Is Your Gut Leaky?
When most people hear the words “leaky gut”, they often think of an ostomy. Consequently, I frequently hear people say, “Oh, my mom or friend or grandparent or so and so’s gut leaks into a bag outside of his/her body.” But did you know your gut can leak inside your body too?
The leaky gut story begins in a very important organ: your small intestine. The small intestine is so important because most of the vitamins and minerals in the foods you eat are absorbed there. In order for the vitamins and minerals to be absorbed, the small intestine contains microscopic pores so the nutrients can be transferred into the bloodstream. Once transferred, the nutrients are then shuttled and deposited all around the body by the blood.
The wall of the intestine is considered semipermeable. This means the pores only allow certain things to enter the bloodstream and block other things from entering the bloodstream. For instance, specific molecules and nutrients are allowed to pass through but toxins and large undigested food particles are blocked.
The problem with leaky gut is it causes the pores in your intestine to widen. When this happens, the undigested food particles and toxins that are supposed to be blocked are allowed to make their way into the bloodstream. Because these items are not supposed to be in the blood, they cause the immune system to go into attack mode, which can often lead to allergies.
To give you an example, imagine you have leaky gut and eat an apple. When it makes its way into your small intestine, bits of undigested apple that should stay in the small intestine will slip through the large pores directly into your blood. Because these particles are not supposed to be in your bloodstream, the immune system identifies them as dangerous invaders.
Basically, the immune system says, “Hey, this particle shouldn’t be here, so we need to attack it with an immune response and build up antibodies to protect ourselves from it.” The problem is the immune system doesn’t just build up antibodies to the food particles; it attacks your healthy cells, too. This is one of the ways food allergies and autoimmune disorders develop.
So now that we have the general essentially meaningless definition out of the way, let’s find out more about what’s going on… Let’s discuss 1) What Causes Leaky Gut 2) The Signs and Symptoms and 3) How to Fix the Issue
What Causes Leaky Gut?
There are four main causes of leaky gut which include:
• Poor Diet
• Chronic Stress
• Toxin Overload
• Bacterial Imbalance
Poor Diet: Consuming high amounts of refined sugars, processed foods, preservatives, refined flours, and flavorings introduces massive amounts of chemicals into the body that are seen as toxic. If your body has a hard time keeping up, the toxins start to build up and cause inflammation.
Chronic Stress: It weakens your immune system over time, which cripples your ability to fight off foreign invaders like bad bacteria and viruses, leading to inflammation and leaky gut. To reduce stress, I recommend getting more sleep, schedule fun into your week, rest one day a week, meditate on scripture, and hang out with positive, uplifting people.
Toxins: We come into contact with over 80,000 chemicals and toxins every single year, but the worst offenders for causing leaky gut include: antibiotics, pesticides, and tap water.
Bacteria Imbalance: Finally, one of the leading causes of leaky gut is an imbalance between beneficial and harmful species of bacteria in your gut. For many, this imbalance can begin at birth because of a C-section or because the mother didn’t have a healthy gut herself. The overuse of prescription antibiotic drugs, drinking tap water, and the lack of probiotic-rich foods contribute to this imbalance of good and bad bacteria.
The Signs and Symptoms
Many of the conditions and symptoms listed below could be a sign that you have a leaky gut.
Food Sensitivities, especially gluten and dairy
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Inflammatory Skin Conditions, especially acne, eczema, and psoriasis
How do I fix my leaky gut?
The good news is there’s a solution to healing leaky gut. There is a four-step process that includes:
1 REMOVE foods and factors that damage the gut
2 REPLACE with healing foods
3 REPAIR with specific supplements
4 REBALANCE with probiotics
The top foods to REMOVE that cause leaky gut are sugar, grains, conventional meat,conventional dairy and GMO foods. The top toxic exposures to eliminate are tap water, pesticides, and antibiotics. You might have unknown food sensitivities. Find a doctor that can test for mild, moderate, and sever sensitivities to better determine which foods you should avoid and how often.
The next step is to REPLACE the old foods with healing foods. These foods support healing because they are easy to digest and can help repair the lining of the intestines.
Bone broth – Bone broth (made from scratch) provides important amino acids and minerals including proline, glycine and potassium that can help heal leaky gut and improve mineral deficiencies.
Raw cultured dairy – Probiotic Rich Foods like kefir and yogurt can help heal the gut by destroying bad bacteria like candida.
Fermented vegetables – Try to add fermented foods such as coconut kefir, kvass, sauerkraut or kimchi. These fermented foods contain probiotics essential in helping repair a leaky gut that work by balancing the pH in the stomach and small intestines.
Steamed vegetables – Non-starchy vegetables that are cooked or steamed are easy to digest and are an essential part of the leaky gut diet.
Healthy fats – Consuming healthy fats in moderation like egg yolks, salmon, avocados, ghee and coconut oil are easy on the gut and promote healing.
Fruit – Consuming 1-2 servings of fruit daily is good on a leaky gut diet. You can steam apples and pears to make homemade apple sauce or fruit sauce. Blueberries are also a great choice. Not only are they high in antioxidants, but being a natural source of soluble and insoluble fiber, blueberries can help regulate your gastrointestinal track by just eating a couple handfuls a day.
There are many supplements that REPAIR and REBALANCE your digestive health, but I believe the most beneficial leaky gut supplements are probiotics, L-glutamine, collagen protein, digestive enzymes, omega 3 fatty acids, and a whole food based multivitamin that has adequate zinc, B12, and magnesium.
Probiotics are the most important supplement to take because it helps replenish good bacteria and crowds out bad bacteria. Take at least 20 billion units of probiotics per day.
L-Glutamine is critical for any program designed to heal leaky gut. Glutamine powder is an essential amino acid supplement that is anti-inflammatory and necessary for the growth and repair of your intestinal lining. L-glutamine benefits include acting as a protector: coating your cell walls and acting as a repellent to irritants. Take 2–5 grams twice daily.
Collagen Protein is fantastic for gut repair and function. It also improves inflammation and is great for your skin. I recommend taking 2 tablespoons of Dr. Axe Naturals Collagen Protein daily.
Digestive Enzymes (one or two capsules at the beginning of each meal) ensure that foods are fully digested, decreasing the chance that partially digested foods particles and proteins are damaging your gut wall.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids If you want to heal from any chronic health condition, you’ve got to reduce inflammation in your body, and the best way to do that is to get more omega-3 fats. For fish oil, 1,000 milligrams a day is your key to balancing out those omega-3 levels.
Whole Food Based Multivitamin Today we live in a toxic world, with contaminated air and heavily depleted soil. Because of environmental toxicity and soil depletion, crops grown just decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than are the varieties most of us get today. Even with an abundance of greens and other power foods in your diet, it’s nearly impossible to get everything your body needs to thrive from diet alone. That’s why, for most people, a multivitamin is the answer to COMPLEMENT the foods you eat. And although it is NEVER meant to replace a healthy diet filled with organic, unprocessed foods, it’s the best way to be sure that your body is getting the proper amount of the vitamins and minerals you need.
The bottom line is… Leaky gut often goes undiagnosed because of the variety of symptoms. If you’re having food sensitivities and other symptoms possibly related to leaky gut syndrome, find a functional medicine doctor that can help you identify your food allergies, possible vitamin and mineral malabsorption, and help you overcome leaky gut syndrome. It's time to start feeling your best!