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These 6 Factors Might Lead To Leaky Gut, Says A Gastroenterologist

Marvin Singh, M.D.
Integrative Gastroenterologist By Marvin Singh, M.D.
Integrative Gastroenterologist
Marvin Singh, M.D. is an integrative gastroenterologist in San Diego, California. He is trained and board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology/hepatology.
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Disclaimer: Leaky gut syndrome is not an official medical diagnosis.

The gastrointestinal system is one of the more impactful systems we have. Also known as the digestive tract, the GI system affects nearly everything and interacts with many different facets of our health. 

The gut is the portal through which we treat many diseases. 

Think of the medicines or supplements you take. Most are taken orally, which means your gastrointestinal system is involved. If your system is weak, or not functioning properly, it can't help but affect everything else. Changes made to your digestive tract affect the rest of your body. 

It's through this lens that we want to start our journey toward understanding our bodies and what we can do to improve our health, quality of life, and longevity. Using the gut as the starting point, we can also develop a better understanding of the "new" systems: the microbiomes. So, let's start with gaining a clearer picture of our digestive tract. 

Understanding the GI tract.

To start with, the gastrointestinal tract is lined with a mucus layer that serves as a protective barrier. Just under this mucus layer there is a single layer of epithelial cells connected to one another by a series of "drawbridges" called tight junctions. The role of the tight junctions is twofold:

  1. to limit the passage of material between the cells
  2. to block the movement of substances between the surfaces of the cell, thereby preserving their unique function
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What might cause "leaky gut."

When there is an insult to the digestive lining caused by something like a particular food, food chemical, environmental exposure, or stress (or all of the above), we see several things happen. 

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The mucosal layer thins or develops weak points; the tight junctions—those "drawbridges"—become damaged; and the gut microbiome (the ecosystem of trillions of microbes that live in the gut) becomes imbalanced or further imbalanced. 

When there is a weakness in the lining of the gut, there is an opportunity for things to get into the bloodstream that should not be there (like bacteria, bacterial toxins, food particles, toxins, etc.). This is what we mean when we talk about "leaky gut" or intestinal permeability. When this happens, the immune system freaks out and starts mounting an attack against the foreign invaders. This typically results in inflammation, which can result in a whole host of chronic symptoms and issues. 

So, what causes a weakness in the mucosal lining of the gut? A wide variety of things can cause the normal healthy lining of the GI tract to become more permeable. Some examples include: 

  • Medicine
  • Pathogens
  • Cosmetics
  • Pesticides
  • Heavy metals
  • Plastics

With every insult to the GI tract, the immune system gets activated and chronic inflammation can settle in any of the organ systems of the body (remember, everything is connected). Some examples include psoriasis, heart disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. All three of these conditions are viewed as entirely different diseases, but the root cause, or source of the dysfunction, may actually be coming from the same place: the GI tract.

Excerpt from Rescue Your Health by Marvin Singh, M.D., copyright © 2021. Reprinted in arrangement with MCBW Wellness LLC.

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