Does Leaky Gut exist?

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What is leaky gut syndrome?

It is not always easy to find research that is relevant to the UK when it comes to natural healing so when I read this article I felt it was a must for my website

As a new book is published on how a leaky gut could be causing your health problems, we ask the experts what it is – and does it really exist?

hands on gut image

We all know by now that we are what we eat, but what goes on in our intestines could be responsible for more of our health complaints than first thought.

In his new book, Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps To Cure It, Dr Josh Axe, a doctor of natural medicine and clinical nutritionist, argues that leaky gut (the breakdown of the intestinal walls, which allows microbes and food particles to ‘leak’ out) is the root cause of allergies, autoimmune diseases, hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, diabetes and arthritis.

But modern medicine is still not 100% convinced by leaky gut syndrome, with the NHS Choices site explaining: “There is currently little evidence to support the theory that a porous bowel is the direct cause of any significant, widespread problems.
“There is also little evidence that the ‘treatments’ some people claim help to reduce bowel ‘leakiness’, such as nutritional supplements and herbal remedies, have any beneficial effect for most of the conditions they supposedly help.”

We ask two experts - Dr Anton Emmanuel, consultant gastroenterologist at University College London Hospitals (UCLH), and Liana Bonadio, technical nutritionist at

 to explain:

Does leaky gut syndrome exist?

The gut expert

Dr Anton Emmanuel says: “Leaky gut does exist. There are people who have leaky guts and people who have less leaky guts when you measure it. But it’s not part of mainstream clinical practice for two reasons: one that the test is pretty complicated and invasive, and secondly, that to date, there has not been any scientifically proven therapy that has come out of doing the testing, so why would you put somebody through an invasive test when there’s no treatment?

“It’s gradually coming in from the cold. The science is still overplayed, so there’s a tendency to overstate the influence of the small steps that are being made, but there are definitely small steps being made to put it on the scientific map.”

The nutrition expert

“The term leaky gut is used to describe the condition intestinal permeability,” says Liana Bonadio.
“It does exist and is increasingly becoming more recognised. It is commonly seen in people with sensitivities to multiple foods.”


What is intestinal permeability?

The gut expert

Dr Emmanuel says: “Your gut is a selectively permeable organ, it keeps food in your gut and it only allows in things you need - it’s very cleverly done. The big change in the scientific community is our emerging understanding of the gut’s microbiome (i.e. the bacteria that live in your intestines), as we know more about that, we are finding out they play a critical role in determining what the permeability of your gut is and, in turn, that may have a bearing on your vulnerability to certain gut illnesses, but also some non-intestinal illnesses. So things like rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, asthma, dermatitis, what we call atopic illnesses, the allergic illnesses, they all seem to have some link to a leaky gut.

“Once your gut can’t restrict what goes through it, it then allows lots of things in which go through your bloodstream, which then mounts an immune response to it and that immune response being non-specific, targets your tissues, like your skin, your lungs or your joints, which is why this gut phenomenon can result in these extra-intestinal conditions.”

The nutrition expert

Bonadio says: “It basically means that the tight junctions in the gut which hold together our cells have become damaged and are allowing substances into the bloodstream. Our intestinal lining acts as a defence for our immune system, as it controls what passes into the bloodstream. A leaky gut allows food particles to pass into the blood steam.

"This can activate the immune system as the body’s response will be to fight off these foreign bodies that shouldn’t be in the blood. This then leads to inflammation in the body. Inflammation is linked to almost every health condition.”

What can you do about leaky gut?

The gut expert

Dr Emmanuel says: “A GP would have little idea about it, as this is very much at the cutting edge of speculative research. In general, there is some little evidence supporting, if you can afford it, buying probiotics - if you make sure there’s more bacteria in there, you can increase functioning. It’s not guaranteed to work, but it’s one obvious way of trying something. Beyond that, it’s getting into research programmes and being a guinea pig.”

The nutrition expert

Bonadio says: “The best thing to do if you suspect you have leaky gut is to work with a qualified nutritional therapist who can support you. When focussing on repairing leaky gut, it’s important to firstly identify the cause, whether it be a food allergy or intolerance, problematic bacteria, parasites or yeast or stress. You would then focus on making sure your digestive system is working optimally, that you have the right balance of beneficial bacteria, and that you are repairing any damage to the intestinal lining.

I would love to know what you think about this article; send me your thoughts in the comment box below.

Comments (2)


Carol Miller

25-06-2020 10:14 PM BST

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