Leaky gut syndrome is as unpleasant a problem as its name suggests. Leaky Gut Syndrome, or intestinal hyperpermeability, describes a condition in which the intestines actually leak toxins, undigested food, harmful organisms, and waste into the blood stream. This happens when tight junctions, which are the barrier that prevents undigested or harmful material from crossing into the blood stream, become weakened. In simpler terms — imagine if you had a garden hose made of cotton instead of rubber; it’s something like that. Unfortunately, leaky gut syndrome is a problem that’s affected many and has been associated with inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, asthma, autism and Type I diabetes. 
Causes of Leaky Gut Syndrome
The main cause of leaky gut syndrome is tight junction breakdown, and research is continuing to examine why that happens. As with many Irritable Bowel Diseases, the focus remains food intolerances, allergic reactions, genetic disposition toward the problem, and gut flora imbalances. These situations lead to redness, swelling, and damage to the lining of the intestines. These are prime factors that encourage leaky gut to occur.
Leaky gut syndrome does have one unique cause — alcohol.   Alcohol is especially responsible because it wears down the lining that protects the intestinal wall, exposing the intestinal wall to damage from undigested material and toxins in the gut.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome
Since leaky gut allows toxins and other intestinal material into the bloodstream, the symptoms and conditions that develop vary greatly. Some of these may be allergies, or cardiovascular and metabolic disturbances. 
Two conditions receiving much attention for their association with leaky gut syndrome are chronic fatigue syndrome and depression. While each of these conditions are unique, researchers have identified the similar mechanism that can lead to their development. In response to gram-negative (unfriendly) bacteria entering the blood stream, the body releases antibodies. In patients suffering from both chronic fatigue syndrome and depression, these antibodies have been found in higher levels.   
Is There Anything That Can Be Done?
Many people have found that nutritional management to be one of the most effective means of managing the problem of a ‘leaky gut’. Adding compounds such as glutamine and curcumin to the diet may also promote a more healthy intestinal environment by reducing redness and oxidative stress that contribute to tight junction breakdown. 
If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or crohn’s disease, keeping a food journal may be helpful in identifying foods causing intestinal discomfort. If you notice it to be happening frequently, especially when alcohol is involved, it may be best to pass on the pint or glass of wine.
Has leaky gut syndrome been a problem in your life? How have you managed it? Please leave a comment below and share your experience.
- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
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