“All disease begins in the gut,” said Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine. While he made this claim over 2,000 years ago, modern science shows that he may have been onto something. Leaky gut is an underlying cause of many diseases. It also contributes to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and heart failure.
When diagnosing the root cause of chronic illness or heart disease, conventional labs may come back as normal. This can be frustrating for someone suffering from unexplained symptoms. Leaky gut can often look like other conditions, so the only way to diagnose is through proper testing. For your 100 Year Heart, it’s necessary to target and treat leaky gut right away.
What is leaky gut?
In simple terms, leaky gut is when the small intestine becomes damaged and “leaky.” The small intestine acts as an important barrier between your GI tract and the rest of your body. It’s responsible for absorbing nutrients into the body while protecting you from toxins. A healthy small intestine is made up of cells held together with tight junctions, called Zonulin proteins.
With this condition, the small intestine becomes porous and allows harmful substances to enter your bloodstream. Some of these substances include environmental toxins, pesticides, viruses, bacteria, and more.
In response, the immune system goes into overdrive to get rid of these substances, leading to chronic inflammation. Damaged intestinal cells cannot produce the enzymes necessary for proper food absorption, which can cause nutrient deficiencies.
Consequences of leaky gut
Leaky gut is linked to many health conditions. Some of these include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease which presents as chronic inflammation of the intestine. This includes Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and microscopic colitis.
- Autoimmune disease resulting from an overactive immune response, including lupus, MS, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Diabetes and obesity. Gut problems can disrupt metabolism and cause poor blood sugar control.
- Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. The gut-brain axis is responsible for the close link between gut problems and mental health.
Many other conditions may be caused or worsened by a leaky gut, including high blood pressure and related complications. Later in this article, we’ll discuss how a leaky gut directly impacts your cardiovascular health.
What are the causes of leaky gut?
Research on leaky gut is ongoing — we do not have the full picture yet. However, there are several known causes of leaky gut that you can address today to prevent and alleviate this serious condition.
The traditional Western diet can wreak havoc on your gut. Research shows that processed foods, additives, gluten, and sugar may impact the junctions of the small intestine, leading to leaky gut. Eating the 100 Year Heart Diet can help prevent this. It’s essential to choose organic and grass-fed foods whenever possible.
The world we live in is full of toxins, chemicals, and pollutants – there’s no way to avoid them. Exposure to mold, heavy metals, pesticides, and more can cause a leaky gut. Invest in a high-quality air filter to prevent ingestion of indoor airborne pollutants. If you think you may have a high toxic load, testing is often a good idea to target treatment.
Stress and depression
Leaky gut can cause mental health problems, but research shows that the opposite is also true. This can create a negative feedback loop, which is why physical and mental health are so closely linked. It’s crucial to prioritize mental health and keep stress levels low. Consider seeking help from a professional if necessary.
Certain medications contribute to leaky gut. Antibiotics can be hugely disruptive to the gut microbiome, especially if taken over a long period. Other harmful drugs may include NSAIDs and steroids. With medication, use discretion and only take when absolutely necessary.
Signs and Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Leaky gut can often look like other conditions or present as a vague combination of symptoms. It’s difficult to know the health of your gut without the right testing. But there are some common signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Digestive issues, such as constipation, bloating, and diarrhea
- Unexplained fatigue
- Brain fog and confusion
- Unexplained skin rashes
- Chronic pain
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions
- Nutritional deficiencies
How does a leaky gut affect cardiovascular disease?
Contrary to what your conventional doctor may have told you, you’re not doomed to cardiovascular disease because of your age or genetics. Leaky gut is a common underlying cause of high blood pressure and related complications. Let’s take a closer look at how leaky gut can have devastating effects on heart health.
Inflammation and immune dysfunction
As discussed, leaky gut allows harmful bacteria to pass through the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream. Research has shown a possible link between bacteria and atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries.
Atherosclerosis results from damage to the walls of the blood vessels, allowing for plaque buildup, and increasing the risk of cardiovascular complications. Inflammation, often caused by leaky gut, is also a known cause of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
With leaky gut, immune cells infiltrate the small intestine and produce reactive oxygen species (ROS), or free radicals. To prevent oxidative stress, your body needs enough antioxidants to get rid of these free radicals. As oxidative stress builds, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. This is why antioxidant intake is vital in treating this condition and promoting heart health.
Nitric oxide production
Gut health plays a huge role in producing nitric oxide, a chemical that helps blood vessels relax and keep blood pressure low. Without enough nitric oxide, endothelial dysfunction can occur, which is linked to higher blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular events.
To keep your cardiovascular system healthy, you need to get enough vitamins and nutrients. Some of these include vitamin D, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Leaky gut prevents your intestines from adequately absorbing these nutrients, resulting in deficiencies.
Next steps: get tested
If you have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, it’s important to get tested for leaky gut. Conventional blood tests typically won’t pick up on the specific markers for this condition.
We recommend the Wheat Zoomer test, a highly sensitive test that provides a comprehensive analysis of gluten sensitivity and leaky gut. This test detects zonulin proteins and the antibodies released with intestinal damage. The Wheat Zoomer test shows the severity of your gut disruption and can help you restore your health.
At Natural Heart Doctor, we know that treating leaky gut is one of the key factors in promoting heart health and treating chronic illnesses. Fortunately, gut health can improve with good nutrition, detoxification, and low stress levels.
After making changes to your lifestyle, the Wheat Zoomer test can be done at intervals. This way, you can monitor your progress and ensure that your gut health is headed in the right direction!
Eat Well · Live Well · Think Well
Medical Review 2022: Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD