leaky gut symptoms

Leaky Gut Symptoms: 21 Conditions Connected to Leaky Gut

March 30, 2019

When people talk about Leaky Gut Syndrome, they use it as a more general term to describe a set of symptoms related to your digestive tract. As scientists uncover more links stemming from Leaky Gut Syndrome to other medical conditions, they're starting to dig deeper into this phenomenon. We're going to tell you all about Leaky Gut, including signs and symptoms and 21 science-backed conditions that could trace back to Leaky Gut.

Contents:

What is Leaky Gut?
Why is Leaky Gut (Intestinal Permeability) an Issue?
Generalised Leaky Gut Symptoms
21 Specific Leaky Gut Symptoms (Specific Conditions Connected to Leaky Gut)

  1. Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis
  3. Allergies
  4. Asthma
  5. Acne
  6. Depression
  7. Anxiety
  8. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  9. Fibromyalgia
  10. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  11. Psoriasis
  12. Lupus
  13. Celiac Disease
  14. Parkinson's Disease
  15. Crohn's Disease
  16. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  17. Insomnia
  18. Autism
  19. Nutritional Deficiencies
  20. Eczema
  21. Sepsis

Bottom Line

What is Leaky Gut?

As we mentioned, the term "leaky gut" could cover a broad range of topics. In the simplest terms, Leaky Gut Syndrome refers to a condition where undigested or partially digested proteins like gluten, microbes or toxins pass through your intestinal wall through small cracks or fissures. Also known as Intestinal Permeability, it can lead to a whole host of problems if you don't take steps to treat it. (1)

In a healthy digestive tract, your intestinal wall acts like a barrier between the bacteria, food and other microbes that pass through your intestines. When this barrier gets damaged, it forms small cracks or holes. These small holes or cracks allow bacteria and other toxins to escape from your intestines and make their way throughout your body. When this happens, you start to see other health complications.

Why is Leaky Gut (Intestinal Permeability) an Issue?

One of the main complications that result from the bacteria or toxins flooding into your body is system-wide inflammation. Your immune system will see these escaped particles as harmful, and it'll send inflammatory markers to try and kill what it sees as an infection. Inflammation is your body's first line of defence against microbes, harmful bacteria and toxins that simply aren't supposed to be in your system. (2)

Additionally, inflammation is a primary driver of chronic disease. Once you have a lot of inflammation throughout your body, you may start noticing other health issues come about like IBS, food sensitivities, arthritis, skin problems, anxiety, depression, autoimmune diseases and much more. (3)

Generalised Leaky Gut Signs and Symptoms

Before we get into the in-depth research and science-backed studies, we're going to give you a few generalised leaky gut signs and symptoms. These generalised symptoms can give you a good idea on whether or not you may have some form of leaky gut going on inside your own body. The generalised signs and symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Autoimmunity
  • Bloating
  • Brain Fog
  • Chronic Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Excessive Fatigue
  • Gas
  • Headaches
  • Immune System Issues
  • Memory Loss
  • Mood Disorders
  • Nutritional Deficiencies
  • Skin Issues

You do have to understand that you may not have all of these symptoms, and it's also possible to display more than one at the same time.

21 Specific Leaky Gut Signs and Symptoms (Specific Conditions Connected to Leaky Gut)

Now that you know what Leaky Gut Syndrome is, why it can be a problem if you don't treat it and a few generalised signs and symptoms; we're going to give you 21 science-backed specific conditions with links to Leaky Gut.

1. Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

Also known as Hashimoto's disease, this is an autoimmune disorder that can cause your thyroid gland to be under-active. Your immune system overreacts, and it can mistakenly attack your thyroid gland. Eventually, this can lead to damage of your thyroid, and then your thyroid won't be able to make enough thyroid hormones to regulate your body, and many of your functions will slow down. (4)

Studies found that roughly 40% of people with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis have problems with intestinal permeability. They have dilated tight junctions in their intestines due to an underperforming thyroid, and this can increase their intestinal permeability. Also, inflammation is common with this disease, and this can lead to further cell damage. (5)

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Over 1.3 million adults in the United States have Rheumatoid Arthritis. This medical condition causes pain, swelling and inflammation in a person's joints. It typically attacks in a symmetrical pattern, and this means that if one hand or knee has it, the other usually does as well. The finger joints and wrists are two of the main areas affected, and the inflammation comes from your immune system mistakenly attacking your joints. (6)

A 2016 study linked intestinal bacteria with a higher prevalence of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Researchers took stool samples from 25 patients who had Rheumatoid Arthritis and compared the bacteria content of the samples to the healthy control group. They found an increase of intestinal bacteria in the Rheumatoid Arthritis group when they compared it to the control group, and they also had higher system-wide inflammation levels. This inflammation was also present in the mucosal lining of the intestines, and it prevents them from absorbing nutrients and from healing damage. This increases their permeability. (7)

