What Causes Leaky Gut?

First of all, leaky gut is a layman’s term. Scientists and researchers use the term ‘increased intestinal permeability’. So if you are searching for published, peer-reviewed research on the topic do not use ‘leaky gut’ but I will be using it for this article.

Leaky gut is not a new issue. Ayurvedic documents from India, dating back 3,000 years ago describe leaky gut, what causes leaky gut and the chronic illnesses associated with it. Ayurveda is the world’s oldest system of medicine and began 5,000 years ago. It is still widely used in India today and is becoming very popular in the United States. Ayurveda considers the gut to be at the center of our health and now researchers around the world are coming to the same conclusion. Better late than never.

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Inside our small intestines are gates that open and close. These gates are called tight junctions. They open and let organisms into our bloodstream and they stay closed when unwanted organisms try to enter. These gates regulate what particles can enter into our bloodstream and which ones are not allowed. When the gates do not work properly, they stay wide open and no longer close. This is a problem because now unwanted particles can freely pass (leak) from the small intestines into our bloodstream. 

Our bloodstream is like a highway system allowing these particles to move freely all around our body and to any organ. When the unwanted particles enter our bloodstream, it triggers our immune system that something is in our body that is not supposed to be there. This can lead to a host of unwanted illnesses and symptoms.

Leaky Gut Syndrome Symptoms

Leaky gut symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. Not everyone with leaky gut has gastrointestinal symptoms. They can be neurological, gastrointestinal, autoimmune, mood and behavior, weight gain/loss, insomnia, skin problems, joint pain and in the worst case scenario, someone can have all of these.


Leaky Gut Symptoms
Leaky Gut Symptoms by Karen Graham, RDN

Does Leaky Gut Cause Weight Gain

Yes, leaky gut can definitely cause weight gain but it can also cause an inability to gain weight or muscle.

Leaky gut causes weight gain but indirectly. Leaky gut causes an imbalance of microbes in the gut which leads to weight gain, it creates sensitivities to foods and these food sensitivities lead to weight gain and it creates nutrition deficiencies that are also involved in weight gain.

Conversely, leaky gut can cause unwanted weight loss or the inability to gain muscle via malabsorption of nutrients. The villi that line the inside of the small intestines play an important role in absorbing our vitamins & minerals. When these villi become so unhealthy that they are unable to do this, people can become malnourished and experience unwanted fat and muscle loss.

Can Leaky Gut Be Healed?

Yes! Gut tissue has the ability to heal when given the opportunity. You may have seen the approach called 5R for healing leaky gut. This has been around for a while now but just like diets that are one-size-fits-all, you can’t take one approach and apply it to everyone. We are all individuals and healing is done on a very individual basis. I am trained in the 5R approach but I adjust that process differently for everyone.

Healing leaky gut is a process and this process starts with diet. If you don’t get this part right, then nothing you after this will be effective.

Leaky Gut Syndrome Diet Plan

You may have seen leaky gut diets that tell you to avoid specific foods like dairy, eggs, gluten, etc. Yes, these foods are often big players involved in leaky gut but usually they are not the only foods that need to be avoided. If you don’t identify all the foods that are involved, you won’t experience a full recovery. Food sensitivity testing is crucial in identifying all of the foods that are contributing to your symptoms. 

If you do an online search you will see pages of companies offering food sensitivity testing. Most of them are not backed by science and they are not a valid type if testing. So be very careful before spending your money and getting your hopes up. 

A successful leaky gut diet will require the guidance of a trained professional. You need someone with a trained eye to interpret the results correctly. It is very complex. Functional medicine practitioners are all trained in these matters. It is at the core of their training. 

To find out if you have leaky gut or if you have a concerning gut issue that is impacting your life sign up for my next new patient workshop and take the first step to a healthier you!

Karen Graham, RDN




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