Abdominal bloating, visible distension of your tummy, chronic diarrhoea, excessive gas, flatulence and abdominal cramps and discomfort are all very common symptoms that anyone can have from time to time, and are usually due to overeating or consumption of unhealthy foods. If these symptoms are frequent or disturbing, you may even have seen your doctor about it. They should resolve with healthy dietary habits and simple medication, but if they do not, you may be suffering from leaky gut syndrome.
Systemic symptoms of leaky gut, such as fatigue, body aches, joint pains, headaches and allergic rashes, are even less specific. Your doctor may fail to make the diagnosis of leaky gut syndrome as there are no clear clinical features. In fact, he may not even believe that such a condition exists!
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky gut is still somewhat of a mystery but most experts now agree that it is a genuine medical condition, probably caused by increased permeability in the intestines. What this means is that the tight junctions in our gut lining start to allow substances to pass from the gut and into our body’s blood stream. The cause of this damage to the small intestines is unknown but the end result is that undigested food particles, toxins, waste and bacteria may enter the blood stream causing an autoimmune, allergic or inflammatory reaction in the body.
Certain medical problems, such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, do result in changes in the intestines that have similar features as leaky gut but the latter syndrome occurs without an identifiable cause.
Treatment of Leaky Gut
It is not surprising that there is no known definitive cure for a medical condition we know very little about. In fact, patients end up seeking self-remedies or alternative therapies.
Start with identifying a precipitating food item and avoiding it in your diet. A food allergy or food intolerance test may be a useful guide. Eliminate the intake of chronic medications if possible.
Have a balanced diet inclusive of healthy fats such as fish and olive oil. Take probiotics to restore the beneficial gut bacteria and glutamine supplements to help rejuvenate the lining of the intestinal wall.
Meditation and stress management may help as stress may alter the brain gut axis. Ultimately, a healthy diet and lifestyle is likely the best long term approach to this chronic and relapsing condition.
Dr Melvin Look
Gastroenterologist / General Surgeon
Dr Melvin Look is the Director of PanAsia Surgery in Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital and Parkway East Hospital. He is a Consultant Surgeon in Gastrointestinal, Laparoscopic and Obesity Surgery, and has a special interest in performing endoscopy and the treatment of digestive problems. He underwent various training awards at the National Cancer Center Hospital in Tokyo, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh UK, Mount Sinai Medical Centre New York, and Washington Cancer Institute in Washington DC.