Leaky Gut Syndrome and Your Mental Health
Reader, no matter where you are or what you’re doing, hearing the words, “I think we have a leak” is never a good thing. Whether it’s a leak in your roof or in your bike tire’s inner tube, you can count on the consequences wreaking havoc on your day… or depending on the severity, possibly even your week or month.
Similar to a leaky shower’s effects on your home, a leaky gut can wreak havoc on the health of an unsuspecting individual. But we’re not talking about dollar amounts or damage to the ceiling... we’re talking about chronic, serious health problems, both physical and mental. However, unlike a leaky shower, the cause of a leaky gut is no random occurrence. Rather, the cause can be traced back to the health of the trillions of bacteria that make up your gut microbiome.
And luckily for us, the cure can be uncovered there as well. In this blog, we’re taking a deep dive into Leaky Gut Syndrome, and how our microbiome can both cause and prevent it.
What’s Up with your Leaky Gut?
When some of my patients first hear the term Leaky Gut Syndrome, they scrunch up their noses in a look of disgust. We often consider our intestines–our guts–to be our body’s sewer system. Who wouldn’t be grossed out by the image of a sewage leak into our bloodstream?
However, our gut plays a much larger role in our body’s health than simply aiding in digestion. The trillions of gut bacteria living in your intestinal tract are also responsible for our metabolism, the production of many of our hormones, and our mental health. When your microbiome is healthy and diverse, the lining of your gut allows safe passage for numerous important nutrients to enter our brains and bloodstream, while creating a barrier that safely locks away toxic metabolites and bad bacteria.
But when your microbiome is in a dysbiotic state, the lining of your intestines becomes more permeable–that is, “leaky”–allowing that bad bacteria and other waste that should stay well within the gut to leak through and enter your circulation. Once your body recognizes molecules have “snuck” into a space they don’t belong, it fires up your immune system, which in turn can lead to chronic inflammation of the gut. Leaky gut syndrome can also lead to a range of mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, and autism. This results from a “leaky brain.”
How Does a Leaky Gut Impact your Mental Health?
Research has shown a correlation between a leaky gut and chronic inflammation, as well as a correlation between chronic inflammation and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thinking. Your “leaky gut” can also cause a “leaky brain”, whereby the blood-brain barrier becomes permeable, allowing damaging molecules to leak into and inflame the brain itself!
Luckily, if you suffer from a leaky gut, there are plenty of actions you can take to right the ship–and the solution starts with healing the gut from the inside out. A gut microbiota suffering from dysbiosis can be rejuvenated by “good” bacteria in the form of probiotics. In fact, studies have shown that patients taking probiotics showed reduced levels of stress and “improved self-reported psychological effects” to a similar degree as a commonly administered antidepressant.
Diet can also play an important role in fixing the leak, so to speak. An unhealthy diet can begin to harm your microbiome in as little as 24 hours, but these effects can be reversed in as little as two to four days by eating a healthy diet.
Fixing a Leaky Gut through a GI Effects Stool Test
How do we determine the health or illness within your microbiome? Genova’s GI Effects Stool Test, and other tests for SIBO and food sensitivities, can help you and your doctor get a baseline for where your microbiome health stands today. If you’re impacted by a leaky gut, don’t worry–the leak can be repaired, and Potomac Psychiatry can help.