What Is a Leaky Gut, Anyway?

Stomach distress

What part of the “gut” leaks? And leaks what into where?

“Gut” is a catchall term for just about any part of the digestive tract beyond the esophagus. For our purposes, the term refers to the duodenum of the small intestine. This is the first part of the small intestine into which the high acid mixture from the stomach and the alkaline bile from the gallbladder are dumped for further digestion and absorption. If that part of the small intestine has holes or is otherwise damaged, it leaks. Then it is called a “leaky gut.”

What leaks? Large molecules of food that are not broken down by that damaged duodenum. Where does it leak? These large molecules leak into the bloodstream—your bloodstream. This is your body’s transportation system. It carries nutrients and waste to and away from cells.

Large molecules of food leaking into the bloodstream is highly problematic for many reasons. Here are just a few:

  1. Because you do not digest your food, your body does not get the nutrients the food would have provided. If this goes on for a long time, you will become malnourished and suffer the symptoms associated with malnourishment.
  2. If the large molecules are protein molecules, your body will recognize them as foreign proteins and launch an immune response. If this goes on for a long time, you will likely develop autoimmune disorders.
  3. If there are foreign food molecules in your bloodstream, you will develop food sensitivities. Just a few in the beginning, but as time goes on, your body will become highly reactive to many foods.
  4. Toxins will also leak into your bloodstream. These will travel to the brain and cause functioning and focusing issues.

How do you know if you have a leaky gut? Symptoms tell the tale. If you have any digestive or brain function disorders, or even skin issues, you are a likely candidate. Here’s a partial list:

  • Food sensitivities and intolerances
  • Allergies
  • Bloating
  • Constipation or chronic diarrhea
  • IBS
  • Colitis
  • Brain fog, depression, or mood swings
  • Bipolar disorder or full blown schizophrenia

There is also the risk of an “alphabet soup” of accepted brain function disorders that plague our children: ADD, ADHD, autism spectrum, OCD, SPD, and autoimmune disorders, of which there are more than 80 known types at this time.

Given all of that, if you could heal and seal the leaks that are causal to such symptoms, wouldn’t you want to do it? Especially if it was as easy as making different food choices?

Next time: Meat Stock to the rescue!

Find out more about making Meat Stock, the “healer and sealer” of the gut, in my new ebook, Cooking Techniques for the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet, Part I: Meat Stock and Bone Broth.

Photo from iStock/Deklofenak

Monica Corrado, MA, CNC, CGP, is a teaching chef and Certified Nutrition Consultant who is passionate about illuminating the connection between food and well-being. She is a dynamic teacher, speaker, consultant, and author who lives to share the tools, knowledge, and inspiration to cook nourishing, traditional food. Monica has been teaching food as medicine for more than 10 years after 18 years in sustainable food sourcing and preparation, menu design and management. She is a member of the Honorary Board of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Monica started her own Cooking for Well-Being Teacher Training program in 2012. For more information about Monica, her books, charts, and traditional foods Teacher Training program, see www.simplybeingwell.com. For her full class schedule, including her GAPS Jumpstart program, see our events schedule.

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