by Dr. Will Cole
The gastrointestinal tract is sealed off from the rest of your body by a gut lining that only allows fully digested nutrients into the bloodstream. During the normal digestion process, the tight junctions (think of them as protective gates) in this lining stay closed, forcing all molecules to effectively be screened and only pass into the blood stream through the mucosal cells when appropriate for nutrient absorption.
However, the integrity of this lining may become compromised due to inflammation, which could be caused by many different things, including a poor diet, stress, medications, bacterial or viral infections, autoimmune disease, and more. When the lining becomes more permeable than it should, these tight junctions can “open,” allowing bacteria, toxins, incompletely digested proteins, fats, and waste into the bloodstream.
Once these toxins are in the blood, they flow throughout the body, which senses them as invaders, as they do not belong in the bloodstream. This can trigger an autoimmune reaction as the body over-responds to these “invaders.” It’s a serious although common problem, and it can compromise health in many different ways, triggering, contributing to, or worsening a wide range of chronic diseases, including arthritis, asthma, autism, autoimmune conditions, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, type I diabetes, type II diabetes, skin disorders, thyroid problems, and weight loss resistance. Every one of these conditions has been linked to gut health issues in some way.
The question is: Do you have a leaky gut? If you do, as you can see, it could become a factor in whatever chronic health issues you may be experiencing. That is why it is important to determine whether or not you actually have a leaky gut. If you discover that you do, you can take steps to heal it, which can help the rest of your body to heal, too. Here are five tests that can give you a definitive answer:
1. Food intolerance test
When the immune system is in hyper-reactive mode, your body may see almost everything as a threat. It may start producing antibodies to foods you eat all the time, resulting in a food intolerance. Sometimes the intolerance to certain foods creates obvious symptoms, but more often it creates low-grade systemic inflammation over time. Testing to determine these intolerances can guide your dietary choices towards anti-inflammatory rather than inflammatory foods, to help your whole system calm down.
2. Parasite test
Leaky gut and an imbalanced microbiome can become a breeding ground for parasites. While parasitic infections are often associated with visits to tropical or developing countries, I see them frequently in Western patients with chronic conditions, even when they have not visited locations where parasites are more common. Any compromised immunity can give opportunistic parasites a foothold. If you identify them, you can take steps to get rid of them.
3. Bacterial dysbiosis test
Just as with chronic parasitic infections, a weakened GI system can also cause an imbalance of bacterial life or dysbiosis. When there’s a pH change in the GI system, conditions like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) can arise. This change in your body’s pH can also cause higher levels of opportunistic bacteria such as H. pylori and E. coli. This test will help you determine what bacteria might be out of balance so you can target the problem.
4. Lactulose/Mannitol test
This highly specific test analyzes urine for the clearance of two sugars, lactulose and mannitol, which are byproducts of leaky gut syndrome.
The best way to order these tests and to have guidance in interpreting their results is to consult with a functional medicine practitioner, who can order the tests and provide a comprehensive diagnosis with personalized solutions for those suffering with chronic health conditions. If mainstream medicine hasn’t provided you with answers to your symptoms, consider this path. I consult people all over the world in dealing with these underlying issues such as gut health.
If you want to learn more about your own health case please check out our free health evaluation. We offer in person as well as phone and webcam consultations for people across the country and around the world.
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