excerpted from Chris Kresser’s webinar http://solvingleakygut.com/leaky-gut-videos-for-you/
The gut is the gateway to health. There is no part of the body, no disease, no organ system – that the gut doesn’t directly or indirectly affect. In health, the gut is naturally permeable to very small molecules in order to absorb vital nutrients. But infections, toxins, stress and reactions to certain foods can cause these inflammation in the gut, causing the formerly healthy tight junctions to break apart. Once these tight junctions get broken apart, you have a condition called intestinal permeability, or simply “leaky gut”.
Incompletely digested nutrients, toxins, bacteria, and wastes to “leak” through the intestines and flood the bloodstream. The foreign substances entering the blood can cause an autoimmune response that can cause inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances and a weakened immune system.
When substances leak out of the intestines, the liver is forced to work extra hard to filter them out of the blood stream. The extra burden on the liver can result in the accumulation of fatty liver tissue. Some toxins may be sent back into the bloodstream when the liver’s ability to detoxify fails, where they reach muscles and connective tissues.
9 Signs You Have a Leaky Gut(1)
- Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Seasonal allergies or asthma.
- Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or PCOS.
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease.
- Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia.
- Mood and mind issues such as depression, anxiety, ADD or ADHD.
- Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema.
- Diagnosis of candida overgrowth.
- Food allergies or food intolerances.
The gut/metabolism connection
Gut health influences metabolic health in a couple of ways. First is the gut microbiota or the gut flora – these are the beneficial bacteria that reside in your gut. The gut microbiota play a major role in various metabolic processes. The gut microbiota can determine how much energy or calories extract from food. Depending on the number and composition of your gut microbiota, you could eat same amount of calories from food and extract a different number calories! The gut microbiota’s impact on calories may help in explaining explaining some of the obesity epidemic we are facing today.
The beneficial bacteria in the colon also produce short chain fatty acids which play an anti-inflammatory role. They also promote the production of sugars in your intestines which can improve blood sugar. As mentioned above, this is another factor which helps explain how altered gut microbiota may be associated with obesity, fatty liver disease and Type 2 diabetes. And it also explains why infants who are exposed to antibiotics early in their life which alter their gut flora have a higher risk of these conditions later on in their life.
Finally, one of the biggest changes that you can see in terms of gut health metabolism where studies have found that changes in gut microbiota are associated with increased appetite and increased rate at which we store calories as fat.So this isn’t some kind of remote connection – this is a very direct connection between your gut and your ability to burn or store fat and regulate your body weight. There is a great deal of exciting research coming out now about this and more and more articles are being published in the mainstream media.
The gut/skin connection
Skin conditions are really epidemic. It’s interesting to note that in a lot of traditional cultures skin conditions like acne is almost unheard of. Yet in our culture it’s extremely prevalent. Some studies show that up to 60-70% of teenagers have acne.
So what’s one of the big biggest differences between these traditional cultures and amd those of us living in the industrialized world? The difference may be our gut flora. In fact, As far back as 1909 researchers first wrote about the connection between gut health and acne and other skin disorders.
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is 10 times more prevalent in people with acne rosacea. Almost 14% of patients with ulcerative colitis and 25% of patients with Crohn’s disease have skin manifestations. Psoriasis, dermatitis herpetiformis occur more frequently in patients with Celiac disease, as do increased frequency of oral mucosal lesions like canker sores, alopecia, and vitiligo. Leaky gut promotes local and systemic inflammation which in turn causes inflammation in the skin.
The gut immune connection.
This is perhaps one of the most significant of all the connections simply because 70 to 80% of the immune system is in the gut, specifically something called the gut associated lymphoid tissue. The gut microbiota play a crucial role in regulating our immune system by producing something called short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids drive production and differentiation of cells that regulate our immune system. When the immune system is in balance, we’re protected against infections and autoimmune disease. But when the immune system goes out of balance were highly susceptible to infections and were much more likely to get an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease now affects 50 million people in the US – one in every six Americans!
Dr. Fasano, a well respected pioneer in Celiac Disease, leaky gut, and gluten intolerance research believes that we cannot develop an autoimmune disorder without having leaky gut. Intestinal permeability is a precondition to developing an autoimmune disease.
The gut/brain connection
There are multiple mechanisms that exist that connect the gut and the brain together – in both directions, in fact. changes in the gut can affect the brain and changes in the brain can affect the gut. We know the changes in gut bacteria influence the production and metabolism of neurotransmitters – which has a direct effect on mood.
The old model of brain chemistry considered depression to simply be a serotonin deficiency. Our new model of brain chemistry holds that inflammation in the gut produces inflammation that cross the gut barrier, enters the bloodstream, travels through the blood, crosses the blood brain barrier, enters the brain and suppresses the activity of the frontal cortex – the part of the brain that deals with higher brain function. Suppression of frontal cortex activity results in all of the typical signs of depression.
And when your frontal cortex activity is suppressed you’re going to have all the typical signs of depression. And what’s more, this creates a vicious cycle where that suppressed activity in the frontal cortex leads to more gut problems because the brain controls the gut.
Small intestine bacterial overgrowth is associated with both depression and anxiety. Leaky gut been associated with neurological problems ranging from epilepsy to Parkinson’s disease to autism spectrum disorder.
The gut/hormone connection
Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3) – the main thyroid hormones – have been shown to protect the lining of the intestine from stress-induced damage. However, since some of the conversion of T4 (which is the less active form of thyroid hormone) into T3 (which is the more active form) happens in the gut, if you have a leaky gut, it’s likely that you would not to be able to convert T4 into T3 very well.
In addition, inflammation in the gut suppresses sensitivity of cells to thyroid hormone – meaning your thyroid could be producing enough thyroid hormone, but your cells don’t respond to it,so you’re going to feel hypothyroid even when your TSH, T4 and T3 levels are normal! This is why you can have your thyroid tested and your doctor tells you that your thyroid is normal – but you’ve got every hypothyroid symptoms in the book. This would be a case where leaky gut or some other intestinal issue is contributing to your thyroid problem but it doesn’t show up in the labs.
There are also connections between sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and intestinal permeability, And they’re connections between changes in gut health that lead to inflammation and high cortisol production. Inflammation in the gut triggers a stress response, and a stress response elevates cortisol production and/or disrupts the cortisol rhythm. Changes in cortisol promote changes in sex hormone production, and sex hormones also affect our gut health. For example, estradiol modulates permeability between cells, and changes in estradiol will disrupt the tight junctions in the gut lining, causing the gut to become porous – in other words, to “leak”. As cortisol plays an important role in resolving the inflammatory process, disruptions in cortisol contribute to a downward spiral of inflammation and further disruptions.
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Literally every system of the body is affected by your gut and gut health.
And there isn’t a condition where improving gut health doesn’t lead to a significant improvement in how you’ll feel on a daily basis.
(1) Nine Signs You Have Leaky Gut, Retrieved from http://www.dramymyers.com/2013/09/12/9-signs-you-have-a-leaky-gut/#sthash.Vv2CKOdI.dpuf