Leaky gut syndrome has had a lot of air time recently – and with seemingly good reason! It’s been claimed that leaky gut syndrome is the culprit behind a host of medical conditions, from IBS to auto immune diseases. But can we really fix all these issues by targeting a “leaky gut” which supposedly, as the name suggests, is leaking toxins out of our intestine into the rest of our body?
Also known as increased intestinal permeability, leaky gut is theoretically where the tight junctions, or proteins, that link the cells of the intestinal wall have gaps formed between them, allowing space for these “toxins” to escape. While good in theory, there simply is not enough evidence to show this is the cause of gastrointestinal (or other) conditions.
Not a condition on its own, we do know that a leaky gut is a symptom of a lot of different medically diagnosed conditions, for example IBS, Crohn’s Disease and Coeliac Disease. But again, we can’t say with current evidence that it is a cause of these conditions. If you think about it, it makes sense that having one treatment (in this case for leaky gut) to “cure” multiple medical conditions is just not possible.
Factors that are likely to be linked with increased intestinal permeability include alcohol consumption, NSAIDs, chemotherapy, trauma and stress. But, like a lot of things related to nutrition and the way our bodies work, there is a lot to learn in regard to cause and effect of leaky gut and medical conditions.
One word of caution I’d like to leave you with – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be cautious of diets or meal plans that claim to “heal” your gut. At best, it may be a waste of your money and at worst, it may be contraindicated if you have other medical conditions or mean that other conditions remain undiagnosed. As always, discuss with your health care team and contact a dietitian if you are worried about your nutrition.