The"leaky gut syndrome" theory

Exponents of "leaky gut syndrome" largely practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine believe the bowel lining can become irritated and "leaky" as the result of a much wider range of factors, including an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria in the bowel, a poor diet and the overuse of antibiotics .

They believe that undigested food particles, bacterial toxins and germs can pass through the "leaky" gut wall and into the bloodstream, triggering the immune system and causing persistent inflammation throughout the body. This, they say, is linked to a much wider range of health problems, including:

  • food allergies
  • migraine
  • tiredness and Myalgic encephalomyelitis
  • asthma
  • lupus , rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • skin conditions such as scleroderma and eczema
  • autism

However, there is currently little evidence to suggest these conditions are in fact caused by having a "leaky" gut.

Promoted products

Many different "treatments" have been suggested by people who promote the idea of "leaky gut syndrome", including diet books, nutritional supplements (containing probiotics , for example), herbal remedies, gluten-free foods and other special diets, such as a low FODMAP, low sugar or antifungal diet.

However, you should be wary of treatments offered by people who claim to be able to "cure" "leaky gut syndrome", as there is little scientific evidence to suggest they are beneficial for many of the conditions they are claimed to help.

Some people even promote various nutritional "treatments" for autism, despite conflicting evidence and a recommendation from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that special diets shouldn't be used to treat the main symptoms of the condition.

Some of the dietary changes suggested for leaky gut syndrome (such as a low FODMAP diet) can help people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) , but these seem to work irrespective of the presence of a leaky gut.

Generally, eliminating foods from the diet is not a good idea unless it's strictly necessary (for example, if you have coeliac disease ) and done on the advice of a healthcare professional, as it can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018