By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
Intestinal permeability, commonly known as “leaky gut syndrome” refers to an abnormal increase in the permeability of the lining of the small intestine. The small intestine is the largest organ in your body, and contains two thirds of your immune system! With leaky gut syndrome, the boundary of the intestine is compromised and larger molecules can pass through the intestinal lining causing inflammation and immune distress. This inflammation can affect many systems in the body.
Due to the increased inflammation caused by leaky gut syndrome, symptoms can include:
- pain in multiple joints
- chronic skin conditions (psoriasis, eczema, hives, acne)
- chronic diarrhea or abdominal pain
- multiple allergies and food intolerances
- chronic fatigue
- chronic depression
- a feeling of chronic low-grade infection, but nothing can be found on testing
- difficulty gaining or losing weight
Causes of leaky gut syndrome include: food intolerances, untreated celiac disease, intestinal yeast overgrowth, parasites, other imbalances in intestinal flora, use of aspirin or anti-inflammatory drugs on a regular basis, heavy alcohol consumption, and prolonged high stress levels. All of these cause chronic irritation of the small intestinal lining, which eventually will lead to intestinal permeability.
Treatment is first of all removing the causes, and then repairing the lining with supplements that improve the integrity of the intestinal lining.
The steps to treat intestinal permeability are:
- Stop drinking alcohol for at least 1 month;
- Stop anti-inflammatory medications if possible (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, NSAID’s)
- Get a stool test for parasites / bacterial overgrowth and yeast overgrowth – these must be treated
- Test for food intolerances and celiac disease
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet, especially avoiding your high food intolerances. This means avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates (anything made with white flour), choosing your fats and oils carefully, eating lots of vegetables and fruits, and including lean proteins as your main protein sources.
After the above steps are complete, we can use supplements to repair the intestinal lining, for example the amino acid l-glutamine and the amino sugar n-acetyl-glucosamine, herbs such as marshmallow root and licorice, as well as nutrients such as zinc and magnesium.
The gastrointestinal system is extremely important to your overall health, especially in relation to overall body inflammation. It is the first place to start with skin disorders, autoimmune disorders, and also a point of exploration with fatigue and depression.
If you would like to explore your gastrointestinal health in more detail, please ask at your next appointment. As a Naturopathic doctor, one of the most common approaches is to “start with the gut”! It’s always remarkable what a difference it makes to correct imbalances in the gastrointestinal system to mood, energy, bloating, skin, joint pains and weight.
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