By naturopath Margaret Jasinska
There was recently an article in the medical magazine called Medscape titled “Is leaky gut the root of all ills”? You can read the article here. A lot of healthcare practitioners talk about leaky gut. We certainly do. Is it a medically recognised term or is it just a complementary medicine concept?
In medical journals leaky gut is usually referred to as increased intestinal permeability, and researchers mention bacterial translocation to describe the movement of bacteria across a gut lining that’s excessively permeable. I don’t think it’s the root of all ills, but it is a significant cause of inflammation, and inflammation can be the root of all evil. Other things besides leaky gut can cause inflammation.
Leaky gut is not an actual disease, as it’s not listed among the thousands of diseases in the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. It is a physiological abnormality that can lead to diseases in genetically susceptible people who have other health problems. By other health problems I mean nutrient deficiencies, infections, stress, injuries or other conditions that compromise health.
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 nutrients from your food.
Among the medical community, most doctors agree that leaky gut is most strongly linked to coeliac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. These diseases are all becoming more common, and most of the time they cause gut symptoms. That’s not always the case though; a person with coeliac disease can have a damaged gut lining seen on biopsy but not experience any gut symptoms. They may just have iron deficiency, fatigue, infertility, or a host of other symptoms associated with coeliac disease.