What is Leaky Gut?


Gut Health

It seems that everywhere I go the most common questions I get have to do with Leaky Gut.  This seems fitting given that gut health is probably the biggest and most important factor for your general health and wellbeing. 

Consider the following:

  1. Your gut is responsible for up to 80% of your immune system.
  2. Your gut is responsible for protecting you against pathogens including parasites, bacteria, viruses, yeast and fungi.
  3. Your gut is responsible for production of many neurotransmitters therefore affecting mood.
  4. Your gut is responsible for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients needed to supply the body with the required building blocks for energy, growth, and repair.

It is now believed that gut health is responsible for up to 90% of chronic health conditions, including autoimmune diseases.  Many people, including medical professionals, fail to make the connection between chronic disease and gut health.  I cannot overstate the importance of identifying and correcting Leaky Gut before you develop serious health conditions or disease.

So what exactly is Leaky Gut?

The intestinal lining is the first mechanism of defense for our immune system.  The outer layers of intestinal cells (epithelial cells) are connected to form tight junctions.  At the tips of these cells are the microvilli, which absorb properly digested nutrients and transport them through the epithelial cell and into the bloodstream.  During the normal process of digestion, the tight junctions stay closed forcing all molecules to be screened and only pass into the bloodstream through the mucosa cells.   When these tight junctions become damaged, they open and allow larger molecules to flow directly into the bloodstream.   Think of how a screen door keeps insects out of the house.  When the screen is cut or torn, unwanted insects can freely enter the house.

Why are tight junctions so important?

Once the intestinal lining becomes permeable (Leaky Gut), bacteria, viruses, and larger undigested food molecules can move freely from the intestines into the bloodstream.  When this happens, your body recognizes these as “foreign” invaders and the immune system goes into full attack mode.  However, since very often these foreign invaders may be foods you are eating every day, the immune system cannot keep up and these substances are absorbed into tissues throughout the body causing them to inflame.

Now that your body is inflamed and the immune system is involved, the process can lead to your body attacking itself and the development of an array of autoimmune diseases such as Chronic Fatigue, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, Fibromyalgia, arthritis and MS, just to name a few.

Additionally, when you have Leaky Gut, the microvilli along the intestinal lining become damaged and cannot manufacture the digestive enzymes needed to properly digest food.  This results in improperly digested food getting into the bloodstream leading to food sensitivities and intolerances.

Next Steps

Our next articles will focus on what causes Leaky Gut and how it can be healed.  Very soon Vitopia will launch the Leaky Gut questionnaire to help you asses the loss of function and possibilities for root cause healing.

We will also cover diet and specific supplements to heal Leaky Gut in upcoming articles.  For now, keep in mind that two of our Foundational Four supplements important for maintaining overall gut health include a good quality Omega-3 and probiotics.  Our recommended brands for these two products are OrthoOmega-820 and Ortho-Biotic.

Make sure to check out our in-depth articles on preventing and healing chronic diseases utilizing a Functional Medicine approach.

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Wishing you good health!

Mike Woodley, R.Ph, FAARM, FMNM


Posted by Mike Woodley on


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