Before we discuss the symptoms of leaky gut, I think it is important to know what a leaky gut is. A leaky gut is a condition in which the semi-permeable wall lining of the small intestines gets damaged. This allows foreign particles like waste products, undigested food, microorganisms, and antigens to enter the blood and lymphatic vessels.
It can lead to any of the many allergic and inflammatory diseases like chronic fatigue, eczema, and food allergies. If it takes place over time, it will lead to more serious auto-immune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune hepatitis, and multiple sclerosis.
What are the causes of leaky gut?
A number of factors are to blame for a leaky gut. Here are the most common:
- an unhealthy diet with low fiber content,
- experiencing stress for long periods,
- alcohol abuse,
- an imbalance in the gut microbiota, and
- gastrointestinal tract infections like Helicobacter pylori infection.
The Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome is about a change in bowel habits associated with recurrent, acute attacks of diarrhea, constipation, abdominal distension, bloating, and abdominal discomfort. The symptoms are mostly mild and easily dismissed. It is true that these symptoms can be caused by other problems not related to leaky gut.
Where they are associated with a leaky gut, they will usually be accompanied by other symptoms of a leaky gut like chronic fatigue, headache, or depression.
The causes of IBS are gut infections like gastroenteritis, stress, overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestines, and the deficiency of vitamin D and other vitamins. All these are also signs and symptoms of leaky gut.
As discussed above, foreign particles that enter our blood system due to intestinal permeability trigger an immune response. The body produces more immune cells into the bloodstream leading to increased inflammation and a feeling of extreme fatigue for periods of over six months.
We all know that our bodies need different nutrients in balanced quantities to stay healthy, function well, and be able to fight diseases. The most common classes of nutrients that we need are carbohydrates, fats, fiber, minerals, proteins, vitamins, and water. We get these nutrients from the food we eat, ensuring that we eat a balanced diet of food. An imbalanced diet can, in the long run, lead to a nutritional deficiency.
However, we may experience nutritional deficiency not because of an imbalanced diet but because of malabsorption of nutrients in our intestines. Malabsorption of nutrients is one of the most reliable signs and symptoms of leaky gut.
Below are some of the common conditions related to the malabsorption of nutrients (they also are symptoms of leaky gut):
Anemia is a blood disorder in which the body makes fewer red blood cells, usually because of a deficiency in the mineral iron. It causes a feeling of tiredness, weakness, and dizziness. Anemia leads to the paleness of the skin that can be easily noticed in the palms, the oral mucosa, and the conjunctiva. Other causes of anemia can be internal bleeding and retroviral conditions.
The deficiency can be a result of an imbalanced diet or the malabsorption of iron in the gastrointestinal tract. A damaged lining of the lumen of the small intestines is to blame in the latter case. Depending on the cause, you will either need iron supplements or you will have to take steps to repair your gut.
Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and chicken livers are rich sources of iron.
Here we talk of a condition in which your bones lose their density, becoming weak and brittle. It is more prevalent in people above the age of 60. Developing osteoporosis in the middle or lower age is a strong sign of underlying problems and may also be a symptom of leaky gut.
The main cause of osteoporosis is a deficiency in calcium. If the body experiences a shortage of calcium (because of e.g. malabsorption), it will start to use calcium reserves from your bones, causing them to lose their density. This leads directly to osteoporosis.
Foods that have good amounts of calcium are spinach, kale, beans, and fish like sardines and salmon.
The lack or deficiency of vitamin D can also lead to osteoporosis. We need vitamin D for healthy strong bones. Our bodies produce vitamin D when we expose ourselves to direct sunlight. Though, we should do this in moderation to avoid sun damage to the skin.
However, with some people, vitamin D derived from the sun may not be enough. In such cases, it is necessary to take foods like fish, beef liver, egg yolk, and cheese. All these foods have good levels of vitamin D.
Hair loss may be caused by a deficiency in vitamin B and proteins. Food sources of vitamin B are citrus fruits, legumes such as beans, meat, dairy products, and eggs. Proteins are found mainly in meat, seeds, and nuts.
Other mineral deficiency conditions are brittle nails, cramps, eczema, edema, hair loss, memory loss, muscular weakness, and graying hair.
Lets once more turn to our main topic; the symptoms of leaky gut:
Brain Fog and Memory Loss
Brain fog is a condition where there is a decline in cognitive abilities characterized by an inability to focus, memory loss, and poor concentration. It is not classified as a medical condition. It is only a symptom of underlying medical conditions like multiple sclerosis and chronic fatigue.
A leaky gut and poor gut health are some of the most common causes of brain fog and memory loss. Unknown to most people, the brain and the gut are closely connected. This is known as a brain-gut axis. As a result of general systemic inflammation caused by a leaky gut, the membrane that protects the brain (the blood-brain barrier) may start to fail to stop foreign substances in the blood crossing over into the brain. As a result, inflammation of the brain tissue will set in. Symptoms like brain fog, memory loss, and headaches will naturally follow.
We all know it: to resolve a problem you need to deal with the cause. In order to deal with brain fog and the other symptoms of leaky gut effectively, you have take steps to heal your gut.
Poor Immune System
Our bodies have a natural ability to fight bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms that make us sick. However, it sometimes happens that our immune system becomes weak and unable to fight infections. What could cause this? Several factors ranging from poor diet, lifestyle preferences, retroviral infections like HIV, and of course, leaky gut. These are to blame for the poor immune system.
How do you know if you have a poor immune system?
- Feeling tired most of the time: A struggling immune system uses more energy than it should. This compromises energy supply to other organs of the body.
- Poor wound healing: a wound normally takes a week or two to heal (depending on the size, of course). In poor immunity individuals, it may take longer as the skin struggles to deal with the opportunistic wound infections. Note that hyperglycemia can also cause this.
- Persistent, swollen lymph nodes: Lymph nodes are small glands that help the body to fight infections. We find them in most parts of the body. Lymph nodes become swollen and tender when your body is fighting a major infection. They subside once the body overcomes the infection. Persistent, swollen lymph nodes is a sign of poor immunity.
- Recurrent infections: if you have to deal with infections like upper respiratory tract infections time and again your body might be failing to eradicate the infecting organisms efficiently.
We have mentioned above that foreign particles entering the body trigger an immune response in the form of either allergic reaction or inflammation. The body will naturally seek to get rid of the invading matter through the kidneys and the skin.
Skin conditions like rash, eczema, rosacea, and acne could come about as a result of the body trying to get rid of the toxins in its system. This is one of the most common of the symptoms of leaky gut.
Arthritis is a condition where one or more of the joints in the hands, arms, legs or feet become inflamed, swollen, stiff, and painful. There may be a temporary loss of function in the affected joint.
Experts maintain that arthritis comes about when the immune system attacks the membranes that cover the joints. This is the reason arthritis is called an auto-immune condition.
Other Symptoms of Leaky Gut
There are other symptoms of leaky gut that I have not mentioned here. But, those above are some of the most common. If you experience some of them on a regular basis I suggest you pay a visit to your physician for tests and proper diagnosis.