Role of the Digestive System
Your digestive system plays an essential role in your health. Disruptions to how well it functions can cause other serious, and in some cases chronic conditions.
At the most basic level, your digestive system converts the foods you eat into energy your body needs to power other bodily functions, including thinking, walking, and fighting infections. Moreover, your digestive system is what extracts the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you must have to build and maintain the various tissues, structures, and organs that make up your body.
Increased Intestinal Permeability
Sometimes, however, the digestive system suffers failures that can interfere with its ability to provide your body with the energy and building blocks you require to feel good and be healthy. One little known disruption of the digestive system is called leaky gut syndrome, sometimes termed increased intestinal permeability or hyperpermeability.
In this condition, damage to the lining of the intestine reduces its ability to filter essential nutrients and protect the internal environment. This can cause a host of symptoms and may aggravate or be at the root of other conditions. Unfortunately, since it is not covered in medical school, relatively few physicians are aware of leaky gut syndrome or accept that it is a real and serious health condition. The good news is that many other health care providers have recognized the existence and importance of this digestive disorder.
The symptoms of leaky gut syndrome
When you suffer from a leaky gut you may experience any of a variety of symptoms. These include:
- Excess gas and cramping
- Skin rashes
- Feeling bloated
- Brain fog
- Joint pain
- Adrenal fatigue
- Increased susceptibility to stress
- Autoimmunity or other compromised immunity
- Secondary infections
- Food sensitivities or allergies
In addition to these symptoms, leaky gut syndrome can exacerbate or even cause certain other health problems, such as celiac's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, crohn's disease, and, according to some, multiple sclerosis.
What to do about leaky gut syndrome
There is no way to definitively determine if you have leaky gut syndrome - no blood test or radiologic scan that can demonstrate for sure that you have it. However, if you have experienced any combination of the symptoms of leaky gut listed above and have not been able to get permanent relief or a satisfactory diagnosis, it is reasonable to surmise that you may be suffering from increased intestinal permeability.
Many health care providers believe that chronic inflammation can both cause and be worsened by leaky gut syndrome, so an excellent place to start is with what's called an elimination diet. With this systematic approach, you will first eliminate an array of foods that are suspected of causing inflammation, sensitivities, or allergies, and instead eat "safe" foods that are not likely to contribute to your symptoms. Then, you will slowly reintroduce foods you have eliminated, one at a time, and take note of how your body responds. Any foods that continue to cause you problems you can re-eliminate, and in this way you can develop a diet that will enable you to feel relief from your symptoms, and more importantly, it will give your body the chance to heal your leaky gut syndrome.
Conclusion: There is hope
The long and short of it is that the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome often are not associated with the condition since not many doctors recognize this little known disorder. This means that sufferers frequently undergo treatment for the symptoms as unrelated health issues and may not enjoy permanent relief. But there is reason for hope in that more and more health care professionals have learned to associate the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome with the condition itself. Moreover, you can take simple steps yourself to identify which foods cause you problems and adopt a diet that enables you to heal, and therefore to experience permanent relief.