I was recently asked if I have ever heard of “Leaky Gut Syndrome” and do I know anything about it. As luck would have it, this has been a part of my studies in becoming a certified Nutritional and Wellness consultant.
My question is, have you heard of “Leaky Gut” syndrome and ever wondered if you might have it? Is it a fad diagnosis being propagated by the media, or is it a genuine condition? There are some doctors who will tell you it is bunk science while others are sure that it is a legitimate explanation for health problems suffered by thousands of individuals. If you have never heard of “Leaky Gut” here are the details;
What is Leaky Gut?
Leaky Gut syndrome, also known as “increased intestinal permeability” is a digestive condition which is categorized by the ability of bacteria and toxins to leak through the walls of the intestines and into the bloodstream.
When it is functioning correctly, your digestive system is the space where food gets broken down, so your body can absorb the nutrients. The intestinal walls act as a natural barrier to prevent compounds of food from passing through and entering your bloodstream.
However, small gaps in the intestinal walls are designed to let water and nutrients pass through while still blocking harmful substances. This is known as your intestinal permeability, and it’s perfectly normal for a small number of compounds to travel through these walls. However, if something happens that causes your gut to be more permeable, larger compounds can pass through which will cause “leaky gut”.
The passage of undesirable compounds appear to lead to numerous health problems such as inflammation, immune system over reactions, fatigue, food sensitivities, skin breakouts and digestive disorders like bloating, gas, and cramps.
Is Leaky gut a recognized Medical Condition?
Depending on who you ask, leaky gut is either not a real medical condition, or it is a disorder that is severely understudied by professionals. Some researchers state that there is little documented evidence of increased intestinal permeability leading to problems, while others think that it is the root of dozens of health conditions that range from migraines to autism and chronic fatigue. However, many doctors concede that there is not enough known about the gut to determine the facts. Though the stomach and intestines are fundamental to the body’s immune system, it is still not clear how the system works or what the effects are on the rest of your body when things go wrong.
Some specialists note that the symptoms attributed to leaky gut are not unique and that other health conditions share them. Despite the confusion, there is consensus that certain chronic diseases show evidence of increased intestinal permeability. Even so, health tests rarely pinpoint the precise cause of a problem which leaves a lot of room for ambiguity.
Causes of Leaky Gut Syndrome
How do you develop leaky gut in the first place? Many specialists believe that everyone has the condition to some degree thanks to natural fluctuations in your guts tight junctures. However, the severity can vary considerably.
Some people seem to be genetically predisposed to digestive problems, and your lifestyle can increase your chances of developing the leaky gut, especially if you follow a Standard American Diet (SAD). Following a diet that is low in fiber while high in saturated fats seemingly leads to leaky gut syndrome, as does chronic stress and heavy alcohol use.
Other factors that potentially impact intestinal permeability include the following:
- High sugar intake.
- NSAID use. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
- Nutrient deficiencies, Low levels of vitammins A,D and zinc.
- Disrupted microbiome. A healthy gut has millions of bacteria that are well balanced between beneficial and potentially harmful. If this balance becomes disrupted, you are at a higher risk.
- Yeast overgrowth
Currently there is only one known regulator of the permeability of your intestines, which is zonulin. If it is activated, it can trigger leaky gut. The two main factors that activate zonulin are the bacteria in your gut and your exposure to gluten. However, there is evidence that gluten can only impact intestinal permeability if you already have celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome.
Potential health problems associated with leaky gut.
The research is clear that higher levels of intestinal permeability can impact the severity of gastro intestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome, Chrohns disease, and celiac disease. What is not as well understood are the impacts that the condition can have on the rest of your body. Intitial research seems to show a connection between leaky gut and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes, as well as conditions like allergies, asthma, acne, mental illness, obesity, and more. Notably, the clinical eveidence is not yet conclusive abut correlation verses causation.
Signs and symptoms of leaky gut.
Are you concerned that you might have leaky gut? The condition has wide ranging symptoms, some of which are also considered to be it’s triggers This means that it can be difficult to pin down precisely whether your symptom are caused by the condition, though the ones below are the some of the most common:
- Chronic stomach problems (diarrhea, gas, bloaing, constipation)
- Inexplicable headaches and brain fog
- Sugar cravings
- Skin rashes and irritation (acne, rosacea, eczema)
- Joint pain and arthritis
- Difficulty concentrating
- Autoimmune diseases like Chrohns, lupus, arthritis, or celiac disease
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Excessive fatigue
- New food allergies or sensitivites
- Seasonal allergies or asthma
- Hormonal imbalances
- Diabetes or high blood sugar
- Irritable bowel syndrome
How to treat leaky gut syndrome
Do not despair if the signs of leaky gut disorder fit your experience. There is a lot you can do to get the condition under control through a variety of lifestyle changes.
Because leaky gut is not an official medical diagnosis, there is no officially recommended treatment. Even so, many specialists will suggest that you focus on restoring the levels of beneficial bacteria within your system. Some of the best ways to support a healthy gut include:
- Limit your intake of refined carbs. Potentially troublesome bacteria thrive on sugar, so consuming too much can lead to barrier problems.
