Understanding leaky gut

12 February 2021

Did you know a healthy gut lining is essential for both proper digestion and immunity? ⁠

Healthy cells of the gut lining have two main functions:⁠

  • Act as a selective filter to aid the uptake of nutrients and pass them into the circulation⁠
  • Keep harmful particles from passing into the circulation, thus protecting the body against infection, infestation, and inflammation⁠

To have the largest possible surface area for absorption of nutrients, the small intestine is bunched up into thousands of folds and lined with finger-like projections known as villi. Each villus is covered with smaller structures called microvilli (or the brush border). ⁠

Do you know what causes the gut lining to become damaged and leaky?⁠

Prolonged exposure to inflammatory foods, alcohol, toxins and pathogens. Studies also show a link with drugs such as NSAIDs and ibuprofen. ⁠

So, what happens exactly?⁠

  1. Microvilli are destroyed (the brush border becomes blunted). Microvilli aid digestion by producing enzymes that break down carbohydrates, as well as substances that break down fats. Damage therefore results in problems such as lactose intolerance, impaired digestion of carbohydrates, and poor assimilation of fats, including fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). ⁠
  2. The villi are damaged, resulting in a decrease of surface area and therefore malabsorption of nutrients. Immunity is also compromised.⁠
  3. The normally tight gaps between the cells loosen (leaky gut), resulting in passage of antigens, toxins, and undigested food particles into the general circulation. This invokes an immune response and can result in autoimmune conditions. ⁠

⁠Current research links leaky gut to ⁠

  • Allergies⁠
  • Autoimmune disease⁠
  • Skin disorders (such as psoriasis and eczema)⁠
  • Food sensitivities⁠
  • Fatigue⁠
  • Irritable bowel syndrome⁠

and more.⁠

If you are consuming excessive sugars, alcohol, medications, vegetable oils or foods you are sensitive to, you can be sure your gut isn’t 100%.⁠

You may not yet be showing any symptoms (see my previous post) and so not know your digestion and immunity are impaired.⁠

Can the gut heal itself? In most cases yes, given the right conditions.

For updates
About Tira

About Tira

Tira Cole is a nutritionist, researcher and educator. Her passion is meat-based nutrition and support of farming.

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