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What is Leaky Gut (part 1)

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Leaky gut is a major buzzword in the health and wellness space right now.  You know how it goes…there’s something different floating around every year.  Trans fats, organic foods, GMO, now leaky gut. But, in our defense, these buzzwords all come with spikes in research and awareness, so it’s actually a great thing!

So what exactly is leaky gut? Well, it’s a condition that’s really due to a breakdown of tight junctions in the gastrointestinal tract. In order to understand leaky gut, you have to first understand tight junctions,  so here’s a short explanation...


** Tight Junctions
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Tight junctions are a type of epithelial cell.  They are made of proteins and enhanced with cholesterol, and their job is prevent substances from floating between cells. Healthy tight junctions cannot be easily permeated. Instead of floating casually into and through tight junctions, substances must enter these types of cells using a multi-step process which allows for greater control over what is allowed to enter the cell. Tight junctions also control movement out of a cell which helps the cell maintain a state of homeostasis and prevents harmful materials from leaving the cell and entering the bloodstream. Think of them as the biggest, baddest club bouncer you’ve ever seen! If they don’t want you in, you aren’t getting in!

You can find tight junctions hard at work all over the body. You’ll find tight junctions lining the brain, intestines, liver, bladder, and many other organs and tissues.  They are there to protect the organs and tissues from harmful materials that may be in the body, and to also prevent harmful materials from leaving these areas and getting into the body via the bloodstream. The body is pretty amazing, right?!?


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Tight junctions are extremely committed cells, often sticking with its barrier duties until well after the cell it protects has been dead for quite a while. Sometimes, however, problems still occur. One example of what might happen when tight junctions fail is referred to as leaky gut disease. This happens when tight junctions do not prevent digestive enzymes, bacteria, and other potentially harmful substances from exiting.  Those substances then leave the GI tract, enter into the bloodstream and cause an array of problems such as nutrient malabsorption, stomach upset, diarrhea, chronic constipation, brain fog, headaches, attention deficits, chronic fatigue, chronic inflammation, and the list goes on and on.

It is estimated that up to 80% of Americans have some level of leaky gut syndrome due to the country’s high chemical usage in food processing.  The good news is that in most cases, leaky gut is pretty simple to address and reverse.


** Be on the lookout...
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Be on the lookout for part 2 where I’ll discuss some natural treatments for addressing leaky gut!

 

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