by Lissa Rankin, OB/GYN
What do your intestines have to do with mojo? EVERYTHING! Sure, you can be vital , even if you’re ill. But if you have leaky gut syndrome, it might manifest in ways you would never expect, such as depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, food allergies, gas and bloating, or the inability to find relief from other diseases, even when adequately treated.
What is leaky gut syndrome?
Good question. I’m a doctor and I never heard about it at Duke or Northwestern, where I trained. While conventional medicine doesn’t recognize the existence of “leaky gut” syndrome, many naturopathic and integrative medicine doctors believe that a “leaky gut” can impair the natural healing process of the body and impede both traditional and alternative treatments.
In theory, leaky gut syndrome results from damage to the intestinal lining that leads to a state of intestinal hyperpermeability, allowing undigested proteins, fats, waste, bacteria, and other toxins to “leak” through the gut membrane, which should only allow healthy nutrients through. These particles can then wind up in the blood stream and lymphatic system, where the immune system tries to come to the rescue to eliminate these unwanted intruders, triggering an auto-immune response. While a natural immune response is usually a good thing, too much can lead to a state of inflammation, which wreaks havoc in ways you may never relate to gastrointestinal function. A normal intestinal lining brilliantly lets good stuff through, while screening bad stuff out, allowing it to be excreted as waste. But when this membrane is impaired, beware!
What kinds of symptoms might result from leaky gut?
Common early symptoms include gas, bloating, and fatigue, which should not be considered normal. These harbingers of other stuff brewing may be your only clue that your intestines need to be healed. If time goes by, you may wind up with chronic fatigue, skin rashes like eczema, psoriasis, or even chronic vulvar itching, food allergies, gluten intolerance, memory problems, mood disorders, body aches and joint pains, and other vague, seemingly unrelated conditions.
Why has my doctor never heard of this?
Nobody ever taught me about leaky gut syndrome in medical school, and unless you’re out there researching and self-educating yourself about complementary and alternative medicine treatments, you would never hear about it. Why is that? We Western docs are research fanatics, and the trust of the matter is that most of the expensive research that fuels modern medicine is sponsored by drug companies hoping to prove that their product works. Once they’ve proved it in randomized controlled trials, it becomes mainstream. Because there is no “drug” to treat leaky gut syndrome and nobody has paid to perform big studies, we just don’t have a lot of data out there in the mainstream medical literature, so it falls largely into the realm of what traditional docs call “anecdotal medicine” (and d...