3. Allergies

Allergies are one of the leading causes of chronic illness. When you have allergies, your immune system overreacts to substances that generally don't have an effect on other individuals. These substances can include dust, pollen, pet dander, certain foods and mould spores. It's common to experience itching, sneezing and coughing that ranges from mild to severe when you have an allergic reaction. They can be life-threatening in certain people. (8)

Researchers took urine samples from 131 children with food allergies five hours after the children had eaten dairy products, which they had an intolerance or allergy to. The urine showed that 38% of the children (50 out of 131) had increased intestinal permeability following the ingestion of the foods they were allergic to. They noted that there was a higher amount of sugar molecules in the urine. (9)

4. Asthma

Asthma is a chronic disease that directly affects your lungs. People who have asthma experience wheezing, coughing, breathlessness and chest tightness. These conditions tend to get worse with exposure to dust, mould, humidity or in the morning and evening hours. Many people take medications or have an inhaler on hand at all times to help control the severity of an asthma attack when it happens. (10)

Researchers took one group of 32 asthmatic children and matched them to 32 children without asthma in a control group that they matched by age and sex. They gave each child a dual sugar test to measure their levels of lactulose and mannitol to determine their intestinal permeability. They also did a skin prick test to check for aeroallergens. At the end of the test, they found that children with asthma had higher instances of intestinal permeability due to higher sugar ratios in the urine. (11)

5. Acne

For people who have acne, they have a disorder with their hair follicles and pores in their skin. Your pores and hair follicles connect to oil glands under your skin that produce sebum. Dead skin, sebum and hair clump together to form a plug, and bacteria makes this area swell. You get pimples when the plug breaks down. (12)

People who have intestinal permeability can have higher levels of "bad" bacteria throughout their digestive tract that can cause inflammation and affect skin health. One study took individuals with acne and a control group without acne and measured both the inflammatory markers in their blood as well as the bacteria levels. They found that the group who had persistent acne had higher levels of inflammatory markers and bacteria levels than the control group. These are also key indicators of leaky gut because unbalanced bacteria levels can damage your gut lining. (13)

6. Depression

Thousands of people suffer with depression. This is a chronic mood disorder that ranges from moderate to severe. People who have depression typically feel lethargic, lose interest in seemingly everything and body aches are common. It can interfere with how you feel, think and perform common daily activities like sleeping and eating. Medications can help treat the symptoms of depression. (14)

A human study took two groups of people and split them into a control group and a group with diagnosed depression. They measured the levels of gram-negative gut bacteria in both groups throughout the duration of the study. They found that depressed participants had higher levels of gram-negative bacteria in their systems, as well as higher amounts of inflammation than the control group. They hypothesised that the increased inflammation could trigger depressive symptoms, and it could also prevent cells from healing from any damage. (15)

7. Anxiety

People who have anxiety have extensive worry every day or almost every day, for at least six months at a time. These worries can be about anything from personal health, everyday routine, work and social interactions. Other symptoms include irritability, difficulty concentrating, feeling restless and having sleep problems. Generalised anxiety disorder is a large mental health problem for people all over the world, and more research is starting to link it to leaky gut. (16)

One study involving 10 separate waves of data with participants ranging in age from 9 to 16, 19 and 21 years old measured inflammatory markers like C-reactive proteins and the relation to anxiety. C-reactive proteins are common inflammatory markers with leaky gut. They found that people who had higher levels of inflammation and C-reactive proteins had higher levels of anxiety than people who had low levels of inflammation and C-reactive proteins. (17)

8. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a blanket term for several conditions that typically occur together in your digestive tract. Common symptoms that people experience include diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain and nausea. For a diagnosis, you have to experience these symptoms for three consecutive months, and for at least three days per month. Inflammation is also common, and you can manage your IBS by treating the root cause. (18)

One study took 54 people with IBS and 22 people without IBS for a control group. Both of the groups got five grams of lactulose and two grams of mannitol in water, and then researchers collected a urine sample. The results showed that 39% of the people who had IBS had increased intestinal permeability over the control group. Interestingly, the IBS patients also reported higher pain rates than the control group. (19)

9. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that is long-lasting and causes muscle fatigue and pain. People who experience this condition typically report pain or tenderness throughout their bodies. There is a host of symptoms that come with this condition including headaches, morning stiffness, trouble sleeping and tingling or numbness in the hands and feet. You can manage your symptoms with medications and finding the root cause of the problem. (20)

