Do You Have a Leaky Gut? Knowing Could Save Your Health!

Do You Have Leaky Gut?

The term ‘leaky gut’ sounds disgusting and weird, yet more people are learning what it is because so many of us have it! It’s highly possible you do, too. I’ve been living pretty primal for about 7 years, and I’ve discovered I have a very leaky gut which is now starting to cause serious problems. Here’s what I’ve learned that you should know.

Do you have leaky gut?

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky Gut is the short name for Gastrointestinal Mucosal Hyperpermeability, or Intestinal Permeability. Permeable means things can pass through, and in this case, we’re referring to things passing through the lining of your small intestine.

This lining has mucosal cells that cover the entire length of the small intestine (gastrointestinal tract). Normally these cells are very tightly ‘knit’ together, forming a sort of screen which nothing can pass through. With a leaky gut, microscopic gaps form between these cells, so that some large molecules can pass or ‘leak’ through the gut lining into the blood stream. Hence the name, leaky gut. Imagine a window screen with small holes in it where bugs can now enter through…

How does a Leaky Gut slowly ruin your health?

These large molecules that are now able to leak through the gut into the blood stream are things like partially digested food particles, bacteria, yeasts, and toxins. Yikes.

When these foreign things enter your blood stream, your body signals that there are invaders in the blood stream and starts fighting! Your liver starts working overtime to filter all the toxins and your immune system starts works tirelessly to quickly eliminate the invaders from the body. However, it’s often too much for them to fight against, and the invaders end up absorbing into different tissues, leading to inflammation throughout the body.

That inflammation leads to more immune response! Soon the immune system is too busy constantly fighting the invaders and responding to inflammation to do its usual jobs. Over time, the body ends up attacking its own tissues, leading to all sorts of autoimmune diseases such as chronic fatigue, chron’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, irritable bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, hashimoto’s disease and more.

Thanks to progressive doctors and health practitioners, we know now that our leaky guts are at the root of so many of our illnesses and disease, both physical AND mental. This includes autoimmune disorders, digestive disorders and mental disorders.

Food intolerances caused by a leaky gut

Another very common consequence of a leaky gut is numerous food intolerances. When partially digested food particles are able to leak through the lining of the small intestine into the blood stream, the body sees those foods as invaders, since they are somewhere in the body where they are not supposed to be. To fight the invaders, the body produces little fighting soldiers called antibodies to fight against those food particles.

The more you eat those foods, the more antibodies your body produces, and the more your immune system reacts when you eat those foods. This is why you may have eaten nuts, milk, wheat, eggs or other foods for many years with no problem, but then you suddenly start to have terrible symptoms when you eat them. Your body has become intolerant of those foods, and responds with diarrhea, rashes, fatigue, brain fog, muscle aches, or something else.

Leaky Gut Illustration from Delicious Obsessions.com
Found on Delicious Obsessions.com

What causes Leaky Gut?

The causes of leaky gut are numerous and often debated by experts, but commonly include:

Poor Diet – Regular consumption of refined sugars, flours and other processed foods leads to inflammation and dysbiosis (imbalance of good vs. bad gut bacteria) which leads to leaky gut.

Medications – Prescription drugs, birth control pills, and even over-the-counter pain medications such as tylenol, aspirin and panadol all cause irritation of the intestinal lining. Antibiotics are a huge offender as they kill bad bacteria, but also good bacteria, leading to dysbiosis (imbalance of good vs. bad gut bacteria) which leads to leaky gut.

Chronic Stress – When stress is constant, the immune system gets overworked and cannot keep the digestive system healthy and free from inflammation, which leads to leaky gut.

Yeast – When yeast grows out of control due to a poor diet, medications, stress, etc. it forms fungus (such as candida) that cling to the intestinal lining and create holes, causing leaks in the gut!

Inflammation – Anything that causes inflammation in the gut can cause it to become leaky. Common causes of gut inflammation include environmental toxins, yeast overgrowth, bacterial overgrowth, infections and parasites.

Do you have Leaky Gut?

