Your gut is home to trillions of beneficial bacteria. You have 10 times more of these bacteria in your gastrointestinal system than you have cells in your body. You could say that you're more bacteria than human. This highly sophisticated system is where 80 percent of your immune system resides. Ninety-five percent of your body's serotonin, the body's "feel-good" hormone, is found not in the brain, but right in your gut. It's no wonder that your gut is referred to in scientific literature as the "second brain."
For all these reasons, in my clinical experience, we must always investigate the gastrointestinal system when dealing with any chronic health condition.
Leaky gut syndrome (also known as intestinal hyperpermeability), is the result of a compromise to the intestinal lining. During the normal digestion process the tight junctions (think of them as protective gates) stay closed, forcing all molecules to effectively be screened and only pass into the blood stream through the mucosal cells. For a number of reasons, these tight junctions can become “open,” or permeable, allowing bacteria, toxins, incompletely digested proteins, fats and waste into the bloodstream.
Once these toxins are in the blood, they flow throughout the body, which can trigger an autoimmune reaction. Because of this systemic problem, the list of conditions linked to intestinal hyperpermeability is far reaching. Arthritis, asthma, autism, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, type I diabetes, type II diabetes, skin disorders, thyroid disorders and weight loss resistance have all been linked to gut health issues.
With these overwhelming implications that leaky gut syndrome can have on your health, lets go over four tests that should be run to determine if a leaky gut is a factor in whatever chronic health issues you may be experiencing:
1. Food intolerance test.
When the immune system is in hyperactive mode, your body can product antibodies to commonly ingested foods. Sometimes the intolerance to certain foods creates obvious symptoms, but more often it creates a low-grade systemic inflammation over time.
2. Parasite test.
When the intestinal system is compromised, it can be a breeding ground for parasites. Parasitic infections are often associated with tropical or developing countries, but I see them frequently in Western patients with chronic conditions.
3. Bacterial dysbiosis test.
Just as with chronic parasitic infections, a weakened GI system can also cause an imbalance of bacterial life, or dysbiosis. When there's a pH change in the GI system, conditions like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) can arise. This change in your body's pH can can also cause higher levels of opportunistic bacteria such as H. pylori and E. coli.
4. Lactulose/Mannitol test.
This highly specific test analyzes urine for the clearance of two sugars, lactulose and mannitol, which are byproducts of leaky gut syndrome.
In functional medicine, a comprehensive diagnosis must be done to give answers and solutions to the person suffering with a chronic health condition, someone who is given very little hope in mainstream medicine. I consult people all over the world in dealing with these underlying issues such as gut health.