“All disease begins in the gut.” -Hippocrates.
This statement still holds true! Many of us are suffering daily with our digestion and gut health, but we ignore the signals and learn to live with it! Some of us may have some genetic predisposition and may be more sensitive, but often times its modern life and the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) that can also be the driver of gut issues.
With poor diet choices, chronic stress, toxic overload, alcohol use and bacterial imbalance, it appears that the prevalence of leaky gut is potentially reaching epidemic proportions. Approximately 70% of our immune system resides in our gut, so everything we eat or drink can affect it!
Increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome is an increase in the permeability of the intestinal mucosa that causes increased absorption of intestinally derived toxins, antigens, inflammatory mediators, and sometimes bacteria. It is not a disease or illness, but rather a symptom of inflammation and imbalance that can have several root causes.
Small Intestines ‘Leaking’
The small intestine plays an important role in our immune system and overall health. It has a mucosal lining and its purpose it to allow only properly digested fats, proteins, and starches to pass through, but keep a barrier to keep out bacterial products, foreign substances, and large undigested molecules. Its surface has tiny microvilli and in between the cells there are junctions called desmosomes, and typically don’t allow large molecules to pass through. However, when irritated or inflamed these junctions loosen allowing them to LEAK THROUGH.
Our immune system sees this as foreign, stimulating an antibody (AB) reaction, which causes damage to the small intestinal lining. Disease-causing bacteria, fungi, toxic molecules, and undigested foods can then pass directly through the weakened cell membrane to the blood stream activating our AB and alarm cytokines – which then alert lymphocytes (WBC) to battle the particles.
What causes a leaky gut?
There are many possible causes of leaky gut, which makes it very difficult to pinpoint and ultimately address. Sometimes it’s the never-ending story of the chicken and the egg – which one came first? Here are some of the most common causes that you can start investigating:
→ Dysbiosis: an imbalance of bacteria in our microbiome, where the bad bacteria outweighs the good. This usually is caused by a poor diet such as processed foods and refined sugars
→ Alcoholism: acetaldehyde will contribute to leaky gut and liver problems.
→ Chronic stress: this can cause an imbalance of hormones, and reduces blood flow to digestive organs
→ Poor diet choices: highly processed foods, refined sugar and carbs, low fiber, gluten, preservatives, food dyes, junk foods and additives may all damage the gut.
→ Over exercising – gut loses a significant supply of blood during exercise, it can lead to inflammation that damages the protective gut lining.
→ Environment: living in a polluted city, exposure to harsh household chemicals, heavy metals can all contribute.
→ Medications: antibiotics can wipe out the healthy bacteria in our guts and should be replaced by probiotics in order to prevent dysbiosis. Advil, aspirin, steroids and birth control pills can compromise the gut.
→ Lectins: these are foods that cause inflammation like nightshades, dairy, grains and legumes.
→ SIBO: stands for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. This is when bacteria that normally resides in our colon migrates into our small intestine/stomach.
→ Candidiasis: yeast and fungi overgrowth.
Symptoms & Side Effects of Leaky Gut
- Irritable Bowels – Gas, Bloating, Constipation and/or Diarrhea
- Malabsorption of nutrients
- Food Allergies, Intolerances or Sensitivities
- Inflammation in the body
- Deficiency in Iron, b12
- Compromised Immune System
- Sluggish Liver and Poor Detoxification
- Skin Eruptions – acne, eczema
- Fatigue and Exhaustion
- Diseases and autoimmune conditions such as Lyme, Celiac, Psoriasis, Crohns, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, ADHD
There are a few tests that can be an indication of whether you have a leaky gut or not. These tests can get pretty costly, so always check to see whether you have coverage under your benefits/insurance plans. It is always best to order testing through a health professional like a Nutritionist or Naturopathic Doctor so that they can help you understand the results and come up with a plan. Here are a few to look into:
Managing & Improving Symptoms
Now you’re most likely wondering how to fix a leaky gut, correct? The best way is working with a professional because it is a toughie to navigate alone. But to get you started, here are some tips you can try to implement into your day-to-day that may provide some relief :
→ Chewing your food – digestion starts in the mouth! Chewing thoroughly (32 times approx.) is a simple one that allows the digestive enzymes in your mouth do their job at kickstarting healthy digestion
→ Ensure HCL in your stomach isn’t low – test this with a daily dose of apple cider vinegar (with the mother) in a little water
→ Elimination Diet – remove the top allergen foods that may be causing irritation /inflammation
→ Pre- & Probiotics – replenish this with foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, Greek yogurt, tempeh, olives, artichokes, dandelion, etc.
→ Cut down or eliminate alcohol
→ Treat candida, SIBO, h.pylori and any other diagnoses affecting your gut
→ Eat gut healing foods: bone broth, turmeric, omega 3s, ginger, fermented foods, diverse fruits and vegetables
→ Sleep – at least 7-9 hrs per night
→Meditation – our gut is connected to our brain through the vagus nerve. Meditation can reduce stress and put us in a ‘rest and digest’ state
There are some supplements that can be helpful for healing and sealing the gut. However, they work IN COMBINATION with many of the factors above. It’s important to remember that supplements are not a quick fix, and the root cause must be addressed first.
These supplements can be helpful for reducing intestinal permeability:
there are many different strains, so not one type fits all. Here is some more information on the different ones available: CLICK
- Slippery Elm
Increases the mucilage content in your digestive tract and stimulates nerve endings to boost mucus secretion, which neutralizes excessive acidity in the gut.
This amino acid helps to mend the broken junctions in your intestinal wall so they can function normally. It can also be used as a preventative nutrient, minimizing the damage caused by food, toxins, infections, and stress
The amino acids found in collagen help to rebuild the gut lining.
- Zinc Carnosine
This form of zinc is helpful for low SIgA, H. pylori, as well as intestinal repair. Several formulas combine zinc carnosine with l-glutamine for intestinal repair.
- Marshmallow Root
has a high mucilage content, which covers your digestive tract with a protective lining and can help restore the integrity of the tight junctions found in your gut wall.
*Please consult your medical professional prior to taking supplements
We all want to lead happy and healthy lives. One way to do that is to make sure we do our best to keep our guts strong and nourished. Don’t ignore the loud cry for help from your stomach since long term this will avoid chronic conditions and diseases from occurring.
If you suspect you might be struggling with a leaky gut, or any of this resonates with you— please reach out so I can support you along your gut health journey! Book your FREE DISCOVERY CALL today!