- Increase your greens. Add leafy greens to each meal, as often as you can, and consider supplementing with a green juice to fill in the gaps. All the nutrients and chlorophyll in greens are great gut healing helpers.
- Up your fiber. Solubale fiber provides a necessary food source for your digestive system bacteria, which keeps your gut healthy.
- Take L-Glutamin: L-Glutamine is a natural and powerful supplement that when taken correctly can heal leaky gut. It has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and works on a cellular level to repair the cracks or fizzures that leaky gut syndrome comes with.
- Take a probiotic. If your system’s been depleted of beneficial bacteria, one of the best things you can do is is to reintroduce them into your stomach with a high quality probiotic supplement.
- Eat ferments foods. If a pill is not your preferred way to improve your bacterial levels, you can instead fill your diet with microbial-rich foods like plain yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and more.
- Limit NSAID medications. Too much ibuprofen use can damage your gut and potentially lead to leak gut syndrome.
Best foods for treating leaky gut.
Considering it’s connection with digestion, there is no surprise that a healthy diet is the best way to prevent and improve leaky gut syndrome. Focusing your meals around a variety of whole foods will make a difference, especially the following:
- Steamed vegetables. Aspargus, zucchini, broccoli, and cauliflower
- Leafy greens. Cabbage, arugula, kale, and swiss chard.
- Fermented vegetables. tempeh, miso, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
- Anti-inflammatory spices and herbs. Ginger turmeric, peppermint, and dandelion root tea.
- Omega 3 EFAS & proteins. Avocados, olives, wild fish, walnuts, unrefined coconut oil, and coconut meat
- Probiotic-ric foods. Unsweetened coconut milk yogurt, coconut milk kefir, and beet kvass.
- Helpful supplements. Probiotics, L-glutamine and Quercetin
Foods to avoid for leaky gut.
Just as certain foods can improve leaky gut syndrome, others are likely to make the problem worse. Certain foods can trigger inflammation, while others help promote the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria that worsen the condition.
The key to treating leaky gut through your diet is discovering which foods are triggering sensitivity problems, You might find that gluten, soy, dairy, refined sugars, or a combination of more than one can lead to leaky gut symptoms, and the only way to find out for sure is to intentionally eliminate them from your diet to see if it makes a difference for your symptoms. If you suspect your diet is what is leading to digestive problems, you’re bet off eliminating the following foods from your diet:
- Wheat based foods. Bread, pasta, cereal, anything with wheat flour. This includes grains that contain gluten like barley, bulgur, and some oats.
- Processed meats. Cold cuts, bacon, hot dogs, deli meats
- Junk food and snack foods. Cakes, muffins, cookies, pizza, crackers, popcorn, potato chips, all sugary snacks.
- Standard dairy products. Milk, ice cream, cheese
- Artificial sweetners, sucralose, saccharin and aspartame.
The botom line about leaky gut syndrome.
Increased intestinal permeability is a condition that often produces more questions than answers, but the truth is that there are steps you can take today to get the condition under control. As the evidence shows that leaky gut syndrome might be a precursor to numerous autoimmune disorders, it is smart to take the time today to improve your gut health with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
6 Comments Add yours
I have debilitating chronic
GERD and have become addicted to omeprazole at dangerously high levels.
I have been trying to ween myself off of the 80 mg
(40 mg twice a day) of Proton-pump Inhibitor that I have been taking everyday by attempting to substitute on of the 40 mg of PPI with 800 mg of Cimetidine
Truth is I am so afraid of having to deal with the intense pain and malaise I experience when I don’t take my 80mg, that I’m stuck in a vicious cycle of taking way too much everyday!
I drink baking soda and water during the day a lot
You need to see your physician. Having said that, I can speak concerning my personal experience. If I eat gluten, life is hard. It causes me to have multiple complaints. I avoid it like the plague. Do you eat gluten?
Make sure to tell your physician all of this, including the fact that you drink baking soda and water. That may be dangerous.
As Brenda has already stated, please see your physician about this problem and share all of this information.
From a nutritional standpoint, take an honest assessment of both the quality and quantity of the foods you consume each day. Highly processed and sugary foods with or without alcohol consumption can be antagonizers.
Next, if you have troubles with your weight, obesity can be a cause. Losing weight with a diet of healthy whole foods will help immensely.
If you have not done so, get checked for a hiatal hernia as they too can contribute to GERD.
Please try to get your GERD under control to where you can get off the proton pump inhibitors. GERD can lead to Barrett’s Esophagus which is a serious complication of GERD.
Leaky gut is the worst! I embarked on a 90 day anti-inflammatory plan earlier this year and I can say it completely changed my life and health. I slept better, felt better, had more energy and a lot of allergies started to disappear. I went grain free, sugar free and dairy free, which was really hard, but worth it in the end. Continuing that protocol now too.
Wow, what a terrible experience. Thank you for sharing with us.