First, look at the causes above and ask yourself if those things have been a part of your life. Second, here are some common symptoms of leaky gut. How many do you have?

Chronic diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel – These are very common signs of an inflamed gut lining.

Skin rashes – Rashes, including eczema, are the result of your body trying to get rid of excess toxins through your skin.

Nutritional deficiencies – This is from your intestine’s inability to properly breakdown and absorb nutrients from food.

Food sensitivities/intolerances – As I said above, your system develops antibodies to food particles leaking through your gut, creating multiple food intolerances.

Regular sickness/infections – When your immune system is depressed and too busy fighting inflammation, it can’t do its usual job of fending off viruses and bacterias that cause common colds, flu and infections.

Sugar and carb cravings – These cravings are often caused by dysbiosis (bacteria imbalance), parasites and yeast overgrowth.

Headaches, brain fog and/or extreme fatigue – All the result of tissue inflammation and excess toxins.

Also – regular bloating, gas, anxiety, memory loss, depression, stubborn belly fat

Are you looking at all those causes and/or symptoms and nodding your head, getting concerned that indeed you think you do have leaky gut?

Well, I’m a bit excited for you! Because you are reading this, you may now know the cause of your ill health.

You may now be able to take control of your health and not only gradually eliminate your current symptoms, but prevent future autoimmune disorders, physical dysfunction, and debilitating disease!

What to do if you think you have Leaky Gut

Some of you may be motivated enough to start looking into healing your gut now on your own, using the internet and books as resources. But most of you will need confirmation of your leaky gut and some professional guidance, and I recommend this as the better way to go for complete recovery of your gut health.

Find the right health professional

I highly suggest finding a functional medicine/integrative medicine doctor, and/or a naturopath who has experience in healing gut disorders. The Mindd Foundation is a good place to start, as well as The Institute for Functional Medicine, or simply use google. Read some bios, make some phone calls, and choose a practitioner who knows all about guts and how to heal them.

Even though a gastrointestinal doctor may seem like the person to see, those doctors generally only specialise in diagnosing disease, but not healing it. They also don’t use functional diagnostic tests, which is what we need to discuss next…

Get tested

Although you may have enough symptoms for you and your chosen doctor to assume you have leaky gut, it may be beneficial for you to do an intestinal permeability test. This will confirm your leaky gut in your mind, and also tell you how bad the damage is. Ask your doctor for the test referral or kit.

The test is done at home. You drink a special sugar substance mixed in water in the morning, then collect your urine for the next 6 hours (in a very big bag!), and send in a small sample of the urine. If you have a leaky gut, the sugar substance you drank will show up in your urine in varying levels, depending on how leaky your gut is.

The next test that is extremely beneficial is a faecal microbial analysis, which is a fancy way to say they can analyse the bacterial content of your poo. This will tell exactly which bacterias and/or yeasts are overgrown or undergrown in your gut, so you know which is the best course of action for getting your bacteria back in balance. Otherwise, you could be taking probiotics for years and not getting any better because it’s the wrong bacteria! This is also a home test, which simply requires one stool sample.

These tests are not cheap, but in comparison to all the money you will save on trying to recover from illness and disease down the track, they are very good value in my opinion.

Leaky Gut Causes and Cures
Leaky Gut Causes and Cures
Pic found on completewellbeingsolutions.com

You can heal your Leaky Gut

I’ve been through all this myself, and am happy to say I am on the path to recovery. It’s a bit of a long path, but I realise that if it took this long to cause the damage, it’s going to take some patience to undo it. I’m looking for long-term results anyway, not a quick fix, as I want to be healthy in the long-term.

You, too, can heal your gut! It takes some dedication and commitment to your health and care of your body, but anyone can do it. Especially with some professional guidance and a positive attitude.

Here’s how I’m healing my leaky gut

If you’ve been unwell for a long time, or are tired of suffering from symptoms and can’t seem to find the underlying cause, it may be that you have a leaky gut. Just like me, you didn’t know the damage that you were doing to your body, and there’s no point in having regrets. The beauty is that now you can take all of your new knowledge of primal living and heal yourself! And we are here to support you all the way.

