Do you suffer with leaky gut? Sounds unappealing, doesn’t it?…
The condition ‘leaky gut’ has moved to the forefront of mainstream media recently and refers to a disorder of the digestive system. Also known as intestinal permeability, leaky gut syndrome can have some serious impacts on your health; so, what can you do about it?
In this article we will discuss the somewhat-controversial topic and examine how a high-quality prebiotic supplement – such as our favorite, Performance Lab Prebiotic – may be your answer to leaky gut syndrome.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
As mentioned above, intestinal permeability causes bacteria and undigested food to ‘leak’ (hence the ‘leaky gut’) through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream. Typically, when food is consumed, it is broken down by digestive enzymes, stomach acid and bile so the nutrients can be absorbed or excreted. This happens in the digestive tract, which is responsible for numerous processes in the body that are key to good health.
Firstly, the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is where the microbial ecosystem digest and ferment food for nutrient absorption. The GI tract has a single layer of cells, known as the epithelial cells, that separate the inside of the gut from the rest of the body. The intestinal walls play a key role in protecting the body against pathogens and toxins that cause inflammation if they cross the cell barrier into the bloodstream.
The cell walls control what can pass through the tight junctions (small gaps) into the bloodstream to be transported to the major organs. For example, a pathogen would be kept in the GI tract to be killed (cell apoptosis) or excreted in the urine, whereas a nutrient would be released for absorption.
Increased intestinal permeability refers to gaps in the tight junctions of the intestinal wall, allowing undigested food and bacteria to pass into the bloodstream. This can cause a range of health complications, ranging from malabsorption of nutrients to an inflammatory immune system response.
An animal study measured the effect of bypassing the cell wall by injecting bacteria directly into the colon. The researchers found that this caused an inflammatory response that resembled Crohn’s disease. According to a 2006 study published in the scientific journal ‘Gut’, individuals who have experienced this condition cited symptoms of bloating, chronic fatigue, acne, food intolerances and a range of other digestive issues.
According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, individuals who suffer with Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, celiac disease, chemotherapy patients and those with compromised bowels due to drug abuse have increased intestinal permeability.
However, here’s the controversial bit…
This condition is not recognized by most medical professionals, in fact, it’s not considered a medical diagnosis. Just because those individuals mentioned are likely to have intestinal permeability, it does not mean that intestinal permeability caused their health conditions.
According to scientists, there is no solid evidence to support the theory that increased intestinal permeability is responsible for inflammatory problems in the body. But that being said, most medical professionals and physicians do agree that intestinal permeability is a characteristic of the chronic diseases mentioned above.
What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?
While the cause of leaky gut syndrome is largely unknown, some researchers have attempted to establish some variables that may cause or contribute to the disorder.
One study that looked at intestinal permeability found that excess dietary fructose (sugar) was a potential risk factor in the likelihood of developing leaky gut syndrome. Another study tested the effect of excess fructose in mice by feeding them a 30% fructose solution for eight weeks, resulting in a loss of tight junction proteins.
Another possible cause of leaky gut syndrome is the excessive or long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like paracetamol or ibuprofen. A study that looked at this found that leaky gut syndrome can be induced by too much NSAIDs, because it causes biochemical tissue damage. When a NSAID is consumed it causes increased intestinal permeability for 24 hours following, so with long term use can cause irreversible damage.
Of course, if you are taking NSAIDs on doctor’s orders or for chronic pain, please speak to a health professional first about your options.
The most researched cause of leaky gut syndrome, however, is poor gut health.
There are numerous studies that show strong associations between a poorly populated gut microbiome and disease, acne, anxiety and depression, obesity and a range of other conditions you’d probably prefer to avoid. The more different types of bacterial strains found in your gut microflora, the more diverse the ecosystem and the stronger and healthier your gut is.
When there are more harmful bacteria in the gut than good bacteria, the barrier function of the intestinal wall is compromised, resulting in increased intestinal permeability. Numerous studies cite poor gut health as a contributing or causal factor for leaky gut syndrome.
There are a number of other causes that have been hypothesized by the science community, but most are based on limited evidence. These included, chronic inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, stress and excessive alcohol consumption.
What Can Help Leaky Gut Syndrome?
- Eat fiber
When you eat fiber like fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, your body can’t break them down in normal digestion, which sounds bad but it’s not. They are called non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs) and are fermented in the small intestine by the gut bacteria. The gut bacteria then break them down so that the nutrients can be absorbed and so the fiber can be converted into energy for the cells.
Essentially, by eating fiber, you are feeding your gut microflora to create more good bacteria. And if you’ve read this far, you should know that good bacteria equal a healthy gut, and a healthy gut equals a healthy body. So, stock up on fiber.
- Eat probiotic dense foods
Probiotics are live cultures of good bacteria and is one of the easiest ways you can improve your gut health. When consumed, probiotics travel to your gut where they add to the population of microbes.
Probiotics can help bring diversity to your gut, providing different bacterial strains, as well as increasing the density of good bacteria to prevent disease, decrease inflammation and more.
Live cultures are found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh and kimchi. Some of these foods may be difficult for you to find, so stick to something you can definitely find: yogurt. Not all yogurts contain live bacteria, so make sure you go for the high-quality, ideally low sugar, yogurts that typically contain the strains Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, bacterial strain linked in research to good gut and host health.
- Eat prebiotic dense foods
Prebiotics are different to probiotics, on the basis that probiotics are live cultures while prebiotics are types of dietary fiber known as fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS). FOS are similar to NSPs on the basis that they are non-digestible, so travel to the gut and feed the good bacteria. They provide key nutrients for the gut so that more good bacteria can grow.
Some examples of prebiotic foods are green bananas, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, onions and garlic. Adding these into your cooking will help to provide your gut with the boost it needs.
But if these foods aren’t your favorite, or you’re not really one for cooking, or perhaps you’d just prefer a simpler path – try a supplement. Prebiotic supplements are a great option for people who’d like to improve their gut health regardless of whether you have pre-existing symptoms, or you’d just like to ensure your gut health is working optimally.
Performance Lab Prebiotic
The Prebiotic supplement created by Performance Lab contains only one ingredient: inulin-FOS, coated in an easily digested plant capsule.
What is Inulin-FOS?
Inulin-FOS is a soluble fiber sourced from chicory root, a well-researched prebiotic food. Inulin is used in medicine to improve gut health obtained by soaking chicory roots in hot water. It has many advanced and researched benefits including decreasing cholesterol and triglycerides, weight loss, constipation and digestive issues.
Inulin is a ‘fructan’ – a chain of fructose molecules connected so tightly they are not digestible by the small intestine and pass down to the gut where the inulin provides fuel for the bacterial ecosystem living there. Chicory root provides the highest density of inulin per 100 grams compared to all other prebiotic plant foods.
The range of benefits associated with inulin-FOS is extensive. One study on inulin found that it helps to stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the gut. This would suggest it is beneficial for leaky gut syndrome which is thought to be in part caused by an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the gut.
Bottom Line: Regularly taking a prebiotic can prevent leaky gut.
When you consistently take the Performance Lab prebiotic, you are providing a fuel source for the good bacteria in the gut; allowing more good bacteria to grow and to control the growth of bad bacteria. This may help to decrease intestinal permeability, as explored in the studies mentioned.
So, don’t suffer in silence: if you think you experience leaky gut syndrome, start paying more attention to your gut health. Consuming the Performance Lab Prebiotic may help your gut to perform better, to reduce the impact and symptoms of leaky gut syndrome for good.