Leaky gut syndrome is a label put on a set of symptoms, including gas, bloating, and pain, that is actually something of a mystery to doctors.
"From an MD’s standpoint, it’s a very gray area,” gastroenterologist Donald Kirby, MD, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Cleveland Clinic, told WebMD
. “Physicians don’t know enough about the gut, which is our biggest immune system organ.”
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When people refer to "leaky gut syndrome," Kirby said, it actually means "you've got a diagnosis that still needs to be made. You hope that your doctor is a good-enough Sherlock Holmes, but sometimes it is very hard to make a diagnosis."
But there is no doubt that leaky gut syndrome exists, gastroenterologist Linda Lee told WebMD.
Essentially, leaky gut syndrome is a set of symptoms, which include bloating, gas, abdominal pain, food sensitivities, and cramps. Some people experience diarrhea while others may struggle with constipation.
Sometimes the symptoms of leaky gut are caused by underlying diseases, such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease, and treating those conditions may clear up or alleviate the leaky gut, Web MD said.
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While leaky gut is still being investigated by medical researchers, there is a theory that it has to do with the permeability of the intestines, The Daily Beast reported
. Although vitamins and minerals out of food are supposed to "leak" through the intestinal wall, it is believed that larger particles that aren't supposed to get through do so when there is a leaky gut.
Leaky gut has been tied to a host of other symptoms and conditions, the Beast said. They include illnesses like asthma, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, eczema, and others.
Progress is being made in defining leaky gut and how it happens, The Daily Beast reported. Harvard celiac researcher Alessio Fasano, MD, said a protein, called Zonulin, opens the seals in the intestinal lining.
"Although we don’t know all the things that stimulate the release of Zonulin, we do know that certain bacteria and gluten can do it. Along with genetic factors, that may be enough to create a perfect storm to trigger disease," the Beast wrote.
“I firmly believe that without loss of intestinal barrier,” Dr. Fasano told The Daily Beast, “it is difficult ... to understand how autoimmune diseases would develop.”
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