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Just as the name suggests, leaky gut (also known as intestinal permeability) occurs when the intestinal wall, which usually allows a certain amount of certain substances to pass through, begins to let out more than it should.
“Unwanted guests [that are released into the bloodstream] can include proteins like gluten, bad bacteria and undigested food particles,” says Dr. Axe, DNM, CNS, DC, author of The Gut Repair Cookbook (Axe Wellness, LLC, 2016) . Additional waste can also escape from your intestinal wall and into your bloodstream, causing an immune reaction. Furthermore, Dr. Axe says this common malady is the root cause of many ailments affecting the Western population today, among them allergies, autoimmune disorders like Celiac disease, chronic inflammatory conditions like arthritis, chronic gastrointestinal problems like IBS, metabolic diseases like diabetes, and even some types of cancer (specifically esophageal and colorectal).
So how does this degradation start? Alcohol use and certain medications, even over-the-counter ones like aspirin, may play a role. Stress, Dr. Axe notes, is also a culprit. And though there is still debate in medical communities as to the dangers associated with leaky gut – or whether it’s even a real condition – recent research has found a link between the syndrome and cancers in the liver, lungs and lymph nodes.
To ensure your gut lining is in tip-top shape, include plenty of probiotic-rich fermented foods in your diet such as sauerkraut and kefir as well as prebiotic foods like onions, garlic, asparagus and Jerusalem artichokes, which act as food for the probiotics, – and make sure to follow our other recommendations in the “Get Your Flora to Flourish” section of Happy Gut, Healthy Everything.