Leaky gut - or leaky gut syndrome (LGS) - is a poorly recognized but very common problem, which is rarely tested for. This condition results from an overly-permeable intestinal lining with spaces between the cells of the gut wall. These spaces allow “foreign” material (bacteria, toxins and food) to leak into your body where they should not be, placing an additional burden on the immune and detoxification systems.
If the gut is not healthy, the rest of the body cannot be either. LGS makes it increasingly difficult to maintain a sense of wellness. Chemical sensitivity, fibromyalgia and escalating food allergies are among the many manifestations of a leaky gut.
The barrier maintained by a healthy intestinal mucosa is an incomplete one to begin with. Small numbers of molecules of different sizes and characteristics do cross the intact epithelium by both active and passive mechanisms. Generally, the larger the molecule, the less likely it is to be allowed across. Once the gut lining becomes inflamed or damaged, it becomes more difficult to keep foreign, larger particles out. As the spaces between cells open up, larger particles are allowed to be absorbed into the body.
Normally the body sees only tiny food antigens and limited amounts of bacteria. When it sees these new, larger ones, it considers them foreign invaders. Antibodies are then produced against once harmless foods and your immune system becomes increasingly occupied with chores it should not have to be performing. Your health becomes more difficult to maintain as increasing numbers of foods must be avoided for you to feel well.
Even though the gut is becoming leakier, vitamin and mineral absorption becomes reduced - not increased, as you might expect - because some carrier mechanisms of absorption become damaged as part of the process. Many nutrients have to be carried across the barrier and will not otherwise be absorbed.
The junctions between cells not only need to be 'tight' but the surface area of the small intestine must be large for normal nutrient processing to occur. Continued irritation and inflammation of the gut lining causes an even greater malabsorption by reducing the overall surface area of the lining. Even when consuming the healthiest of diets, inadequate nutrient absorption may compound the problem of having to deal with all these new foreign invaders.