader slipping through small holes in the intestinal lining, getting into the blood stream (where they don't belong) and the white blood cells of your immune system, like little "pac men" coursing through your body, attacking and trying to kill them off. This is leaky gut!!!
How Do We Get Leaky Gut?
The following all contribute to leaky gut:
- Taking antibiotics (even one dose!)
- Stress (weakens the gut lining!)
- Medications (over the counter/prescription/recreational)
- Poor diet
- Poor blood sugar control (hypoglycemia/insulin resistance)
- Gut infections from bacteria, yeasts, viruses, parasites
- Food intolerances ( gluten from wheat/dairy etc)
It is especially interesting that when foreign food proteins such as gluten get through the leaky gut, an inflammatory response can actually occur in the small intestine causing Irritable Bowel Sydrome/IBS, colitis and Celiac disease. Food proteins getting into the ciruclation through the leaky gut is a main cause of autoimmune diseases such as Rheumatiod arthritis, Lupus, MS, Hashimotos thyroiditis, Scleroderma, Psoriasis etc due to an overactive immune response leading to the body attacking itself! Convntional medicine treats these conditions with steroids and immunosuppressive drugs making the leaky gut even worse!
Leaky gut has not only been linked to autoimmune diseases and inflammatory bowel diseases but to brain/neurotransmitter problems such as depression, panic attacks and anxiety as well. Studies in the 1960's have linked leaky gut to Schizophrenia! All of this relates to the fact that if you have an inflamed and leaky gut, there is a malapsorption of nutrients across the gut lining. In the case of neurotransmitters in the brain, specific nutrients for their manufacture and transport across the blood-brain barrier are not absorbed through the gut lining. Therefore the body can not make neurotransmitters such as serotonin, GABA and dopamine that are necessary for proper brain function. As an interesting side note, the gut has been called the "second brain". This is because there are just as many, if not more, serotonin (the feel good brain chemical)receptor sites in the gut as in the brain!! This is where we get the saying "gut feeling"! So, when you fix the gut, you can fix the brain!
As you can see, Leaky Gut (despite it's wierd name), can be a very serious problem and it is a very important condition to fix!