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Gut barrier functions and potential health issues

Your digestive tract is a vital part of your body, where food is broken down and absorbed into your bloodstream, eventually reaching your organs. Intestinal barrier and permeability play an important role in our health. It covers a surface of about 400 m2, and contains many small passages that allows water and nutrients to pass through while simultaneously blocking out harmful substances. When these passages get damaged due to infections, toxins, certain drugs, and other lifestyle factors, harmful bacteria and toxins may enter the bloodstream causing a condition known as leaky gut syndrome. On the one hand, an intact intestinal barrier protects the human organism against invasion of microorganisms and toxins, on the other hand, this barrier must allow the absorption of essential fluids and nutrients. Intestinal permeability, which is a feature of intestinal barrier function, is increasingly recognized as being of relevance for health and disease. 

Leaky gut is a digestive condition where bacteria and toxins are able to “leak” through or permeate the intestinal wall. Many medical professionals do not recognize it as an actual condition, however it has gained awareness lately throughout the natural health community. When harmful material enters the bloodstream, it can trigger inflammation and a reaction from the immune system. This leads to common problems such as significant bloating, food sensitivities, fatigue, digestive issues, and skin problems. Some scientists even claim that leaky gut is the underlying cause of most modern health problems such as celiac disease, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, IBS, and food allergies. 

What causes leaky gut, and how can you prevent it? It is likely that multiple contributing factors can lead to leaky gut syndrome. These include excessive sugar intake, long term use of NSAIDS (such as ibuprofen), excessive alcohol intake, nutrient deficiencies, chronic inflammation, stress, poor gut health, and yeast overgrowth. Unfortunately there are no proven effective treatments for leaky gut, due to the lack of scientific studies. However improving daily living habits such as diet and stress levels could help to relieve symptoms and improve digestive health. 

It can be difficult for doctors to diagnose issues with the gut, due to the lack of knowledge and grey area surrounding it. If you think you may have leaky gut syndrome, there could be a bigger issue causing it. It is often hard to pinpoint the definite cause of symptoms describing leaky gut, so always talk to your doctor to address your concerns and receive necessary treatment. 


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