A research trial took 40 patients with active fibromyalgia and matched them to 17 volunteers by age and sex. They used a three sugar test to see which patients had markers for inflammation. At the end of the trial, the fibromyalgia group had 13 patients who had raised intestinal permeability and 15 patients that had raised intestinal permeability in their small intestines. The control group only had one person who had raised intestinal permeability according to the sugar test. (21)

10. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome (Myalgic encephalomyelitis) is a long-term and serious illness that negatively affects several different systems in your body. Many people who have this condition have severe problems with going to sleep, staying asleep and fatigue problems. If it gets severe enough, the people who have it can end up confined to bed. Pain, dizziness and difficulty concentrating are also common. (22)

One study tested the link between leaky gut induced inflammatory markers and CFS. They took 21 patients with CFS and 20 people for a control group. Both groups underwent a typical stress test to measure their PS-stimulated cytokine (inflammatory marker) levels. At the end of the test, they found that the pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in the patients with CFS were significantly elevated when compared to the control group. Since these inflammatory markers signal that there is increased levels of inflammation, this can negatively impact how well your digestive tract works. (23)

11. Psoriasis

People who have psoriasis end up with scaly patches of skin that can feel painful, hot or swollen to the touch. There are five different types of psoriasis that you can get, and the most common symptoms include silvery scales on the skin, itching, burning and general soreness. These patches can show up anywhere on your body; however, you usually get them on your face, elbows, knees and lower back. (24)

A study wanted to prove that intestinal permeability plays a role in psoriasis. They took 15 healthy people for a control group and 15 people with psoriasis. Both groups received an EDTA absorption test to measure how well their intestinal barrier kept the EDTA out of their system. They found that the patients with psoriasis had significantly more EDTA in their blood and urine than the control group. The group with psoriasis had 0.81% to the control group's 0.36%. (25)

12. Lupus

Lupus is a chronic condition where an unknown trigger stimulates your immune system to continually attack the soft tissue in your body. This constant attack can result in severely damaged tissue that produces inflammation throughout your body. While you can't cure lupus, you can treat it and manage your symptoms by finding the root cause. (26)

One study involving mice took 20 mice who had lupus and 20 mice who didn't have lupus for a control group. They performed blood tests to measure the levels of inflammation and bacteria in both groups and measured them over a period of five weeks. At the end of the trial, they found that the mice who displayed lupus-like symptoms had higher levels of bacteria and inflammation related to intestinal permeability than the control group. (27)

13. Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a chronic digestive disorder that can damage your small intestine. People who have celiac disease have an allergy to gluten, and they're not able to eat any products containing gluten without having discomfort, diarrhoea and nausea. Unless you monitor it, this condition can lead to nutrient deficiencies that can further irritate your digestive tract and cause more inflammation. (28)

One prospective study took a control group and patients with celiac disease and divided them into three groups based on the length of their gluten-free diets. group A was on the diet for one month, group B was on the diet between one month and one year and group C was on the diet for over a year. Group D was the control group. They tested their lactulose/mannitol intestinal permeability across all of the groups and found that groups A, B and C had higher intestinal permeability. The control group had no intestinal permeability. (29)

14. Parkinson's Disease

People who have Parkinson's disease have a brain disorder that results in stiffness, shaking, difficulty walking, poor coordination and poor balance. The symptoms usually begin very gradually, and they get worse as time goes on. Sufferers may also have behavioural changes, fatigue, difficulty remembering and trouble talking. (30)

Researchers measured the intestinal permeability of 12 patients with Parkinson's Disease using a noninvasive testing method. They compared the results of these tests to age-adjusted reference values that were predefined. They found that 4 out of the 12 patients with Parkinson's Disease had abnormal intestinal permeability, 2 had an abnormal ratio of lactulose to mannitol and two had an isolated abnormal result. These results showed that patient's with Parkinson's had increased intestinal permeability. (31)

15. Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is a long-term and chronic condition that causes irritation and inflammation to your digestive tract. It centres in your small intestine and spreads to the start of your large intestine. This is a very common condition that results in pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation and abdominal pain. It's more likely to develop in people between the ages of 20 and 29. (32)

One study took 34 patients with active Crohn's Disease and put them on an elemental diet for four weeks to see if it improved their intestinal permeability. They took urine tests every 24 hours to measure the bacteria and sugar content. They found that 27 of the 34 patients went into remission as their intestinal permeability improved. At the end of the four weeks, all of the patients had significant decreases in their intestinal permeability. (33)

16. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

When someone has Inflammatory Bowel Disease, they typically have a broad range of symptoms that medical professionals classify as IBD. Notably, both Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn's Disease get lumped under IBD. One of the hallmarks of this condition is chronic inflammation of your digestive tract. People who have IBD can experience flares that get worse and reduce as the inflammation fluctuates. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, cramping and bloating. (34)

From 2009 to 2015, researchers followed 110 patients to measure how intestinal permeability plays a role in IBD. 22 patients served as the control group, 31 had ulcerative colitis and 57 had Crohn's disease. Patients who had either UC or Crohn's had a significantly higher Confocal Leak Score rating than the control group. At the end of the study, researchers found that 36.2% of the patients with IBD had increased intestinal permeability over the control group. (35)

17. Insomnia

Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder that comes in an acute or chronic form. Acute insomnia comes from stress, family problems or trauma and can last for days or weeks. Chronic insomnia lasts for a month or more, and it's typically a symptom of an underlying medical problem like leaky gut. You can feel anxious, depressed, irritable or fatigued, and your symptoms get worse as your insomnia gets worse. (36)

Did you know that 90% of the serotonin in your body comes from your digestive tract, and serotonin is vital for sleep? One study took people who were experiencing insomnia and problems sleeping and measured their inflammation levels as well as their serotonin levels and compared them to a healthy control group. They found that the group who was reporting insomnia had increased inflammation, intestinal permeability and a disruption of the serotonin production process. (37)

18. Autism

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a developmental disability that has gained a lot of attention in recent years. People on the autism spectrum can have trouble communicating or interacting with other people. The spectrum ranges from mild challenges up to severe, and people with autism usually have different strengths and challenges. Some people need a lot of assistance to go about their daily lives, and some need very little assistance. (38)

A study took 133 children between 10 and 14 years old and divided them in a group of 103 kids with ASD and 30 kids with special needs (SN). Each group got a dose of mannitol and lactulose to test their intestinal permeability, and they had a urine sample taken six hours later. The study found a possible link between intestinal permeability and autism with two children having increased intestinal permeability, but further research is needed for concrete proof. (39)

19. Nutritional Deficiencies

Your body requires varying levels of vitamins and nutrients to function. You can normally get this from your diet, but it's easy to become deficient in vitamin A, iron, zinc and iodine if you have a problem with breaking down your food. It can lead to problems with your fine motor skills, anemia, brain development and more. Nutritional deficiencies happen over time, and there are links to leaky gut. (40)

A study involving 924 children from Bangladesh used the non-invasive Lactulose/mannitol test to see how intestinal permeability affected vitamin A and iron levels in these children. Over the course of four years, they took several urine samples to track the levels of these nutrients. They found that children who were consistently deficient in vitamin A and iron had higher levels of intestinal permeability. (41)

20. Eczema

Eczema is a very common skin condition that is non-infectious. It's an inflammatory disease that causes patches of dry and itchy skin. It's very common in children, and it usually starts to go away by itself as the child ages. Inflammation and stress can cause the patches to flare up and itch in fluctuating severity. Eczema typically appears on your cheeks, buttock, legs, hands and on the stomach. (42)

A controlled trial took 26 children with atopic eczema and compared their relative urinary excretion rates to a control group of 29 children who didn't have atopic eczema. They gave both groups a dose of monosaccharides lactulose and rhamnose and took a urine sample. The results showed that the group of 26 children who had atopic eczema had a greater ratio of lactulose/rhamnose than the control group of 29 children. They found that intestinal permeability and inflammation of the mucosal lining was present in the group that had atopic eczema, and it wasn't found in the control group. (43)

21. Sepsis

Sepsis is an overwhelming response by your immune system due to an infection. Your immune system releases chemicals to fight what it sees as an infection, and this triggers system-wide inflammation. It can lead to clots in your blood vessels and impaired blood flow that will eventually lead to multiple organ failure. (44)

One study took 12 patients admitted to an ICU for suspected sepsis. Three had confirmed sepsis on admission and nine did not. Out of the nine, six developed signs of sepsis during their stay. Doctors measured their secretion of Mannitol and Lactulose via urine samples throughout their stay. They found that the patients who had sepsis on admission and who developed sepsis during their stay had increased intestinal permeability and higher inflammation levels than the three patients who didn't develop sepsis. (45)

Bottom Line

Leaky gut has strong links to over 21 different medical conditions. Some of the conditions are chronic, and others are temporary. However, a high rate of intestinal permeability is a common factor in all of them.

We picked out 20 different science-backed conditions that have links to leaky gut, and we outlined what they are as well as studies to support our claims. If you have one or more of these medical conditions, you may want to think about talking to your doctor about the possibility of leaky gut. Treating the root cause of these problems can usually bring relief and help you live a fuller and happier life.