The term ‘leaky gut’ is all over the internet and claimed to be the underlying cause of many conditions, ranging from allergies and intolerances, anxiety and depression, migraines, arthritis, autoimmune diseases and many, many more.
Whilst it is considered a grey area in mainstream medicine, the concept of leaky gut is widely accepted and treated in the naturopathic and integrated medical community.
What exactly is ‘leaky gut’?
Why should you consider addressing it if you suffer from chronic fatigue?
It may sound wishy-washy, but a ‘leaking gut’ actually refers to the medical term “intestinal hyperpermeability”, where the permeability of the epithelial lining may be compromised and allow the passage of toxins, antigens and bacteria to enter the bloodstream.
When the gut barrier is disrupted and there is dysbiosis in the gut (microbial imbalance), translocation of microbes and undigested food into the bloodstream can result in subsequent inflammation both locally and systemically. This is why it is considered to contribute to such a wide variety of chronic conditions, since many are driven by underlying systemic inflammation
Addressing leaky gut syndrome in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome is important because while there are no biological markers specific to this disease have been identified, the literature suggests that the pathophysiology must involve an integrating system or mechanisms such as the brain-gut axis and the autonomic nervous system
It also describes immune dysfunction, often preceded by viral infection, and it is well documented that intestinal microflora have protective, metabolic, trophic and immunological functions, and are able to “cross-talk” with the immune component of mucosal immunity
It is therefore crucial to address leaky gut syndrome since altered intestinal microbiota, mucosal barrier dysfunction, and aberrant intestinal immunity may contribute to the pathogenesis of the manifestation of Chronic Fatigue
The breakdown of immune homeostasis following the development of gut inflammation, caused for example by dysbiosis, and the consequent increased intestinal permeability and translocation of commensal antigens into systemic circulation is postulated to be a likely cause of fatigue and a range of neuroc-ognitive, neuro-imaging, and overall symptom presentations seen in chronic fatigue patients
From this perspective, until you treat one of the major underlying causes of immune dysfunction observed in chronic fatigue – intestinal hyper-permeability – ongoing chronic fatigue may be difficult to address.
If you think that intestinal hyper-permeability may be associated with your chronic fatigue or other related illness, what can you start doing today?
1. Eliminate aggravating factors:
Gluten, Dairy, Soy and refined carbohydrates are major drivers of inflammation in an already compromised microbiome and gut-wall – Identifying food allergies and intolerances will enable you to remove the foods that you are reacting to, so that the gut can start to heal itself by removing reactive foods
2. Stress Management & Emotional Health
Activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and HPA axis (adrenaline, cortisol) in response to physical and psychological stress increases gut permeability (5) – Incorporating mindful breathing exercises, meditation, creative activities, yoga and scheduled relaxation is crucial not only for leaky gut but overall health. Seeing a psychotherapist or counsellor can also be extremely beneficial
3. Reduce Digestive Symptoms
Although some people with leaky gut appear asymptomatic, many suffer from symptoms such as bloating, excessive flatulence, cramping, alternating bowel movements and causes alot of stress. Taking plant-based digestive enzymes with each meal is a safe and effective way to seek immediate relief from compromised digestion – Bitter foods, drinks and herbs 10-15 minutes before meals help stimulate your own hydrochloric acid and enzyme production:
- Dandelion Root
- St. Mary’s Thistle
- Rocket (w/ a squeeze of lemon juice)
- Lemon juice in warm water
- Apple cider vinegar
Other herbs that improve digestion and relieve symptoms include:
- Lemon Balm
- Aloe Vera
4. Gut-healing Probiotics & Nutrients:
Targeted probiotic therapy is crucial to reducing gut inflammation and modulating the immune system in leaky gut. There are many products on the market that range in strength and diversity, and is best you speak to a practitioner about which kind is best for you, as it is dependent upon strain and is different for every person. There is also the chance you may react negatively to probiotics so caution is needed –
Whilst this amino acid is also important for addressing leaky gut, doses of up to 20-30g are needed. Many individuals who in particular suffer from anxiety and mood disorders can react negatively with a worsening of mood, and also muscle fatigue. Determining a practitioner and/or working the dose up gradually is the best approach
This one is a winner! A cheap and affordable prebiotic powder that selectively feeds a range of beneficial gut flora (allowing them to proliferate), regulates bowel motions. Unlike most prebiotics it is not FODMAP and can be safely consumed my most people. This is an important long-term strategy for correcting dysbiosis
Leaky gut can be addressed, but not if you ignore it.
There are many other treatments and aspects to consider. Starting with the basic recommendations above is a great start, and working with a practitioner who can work with you to develop individualised treatment plans is the best approach to finally correct what is considered one of the drivers of chronic fatigue. I have personally used Food Biocompatiblity Testing with my clients to remove foods driving underlying inflammation, and have seen incredible results. Addressing leaky gut will seriously revolutionise your health and well-being.