Are you feeling bloating, gassy, or suffering from food sensitivities? You may be suffering from a leaky gut.
What is Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut, also known as intestinal hyperpermeability, is when the intestinal tight junctions malfunction. Tight junctions are like customs at border crossings between the intestines to the blood stream. The tight junction is responsible for keeping the toxins, microbes, and undigested food out of the blood stream. Leaky gut is when these junctions start letting particles through that don’t belong there. These foreign particles cause inflammation, which can then cause many diseases.
If you have a leaky gut you’re not getting all of the nutrients your food has to offer. Because of the permeability of the intestinal walls, nutrients leak out and can’t be absorbed and used by your body.
Leaky gut syndrome is not a recognized medical diagnosis at present, but science has shown that gut health is connected to many diseases and illnesses. The gut is responsible for absorbing nutrients and expelling toxins making it one of the most important parts of the body.
Hippocrates was onto something when he said, “all disease begins in the gut.” While there are genetically based diseases, the majority of illnesses can be traced back to the gut. Gut health goes hand in hand with overall health. If you have an unhealthy gut, you’re most likely suffering elsewhere.
These diseases root back to gut inflammation. Gut inflammation is serious and something you want to get under control as quickly as possible. When your gut is in an increased state of permeability you are at a high risk of chronic inflammation.
According to the Oregon State University, some of the main symptoms of leaky gut are bloating, gas, cramps, food sensitivities, aches and pains, headaches, rashes and sinus infections.
A study on leaky gut by Liu, Li, and Neu showed, “the role of [tight junction] breakdown in diseases such as systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, allergies, asthma, and autism.”
In a 2012 research study, Charles Parkos, MD, Ph.D., professor of Pathology and laboratory medicine at Emory University School of Medicine found a link between inflammatory bowel disease and leaky gut. “Our results suggest that when there is a chronically leaky intestine, defects in the immune system need to be present for the development of IBD,” says Parkos. “Breakdown of the intestinal barrier can occur as a result of intestinal infections or stress. The normal response involves several components of the immune system that help to heal the injury while controlling invading bacteria. When this normal response is defective and there is a leaky barrier, the risk of developing IBD is increased.”
Links have also been made between gut health and autism. According to the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, most researchers and practitioners believe autism to be caused by four main factors. Gastrointestinal abnormalities are one of these factors, along with immune dysfunctions, detoxification abnormalities, and/or nutritional deficiencies or imbalances. One of the causes of gastrointestinal abnormalities is leaky gut. They list the cause of leaky gut as, “chronic inflammation that is often due to yeast and/or the inability to break down proteins from casein (dairy products) and gluten (wheat, barley, rye, oats and other grains) which then leak into the bloodstream and travel to, and impact various tissues, including the brain, possibly causing an opiate affect in the brain (McCandless, 2002).”
Research has shown consistent triggers for intestinal hyperpermeability. Liu, et al. lists the four main causes of leaky gut as:
- Poor diet
- Chronic stress
- Toxin overload
- Bacterial imbalance.
It’s not a large surprise that poor diet is one of the leading factors of a gut problem. Diseases may start on the gut, but gut health starts with what you put in your gut.
How to Heal Leaky Gut
To heal your leaky gut you need to look at your diet. What problem foods are you eating?
Likely you’ll have to cut some food from your diet.
The next big thing to do if you have leaky gut is to re-strengthen your gut with good nutrients.
According to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, “Naturopathic doctors have pioneered a ‘4R’ approach to help heal the intestine, so that it works more normally. Steps include: 1) removing foods that irritate the lining of the intestine, 2) replacing agents for digestive support, 3) reinoculating with friendly bacteria and the foods they need to grow, and 4) repairing the lining of the intestine.”
The Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health says that when you’re looking at your diet the most common suspects for causing leaky gut are:
- Wheat (gluten)
- Dairy (lactose)
- High fructose corn syrup
- Sorbitol (chewing gum)
A high sugar diet could also be causing you intestinal trouble. Not only does sugar spike your insulin levels, increasing your risk of developing diabetes, but it can also cause leaky gut and inflammation. Sugar can cause an overgrowth of yeast, which contributes to the weakening of the gut.
A good sign that you are suffering from leaky gut is if all of a sudden you are having allergic reactions to foods. When one of the above proteins breaks down the intestinal wall, food can enter the bloodstream and irritate the body, causing the immune system to react to that food. This can result in an allergic reaction.
Once you’ve healed your intestinal wall you will likely find these new allergies subside. When you’ve discovered the problem food for you, cut it out. Find healthy, good whole food substitutes.
When you’ve cut the problematic food out of your diet you will need to start restoring your gut. That means having proper digestive movements, having plenty of healthy bacteria in your gut, and strengthening the intestinal wall.
Fibre is an important part of gut health. Add healthy fibre like guar gum into your diet. Guar gum helps maintain a healthy mucous layer in the intestine. It helps promote healthy bacteria and helps prevent constipation, which is very damaging on the digestive tract. Flax seed is another great way to add fibre into your diet.
The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health says, “bacteria found in the mucus of the intestinal wall play a key role in determining how tight or gappy it is.” Probiotics have shown to help maintain a healthy gut, reducing gas, bloating, and inflammation.
One of the most recommended supplements for repairing the damage from leaky gut is L-glutamine. It is an amino acid that helps induce rapid cell growth. The L-glutamine has been shown to help repair and build up the wall of the intestines. This amino acid is also important for people who suffer from chronic diarrhea.
Zinc is another supplement you may want in your diet if you are trying to heal your gut. One study found there was a “3-4 fold increase in gappiness” in subjects who did not take a zinc supplement. Zinc also helps protect the bowels from injury and damage.
It’s also important to eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods when trying to heal your gut. Remember to love your gut because, “all disease begins in the gut.” Healing your leaky gut will help you survive, then thrive!
Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals. Please consult your doctor if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, or before drastically changing your diet.