What is leaky gut syndrome (and is it as gross as it sounds)?

Moist, crusty, leaky...some words in the English language are just, shall we say, unappetizing. But put your distaste aside for a moment, because leaky gut is having a serious moment in the wellness world. Here's what you need to know to be in the know.

What exactly is leaky gut syndrome? Your gut is a super-important, semipermeable organ that, when working optimally, allows good-for-you nutrients and molecules to enter the bloodstream while keeping toxins, undigested food particles and other nasties out. Leaky gut (also known as increased intestinal permeability) refers to a condition in which the holes in your intestinal wall widen, allowing substances to pass through that normally shouldn't. When this happens, your body goes into full-on attack mode, leading to a slew of undesirable symptoms. But here's where it gets tricky: Leaky gut is pretty controversial. It's not actually a medically recognized condition, although it is gaining support both within and outside of the scientific community.

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How do I know if I have it? Again, not so simple. There's no specific test for leaky gut syndrome, and its symptoms range from food allergies and joint pain to IBS and skin issues (think: acne, eczema and rosacea). Basically anything that's ailing you could be tied to leaky gut (which is why many doctors think it's bogus). And its causes are just as wide-ranging—poor diet, stress and gut flora imbalance, to name a few.

Let's say I suspect I have it. Now what? To restore your intestinal lining and nix inflammation, leaky gut backers recommend removing foods that damage the gut (like gluten, sugar and dairy) and replacing them with healing foods (like bone broth and fermented vegetables). They also suggest reducing stress and taking supplements and probiotics.

Sounds extreme. It kinda is. Especially for a condition that is, well, still a bit of a mystery. But hey, cutting back on sugar, slurping on bone broth and relaxing more are surefire ways to boost your health and feel good so maybe there's something about this whole leaky gut thing after all. (Just don't ask us to give up pasta.)

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