 

References:

Leaky Gut Syndrome in Plain English by SCD Lifestyle
Leaky Gut Syndrome by Nourish-ed

 

Do you think you have leaky gut? Is anything stopping you from taking the next steps toward healing your body?

I Have a Parasite Called Dientamoeba Fragilis

I Have a Parasite Called Dientamoeba Fragilis

This may shock you if you think that a primal mama like me is too healthy for a parasite. For me it’s a bit exciting because it finally helps to explain the excess weight loss and facial rash I’ve had for a year. It’s time to tell you all about what a strange year it has been… Histopath lab test positive result for Dientamoeba Fragilis parasite

It started with a rash

Well, really, I had plenty of digestive issues before the rash, but I had gotten quite used to the bloating, gas and occassional cramping and constipation, that I thought it was just a result of certain foods not agreeing with me. I could never seem to pinpoint which food it was though, and the bloating was getting more frequent. Then the dry pink rash spread across my cheeks. This splotchy, blemished and flaky rash developed on the inside of my cheeks near my nose. My forehead was also covered in blemishes for months, which later moved to the chin, along with some dry flakiness and pimples around the edge of my face near the hair line. Occasionally my lips get inflamed and seriously cracked around the edges. The rash sometimes looks much better and other times gets really inflamed, dry and red, though I can’t pinpoint what sets it off. My own research tells me the rash is called Rosacea, but giving it a name doesn’t help, as no one has officially determined what causes Rosacea.

I wrote about all the things that ugly rosacea rash taught me about life and myself.

Then I started getting way too skinny

I currently weigh 48 kg (105 lbs.), and can see bones protuding from me everywhere. After developing a primal diet and lifestyle, my weight didn’t fluctuate for 6 years. Even living 80/20, with the occassional ice creams, samosas and beers, I remained a healthy 55 kg (121 lbs). I only knew my weight because I donate blood regularly and they weigh you, but suddenly my clothes were falling off me and I could see my breastbones and shoulder blades sticking out in pictures. Then I saw the numbers on the scale decreasing…

Searching for the cause

Are you wondering why I don’t just get some cream to clear up my rash? Well if I did that, I would look better, but I wouldn’t know the cause of the rash, and if that cause was still damaging my insides. The rash is the main signal from my body that all is still not well. Despite my very hearty primal diet of organic meat, fruit and vegetables, I can not seem to gain back my weight. This is with no intense exercise. So for over a year, I have been fine-tuning my Primal 6, seeing many different health practitioners, taking herbs, vitamins and supplements, trying different anti-fungal protocols, and testing for and eliminating intolerance foods. None of these things eliminated the rash, stopped the weight loss, or gave indication of the cause. Yes, I am learning so much about health and myself from all of it…but I’ll get to that later.

Blood tests don’t tell much…

So far my blood tests were all pretty ‘normal’, except for high probability of celiac disease. However, I hadn’t been eating gluten for a long time (except on occassion). Though I knew that my prior gluten-filled diet had surely caused intestinal damage (and I will tell you lots more about that later too), there was something else going on. I heavily researched all of the integrative medicine doctors in Sydney and chose one with extensive experience in digestive diseases and functional diagnostic medicine. Functional diagnostics is a growing field of modern medicine which uses detailed lab work to identify the specific malfunctions in the body (causes), then a holistic approach to begin healing (rather than just treating symptoms).

I have a parasite!

After collecting numerous samples of my poo, it turns out I have a parasite living in my bowel. It’s called Dientamoeba Fragilis, and it may have been living in me, with little to no symptoms, for years. Yes, years! It is a common parasite that causes digestive distress and other health issues for many people but is dismissed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome and rarely tested for. This parasite, along with gluten, has been suppressing my levels of  intestinal flora (good bacteria) and damaging my intestinal lining. The Center for Digestive Diseases says:

“Dientamoeba fragilis (D. fragilis) and Blastocystis hominis (B. hominis) are parasites which can at times infect the human digestive tract. Many of those infected are asymptomatic carriers. These parasites can, however, be associated with a range of gastrointestinal symptoms including diarrhoea/constipation, mushy stools, abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas and pain. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, weight-loss, chronic fatigue, depression, low-grade fever, bloody stools and anal itching. D. fragilis has also been implicated in some cases of indeterminate colitis. Many patients may suffer for years before proper diagnosis is made and are often misdiagnosed as having Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).”

