Gut Dysfunction and Leaky Gut
The gut is interesting. Grossly speaking, it is a VERY long tube that runs from your mouth to your anus (about 30 feet long). The inside of your gut is considered to be “OUTSIDE” of your body and much like your skin has the job of getting rid of toxins and soaking up nutrients (think about a hormone cream or the suns rays for that matter).
Let me ask you a question, if you had a papercut on your finger, would the skin near the papercut do as good of a job at keeping the bad stuff out?
Of course not, right?
Well, the inside of your gut is not too terribly dissimilar to your skin:
1. It has the job of keeping the bad stuff out
2. It has the job of letting the good stuff in
3. It can get irritated and cut
4. It can bleed if it gets damaged enough
Your gut is also different from your skin in several ways. The most obvious is that you can’t see your gut lining. You can’t see if the lining of your gut has a cut or an abrasion or is just red and irritated the way that you can see it on your skin.
The tube that makes up your gut is not a straight tube like a hose or a straw.
The gut consists of . . .
Your mouth. You know what your mouth is . . . it has teeth for chewing food into a smaller, more easily digestible (and swallowable) bolus of food and saliva. When you swallow, the bolus of food moves into your . . .
Esophagus. Your esophagus is basically a muscular tube that moves food from your mouth into your stomach.
The Stomach which is an area that creates a distended pouch that we call the stomach. The top and the bottom of the stomach are pinched off, much like you might crimp a hose. The stomach should have a very acidic environment. Acidity has two purposes:
1. The acid kills any bad bugs that find their way into your stomach
2. The acid breaks down the food that you eat into smaller pieces that will be easier for your gut lining to assimilate farther down the tube.
The small intestine, oddly enough is the longest segment of the gut tube but it is the smallest in diameter, thus “small intestine.” The small intestine is where the “food” becomes liquified and absorbed by the body . . . but it’s a delicate balance because it still has to keep the bad stuff out. Right? It’s important that you keep that in mind. It is also where the liver and gall bladder dump the waste products that either get into your body or are produced by your body.
It's a busy place. The small intestine starts to become less acidic and more basic as you travel down it.
The Large Intestine, which is shorter than the small intestine but larger in diameter. The main function of the large intestine is to absorb water and minerals (because your body is an efficient steward of resources) and it moves waste products along to be eliminated when you poop.
Again, the lining of the large intestine must be absorbent enough to absorb water and tiny minerals but have enough integrity to keep harmful waste products out.
And of course, the whole thing winds it’s way back and forth throughout your chest and abdomen.
Okay, so that’s a short a VERY basic lesson on how the gut functions.
Now let’s talk about a few common things that can go wrong:
The first thing is that the lining of the stomach slows its production of acid so the stomach becomes less acidic. This is a condition called Hyochlorhydria.
This is bad because when you eat a meal, instead of it becoming digested and moving on to the small intestine, it can sit in your stomach and rot, producing gas which tends to reflux up the esophagus and cause GERD or Heartburn.
Also, if the stomach doesn’t do a good enough job of breaking that bolus of food down into something that the small intestine can assimilate into the blood stream, you essentially become deficient in nutrients.
For example, without a sufficiently acidic stomach, you don’t absorb calcium or magnesium or B vitamins or protein and on and on.
This is one area that a medical doctor and a functional health doctor will differ. Whereas a medical doctor will give a “antacid” or even worse a proton pump inhibitor to reduce the acid in the stomach even further, a functional health doctor will usually give something to increase stomach acid (with food). so, the food can get digested properly.
The second problem that can happen is a condition called intestinal hyperpermeability or what you have probably heard called “leaky gut.”
From henceforth I shall refer to it as leaky gut . . .
The lining of the small intestine’s job is to keep bad stuff out and let good stuff in. Under normal circumstances the cells that make up the lining are very tightly packed together and specialized structures carry nutrients from the inside of your gut (which is technically outside of your body) into your body and into your blood where it makes it’s way around your entire body and into your cells.
When you have leaky gut, larger particles, make their way into your blood stream where they can cause problems.
Maybe one of the biggest problems associated with leaky gut is autoimmunity.
Autoimmunity occurs when your immune system creates antibodies that attack cells in your body.
Some examples of autoimmune conditions are:
1. Rheumatoid Arthritis - the immune system attacks the lining of joints
2. Multiple Sclerosis - the immune system attacks the lining of nerves.
3. Type 1 Diabetes – the immune system attacks the pancreas cells that produce insulin
4. Hashimoto’s Disease – the immune system attacks the thyroid gland
To say that there is only one cause and one treatment, would most likely be false but that being said, one of the major causes of autoimmune diseases is a leaky gut.
Allow me to explain what happens. When you have a leaky gut, larger particles are able to get into the blood stream. A protein is a part of food and proteins come in many different shapes and have many different functions.
Your immune system creates anti-bodies against proteins that it does not recognize as belonging to your body.
The problem comes in if one of these proteins that made it’s way past the gut barrier and “looks like” a tissue in your body.
For instance, gluten tends to look like thyroid tissue. So it is possible that if you consume gluten when you have a leaky gut that you could develop the autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s disease.
Leaky gut is made even worse if you lack the stomach acid necessary to break proteins down into their smaller parts because there are more larger proteins present in the small intestine to “leak” into the blood stream.
So, the combination of hypochlorhydria and Leaky Gut could lead to autoimmune conditions, among other things.
Constipation is when you don’t poop often enough or when you have to really strain at the stool to pass a poop.
One of the problems with constipation is that your stool is the primary way that your body gets rid of it’s waste . . . and some of that waste is toxic to your body. If you don’t eliminate the waste in a timely manner, it sits there and irritates the lining of the colon and can eventually make it’s way back into the body, through the lining of the colon.
I don’t really know any other way to say this, but POOPING IS IMPORTANT.
You should be pooping at least daily and 2-3 times per day is preferable.
We don’t want you to get back up.
There are of course other things that can go wrong with your gut, but these are the 3 things that we really focus on.
Gut dysfunction is a Root Cause for chronic disease and chronic ill-health and is a major focus for the work that we do with all of our patients.
If any of this sounds familiar to you and you are ready to do something about it . . . we would love to help you.
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This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all health care concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a health care professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.