Abdominal bloating and gas

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Leaky Gut

By Dr. Ramona Warren

Most of us have been in a building or a home where there has been evidence of a roof leak, and we are aware of the extensive damage a simple leak can cause. What many people are not aware of is that people suffer from "leaks" within their body that can cause a variety of diverse symptoms.
Leaky Gut Syndrome, also referred to as Intestinal Permeability, is a condition where the lining of the intestinal wall becomes damaged. The intestinal lining is a single layer of cells that are tightly compacted next to each other and is like a tiny mesh screen that allows only smaller particles through. Once the lining breaks down, it becomes more like chicken wire and this allows large molecules of partially digested food, toxins, bacteria and other molecules to enter the blood stream. These molecules are viewed by the body as foreign substances and cause inflammation throughout the body that can lead to many of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal bloating and gas

  • Abdominal pain

  • Irritable bowel

  • Autoimmune disease

  • Food and seasonal allergies

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Joint pain

  • Arthritis

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Headaches/Migraines

  • Eczema, hives and other rashes

  • Anxiety

  • Insomnia

  • ADD

  • Autism

According to James A. Ferrel, MD, leaky gut syndrome "may be the cause of many 'etiology unknown' illnesses...(and it) may also explain many of the symptoms patients have that confound and confuse many physicians.”

Our gut is our main barrier to the outside world, just as the roof of our house protects us from the outside elements. When our gut becomes "leaky" our defense system, or immune system, is compromised. Up to 80 percent of our immune system is found in our gut. When the gut breaks down, we break down. The result can be a variety of symptoms that can be challenging to relate back to the gut. For example, you might wonder how the symptoms of anxiety or insomnia might be related to the gut. The gut is referred to as "the second brain" and according to Michael Gerson, MD, author of The Second Brain, over 95 percent of all seratonin, the calming neurotransmitter, is found in the intestinal tract. Without a healthy gut lining seratonin levels will decrease, which can lead to anxiety and insomnia.
Some of the causes of leaky gut include foods such as gluten, sugar, alcohol, processed foods, fast foods, and soft drinks. Corticosteroids, antibiotics, antacids and other medications contribute to increased intestinal permeability. Infections, imbalanced hormones, poor sleep habits and especially stress are also causes of leaky gut. In fact, even if we eat well, have no infections, take no medications, but have a ton of stress, the stress alone will break down our gut. Cortisol, an adrenal hormone that is increased during states of stress, will break down the intestinal lining and lead to a leaky gut.
Determining if you have Leaky Gut Syndrome can be challenging. There are saliva tests, stool sample tests and urine tests that can be used to look at the health of the intestinal lining.
If you do have Leaky Gut Syndrome there is good news – the intestinal lining can be restored by making a few simple lifestyle changes. Here are four steps you can take:

  1. Remove - Remove offending foods and substances from your diet. Avoid sugar, alcohol, gluten and dairy as much as possible. Eliminate sodas, processed and packaged foods, and reduce caffeine. Also reduce exposure to toxic chemicals such as cleaning products, as well as heavily perfumed beauty and hygiene products. Simply by removing these substances, you will often find your need for medications will also be reduced, allowing you to cut back on medications that can damage the intestinal lining.

  2. Restore - Use digestive enzymes, betaine hydrochloride and/or bitters and bile salts to rebuild the body's ability to digest properly.

  3. Reinoculate - Use a high-quality probiotic to reestablish a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut.

  4. Repair - Provide the nutrients to help rebuild the intestinal lining by eating a whole food diet and using supplements such as l-Glutamine, which helps regenerate the intestinal cells. Quercitin helps tighten up the junctions between the cells. Vitamins A and D, as well as zinc, are also important in repairing the intestinal lining. Fish oil is helpful for reducing inflammation and rebuilding cell walls. Drinking green tea can also be helpful since it is antibacterial and contains many antioxidants.

The digestive system is the foundation of our health. Through my own personal experience with digestive problems, as well as treating patients over my 30 years of practice, I understand the suffering that comes from a leaky gut. Follow the steps outlined above to repair the "leaks." Our bodies are designed to be well. When we give ourselves the opportunity to heal by making healthy lifestyle choices, we can improve our gut, improve our immune system and have more quality in our years.

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