What Exactly is this LEAKY GUT Phenomena?

Leaky Gut

The link between Inflammation, Chronic Disease, and Innate Vitality

I start out most of my explanations to patients telling them that, “Inflammation is the #1 common denominator between all chronic disease.”

“Inflammation is the #1 common denominator between all chronic disease.” 

Because of this, one of my initial goals as a Functional Medicine Practitioner is to decrease overall inflammation. If we can minimize inflammation, oftentimes chronic symptoms decrease and become easier to manage and balance, if not altogether disappear.

In order to restore optimal health, we need to expand our focal point used by the conventional medical system model of disease symptom management. We have to learn to think upstream from our symptoms, to get to the root cause. As Functional Medicine Practitioners, we take a 360° look at current disease diagnosis and symptoms, all the details of a patient’s story that have led up to where they are today (antecedents), and couple this with physiologic testing in search of the root cause.

Remember, there is intelligence to the design of the human body. When inflammation goes down, that innate intelligence, vitality and ability to restore optimal function and wellness increases.

So, what exactly is this “LEAKY GUT” phenomena that everyone is talking about?

Integrative and Functional Practitioners have been talking about “Leaky Gut” for decades now, whereas conventional medical practitioners are just now beginning to open their minds to this. Leaky Gut has many names, and in medical literature is often referenced as Intestinal Barrier Penetration[1], or Intestinal Hyper-Permeability. Leaky gut is not a diagnosis of disease, and there is no ICD-10 code that can be given to your insurance company for them to label your condition as “Leaky Gut”. This is because Leaky Gut is not a disease; it is a physiologic state of the intestinal barrier, whereby larger particles and molecules are able to penetrate into our circulatory system, and stimulate an immune response. This ultimately triggers an inflammatory alarm response, which causes a variety of symptoms in different people. For one person it might be cystic acne, another person-Rheumatoid Arthritis, and another person- Irritable Bowel Disease.[2]

We are constantly interfacing with our environments on many levels. On a very simple level – physically we are designed to take in the outside world, decipher what we can and cannot utilize, hold on to what is essential through digestion and absorption, and eliminate what is not essential.

Leaky Gut Progression


On a simple level: our bodies are designed to take things in, and let things out.

What protects us from our environment are a series of barrier systems, which include but are not limited to: the skin barrier, lung barrier, gut barrier, and blood brain barrier. These barrier systems act like semi-permeable shields that allow some things in, and keep many things out. We inhale air, we hold on to oxygen, we exhale carbon dioxide. If you rub a topical hormone cream on to your skin, you will absorb that hormone into your circulatory system and influence your body’s hormone levels[4]; but you don’t melt like the Wicked Witch of the West when we go into water! The blood brain barrier is highly selective when it comes to permeability, in order to preserve brain function, and ultimately survival. Only certain bacteria, drugs, nano-particles and peptides are able to penetrate the blood brain barrier.

The gut barrier system is where a majority of the direct interface with the outside world occurs. This barrier system is only one cell layer thick, and is comprised of highly specialized cells called enterocytes. These cells form a barrier between your circulatory system, immune system and the outside world that comes in through the form of food, medicines, toxins, bacteria and viruses.

Gastrointestinal health is a core concept in the world of Functional and Integrative Medicine and is ultimately a central component in navigating to the root cause of many symptom pictures, and diseases.

In a Nut Shell: if you have Leaky Gut, inflammation increases.


So what do you do?

Head on over to these other awesome articles!

STEP #1: Assess whether you have Leaky Gut

STEP #2: Determine the cause/s of Leaky Gut

STEP #3: Remove the cause/s of Leaky Gut, while also repairing the gut barrier (brush border)

A Functional Medicine Practitioner can help guide you along all of these steps. It is in your best interest to work directly with a practitioner who has experience analyzing, assessing and treating Leaky Gut as well as your overall symptoms.

I hope you enjoy this Leaky Gut “Inspired Health” educational Tip!

Be inspired,

Dr. Meaghan Dishman

[1] http://www.immunoscienceslab.com/Articles/Size%20Matters.pdf

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4036413/

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16109596

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4403087/

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