Have you heard of “leaky gut”?
Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, happens when your intestinal lining becomes damaged over time and more porous than it ought to be. What happens is the gaps in your intestinal walls start to loosen, the lining of the intestines becomes “leaky,” and substances such as bacteria, toxins, undigested food particles, and waste products seep directly into your bloodstream.
Important fact: 70-80% of your immune system lives in your gut. (Your gut is also known as your gastro-intestinal tract or digestive system.)
With leaky gut, when foreign substances cross into our body, it causes systemic (body-wide) inflammation. Additionally, the damaged cells in your intestines don't produce the enzymes needed for proper digestion. Uh-oh!
So what does this mean?! Well, as a result, your body cannot absorb essential nutrients, and additionally, you’ve got unwanted pathogens in your bloodstream; this can lead to a weakened immune system, hormone imbalances, and chronic health issues which include:
Seasonal allergies or asthma
Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, ADD/ADHD
Food allergies and sensitivities
Skin issues such as eczema, rashes, hives, and acne
Chronic digestive issues such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, reflux/heartburn
Is gut health really that important?
YES. Gut health is one of those things that most people don’t even consider but it plays a HUGE role in your overall health.
When I began my health journey many years ago, I had no idea what gut health was nor did I realize how deeply food, sleep, and stress impact your gut health and therefore overall health.
When you have good gut health, your gut allows nutrients in and keeps disease-causing pathogens out. Good gut health helps resolve many common health issues such as skin issues, depression, sleep, and allergies — so many conditions that you’d never think have a relationship to food. BUT THEY DO!
What causes leaky gut?
There are many factors that contribute to leaky gut and the underlying causes are different for everyone. Here are a few causes and substances that aggravate leaky gut:
Foods such as gluten, dairy, processed foods, hydrogenated oils, refined sugar, carbohydrates, and artificial sweeteners
Excessive alcohol (you know if/when you’re overdoing it!)
Prescriptions and OTC (over the counter) medications such as antibiotics, corticosteroids, antacids, steroids, aspirin, ibuprofen
Bacterial Infections including SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), H. pylori overgrowth (the bacteria that can cause ulcers), parasites, and viruses
Chronic stress (emotional, physical, mental)Environmental toxins such as lead, mercury, radon, formaldehyde, BPA, phthalates, pesticides
Vitamin D deficiency (BTW, vitamin D is a hormone, not a vitamin!)
How do you fix leaky gut?
Well, let me start by saying that everyone is different and has unique needs. Working on restoring gut health takes time, especially those with chronic conditions and autoimmune disease. I’ve been working on my gut health for years. But it doesn’t need to take years for everyone.
Ideally you’d work with a holistic healthcare professional (like me!) to help support and optimize your gut health. In the meantime, here are a few nutrition and lifestyle recommendations you can do to improve the health of your gut:
1. Identify and eliminate foods you're sensitive to. Common food allergens and "leaky gut" triggers include:
Lectins and phytates (compounds often called “anti-nutrients” found in grains, legumes, nightshades, corn, soy)
2. Include nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory, “gut-healing” foods into your daily diet such as:
Wild-caught fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel
Beef and chicken liver
Fermented vegetables such as kimchi or sauerkraut
A wide-variety of organic vegetables focusing on a diversity of leafy greens such as kale, bok choy, arugula, mustard greens, parsley, dandelion greens
Healthy fats including coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, ghee
Egg yolks (eat the whole dang egg, folks!)
3. Be mindful of popping ibuprofen (or another NSAID: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) every time a headache or minor pain comes along.
Sometimes drinking water and/or taking a gentle, natural anti-inflammatory like turmeric or curcumin (a compound found within turmeric), a capsule up to 500mg three times a day, will help alleviate the issue.
4. Find healthy ways to de-stress like going for a walk, yoga, knitting, cooking, reading, meditation, dancing, playing music, spend time outdoors, sleep, and REST!
I know how hard it can be hard to stick with healthy diet changes. Sometimes you just say screw it, I deserve this pint of ice cream or chocolate bar or 4 glasses of wine to deal with the kind of day I had! Even though it might feel good in the moment, afterwards you feel like crap. Am I right?! So why punish yourself and your body by making poor choices as a response to stress?
When you start making healthy food and lifestyle choices, unhealthy cravings start to subside, common health complaints start to fade away, and life becomes better - even on those difficult days! I promise!
Experiment and start by eliminating one common inflammatory food such as gluten, dairy, or all processed and refined food from your diet and add a healthy lifestyle change and foods from the list of suggestions above. Commit to these changes for 30 days! Pay attention to how you feel. If you notice increased energy, a lighter mood, an overall feeling of well-being, or a lessening of any of the symptoms listed above, you’re off to a great start and on the right track. More healthy choices will start to come and you’re on your way to improved gut health. Please keep in touch and let me know!
November 12, 2019