A brightly-colored leaky gut is shown being permeated by differently-colored particles.

Leaky Gut Syndrome and IBS

There are so many secondary conditions that potentially have a connection with IBS. Leaky gut syndrome was brought to my attention by a patient during an office visit several years ago. To be honest, I thought she was making it up. In my 9 years of nursing, I had never heard of such a condition. Turns out, it’s a real thing.

What is leaky gut syndrome?

Leaky gut syndrome is a condition where the tight junctions of cells that line the digestive tract, called epithelial cells, are damaged and are not able to provide the proper barrier function that they are meant for. When there is more permeability, it is presumed that molecular substances are able to permeate through the gut wall barrier. This has the potential to trigger an inflammatory immune system response.1

What is the connection between leaky gut and IBS?

Studies have shown that an increase in small intestine permeability can cause the onset of bowel disease. Contributing factors to increased permeability include altering gut flora with probiotics and antibiotics. Researchers have devised theories of the relationship between IBS and leaky gut that include stress, post-infectious IBS, and genetics. It has also been discussed that increased permeability and inflammation related to IBS may be the reason for all the unexplained “extra”-intestinal symptoms experienced by those who suffer from IBS. I found this very interesting!2

Does everyone with IBS have leaky gut syndrome?

Not likely. However, if someone has classic irritable bowel syndrome symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, AND also have other symptoms or conditions such as allergies, eczema, fatigue, joint pain, autoimmune diseases, etc, a leaky gut is definitely possible.

Unfortunately, there is limited testing available for leaky gut syndrome, so the diagnosis is often based on clinical judgment. The lactulose/mannitol test, which measures the ability of sugar molecules to pass through the intestinal lining, has been the most reliable test at measuring intestinal permeability. There is also cyrex labs that can be done, which look at our immune system’s response to lipopolysaccharides and zonulin. Ideally, LPS and zonulin should remain within the intestines. If you have a leaky gut, these molecules can enter the bloodstream and cause the immune system to overreact.3

If you are concerned you may have leaky gut syndrome symptoms, please consult your healthcare provider and ask about these tests.

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