This digestive tract disease leads to a host of other health issues.
Real Housewives of New York City star Bethenny Frankel has been diagnosed with leaky gut syndrome (LGS), a condition that millions of people are struggling with though they may not know it. LGS not only affects the digestive system, but leads to other health conditions as well, warn experts.
So, what is leaky gut syndrome? Doctors say it is a condition in which there is increased permeation of bacteria and toxins from the digestive tract into the bloodstream, which carries it through the rest of the body.
The digestive tract is where food is broken down for absorption. “Most of the vitamins and minerals in the foods you eat are absorbed through the small intestine. It contains microscopic pores so that nutrients can be transferred into the bloodstream and then deposited all around the body by the blood,” explains Dr Naveen Polavarapu, Consultant, Gastroenterologist and Transplant Hepatologist, Apollo Hospitals.
An unhealthy gut lining may have large cracks or holes, allowing partially digested food, toxins, and bugs to penetrate the tissues beneath it. “In the intestinal tract there are small gaps called tight junctions, which allow water and nutrients to pass into the bloodstream while keeping harmful substances inside. In LGS, these openings become wider, which may allow bacteria and toxins to pass from the gut into the bloodstream,” says Dr Polavarapu.
The latest research shows that changes in the intestinal bacteria and inflammation may play a role in the development of several common chronic diseases including LGS. A leaky gut can lead to food allergies, low energy, joint pains, thyroid disease, autoimmune conditions and slow metabolism.
“Symptoms can range from bloating, chronic diarrhoea, constipation, headaches, fatigue, food sensitivity, low energy levels, joint problems, slow metabolism, skin problems, thyroid problems, mood swings, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and autism,” says Dr Polavarapu. “Making lifestyle changes like reducing stress, exercising and quitting smoking can improve digestion and support a healthy gut,” he says.
l Excessive sugar intake, which harms the barrier function of the intestinal wall.
l Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, which can increase intestinal permeability and contribute to leaky gut.
l Excessive alcohol intake.
l Nutrient deficiencies of vitamin A, vitamin D and zinc, which could cause increased intestinal permeability.
l Inflammation can contribute to leaky gut.
l Chronic stress, which could contribute to gastrointestinal disorders.
l Disruption of the balance between good and bad bacteria, affecting the barrier function of the intestinal wall.
l Yeast overgrowth.