It seems that the term “leaky gut” is becoming more and more popular. This term is heard, written and spoken in every method of communication: TV, newspaper, magazines, online and social media.
Do most people even know what “leaky gut” means?
What images pop into your head when you hear the word “leaky gut”? For me, I picture some sort of green goo oozing slowly from a bunch of small openings.
This image is actually not too far off!
The good news about leaky gut is that there are steps you can take to heal a leaky gut naturally! But first let’s discuss what it means to have a leaky gut.
What Is A Leaky Gut?
What exactly does it mean to have a leaky gut?
To keep it simple, having a leaky gut means the lining of your intestinal wall has minuscule holes in it. Through these teeny tiny holes, bacteria, food particles, and antigens have all started to slowly escape the confines of the intestinal tract.
This, my friends, is the simplest definition of leaky gut.
Think of your gut lining (intestinal epithelial lining) as a VERY thin, yet tightly woven stocking. The stocking weaving is super tight, and only minuscule nutrients and minerals are allowed to pass through this weave. These minerals and vitamins are allowed to pass through because of the “tight junction protein” gatekeepers. These gatekeepers (TJP) only let the nutrients your body needs, through their gates. They do not allow antigens, food particles or bacteria to get through their gates.
Now imagine that these gatekeepers (TJP) have become weak, and there are no new, strong gate keepers to take over. These weak gatekeepers do not have the strength to keep the gates closed and now all the riffraff (bacteria, food particles, antigens) are escaping the intestines and getting into the bloodstream.
THIS IS LEAKY GUT.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
So how does leaky gut, or intestinal hyperpermeability happen? Here are some factors that are believed to play a role in leaky gut.
Excessive Sugar Intake: a diet high in sugar, especially fructose, harms the barrier function of the intestinal wall.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID): examples of NSAID’s are: ibuprofen and aspirin. Overuse or long term use of these drugs can increase intestinal hyperpermeability and contribute to leaky gut.
Excessive alcohol intake: too much alcohol consumption may lead to a leaky gut.
Inflammation: Chronic, ongoing inflammation can contribute to gut hyperpermeability.
Nutrient deficiencies: deficiencies in Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Zinc may increase the chances of a leaky gut.
Stress: Chronic stress is a contributing factor to many GI disorders including leaky gut.
Poor gut health: there are millions of bacteria in the gut: some good and some bad. This gut microbiome must be in perfect balance. When this balance is disrupted, the gut lining is affected which in turn can lead to leaky gut.
Yeast overgrowth: there is yeast naturally in the gut. However, problems can occur if there is an over growth of this yeast.
Signs And Symptoms Of Leaky Gut
Leaky gut, also known as intestinal hyperpermeability, shares a lot of its symptoms with other health conditions, which makes it very difficult for doctors to identify.
Because of this, “leaky gut” is not recognized in the mainstream medical community. Leaky gut is more theoretical than scientifically proven at this point. However, there is growing evidence to show that gut microbiota (good gut bacteria) plays an important role in supporting the gut lining and increasing the amount of tight junction proteins!
Here are possible symptoms of a leaky gut:
- Chronic diarrhea, constipation or bloating
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Skin problems such as rashes, eczema
- Joint pain
- Widespread Inflammation
Diseases Associated With Leaky Gut
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): symptoms are abdominal pain, excess gas, diarrhea and constipation. IBS is a digestive disorder. Studies have shown that those with IBS have increased intestinal hyperpermeability.
Celiac Disease: this is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by a severe allergy to gluten. Several studies have found that intestinal hyperpermeability is higher in those with celiac disease.
Crohn’s Disease: is a chronic digestive disorder characterized by persistent inflammation of the intestines. There are a few studies to show an increase in intestinal hyperpermeability in those patients with Crohn’s.
Food Allergies: a few studies have shown that those with food allergies often have impaired or weakened gut lining. A leaky gut may allow food proteins to cross the intestinal barrier causing the immune system to respond. An immune response to a food protein (an antigen) is the definition of a food allergy.
5 Steps To Heal a Gut Naturally
Now that we have discussed the reasons for a leaky gut, the symptoms of a leaky gut and the diseases associated with a leaky gut, we should discuss ways for YOU to help improve and heal a leaky gut.
Here are 5 ways to improve your gut, strengthen the gut lining and ultimately heal your leaky gut.
- Limit Refined Carbs: opportunistic bacteria (bad bacteria), absolutely LOVE sugar! They thrive on sugar! Cut out highly processed foods like white pasta, white bread, white rice, chips, candy. All of these foods help to increase the bad bacteria, and in turn continue to weaken the gut lining and continue the cycle of a leaky gut.
- Eat Fermented Foods: fermented foods are great for helping to boost good bacteria in the gut thus strengthening your gut lining and improving your gut health. Some examples of fermented foods: Keifer, sauerkraut, and kimchi just to name a few.
- Take A High Quality Probiotic: probiotics are beneficial bacteria in a pill. Once these bacteria make it to your digestive tract, they can start strengthening your gut lining.
- Eat Plenty Of High Fiber Foods: soluble fiber found in fruits and veggies feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut. So make sure to get at least 30grams of fiber a day! The more fiber your beneficial bacteria get, the more they will grow and help to keep the opportunistic bacteria to a minimum, in turn strengthening that gut lining!
- Limit The Use of NSAIDS: keep usage of aspirin and ibuprofen to a minimum to prevent damage of your gut microbiome.
Eating whole foods, with little to no processing is the key to healing and maintaining a healthy gut lining and gut microbiome.
If you want to learn more about your gut, consider reading these books:
Gut: The Inside Story Of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giula Enders
Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be The Root Cause Of Your Health Problems And 5 Surprising Steps To Cure It by Dr. Josh Axe
The Microbiome Solution by Dr. Robynne Chutkan
Also, see below for research articles relating to this post.
Comment below and let me know your thoughts on leaky gut or share your experiences with healing your leaky gut.
Anna aka The Gut Nerd
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