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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Is there any truth behind a "leaky gut" diagnosis?

    Many naturopaths diagnose their patients with the “leaky gut” syndrome, is it an “actual” syndrome or does it result from some gastrointestinal issue such as IBS, coeliac disease, food intolerances?
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    A “leaky gut” diagnosis is more based around the theory of a proposed mechanism of action of poorly digested proteins, for example casein, which provides opiate like peptides that are not completely broken down and are absorbed into the bloodstream through an abnormally permeable or ‘leaky’gut.
    The peptides then cross the blood-brain-barrier and can interfere with neurological processes. 
    Again theoretically, the ‘leaky gut’ could be caused by an enzyme deficiency or yeast overgrowth. Note that this is distinct from an IgE mediated allergic reaction or food chemical intolerance reaction. 

  • 3

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    Joy Anderson

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    Joy is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist, as well as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has a special interest in … View Profile

    Further to what Rachel wrote, i.e. that much of this is theoretical, it should be noted that everyone most likely has a ‘leaky gut’ in that portions of or whole food components (proteins and other chemicals) are absorbed into the bloodstream. These can even be found in mother's milk, and could only have got there via the bloodstream. Not all food is broken down to the basic building blocks as taught in human biology. The process is not 100% efficient. The issue becomes what response a person's system has to the presence of these food components in the body.

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    Leah is a Clinical Dietitian with a passion for understanding how the body works. Special interests include: gut and systemic change food and mood mind-body … View Profile

    To add, the leaky gut symptoms which are varied and very personal to the individual can become worse or activated during stress, a dose of gastro, consuming irritants to your body such as too much alcohol, caffeine, other chemcials found in food that irritate your system. 

    To help the gut heal, it is suggested talking with an APD dietitian and discussing the foods you generally eat and the possible irriation for you, and your gut.  This could be done with an elimination diet, and testing the irritant, and your tolerable dose. 

    It is not suggested to avoid foods because doing so ‘makes things better’, as you may run the risk of missing out on important vitamins, minerals, fibre and also enough proteins.  

    Successful treatment includes several measures and includes food, stress management, probiotics and the like.  

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    Joan is an Accredited Practising Dietitian who has specialised in diet investigation of suspected food chemical intolerance. Tolerating Troublesome Foods is her latest book. Joan … View Profile

    Most people who wonder about leaky gut are wondering if they are not tolerating some food. As mentioned there may be several mechanisms that lead to the symptoms they have, and several ways that symptoms can worsen or lessen over time. The important idea is to find out exactly what foods may be causing the problems. Substances that often aggravate the symptoms include artificial colours, flavours and most preservatives, as well as natural chemicals such as salicylates, amines, and glutamates. Sometimes people need to attend to whole foods such as dairy or wheat as well.
    It is wise to get the help of a dietitian to do what I call Diet Detective Work so you can work out a good diet to use for the four week diet trial, and then to guide you through test foods to find your own best diet. The good news is that with the new ideas available you will tolerate more than you think!

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    Jon Gamble

    Naturopath

    Jon is author of ‘Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome’ and “Obstacles to Cure: Toxicity, Deficiency & Infection” - two books for CAM practitioners. He specialises … View Profile

    Leaky gut syndrome can arise from many causes, most commonly what is called dysbiosis, which means the gut flora are all out of balance; and severe leaky gut can be caused by people with acumulated mercury toxicity. The good news is that with modern pathology tests, clinicians don't have to make guesses. There is a specific specialised test using the urine called Intestinal Permeability, which is being offered by several pathology labs these days, which can confirm the provisional diagnoses of leaky gut.

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    Lyn Christian

    Nutritionist

    As a Naturopath and Nutritionist I am passionate about the promotion of health using functional foods to correct nutrient imbalances.All health conditions need to be … View Profile

    “Leaky gut” is an intestinal barrier dysfunction. In order to absorb nutrients from our  food, our gut has to be somewhat “leaky” or permeable. The process of digestion begins when we smell or see food. Saliva begins the process and digestive enzymes break down the food so that nutrients may be obtained. In order to obtain those nutrients the gut mucosa “tight junctions” allow the digested nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream. A so-called “Leaky gut” occurs when these  “tight junctions” are forced apart allowing larger undigested particles to escape into the bloodstream. We are all individual as to the symptoms which arise from intestinal permeability. Food intolerances, stress, and heavy metal toxicity appear to be major contributors to “Leaky gut” .  

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