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Leaky Gut Syndrome and Irritable Bowel: What Causes Gut Problems?

Leaky Gut Syndrome



The gut or intestines protect the body from harmful bacteria and toxins.  However, the gut has other vital functions than digestion. It contains most of our immune system and produces neurotransmitters like serotonin and acetylcholine. The gut-brain axis is a two-way communication system between the brain and the gut.  This connection links the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with GI  functions.


What is Leaky Gut

Leaky gut syndrome( LGS)  is a digestive condition that affects the lining of the intestines. It results in increased permeability, allowing large particles of ingested foods that would usually be kept out to enter the bloodstream, resulting in food sensitivities. The intestines become leaky (increased permeability) when the intestinal lining does not work correctly.

Usually, GI cells form a tight barrier that controls what we absorb into the bloodstream.  An unhealthy gut may have large cracks or openings that allow partially digested food, toxins, and bacteria to penetrate the tissues beneath it. This structural change may cause bad changes in the gut flora that could lead to inflammation and digestion problems, along with imbalances in the gut microbial can trigger the body’s immune response, which leads to inflammation. It is thought that this inflammation leads to increase intestinal permeability seen in leaky gut syndrome. 

Patients with celiac disease, irritable bowel, and Crohn’s disease experience the loosening of the tight junction, as seen in leaky gut syndrome. In all these conditions, they also experience the loss of microvilli ( tiny hair on the intestinal cells that absorbs nutrients). It is unclear if they are the same diseases or the progression of each other.

What Causes Leaky Gut

The exact cause of a leaky gut is unknown. Still, an overgrowth of yeast and bad bacteria, lack of good bacteria( flora), decreased stomach acid or enzymes,  stress, antibiotics, lack of fiber, alcohol, and processed foods may play a role.  A  past or current history of chemotherapy, radiation, recurrent infections, and diabetes is more likely to be associated with those who suffer from leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky Gut Symptoms

Leaky gut syndrome symptoms include abdominal bloating, gas, cramps, food sensitivities, diarrhea, and constipation occur.  Other symptoms might include nutritional deficiencies, fatigue, headaches, difficulty focusing,  skin problems, and joint pain.  

Individuals with leaky gut are more likely to suffer from autoimmune disease, anxiety, and depression because of the disruption of the gut-brain axis. They are also more likely to suffer from recurrent infections and inflammatory diseases. 



The consequences of a leaky gut can be dire. It is thought to be linked to autoimmune disorders and many other chronic diseases. A leaky gut is also associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic infections,  autism, diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, food allergies, liver disease, asthma, acne, obesity, and mental illness. 

How to Heal a Leaky Gut

There are a few things that can help those suffering from leaky gut syndrome symptoms:

  • Talk to a holistic doctor about your symptoms
  • Get tested for food allergies and avoid foods with moderate to severe sensitivity
  • Avoid inflammatory foods like dairy, eggs, gluten, and wheat
  • Avoid processed and fast  foods
  • Eat foods high in fiber
  • Consume foods or supplements high in glutamine
  • Eat green leafy vegetables
  • Take digestive enzymes, which help break down food particles
  • Take  probiotics to help restore gut flora
  • Eat less meat
  • Avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Exercise regularly
  • Reduce stress
  • Avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics

  Learn more about gastrointestinal health

About Author

Picture of  Ava Bell-Taylor, M.D

Ava Bell-Taylor, M.D

Ava Bell-Taylor, M.D., originally from Atlanta, Georgia, received her Bachelor of Science degree from Spelman College. She later received her medical degree from Morehouse School of Medicine. She completed her Family Practice training at Floyd Medical Center in Rome, Georgia and her psychiatry residency at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Bell-Taylor has extensive post-graduate medical training in Functional, Integrative, and Anti-Aging Medicine. She is certified in Functional Medicine. Ava Bell-Taylor, M.D. is a holistic doctor with a focus on functional and integrative medicine. Combining functional medicine with her knowledge of conventional medicine has enabled Dr. Bell-Taylor to help many patients suffering from depression, anxiety, insomnia, attention-deficient, dementia, and eating disorders. Dr. Bell-Taylor specializes in functional medicine with a special emphasis on how hormone disorders, environmental factors, lifestyle choices, and nutritional deficiencies contribute to brain dysfunction, like depression, attention deficiency, anxiety, insomnia, dementia, and other chronic medical illnesses. Dr. Ava Bell- Taylor is the co-author with her husband, Eldred B, Taylor, M.D, of two must-read books, Are Your Hormone Making You Sick? and The Stress Connection: How Adrenal Gland Dysfunction Effects Your Health.

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