Leaky gut syndrome may sound scary. That’s because it is. This also happens to be one of the most serious health issues that many people suffer from unknowingly. So, what is a leaky gut? This occurs when the inner lining of the gut gets chronically inflamed, which results to the nutrients not being absorbed properly. Apart from that, small fissures appear in the membrane which lines the intestinal tract, allowing harmful toxins, bacteria and partially digested food particles to slip out of the gut and into the bloodstream, which the body’s immune system sees as foreign invaders. When these foreign invaders are detected, the white blood cells quickly rush towards them in an attempt to surround the invading particles and a kind of systemic inflammation ensues.
When a person has leaky gut syndrome, toxins and other foreign bodies that enter the bloodstream move towards the liver to be filtered, but due to the increase in the foreign invaders, the liver is left exposed to the large quantity of toxins. As a result, these toxins eventually enter the cells and cause genetic mutation, which according to the Functional Medicine University, can lead to the formation of cancerous cells.
Symptoms of a Leaky Gut
The following are the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome:
Autoimmune disease – A disease in which the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissues, leading to the deterioration and in some cases to the destruction of such tissue. The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition.
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thyroid disease
- Type 1 diabetes
- Celiac disease
Malabsorption – Deficiencies such as magnesium or vitamin B12 along with certain enzymes that help in digestion leads to malabsorption. This is why, it is important for those with leaky gut syndrome to supplement with whole foods based multivitamins, and to ensure they get the nutrition they need.
Inflammatory Skin Conditions – Intestinal hyper-permeability can also lead to a range of skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne. While there are creams and drugs that help with these skin disorders, they can also be fixed by treating leaky gut syndrome.
Thyroid Problem – Hashimoto’s disease can also be triggered by leaky gut syndrome. Also known as ‘chronic thyroiditis’, the disorder leads to impaired metabolism, Graves’ disease, hypothyroidism, depression, fatigue and many other health concerns as well.
Mood Issues and Autism – The journal of Neuro Endocrinology Letters published a sturdy which stated that a leaky gut syndrome can cause various neurocognitive disorders, such as depression etc.
Food Sensitivities – Leaky gut syndrome can also lead to food sensitivities. This occurs due to the onslaught of harmful toxins which enter the bloodstream through the fissures and build up over time, since the liver is unable to keep up with the constant bombardment of toxins and other harmful agents building up in the body. With the immune system already on overdrive having to produce antibodies on a massive scale, this makes the body more susceptible to antigens that are present in certain dairy and gluten foods.
Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT)
Gut-associated lymphoid tissue or GALT is the largest collection of lymphoid tissue in the human body. It is a component of the mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue present in the immune system to protect the body from attacks in the gut. The GALT is made up of several types of lymphoid tissue that store immune cells, such as T and B lymphocytes which defend the body against pathogens. The mucosal surface acts as a permeable barrier to the interior body, and its primary function in the body’s defense relies on its large population of plasma cells which produce antibodies. Basically, the GALT, specifically the secondary lymphoid organs called the Peyer’s patches of the small intestine, surveys all materials coming across the gastrointestinal tract and marks them as friend or foe. The GALT then sends the orders for the amount of antibodies and other immune responses it needs depending on the level of threat it senses from a foreign body.
However, in certain cases, it is possible for the soft mucus barrier between the GALT and the contents of the intestines could get compromised if not enough fiber or other essential vitamins are being ingested. This usually occurs when a person ingests foods that they are allergic to. It is estimated that at least 70% of Westerners might be unknowingly suffering with food related allergies. Needless to say, having a healthy immune system translates to better protection against disease such as cancer, and encourages an overall sense of well-being, while a weakened immune system or GALT can mean the opposite.
To keep the GALT in tune, take a probiotic and multivitamin daily, and preferably one with vitamin C and zinc which are immune boosters. Also, eat whole plant foods and lots of fiber, and reduce the amount of poor quality food in your diet. Remove as much refined sugar from your diet as possible.
A Closer Look at the Lymphatic System
This is a system of thin tubes and lymph nodes which runs throughout the body. The lymph system makes up an important part of the immune system and plays a central role in fighting off harmful bacteria and other infections, such as cancer cells. In many ways, the lymph is quite similar to blood circulation, as in, the lymph system also branches through all parts of the body similar to the veins and arteries that carry blood. The only difference being, that the tubes of the lymph system are much finer in comparison, and carry a colorless fluid called “lymph.”
As the blood is circulated through the body, the fluid leaks out from the blood vessels and into the body’s tissue. The fluid then carries food to the cells and forms tissue fluid. This fluid then collects waste products such as damaged cells and bacteria along with any cancerous cells and drains into the lymph vessels. This fluid then travels through the lymph vessels and into the lymph glands.
The lymph glands are small bean shaped structures known as lymph nodes. These lymph nodes filter the lymph fluid as it passes through, while the white blood cells attack viruses or bacteria that are found in the lymph. When cancer cells break away from a tumor, they usually stick to one or more of the lymph nodes, which is why doctors first check the lymph nodes when they are working out how far the cancer has spread through the body. When the lymph nodes are swollen, doctors call it lymphadenopathy. The most common cause is infection but lymph nodes can also be swollen with cancer.
By far, the worst part of having leaky gut syndrome is that it doesn’t correct itself, and the person is left with no alternative but to work hard to reduce the spaces in their intestines to keep the pathogens at bay. At the end of the day, by living an active lifestyle, consuming the right foods, avoiding harmful chemicals and creating an overall healthy environment, one can reduce the risk of a number of cancers.