LEAKY GUT- If you’ve been in the natural medicine world for a while you’ve probably heard of this. It sounds pretty gross but it’s a pivotal thing to understand if you’re looking to heal your body as the symptoms of leaky gut are extensive.
What the gut is leaky gut syndrome?
“All disease begins in the gut” were the words spoken over two millenia ago by the father of modern medicine Hippocrates and still holds true to this day. There are countless studies showing the importance of maintaining a healthy gut and the negative impact modern living can cause to it. This damage to the digestive tract can lead to a plethora of diseases and illnesses.
A breakdown in either the lining of the gut or the function of that lining will expose the body to toxins or triggers. One way this can happen is through what’s now being called a leaky gut – a dysfunction in the permeability of the gut lining.
You may be wondering: When the gut’s leaky, what exactly does it leak? The answer to this question is lipopolysaccharide, or LPS for short.
LPS is a bacterial endotoxin that’s released into the bloodstream when bacteria die. This is harmless when it happens where it’s supposed to happen but when it leaks through the gut lining, it’s a big problem and what causes autoimmunities to occur.
New science is coming up that challenges our beliefs that our fate is written in our genes. The studies around epigenetics are showing that 3 things need to happen for an autoimmune to occur: a genetic predisposition, exposure to an antigen, and the toxin being able to pass through the gut lining (aka leaky gut).
This means that if we keep a strong, healthy gut we can prevent toxins from getting through the mucosal barrier and prevent illnesses and autoimmunities from occurring.
How does the gut become leaky?
Let’s simplify this without dinosaur words. Did you ever play the game Red Rover as a child? If not, let me share.
The focus of the game is where children hold hands in a line and a child from the other team runs across, trying to break through the chain - picture this as the gut lining. Imagine a bunch of cells lined up holding hands and playing a game of Red Rover trying to hold tightly to prevent big, unwanted molecules from getting through.
When the gut is working properly, it only allows for the small and digested particles to be passed through. When a leaky gut occurs it allows toxins to pass through which causes the influx of symptoms.
Ways that your gut permeability can become weakened is through the overuse of antibiotics, bacterial infections, modern lifestyle choices, high levels of stress, certain illnesses, living in a toxic environment, and a diet that is overprocessed and lacking diversity.
I’m never one to say that there are right or wrong foods but there are foods that work best for your body and therefore it is essential to be in tune with your body so you can understand how it works.
The most powerful triggers for an increase in zonulin, which causes leaky gut, are gluten and gliadin - proteins found in wheat. On top of wheat, we know that processed foods, sugars, processed dairy, and the overuse of NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can lead to leaky gut all of which come from our modern lifestyles.
We are a world that is too clean, too processed, too stressed, and just over all too much.
What are leaky gut symptoms?
Intestinal permeability is a normal function of this gut barrier in healthy people but when it becomes impaired is when lasting change affects and disrupts the normal balance which leads to symptoms.
These symptoms go beyond digestive issues like IBS, constipation, and diarrhea. Leaky gut has been seen to cause:
- Food intolerances
- Brain fog
- Hormonal issues
- Bloating, diarrhea, and other GI symptoms
- Thyroid issues
- Skin rash
- Joint pain
- Mood disorders
- And, vitamin and mineral deficiencies due to poor absorption
A powerful indicator of leaky gut is when you seem to develop a lot of food sensitivities, seemingly out of nowhere.
Digestion in itself is a really hard job for the body to maintain. So when the gut is leaky, the immune system has less energy to deal with other problems or disturbances due to the constant onslaught of needs coming from the gut. The immune system can become so preoccupied that it can’t focus on protecting the body against other threats that could potentially cause illness. This can result in the body taking energy away from what it would normally use to maintain a healthy balance of hormones and neurotransmitters, which inturn can affect mood and hormone balance.
Gutting it together
The first steps to healing leaky gut is to take a look at your diet. Making modifications and eliminating the inflammatory foods while adding in a plant-rich diet that is rich in fiber and color will help to build up the internal ecosystem you are growing inside of you.
On top of diet you want to take a look at your lifestyle. Your levels of stress, lack of sleep, and the environment you surround yourself in all play a role in keeping the gut lining strong and thriving. If you’ve tried cutting out inflammatory foods, tuning into your sleep, and dialing in on your stress levels you can ask your doctor to run some tests.
You can ask for the ELISA test, which is a test that measures a person’s level zonulin. You can also ask for lactulose/mannitol test, which assesses the intestinal permeability by measuring the ability of these two sugars to pass through the gut lining. Then finally you can ask for an IgE test, which is a blood test that identifies whether the body is producing antigens for certain foods.
As a Nutritional Health Consultant, my job is to help you follow the four R’s: remove, replace, re-inoculate, and repair.
The good news is these microvilli are highly regenerative. If given a total rest from everything that irritates them, individual microvilli can repair themselves within four to five days.
Looking to heal you gut and get to the root of your symptoms?
Try this Free 3 Day Gut Reset to get started
You can get started with healing your gut with these gut loving recipes:
Easy Gut Healing Pumpkin Curry
Gut-Loving Egg Roll Bowl