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Leaky gut syndrome 

“Leaky gut syndrome” doesn’t sound a very nice condition and there is a school of thought that it doesn’t really exist.

Proponents claim that many symptoms and diseases are caused by the immune system reacting to germs, toxins or other large molecules that have been absorbed into the bloodstream via a porous (‘leaky’) bowel.

There is little evidence to support this theory and no evidence that so-called ‘treatments’ for ‘leaky gut syndrome’, such as nutritional supplements and a gluten-free diet, have any beneficial effect for most of the conditions they are claimed to help.

While it is true that certain factors can make the bowel more permeable, this probably does not lead to anything more than temporary mild inflammation of an area of the bowel.

What we do know is that the inside of the bowel is lined by a single layer of cells that make up the mucosal barrier (the barrier between the inside of the gut and the rest of the body). This barrier is effective at absorbing nutrients but prevents most large molecules and germs passing from inside the bowel into the bloodstream and potentially irritating the bowel lining.

Effect of alcohol and certain painkillers

Alcohol, aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen are well-known irritants of the bowel lining. They damage the seals bet-ween cells, allowing water-soluble substances to pass through the gaps and into the bloodstream.

Gastroenterologists (specialists in diseases of the gut) generally agree that these irritants do not usually cause anything more than just mild inflammation of a particular area of the bowel and the bowel lining becomes even more porous as a result.

At the very worst, the inflammation might be bad enough to cause ulcers in the bowel lining.