Leaky Gut–One More Thing to Worry About


You have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard mention of Leaky Gut in the last few weeks. Dr. Oz has done several segments on it, and it’s being linked to autoimmune diseases. So let’s go over what we know. Like many autoimmune issues and chronic pain, leaky gut, which is also called increased intestinal permeability, can be difficult to diagnose.

First, there is no specific test to determine if someone has leaky gut. It has a wide range of symptoms and can present itself different in each person. Because of this, as with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, there’s a fair amount of skepticism in the medical community about the legitimacy of leaky gut. But with Dr. Oz talking about it all the time and the term being thrown around in autoimmune forums and communities, it’s getting more and more attention.

Okay, But What the Hell Is It?

The lining of our digestive system acts like a net with tiny holes that only allow through certain substances that are very small. It also keeps out substances that it deems undesirable. When a person has leaky  gut, this net becomes damaged, resulting in bigger holes that allow more things to pass through that ordinarily couldn’t.

When this happens, bacteria and viruses, as well as undigested food can leak from inside your intestines into the blood stream. That grossness can trigger your immune system to react. This is where it can affect those of us in the autoimmune community. The end result is inflammation in various parts of your body, causing a wide variety of symptoms like bloating, cramps, fatigue, food sensitivities, flushing, achy joints, headache and rashes. Any of those sound familiar?

So let’s get this straight. I have bloating, achy joints, and headaches. This is why I tend to stay off WebMD. I over-diagnose myself, but I do think there is some information here that is worthwhile knowing as we treat our autoimmune diseases.

According to DrOz.com, “Multiple food sensitivities are another hallmark of leaky gut, because partially digested particles of protein and fat may leak through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream and cause an allergic response. Increased intestinal permeability may potentially cause or worsen a number of other conditions, including Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), arthritis, psoriasis, eczema and asthma.”

As you know from previous blogs, I’m attempting to eliminate gluten from my diet to see if it is impacting and worsening some of my rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyaglia symptoms. My goal is to be on as little medication as possible, but I’m also at the point where I’ve been in so much joint pain that I’m missing out on normal activities. Everyone needs to weigh their decisions about medications for themselves. But let’s be honest, some of these medications are scary. For many of us, the benefits outweigh the risks, though. It’s not an easy place to be.

And guess what else can lead to leaky gut? Stress. And who among us doesn’t have that in their life? I’m a mom of three kids ages 7, 8, and 10. I run around like a chicken with my head cut off most of the time trying to juggle activities, homework, dinner, baths–all while being a working mom. I don’t think I know anyone that can say they have no stress, but boy it sure would be nice.

How Do I Know If I Have It?

While there’s no specific test that can tell you with 100% certainty that you have leaky gut, a positive Intestinal Permeability Test is strongly associated with the condition. This test measures the ability of two non-metabolized sugar molecules – mannitol and lactulose – to get through the digestive lining. With test combined with symptoms you are experiencing, doctors can make a diagnosis.

What Can I Do if I Have Leaky Gut?

Like everything else in the vast array of autoimmune diseases, there is no miracle pill or cure. An anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates refined sugars, dairy, gluten, alcohol and artificial sweeteners like aspartame can be very helpful. While I don’t promote products or get involved with things like that on this personal blog, I truly advise those of you who haven’t eliminated aspartame to do some research. You can also looking for an upcoming blog post on the subject. Believe me, I was a diet soda drinker at least once a day. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it, especially when I eat pizza, but when I cut out the diet soda I found that my cravings for sweets also lessened.

So what can you eat? Eating lots of anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids in fish and nuts, and filling up on green leafy vegetables, high-fiber and fermented foods that help to promote the growth of good bacteria is also crucial. It’s also a good idea, according to my own doctor, to take a probiotic daily. This can help heal a damaged intestinal lining.

Most people will notice improvement within 6 weeks depending on how serious the condition is within the body. So here’s what I’m thinking. I’m working hard on giving up gluten (I did eat some cupcake batter today, and I’m not sorry about it), I don’t eat foods with aspartame, and I hardly drink alcohol. What’s left is refine sugar and dairy.

To be honest, despite how many people who are on a clean eating program without sugar, gluten, and dairy are saying how much better they feel, I don’t want to set myself up for failure. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a goal of cutting way back on sugar. I think I was supposed to start that this week, but did I mention how much pain I’m in and that my kids are home for February break? Did I mention that we just got almost a foot of snow and that we’re getting more tomorrow morning?

I can’t make it through without my chocolate. I know my limitations! My point is I’m going to try and be conscious about the processed foods and sugar. I’m not going on any diet that won’t allow chocolate, but if some small modifications can help with my swelling and pain from fibro and RA, it’s worth a shot.

Dairy is the other thing that I would have a hard time with giving up. While I’m not a milk drinker, I do enjoy my Greek yogurt (personal note: have you tried Yoplait Greek? It’s delicious!) and I like cheese. I eat fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes for lunch–and if you read my blog on nightshade vegetables, you know that’s not recommended either.

I just don’t believe in setting myself up for failure, especially now when I am down on myself. I’m heavier than I every have been and feel and look awful. Hell, I felt so ugly one day that I bought those Cindy Crawford creams with the super melon from France that’s probably a cantaloupe — they do make my skin very soft, by the way.

My point is that a complete elimination diet is not within reach for me right now. I’m doing pretty darn well eating gluten free, and now I’m going to cut down on the sugar and make sure I’m drinking a lot more water to flush things out of my system.

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve been diagnosed with leaky gut. What are your symptoms and does the elimination diet truly make a big difference? Please keep the conversation going either by commenting her or on the Autoimmune Mama Facebook page. Don’t forget to like the Facebook page or follow us on Twitter @AutoimmuneMama1. Feel free to use the Facebook page to start your own conversations and ask questions. We can help each other both through information and support. You all have no idea how much you’ve helped me already. Thank you!!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. helensamia
    Feb 14, 2014 @ 10:43:06

    I am making an effort with his diet.. But think am compensating by eating heaps of fruit!! Have not got rid of gluten but just have a bread roll at lunch.. So I am in cutting down phase!!!! Of to watch football tomorrow so save to have a beer!! My aim is the clean eating plan but I can’t just jump straight into it!! They say you need to rest and heal the gut .. I also read you must chew and chew food before you swallow!!


  2. helensamia
    Feb 14, 2014 @ 10:45:45

    Found this anti inflammatory diet that has chocolate on the top http://www.drweil.com/drw/ecs/pyramid/press-foodpyramid.html


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