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What is a Leaky Gut?

What is a Leaky Gut?

The list of symptoms associated with leaky gut is long and confusing. Because they vary widely and mirror the signs of other health conditions, symptoms alone can’t tell you whether you have a leaky gut or not. But they can let you know that it’s time to seek a professional diagnosis.

Dr. David Larson at SourceMD: Integrated Wellness Solutions in Encinitas, California, takes a holistic approach to identifying and treating leaky gut. He uses functional medicine methods to consider your condition from every possible angle and identify the source of your symptoms. This way, he can resolve the root cause rather than merely mask the effects.

If you suspect you have leaky gut syndrome, here’s what you should know.

What is the gut and why does it leak?

You may think of your digestive tract, also known as your gut, as something that’s in your stomach. Actually, your gut starts at your mouth, ends at your anus, and includes your esophagus, stomach, and large and small intestines.

The average human has about 4,000 square feet of intestinal lining, which is a lot of surface area where something could go wrong, including leaky gut.

As that long tube winds its way through your body, it transports food, breaks it down, and releases the nutrients through tiny but tight openings in the lining, called desmosomes. These little ports have an amazing ability to allow the transfer of nutrients while keeping harmful toxins and bacteria from getting out.

If those openings widen due to damage or disease, they may allow food particles and harmful substances to leak out and enter your bloodstream, triggering a host of symptoms.

Symptoms of leaky gut syndrome

Leaky gut affects everyone differently. You may have mild, intermittent symptoms or severe and chronic symptoms. Here are a few you might notice:

  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Indigestion
  • Gas and bloating
  • Anxiety
  • Vaginal yeast infections
  • Bladder problems
  • Skin rashes
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Confusion, lack of concentration, memory problems
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain

We weren’t kidding when we said the symptoms are varied and confusing. Because these symptoms could point to many other health conditions as well, Dr. Larson runs a special leaky gut test to inform his diagnosis and treatment plan.

Testing for leaky gut syndrome

To find out if you’re experiencing leaky gut symptoms or signs of something else, Dr. Larson administers a mannitol and lactulose test.

Because both of these substances contain water-soluble molecules that your body doesn’t use, Dr. Larson can monitor what your body does with them when they enter your intestines, giving us valuable information about what’s going on in your gut.

To take the test, you simply drink a solution containing lactulose and mannitol. After about six hours, Dr. Larson analyzes your urine. If your gut is healthy, it will have completely absorbed the tiny mannitol molecules and only slightly absorbed the larger lactulose molecules.

If we discover high levels of either or both molecules, it means you have a leaky gut.

What causes leaky gut syndrome?

There’s some debate in the medical field about the exact causes of leaky gut syndrome, but most agree that it occurs when the intestinal lining becomes irritated or damaged, which loosens the desmosomes. So, what irritates and damages the intestinal lining? Here are a few common culprits:

  • Infections
  • Sustained stress levels
  • Environmental toxins
  • Too much alcohol
  • Bad diet
  • Excess bad bacteria in the small intestine
  • Medications

These are just a few of the factors that can harm your intestinal lining. It’s also possible that an autoimmune disease; inflammatory conditions like arthritis, food allergies, and sensitivities; and more can be responsible for damaging your gastrointestinal tract.

Overcoming leaky gut syndrome

Although Dr. Larson helps you find immediate relief for your symptoms, he’s even more focused on getting to the bottom of what’s causing them so they go away forever. So, he focuses on healing your intestinal lining, which may involve:

  • Increasing the good bacteria in your gut (probiotics)
  • Eating more fiber
  • Cutting back on red meat and dairy products
  • Eliminating sugar
  • Exercising regularly
  • Sleeping well
  • Reducing stress

Dr. Larson considers every aspect of your life that may be contributing to your leaky gut, including your living and work environments, your diet, whether or not you smoke, medications you take, and more.

If your gut is leaking harmful substances into your bloodstream, you can trust Dr. Larson to find out why and help you resolve it. To learn more or to get tested for leaky gut syndrome, schedule a consultation today.