If you’ve heard of Leaky Gut Syndrome and read the list of possible symptoms, chances are you’ve also wondered, “Do I have Leaky Gut?” The answer could be “Yes!” That’s because some research indicates that almost 80% of the population has Leaky Gut to some degree. So how do you know if you have Leaky Gut and what are the treatment options?

Definition and Diagnosis

First, a brief explanation of Leaky Gut Syndrome: as the name implies, it is when the small intestine “leaks” or allows particles such as undigested food, bacteria, toxins and waste products to enter the bloodstream. Because these items don’t belong in the blood, your body triggers an autoimmune response, which can manifest as symptoms including inflammation, allergies or rashes.

Leaky Gut Syndrome can be clinically diagnosed, although the test does not provide a 100% affirmative diagnosis; rather the test points to the likelihood of the syndrome. Often a diagnosis of Leaky Gut is made when no other diagnosis can be confirmed for certain reoccurring symptoms.

Causes and Treatment

Leaky Gut is only beginning to be recognized as a legitimate condition by the traditional medical community, and just as there is no definitive diagnosis, there is no cure-all remedy. However, there is agreement among health professionals that there are actions you can take to minimize the effect of Leaky Gut and possibly repair the damage.

There are four main culprits of Leaky Gut: poor diet, high stress, toxin overload and dysbiosis.

Poor diet. Because Leaky Gut deals with the digestive tract, it should come as no surprise that the most effective remedy is eating more healthfully. Modern society indulges in a diet high in processed sugars, gluten, alcohol and dairy — all things that may lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome. An anti-inflammatory diet is the most recommended course of treatment for Leaky Gut because it eliminates all those triggers. An elimination diet can also provide clues to what your specific triggers are. It is also recommended that you add foods known to combat inflammation, such as essential fatty acids found in nuts and fish; and eat foods high in antioxidants like blueberries. You may want to consume bone broth, which contains collagen and amino acids that repair damaged cell walls; as well as coconut oil products. Some also believe that a diet low in fiber can cause Leaky Gut, so filling up on leafy green vegetables and other high-fiber foods, like sprouted grains, can help move waste quickly through the body.

High Stress. Not only does modern life encourage us to eat poorly, but it is also extremely stressful. Prolonged periods of stress are known to weaken our immune systems, which can exacerbate Leaky Gut symptoms. You’ve probably heard it before, but it is important to look for ways to minimize stress in your life where you can. This might mean meditating, exercising or getting a good night’s sleep. Whatever you do today to reduce stress will pay dividends tomorrow and in the future.

Toxin Overload. Some research also indicates that certain medications may encourage Leaky Gut, including many over-the-counter remedies like aspirin and acetaminophen. Excessive alcohol consumption, parasitic infections, radiation and chemotherapy all have possible links to Leaky Gut Syndrome as well. Although we aren’t always able to minimize the medications we take or the medical treatments we undergo, we can still look for ways to eliminate as many toxins from our body as possible. This might mean drinking filtered water or buying organic produce. In addition, L-Glutamine supplements have been shown to heal intestinal injuries after chemotherapy and radiation, and may be beneficial in repairing damaged intestinal lining.

Dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is the imbalance of bacteria in your gut. Along with “bad” bacteria that make us sick, there is also a plethora of good bacteria (known as “gut flora”) that helps keep us healthy. When we don’t have enough good bacteria in our systems, it can lead to Leaky Gut. The main reason for dysbiosis is the overuse of antibiotics, which kill all bacteria in our bodies—both good and bad. Once the beneficial bacteria is gone, it can be hard to build it up to healthy levels again. The best way to do this is by taking a probiotic supplement or eating foods that naturally contain beneficial bacteria like kefir. Fermented foods including kimchi and sauerkraut also promote gut flora.

It is important to talk with a trusted health professional if you think you are suffering from Leaky Gut Syndrome. He or she will be able to discuss treatment options and create a personalized plan to best deal with your particular case.