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Is Leaky Gut Syndrome a Legitimate Diagnosis?

Registered dietitian and digestive health specialist Tamara Duker Freuman joins Nutrition Diva to sort through the facts and fictions surrounding intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut syndrome.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
Episode #529
intestinal permeability diagnosis

Several times a week, I get emails from listeners asking me to dedicate an episode to leaky gut. Is this a real thing? How do you know if you have it? How can you heal or prevent a leaky gut?

To help me sort through what has become a veritable mountain of myth and misunderstanding on this subject, I’ve invited Tamara Duker Freuman, a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in digestive disorders, back to the Nutrition Diva podcast for an encore appearance.

Earlier this year, Tamara joined me on the podcast to talk about her book, The Bloated Belly Whisperer, in which she explains the many different causes of belly bloating and how to tailor an approach to your particular situation. If you heard that episode, then you know that Tamara really knows her stuff. And I can’t think of a better person to help us understand the mysterious (and, according to some people, extremely common) phenomenon popularly referred to as leaky gut syndrome.

The basic idea is that something— it might be a food, additive, environmental toxin, or even stress—causes the cells that line the digestive tract to become inflamed and irritated. As a result, the normally tight connections between these cells become more permeable (or “leaky.") Allegedly, this permeability allows toxins, bacteria or partially digested food to “leak” out of the intestines and into circulation, where they cause all kinds of havoc. Symptoms attributed to a leaky gut include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, and an entire range of digestive symptoms. 

Alternative medicine practitioners (or popular websites) might base a diagnosis of leaky gut syndrome on your symptoms. Or, they may recommend various lab tests— such as urine, blood, or stool tests—to confirm the diagnosis.

The next step is a protocol to heal the gut. These typically involve fasting or eliminating various foods and food groups that are thought to be inflammatory from the diet. Leaky gut protocols may also include introducing probiotic foods or probiotic supplements, along with a host of other dietary supplements. Often, but not always, people following these protocols experience relief from some of their symptoms, which would seem to validate the approach.

There's only a drop of truth here surrounded by an ocean of misinformation and misunderstanding.

But, as is so often the case, there's only a drop of truth here surrounded by an ocean of misinformation and misunderstanding.

In our interview, Tamara and I discuss:

  • What intestinal permeability is (and isn’t)
  • The potential causes of intestinal permeability
  • What symptoms might be caused by intestinal permeability
  • How researchers determine if someone has intestinal permeability
  • Possible adverse effects of leaky gut protocols
  • The best way to maintain healthy intestinal barrier function

If you’ve ever wondered whether your symptoms might be caused by a leaky gut, you need to listen to this episode!

Learn more about Tamara’s book at BloatedBellyWhisperer.com and follow Tamara on Facebook (@thebloatedbellywhisperer), Twitter (@tamaraduker) and Instagram (@tamarafreuman).

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