What is “leaky gut” and how do I know if this is causing my health concerns?

By: Dr. Michael Morsillo, B.Sc., N.D.

It was Hippocrates who said “all disease begins in the gut”; and with that said, I believe that all healing begins in the gut as well.  Our intestinal health is so important for our overall health, and research is proving this more and more.  Our intestinal tract has many important functions: it acts as part of our nutrient delivery system, it is a vital part of our immune system, and it is a very important protective barrier.  When the intestinal lining becomes inflamed or damaged, it can result in what is known as Intestinal Hyperpermeability (or Leaky Gut Syndrome).

As you can imagine, leaky gut syndrome can contribute to irritable bowel syndrome, crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and any other digestive concerns such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation.  However, leaky gut syndrome can also play a large role in the development of many other conditions: hypothyroidism, psoriasis, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, urticaria (hives), seasonal/food allergies, depression, chronic fatigue, autism spectrum disorder, and more.

When the intestinal barrier becomes permeable or “leaky”, protein molecules that should not be moving out of the digestive tract, begin to escape into the bloodstream. Studies are showing that the body will then mount an immune response to this, and this attack may play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases.   Leaky gut syndrome occurs long before these conditions are diagnosed; therefore, many people may have leaky gut, without any symptoms at all.  Below are some of the factors that can contribute to leaky gut syndrome. 

  • Imbalance of healthy bacteria in the gut
  • Food allergies/sensitivities
  • Antibiotics and other medications
  • Low fiber intake
  • Alcohol and toxins
  • Chronic stress
  • High sugar intake and refined carbohydrates

The intestinal microflora (bacteria) plays a big role in intestinal health and leaky gut, and it’s no surprise that imbalances in intestinal bacteria (dysbiosis), has also been linked to many of the health conditions mentioned above.  Intestinal bacteria promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism and comprises more than 75% of our immune system.

If you have encountered some of these factors, you can still take steps to restore intestinal health:

  • Eat as many organic foods as you can and avoid refined sugars/carbohydrates
  • Eat plenty of fermentable fibers (starches like sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc.)
  • Eat fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chi.
  • Take a high-quality, multi-species probiotic
  • Take steps to manage your stress
  • Have a food allergy/sensitivity test done (see below for details)

At our Newmarket Naturopathic clinic, when patients present with digestive symptoms or conditions that stem from poor intestinal health, we will often perform testing for leaky gut (intestinal permeability), bacterial overgrowth (dysbiosis), and food allergies (food sensitivities).  These tests will help us to identify the underlying causes for your symptoms or chronic health conditions, and we can then develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

Once food sensitivities have been identified, they can be removed to prevent further intestinal damage and inflammation.  We can then use a combination of herbal medicines, supplements, and dietary changes to help repair the intestinal lining, decrease inflammation, improve bacterial balance and nutrient status.

Dr. Michael Morsillo is a naturopathic doctor who is passionate about helping others achieve their optimal level of health.  Michael maintains a clinical practice in Newmarket, where he focuses on cancer, anxiety, depression, thyroid disorders, detoxification, and weight loss. 

For more information or to schedule an appointment:

Call 905-898-1844 (ext. 135) or email dr.morsillo@gmail.com