It’s taken me a long time to sit down and write this post, even though I’ve been planning on doing so for months. Talking about my “stomach problems” was one of my main motivations for blogging in the first place. Throughout my health struggles, I felt so alone. I felt like no one could understand what I was going through because no one around me seemed to relate. I turned to the Internet and books for information and support, and I quickly realized that so many people were struggling with issues similar to my own. Finding stories I could relate to is what saved me emotionally, and I vowed to myself that I would repay the favor someday any way I could. To do that, I want to start sharing my entire health story, piece by piece.
When people ask me, “What’s wrong with your stomach?” sometimes I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t have one simple diagnosis. A lot of things added together to create my health problems. I think that’s why it’s taken me so long to start writing posts specifically about my health. I was never sure where to start.
I decided to start with leaky gut because it’s at the root of almost everything. And by everything, I mean both my own health issues and those of many other people. It just seems like a good starting point, ya feel? Leaky gut affects your gut, obviously, but it also can have huge impacts on your brain, which is something I definitely experienced. If you’re in the wellness world, you’ve probably heard of it before. However, I’m going to explain it as if you have no idea what leaky gut is, just to be safe.
Let me begin by saying that the average Western medical doctor is not going to diagnose someone with leaky gut. Most Western doctors don’t consider leaky gut a “real diagnosis.” It’s a term that holistic doctors and functional medicine practitioners use, and those are the types of doctors I personally choose to work with. Western doctors will use the term intestinal permeability, though, and both “leaky gut” and “intestinal permeability” are describing the same thing.
So, what is it? It’s pretty much what it sounds like. When you have leaky gut, the lining of your intestine has holes in it that allow particles to “leak” through, and the microvilli on your intestinal wall (which absorb nutrients from food) become damaged. When your gut lining is working properly, it keeps “bad particles” from getting into your blood. When you have leaky gut, food particles, toxins, and other not-so-good things can get through that lining and reach your bloodstream.
When your body notices these toxins entering your bloodstream, it alerts your immune system so that your body can fight the bad guys. This results in some major inflammation as your body works hard to get that bad stuff OUT. If your body is continuously recognizing foreign invaders, it can eventually lead to your body just constantly fighting itself. That can result in IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, MS, Chronic Fatigue, and other autoimmune diseases.
The big thing with leaky gut is that it can cause a bunch of different food sensitivities. If food molecules leak into your bloodstream, your body will fight them like foreign invaders, and you might develop sensitivities to a number of different foods.
There are so many different symptoms of leaky gut. Like I mentioned before, having a bunch of food sensitivities and/or malabsorption is a huge sign. That was #1 for me. When my bloodwork showed that I basically don’t absorb any nutrients from the food I eat, I didn’t have a doubt in my mind.
Beyond that, other common symptoms are bloating, headaches, poor memory, fatigue, brain fog, skin rashes, acne, allergies, diarrhea, constipation, and thyroid issues. If you have bacterial overgrowths like Candida or SIBO, those can also indicate leaky gut. I had the majority of those symptoms, but one alone can be a sign.
Many more people have leaky gut than they realize. It’s at the root of most diseases, so if you have a health problem, it’s probably related to leaky gut somehow. Autoimmune diseases, IBD and IBS, arthritis, diabetes, autism – they’ve all been linked to leaky gut. In my personal opinion, I think most people should assume they have leaky gut. The way we live our lives in today’s world makes us all extremely susceptible to developing it if we haven’t already, and protecting your intestinal lining is vital to overall health. Remember, the majority of your immune system is in your GUT! And your immune system is kinda, REALLY important. Protect yoself!
Which brings me to: how do you get leaky gut in the first place?
Ugh. So many things. It’s complicated because, like I said, it’s linked to a number of different health issues. So are those health issues causing leaky gut, or is leaky gut causing them? Or both? For example, if you have Celiac disease, you have leaky gut. But which came first? It’s pretty much agreed upon that gut inflammation in general leads to leaky gut, and that inflammation could come from many different things. It could be from any kind of toxin, bacterial overgrowths like SIBO and Candida, parasites, low stomach acid, and the big one…
DIET. I hope you’re not surprised. Eating crappy foods – processed foods, lots of refined sugars, artificial flavoring, too much alcohol, and other “fake food” – introduces a lot of toxins into your body that cause inflammation. Gluten and dairy are also very common triggers for inflammation and leaky gut.
Then there’s stress. Ugh. I personally hate being reminded of this one, because I have yet to find a way to completely de-stress my life. Working on it, though. We all know stress dampens your immune system, and a weak immune system can lead to increased inflammation and leaky gut.
Another potential cause that I personally think worsened my own situation is medication. Prescription meds and OTC meds really irritate your gut. Irritation = inflammation = A LEAKING GUT.
There are things you can do on your own to improve leaky gut, but I would recommend working with a functional medical practitioner to get to the root of any problems you might be having and to develop an official “plan.” I’ve been working on healing my leaky gut for about a year now, and I’m finally starting to feel much better. I’ll be posting soon about what I’ve been doing to help heal my gut, because it’s seriously made a HUGE difference in my life. The process is slow, but it’s worth it.
I’ve oversimplified this A LOT, but I’d rather oversimplify so that most people can understand it than get really technical and totally lose you. Gut health is kind of my obsession, and I can’t emphasize its importance for everyone.
Anyone else have leaky gut probs? I’d love to hear your story. XO