Although we may not realize it, our gut is responsible for much of our body, affecting everything from digestion to mood. When something is amiss in the gut, such as an overly-permeable intestine (also known as Leaky Gut Syndrome), it can impact many facets of your health. There are number of signs of Leaky Gut Syndrome, and not all of them have to do with just stomach issues.
When our gut is healthy, the intestines are only slightly permeable, allowing small quantities of water and nutrients to pass through the gut’s thin barrier and into the bloodstream. "This process is a normal and necessary part of digestion, and an essential step in nourishing the body to produce healthy, well-nourished cells," gastroenterologist Dr. Liz Cruz, tells Bustle. "However, when the holes in the intestinal wall get too big, large molecules, such as gluten and casein (in addition to other foreign microbes) escape into the bloodstream and start to spread all over the body." The body reacts to this by causing systemic inflammation throughout, since it begins to treat these molecules as foreign bodies.
It's important to note that the idea of Leaky Gut Syndrome is debated in the medical community. The concept is new, and many mainstream physicians don't support the concept of leaky gut. However, there is some science that supports that intestinal permeability is real and can lead to actual problems.
But some believe that a leaky gut is actually a symptom of a greater issue, not the cause. Despite this debate, there are a number of symptoms that do co-occur with a "leaky gut," and it's worth paying attention to improving your gut health regardless.
1. Sugar & Salt Cravings
If you've been feeling like you can't get enough of super sweet and salty foods, your gut may be to blame. "When the body is not digesting and absorbing nutrients properly, it will crave," Dr. Cruz says. Since a leaky gut prevents full absorption of food, your body may be lacking certain vitamins and minerals, which can result in cravings for sugar and salt.
2. Skin Troubles
Many skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, or psoriasis often occur with a leaky gut. Many of these skin issues are tied to inflammation, and since foreign objects leaking from the gut result in an inflammatory response, it is possible for it this inflammation to manifest in your skin, according to Healthline.
3. Acid Reflux
Since Leaky Gut Syndrome is connected to digestion, it is often associated with acid reflux and heartburn. "Food that sits in the stomach too long because it can’t be broken down properly causes an overproduction of acid, which causes painful acid reflux and heartburn," Dr. Cruz says. Food that sits in the stomach too long leads to putrefaction and fermentation, which then leads to symptoms such as indigestion, gas, bloating, nausea, abdominal pain, and the uncomfortable sensation of being full all the time.
Many people with Leaky Gut Syndrome also report feeling tired or low energy. Partially digested food is what causes malabsorption issues, and if you're not getting the nutrients you need, it will affect how you feel. "If your food is not broken down into a liquid, it cannot be absorbed properly," Dr. Cruz says. "This means that even if you’re eating the healthiest diet in the world, your body is not benefiting from it."
5. Aches & Pains
The inflammation that occurs alongside Leaky Gut Syndrome can also lead to discomfort across the board "Food and chemical particles that enter the body’s blood stream cause the body to attack itself, causing major inflammation and aches and pains throughout the body," Dr. Cruz says.
6. Mood Issues
If you're struggling from mood disorders such as anxiety or depression, it may be connected to your gut health. Your gut microbiome plays a role in how you feel, especially when it comes to certain gut bacteria. Disruptions in this bacteria can cause changes in mood and behavior, and research has found that when bacteria’s healthy functions were restored, mood and behavior levels out, which can reduce or eliminating anxious feelings, according to a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.
If you suspect you may have a leaky gut, speak with your doctor. "Most doctors do not test for intestinal permeability or “'leaky gut,' because there is no one medicine, pill, potion, or surgery, to fix intestinal permeability," Dr. Cruz says. However, they can help you make some lifestyle shifts that may be able to combat these symptoms.