In our functional medicine Toronto practice, we frequently discuss how gastrointestinal (GI) health is essential for strengthening immune function and overall wellness.
The gut is responsible for digesting food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste, all of which are crucial for maintaining optimal health. Ongoing research has highlighted the importance of the gut microbiome, which is a complex community of microorganisms that reside in our digestive tracts. Our microbiome helps to modulate the immune system, protect against pathogens, and produce essential nutrients and metabolites.
Gut imbalances from intestinal permeability/leaky gut and dysbiosis can contribute to an array of health concerns. Emerging research links gut health to various conditions that may not initially seem related to the digestive system. In fact, autoimmune and chronic conditions have been associated with gut dysbiosis and gut microbiome imbalances. The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in modulating the immune system, metabolism, and inflammation, which are all factors that can contribute to the development of these conditions. With that, identifying and avoiding personalized dietary triggers can be a helpful strategy, but it should be combined with other approaches, such as stress management skills, regular exercise, and adequate sleep, for managing these autoimmune/chronic conditions.
Here, the Toronto Functional Medicine Centre explains how poor gut health and leaky gut can contribute to inflammation in various health conditions.
- Eczema: Dysbiosis and increased intestinal permeability may contribute to the development of eczema by affecting the immune system and promoting systemic inflammation. The connection between gut health and eczema is an area of ongoing research. The relationship between intestinal mucosal disruption and eczema may be plausible due to similarities between the skin and gut barrier functions, as well as the known interactions between the skin and gut microbiomes.
Probiotics may help eczema by modulating immune function, reducing inflammation, and helping restore gut microbiome balance. Several studies have shown that probiotics may reduce eczema severity, especially when used as a preventative measure. However, prebiotics, which are non-digestible food components that promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, have also been investigated for their potential role in eczema prevention. Journals have discussed that probiotic treatments may lead to a positive effect on reducing the severity of eczema. On the other hand, prebiotics might not be a comprehensive solution for eczema management.
- Migraines and chronic headaches: Many functional medicine patients report a connection between dietary factors and migraines or headaches. While food triggers can be individualized, there are some common culprits that have been identified in studies. For example, one study of kids with chronic headaches found that the exclusion of certain foods and food additives, such as caffeine, MSG, cocoa, aspartame, cheese, citrus, and nitrates, led to a significant improvement in symptoms for 87% of the participants after six weeks.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Some research has identified differences in the gut microbiome between individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and those without the condition. These differences may contribute to the development of the disease by endorsing inflammation and altering immune responses. There is also evidence suggesting that certain gut bacteria can produce compounds that trigger joint inflammation.
- Multiple sclerosis (MS): Research has shown that individuals with multiple sclerosis have altered gut microbiomes compared to healthy individuals. Imbalances in the gut microbiome may contribute to the development of MS by affecting the immune system and promoting inflammation. Some studies have shown that modifying the gut microbiome through diet or probiotics may be used as adjunct support for multiple sclerosis symptoms.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is characterized by chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. Gut dysbiosis has been consistently observed in individuals with IBD, and it is thought to contribute to the development and progression of the disease. In some cases, treatments aimed at restoring the gut microbiome, such as fecal microbiota transplantation, have shown promise in managing IBD symptoms.
- Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease: Gut microbiome imbalances have also been linked to metabolic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. The gut microbiome can influence metabolism, energy expenditure, and inflammation, all of which are factors that can contribute to the development of these conditions. Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome through a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress management may help prevent or manage these diseases.
While the bridge between gut health and these conditions is becoming increasingly clear, further research is needed to understand the underlying mechanisms. Thus, an integrative functional medicine approach to your health issues could be advantageous, as this considers the interplay between diet, current lifestyle, and gut health.
Treating leaky gut and chronic inflammation
Treating leaky gut and inflammation involves addressing dietary triggers, inflammation, nutritional health status, and your gut microbiome health. Consider working with a functional medicine practitioner in customizing your treatment plan. Here are some key steps for managing leaky gut and inflammation:
- Dietary triggers can be highly individualized and may involve factors such as cross-reactivity. So, work with a healthcare provider to identify and treat potential triggers.
- Avoid unbalanced diets or take measures to improve your health through nutrition and nutraceuticals support. Nutritional counseling from a functional medicine wellness program can help ensure you continue to obtain adequate vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients for optimal functioning.
- Adopt a diet that contains anti-inflammatory functions, especially one that includes whole, unprocessed foods rich in antioxidants and healthy fats, to help reduce inflammation in the body. Regular exercise and calming techniques, such as meditation and yoga, can also assist with lessening inflammation.
- As we explained earlier, prebiotics and probiotics can promote a healthy gut microbiome. Prebiotics, found in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, help nourish beneficial bacteria in the gut, while probiotics, found in fermented foods or supplements, can help restore balance to the gut microbial community.
By following these steps and working with healthcare providers, functional medicine patients can manage leaky gut, inflammation, and their overall well-being. Please reach out to us for a consultation.
Welcoming new patients to our clinic
Situated in the Yorkville neighbourhood, our functional and integrative medicine services are available to new and existing patients. We inspire patients to take control of their condition with a wide range of clinical therapies. Our health care is integrative, meaning you can combine treatments from other modalities, such as naturopathic medicine, herbal medicine, western medicine (allopathic), Chinese medicine, and acupuncture. Intravenous therapy, a form of treatment that offers optimal hydration, is also available in our in-house IV Lounge.
We take pride in meeting our patients, and we want to help you step-up your wellness goals! We consider various aspects of health when customizing treatment plans. Lifestyle factors, environmental exposures, your medical history, and physiological factors are all considered as we help tackle the root of your current health concerns and chronic symptoms. We individualize your health care using the core principles of integrative functional medicine – this is how we tailor a distinctive health care plan just for your needs.
We also often publish health and wellness articles that readers may find helpful. For example, it might surprise you that there may be a link between histamine and migraines. You can check out our blog to learn more.
Is your current gut health obstructing your daily life? Our lab tests might reveal new details about your digestive issues. Click here to request a meeting with our health care team members for functional medicine in Toronto.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting a doctor. Consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website.
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