The gut works to absorb nutrients to the cells, but also to protect the bloodstream from toxins and pathogens. If the gut lining is damaged, then not only can we not absorb the nutrients we need from our food (ie it doesn’t matter how well you are eating) but we also allow particles or undigested food as well as pathogens into our bloodstream that should not be there.
What is leaky gut?
This concept is what we call ‘leaky gut’. The damaged mucosal lining of the intestine has holes within it, which may be further irritated and cause inflammation (due to food sensitivities, allergies, antibiotics, or pathogens such as candida).
What makes leaky gut so dangerous, is that we now know it can trigger multiple health issues. The following conditions have been shown to have a link to leaky gut:
Anxiety, depression, mental health conditions
Behavioural changes (hyperactivity, irritability, aggression)
Memory issues or brain fog
Joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis
Neurological and immunological responses can occur for both children and adults. Autoimmunity can be triggered by the response to foreign particles, and particles can even travel to the brain.
How is the brain affected?
The gut can have an immediate impact on brain function. The brain and gut are so directly linked in that 70% of the neurotransmitters found in the brain are also found in the gut. In early childhood, enzymes are required for brain development as well as for detoxification, and if those enzymes are low functioning, then brain development is affected.
Leaky gut is common
It is estimated that 70% of the general population has leaky gut, and all infants have a leaky permeable gut until it has properly developed – making children all the more prone to these type of conditions.
Damage to gut lining is due to a variety of factors, one of which is poor food choices – refined foods don’t encourage a healthy mucosal lining, but they do make a great location for unwanted bacteria to thrive.
Antibiotic use causes inflammation to the gut lining and kills off healthy bacteria setting the scene for gut dysbiosis.
Parasites also damage the gut as they stick to the lining and cover themselves in a biofilm to avoid detection by the immune system.
Candida and yeasts cause damage if they are left to thrive due to low numbers of good bacteria and poor dietary intake of refined carbohydrates and sugars.
How do we treat leaky gut?
Healing the gut lining can be complex, depending on the amount and severity of the damage.
It is best to work with a practitioner to determine any foods which may be irritating the lining and causing inflammation, identify any pathogens in the gut and determine what the pathogen is sensitive to, encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria, and look at any nutritional deficiencies as there are some key nutrients required for healing. Therapeutic doses are then prescribed, as well as a dietary prescription to aid healing and correct deficiencies.
If you have noticed a change in your child, behaviourally, developmentally, or any other symptoms that concern you, arrange a time to speak to your practitioner in order to investigate. Try not to feel overwhelmed, but get the help you need to make a start in the right direction and support healing for your child.
Yvette is a qualified Melbourne-based Naturopath and Nutritionist, MINDD Practitioner, member of the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia, and Complementary Medicine Association. Yvette specialises in the treatment of conditions commonly affecting women and children, with a key interest in children’s digestive and neurological conditions, as well as women’s hormonal concerns, digestive issues, fatigue, anxiety, and skin concerns. Yvette consults in South Yarra, Melbourne, as well as Australia-wide via skype/zoom/phone.
The Naturopathic Co. Melbourne Naturopath 2020