Was it something in the water?

Where I got the parasite is anyone’s guess. It is commonly transmitted in bad water, fecal matter and possibly via threadworms (pinworms), all of which I have been around at some point. Especially plenty of fecal matter in the last few years, being the mother of a 4-year-old. 🙂 Many people think you only get parasites from developing countries, but interestingly, parasites like Dientamoeba are very common in the U.S. and Australia. Personally, I travelled extensively in third-world countries, but it wasn’t until I arrived in Sydney, Australia in 2001 that I got Giardia from the tap water. But again, there’s no telling where I got the parasite, and maybe it really doesn’t matter.

Killing the parasite with drugs

Unfortunately, I was told that this parasite is extremely difficult to treat effectively through natural methods of eradication, which would have been my preference. The use of antibiotics is gut-damaging in itself, and we aim to only use them as a very last resort, which I talked about in my antibiotics article. However, the good news is that The Center for Digestive Diseases recommends a very pure antibiotic called Secnidazole (which I had to special order from a compounding chemist) which, in conjuction with another antibiotic Doxycycline, should eradicate this sucker from my gut in 10 days. I might feel terrible for a week as the parasite dies-off, but I am optimistic about my health steadily improving afterwards. I will keep you posted!

If you suspect you have a parasite

It’s best to learn as much as you can about them from experts. Paul Chek in particular is a wealth of knowledge on the subject. We highly recommend purchasing this his program called Healing Fungal and Parasite Infections“.

Even better, find a good integrative medicine doctor who uses functional diagnostics and proper testing, so you can get to the bottom of your own personal health issues. However, any doctor can refer you for the tests.

Just make sure you ask for the right test… A run-of-the-mill stool sample is not sufficient for detecting certain parasites, as the parasite doesn’t show up in every poo AND dies off easy if the poo is not preserved. For the test, you must collect poo samples from three days and keep in jars with a special liquid preservative. Your doctor will give you a testing kit and/or refer you to a pathologist (we used Histopath in Australia) to send your samples. In Australia, this test is bulk-billed through Medicare – FREE!

Angela of Natureglow had a very similar experience this year, and there are numerous helpful comments below this great article on her experience with D. Fragilis.

Resources and more information on Dientamoeba Fragilis:

Center for Disease Control – Dientamoeba FAQs
Center for Digestive Diseases – Parasites Emedicine – D. Fragilis Parasite Overview
‘Parasites Linked to Sewage Fertiliser as Stomach Bug Grips Sydney’ – The Daily Telegraph
A Gut-Full of Parasites – My Experience with Dientamoeba Fragilis
The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene – Detection & Transmission of Dientamoeba Fragilis

My Parasite UPDATE:

After 10 days of taking the antibiotics, I waited one month for full parasite ‘evacuation’ from my body, then did the parasite stool sample test again…and tested NEGATIVE for Dientamoeba Fragilis. AND while I was still taking the antibiotics to get rid of the parasite, the ugly rosacea rash on my face completely disappeared! So phase one of my healing finished – parasite eliminated – I am now onto phase two, which is healing my leaky gut.

 UPDATE #2: Just over 1 year later

During 7 months of overseas travel, I got pretty lazy with my gut healing protocol and primal diet. By the 6th month, a smaller version of the face rash was back, and the bloating and other random symptoms have returned. Is the D. Fragilis back?

For now, I’m not sure that matters. What matters is that my body is telling me to get back to my primal ways which nourish and heal my body! My perspective on parasites is changing, in part due to an amazing visit we had with Dr. Amin, a parasitologist in Scottsdale, AZ, U.S.A. Here’s everything we learned about parasites, and what we are taking for our parasites now:

Parasites 101 – my sequel to this article!

Have you ever had a parasite or suspect you may have one?