Whether ‘leaky gut’ exists is a debatable issue between gastroenterologists and naturopaths. Naturopaths believe leaky gut is a syndrome in itself, causing direct symptoms in affected individuals. Main stream doctors and gastroenterologists alike believe that a leaking gut is simply a symptom of a number of other gastrointestinal problems, such as Crohn’s disease and Coeliac disease.
The symptoms of leaky gut syndrome are familiar to a number of other gastrointestinal disorders and include cramping, excessive gas, bloating, intermittent diarrhoea/constipation, fatigue and exhaustion.
Naturopaths and other holistic practitioners believe that leaky gut occurs when the intestinal lining becomes inflamed and damaged. This leads to leakages from the intestinal lining, allowing substances that would normally be digested (such as nutrients and toxins) to enter the blood stream. They hypothesise that these toxins then enter the liver, which is not equipped to deal with such a large amount of toxins at any one time, so stores them in other body tissues to sort out later. The body deals with this by creating antibodies to fight these toxins, which leads to allergic reactions and symptoms such as pain and inflammation.
Main stream medicine agrees that a gut can indeed become leaky; however they do not believe that this itself is causing the suggested allergic reactions and associated symptoms. Gastroenterologists believe, based on evidence based practice, that leaky gut is the consequence of another disease. They agree that there is the potential for harmful substances to cross the intestinal lining, however there is no scientific evidence that food particles crossing the intestinal lining can cause one to become sick or have allergic reactions.
Despite the arguments as to whether leaky gut is indeed a syndrome, and whether or not it is causing harm to the body, both holistic and medical practitioners agree on the possible causes of a leaky gut. It is thought that overuse of aspirin, antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and alcohol abuse can all increase gut permeability, leading to leaky gut like symptoms.
Treatment for the symptoms of a leaky gut differs between holistic and medical practitioners. Holistic practitioners treat leaky gut as a syndrome, and offer patients anti-fungal treatments, probiotics and changes in diet that aim to eliminate ‘offending foods’ which they believe are causing reactions. Mainstream doctors do not look to treat the leaky gut per se, but instead focus on determining and treating what they believe is causing the symptom of ‘leaky gut’ such as Crohn’s and Coeliac disease.
Dietitians lean on the side of medical practitioners, and see leaky gut as a potential symptom of another syndrome, in particular, irritable bowel syndrome. Treatment for irritable bowel syndrome will in fact be similar to the holistic treatment of leaky gut. A dietitian will work with patients symptoms, identifying the individual triggers and developing a diet tailored to avoid these triggers for a pre-determined period of time to allow the gut to rest. Trigger foods are very individual but often include gas producing foods. These foods will then slowly be re-introduced into the diet and symptoms monitored. Dietitians will also encourage irritable bowel sufferers to very slowly increase fibre intake, focusing on soluble fibres. A decrease in insoluble fibres, will be recommended, as these can further irritate an already sensitive intestinal lining. Probiotics are also recommended, to ensure a healthy balance of gut bacteria.
It is well known that stress can play a role in causing or increasing the symptoms of an irritated gut. Employing stress relief and relaxation techniques is an important part of treatment for suffering patients. A regular exercise routine is recommended, not only as a way to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle but also for its stress relieving capability.
In all, holistic practitioners, medical doctors and dietitians agree that symptoms of leaky gut, gastrointestinal disorders and irritable bowel syndrome can have a debilitating effect on a sufferer’s lifestyle. It is important to have such symptoms investigated by a medical doctor to rule out any underlying or potentially harmful conditions before beginning treatment with another practitioner. A dietitian can work closely with your medical doctor to ensure you are receiving the best treatment for symptoms based on medical evidence and best practice guidelines.
Added to site on : Monday, 12 November 2012