What Causes Leaky Gut?
According to Dr. Josh Axe, 80% of Americans have a leaky gut to some degree. When you consider the new science linking the gut to neurology, rheumatology, cancer, diabetes, and childhood obesity he could be right. And in turn, Hippocrates ancient conviction the "all disease begins in the gut" sounds more reasonable all the time.
So, what causes leaky gut and what are the risk factors everyone should know to protect our health?
The average human digestive tract is home to as many as 3 trillion unique species of microorganisms. Most of them are harmless — or even helpful — under normal circumstances.
But when something upsets the balance of these organisms in your gut, otherwise harmless bacteria and yeast can grow out of control and make you sick (candida yeast, h. pylori, E. coli, staph, strep, C. diff).
In addition to the infection, these opportunistic organisms alter the permeability of your mucous membranes allowing the outside world to enter your bloodstream, and creating an autoimmune response to such benign substances as pollen, synthetic fabric fibers, pet dander and foods you commonly eat.
Proper permeability of your mucous membranes is your front line of defense against pathogens in the world around you.
8 Risk Factors to Know About
Many cultural norms in western civilization set us up for gut linked illness by tipping the balance in favor of unfriendly microorganisms. These include:
1) Compromised immunityA weakened immune system can happen as a result of physical or emotional trauma, chronic infection or exposure to toxic chemicals.
2) Use of broad spectrum antibioticsUsing Antibiotic medications or consuming antibiotic found in commercial meat and diary products destroys both friendly and unfriendly bacteria, which results in weakened mucous membranes.
3) High sugar dietDiets high in refined or natural sugars feed yeast and bad bacteria causing it to multiply quickly and create imbalance in the body's "microbiome" or population of microflora.
4) HormonesHormones, whether real or synthetic; via the monthly menstrual cycle, pregnancy, “the pill” or other hormone therapy, including hormones from eating commercial meat/dairy also feed candida yeast.
5) StressStress stimulates the continual release of adrenalin into the bloodstream which raises the acidity in the gut. This destroys friendly bacteria just as antibiotics do.
6) AlcoholismIf you have an alcoholic progenitor in your family tree, that puts you at risk. Children of an alcoholic parent have a predisposition to harbor yeast overgrowth because the internal environment of fermentation is already established at birth. Sugar and alcohol addiction continues for several generations, unless yeast is eradicated and Leaky Gut is healed prior to conception. Because the beginning of a babies microbiome development occurs while passing through the birth canal, it's especially important that the mother to be doesn't overdo it, especially during pregnancy.
7) Use of steroid and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (nSAIDs)
Ibuprofen, Celebrax, Mobic, Relefin, and Naproxin all erode the permeable membranes of the body, including the gut, when used repeatedly.
8) Runs in families.
Families share similar lifestyles, diet and medical practices. Candida infection can be passed from one family member to another when the immune system is weak. New research is identifying a possible link between heavy metals in the environment (fluoridated water, fluorescent lighting, manufacturing processes), food supply (mercury in pesticides) and preservatives in common vaccines as also effecting the microbiome ... which in turn can impact gut health negatively.
The good news is, as we begin understanding the value of gut health and integrity, more people are focused on finding ways to support and heal their permeable membranes...and the microflora that live within.