When food is digested in the intestines, water and nutrients from the food get absorbed through the intestinal walls. Though these walls are permeable, they do not allow toxins and undigested food to pass through the walls. Unfortunately, in some cases, the gut lining can develop holes or tears. This allows the unwanted matter to pass through the walls of the intestines into the surrounding tissue. This condition is known as the leaky gut syndrome or increased intestinal permeability. If left unaddressed, it can cause a number of other gastrointestinal issues as well as allergic reactions and autoimmune reactions.
Diagnosis of the leaky gut syndrome
There are a number of tests that may be used to diagnose the leaky gut syndrome. Some of the popular tests to diagnose the leaky gut syndrome are as follows:
- Zonulin or lactulose test
This involves using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test to measure the intestinal permeability. The test also measures the amounts of lactulose and mannitol that can permeate through the intestinal living.
- IgG food intolerance test
This is a blood test that looks for food sensitivities that can make the immune system go on an overdrive.
- Stool test
This looks at bacterial levels in the intestines and the overall functioning of the digestive system. It can also reveal good and bad microbes present in the intestines, probiotic levels, and indicate the presence of any pathogenic micro-organisms.
Treating and managing the leaky gut syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome and diet
A diet that is rich in processed foods and sugar can cause and aggravate the leaky gut. This is because harmful bacteria thrive on processed sugar. Hence, such foods should be avoided. In cases where the patient is suffering from an underlying gastrointestinal issue such as celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome, eating glutinous grains like wheat can lead to the overproduction of a protein named Zonulin. An overproduction of this protein can increase the permeability of the intestinal walls. Hence, avoiding wheat and other whole grains rich in gluten can help manage leaky gut syndrome.
It is also important to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A, vitamin D, and zinc. These foods are also rich in fiber that can feed friendly bacteria in the gut. Adding probiotics like yogurt and fermented foods to your diet can also help improve gut health. Alcohol and caffeine should be avoided as far as possible.
Adding natural anti-inflammatory foods like omega-3 fatty acids to your diet can help treat the leaky gut syndrome. Adding oily fish like salmon to your diet is the easiest way to add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Alternatively, you could start taking a fish oil supplement.
Leaky gut syndrome and anti-inflammatory medication
Avoiding prolonged usage of certain medications such as anti-inflammatory medicines can help relieve leaky gut syndrome. If you must take pain relievers and over the counter anti-inflammatory medication, do not take them for too long. Consult a doctor to find a medication best suited for you.
Medications are rarely used to treat the leaky gut syndrome. It is only prescribed if dietary changes and self-help measures do not relieve the discomfort caused by the leaky gut syndrome. Self-medicating for the leaky gut syndrome is not advised. Today, there is a growing interest in studying leaky gut syndrome, its effect on the body and ways to manage and treat it.