Leaky gut is anatomically defined as unhealthy gaps in the absorptive surface of the intestine. Supposedly the major cause is lectins and “anti-nutrients”- things that inflame the gut and interfere with nutrient absorption.
If you want a little science here it is: the gut has immune cells sitting on its surface as well that are supposed to guard you from nasty things in the food- things that might make you sick. These cells are also supposed to “educate” your immune system on a continuous basis so it can deal with toxins, bacteria and other inflammatory agents that you might ingest.
Along the way a balance is struck between these cells. If that balance in perturbed then your gut and your entire system may be perturbed. You may un balance your immune system. So far, the evidence is sketchy but there is some reasonable thought processes that suggest that some people with auto immune diseases have this as a contributing factor.
Remember Leaky Gut is a “syndrome” which means there is no clearly definable way to diagnose it.
As a result, its has been a catch all for many different problems and some people claim miraculous results and entire body habitus changes (weight loss, muscle building) and personality changes (happier, more productive better sleep) as well as overall decrease of resolution of joint pains and the ubiquitous “brain fog” (try spending less time on Facebook and your cell phone browsing nonsense!)
So, we are left with a situation that often permeates (no pun intended) the world of alternative medicine which I often inhabit.
What to do!?
Personally, I think I would start with a good probiotic and an honest assessment of my life choices and whether they have brought me happiness. I would look at sleep patterns and lifestyle choices like diet and exercise and try to improve those areas as needed.
There is no question that some illness like the latest epidemic of liver disease based on non-alcoholic fatty liver can cause changes in the intestine that might qualify as leaky gut. Similarly, the expansive use of non-nutritive sweeteners, specifically saccharin and the sugar alcohols can change the microbiome (bugs in your gut).
This is why probiotics may be the answer or at least part of it. It makes total sense to do what is needed to have a healthy bunch of little buddies in the gut to help you out.
But remember the inflammatory responses of your body are not limited to your gut-they are mostly global in your body, e.g. everywhere!
I maintain and always have that the single most important thing you can do for inflammation is get your Omega 3 doses up to a reasonable level.
The gut is part of the equation though and a Probiotic works wonderfully there.
So, if you think you might have leaky gut, start by fixing your microbiome!