Is leaky gut behind your immune problems?

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

Leaky gut syndrome is a condition you have probably heard of but may not fully understand. As the name implies, it is a problem with the intestines but the consequences can be felt in nearly every organ or tissue in the body.

If you have at least two of the conditions listed below, there is a good chance you have a leaky gut:

  • Allergies
  • Brain fog
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Hay fever or sinusitis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Depression or anxiety

What is leaky gut syndrome?

Leaky gut just means the intestinal lining is more permeable than it should be. The lining of your intestines is only one cell thick. The gut lining enables you to absorb nutrients from the food you’ve eaten and digested, and it keeps bacteria, wastes and undigested food out of your bloodstream and in your intestines where they belong. If you have a leaky gut, not only do the wastes and toxins gain entry into your bloodstream; you also have a reduced ability to absorb vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients from your food.

How can having a leaky gut harm your immune system?

Substances that get absorbed from your intestines head straight to the liver via the hepatic portal vein. That means if you have a leaky gut, you will flood your liver with toxins all day every day. It is no wonder leaky gut syndrome can eventually lead to some pretty serious health problems.

The detoxification capabilities of your liver quickly become overwhelmed and toxins will spill out into your bloodstream. This places an additional strain on your immune system and will leave it less capable of fighting off infections. It will also make your immune system hyper stimulated and more likely to develop allergic reactions. If the problem continues, the risk of developing an autoimmune disease rises significantly. You can watch an explanation of this by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride here.

How would you know if you have a leaky gut?

The most reliable test is thought to be the PEG400 challenge test. It can be difficult to obtain in many parts of the world though. We believe that for most people tests are unnecessary because leaky gut is such a common health problem and there are very clear signs and symptoms that can confirm leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome is a forerunner to autoimmune disease, so anyone with a diagnosed autoimmune disease has surely got some degree of leaky gut syndrome.

What causes leaky gut syndrome?

The following factors raise your risk of having a leaky gut:

  • Sugar consumption because it encourages microbial overgrowth in the gut
  • Antibiotics
  • Stress
  • The oral contraceptive pill
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Food allergy and intolerance
  • Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Candida overgrowth in the intestines

Natural ways to strengthen your gut lining

Your intestinal lining has incredibly important functions – to keep the toxins out of your body and allow the nutrients in. The following strategies all help to improve the integrity of your gut lining:

  • Be selective about the plant foods you eat. Starch and fibre act as food for our microbiome; the problem is, they can encourage growth of whatever bugs you have in your gut, both good and bad. Many people experience significant improvements in gut and immune health when they adopt a low FODMAP diet for a period of time. This can starve bad gut bugs of their fuel supply. BactoClear capsules can also be helpful because the oregano, clove and thyme in them promote healthy digestive function.
  • You may not be producing sufficient stomach acid, bile or digestive enzymes, which are all available as supplements. Incomplete digestion can encourage the absorption of partially digested food molecules, fostering the development of food allergy or intolerance.
  • Glutamine is the number one remedy for strengthening the gut lining because the cells that line your intestines use glutamine as a fuel source. Glutamine is very beneficial when taken long term but it is also an excellent first aid remedy for diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, food poisoning or any condition that results in an upset tummy. Glutamine can be found in Ultimate Gut Health powder.
  • Try to keep your intake of sugar and alcohol low. If you turn to those substances when stressed or exhausted, try taking a good dose of magnesium regularly. Magnesium is required by the enzymes in your body that generate energy. It also helps to relax your nervous system at night while you’re asleep, or trying to get to sleep. I recommend a teaspoon of magnesium powder with dinner.

There is much more information about leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune disease in our book Healing Autoimmune Disease.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email