What is Leaky Gut?
If you have had ongoing stomach and intestinal issues, and if you’re a lot like me, you may have done an Internet search to find out what some causes of your intestinal issues might be. And in your search, you might have come across information about something called “Leaky Gut”.
While leaky gut may or may not be something you’re dealing with, it affects a large number of people. In addition to other intestinal problems and stomach ailments, leaky gut could also be responsible for other health problems.
Leaky gut occurs when tiny tears or holes form in the mucosal lining of your intestines. The intestines, which are already porous, become more permeable and allow food particles to leak out and get into your bloodstream, where they can wreak havoc, causing everything from stomach upset to food allergies. In particular, when food particles get into the bloodstream, this can cause an immune response. Also, toxins and waste can leak out into your bloodstream.
Leaky gut is also referred to as Hyperpermeable Intestines.
Leaky Gut Symptoms
- Food allergies
- Brain Fog
- Body aches and soreness
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Joint Pain
- ADD or ADHD
- Autoimmune Disease, such as lupus, Chrohn’s Disease or Celiac
If you have some of the above symptoms and cannot find the cause of them, you’ll want to consult with your practitioner to test you for leaky gut and to help you with a treatment plan. Good practitioners will be open to many different treatment options and will take their time to work with you to treat you. If you have leaky gut, it can be a longer process to heal from it.
Things You Can Do to Help Heal Leaky Gut
As you work with your practitioner to treat your leaky gut, there will be different ways to treat it. These things might include:
If you have food particles leaking into your bloodstream, your body can build up an immune reaction to them and cause food allergies or food sensitivities. Food allergies or sensitivities can lead to other problems like reflux, heartburn, hives, skin eruptions, excessive gas, diarrhea, constipation and much more! Taking problematic foods out of your diet can help calm things down while you work on restoring your health. As you heal, you can add foods back into your diet to check for adverse reactions. As you heal, your body also might be able to tolerate the foods you were reacting to. There are two diets that can help.
The Whole30 Diet. Whole30 removes some of the biggest offenders when it comes to food sensitivities – grains, dairy products, and sugars, which can feed bad bacteria in the gut. Whole30 also removes other foods, like legumes, vegetable oils and more. Sometimes, these foods can cause gut problems, so removing them for 30 days can be very helpful! Compliant Whole30 foods are very nutritious and healthy. When foods are reintroduced back into your diet, you do so with one food type at a time and watch for symptoms.
The GAPS Diet. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride is the creator of this diet, which evolved from the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, created by Dr. Sidney Valentine Haas. The idea behind GAPS is to remove most foods and focus on nutritious foods that heal the body. Bone broth is a staple of GAPS, and it’s believed by some that the gelatin in bone broth is very beneficial to the mucosal lining of the intestines. Fermented foods are also eaten. Like Whole30, foods are eventually added back into the diet, but after a longer period of time of going without these foods. Unlike Whole30, GAPS is a diet that is much more strict.
One of the ways that you can help your leaky gut is to start adding fermented foods to your diet. These foods can be something as simple as Kombucha tea, which is made with a “mother” that adds beneficial bacteria to the tea as it ferments. Some people also utilize Apple Cider Vinegar as a way to get more healthy bacteria into their diets (use apple cider vinegar that has the “mother” with it. Bragg’s is a popular, high-quality brand). Homemade sauerkraut is also very helpful, as it has beneficial bacteria in it to help build up the healthy bacteria colonies in your digestive tract. If you’re eating dairy products, yogurt and kefir also have beneficial bacteria in them.
One thing that can help your digestion and gut health, especially with leaky gut, is probiotics. While we can ingest some helpful bacteria from fermented foods, you can find probiotics that have specific strains you need to help you recolonize your gut. You can find probiotics in tasteless powder blends that can be added to everything from water to coffee. You can also find them in daily chewable supplements or specially formulated drinkable yogurt. There are many different brands to choose from, and many different ways to take probiotics. Here are a few brands we recommend. Yogurt, itself, has beneficial bacteria in it, but it may not be enough to help recolonize your digestive tract while you heal from leaky gut.
When taking probiotics, use a brand that has 50 billion CFUs or more in it and one that has a variety of strains in it, like: Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus.
Supplements can help your gut as it heals by healing the mucosal lining and helping to build healthy bacteria in your intestines. We mentioned probiotics above, but there are a few others that might help. If you want to use collagen or gelatin and don’t have a lot of time to make bone broth (it can be a long process), collagen powder is something you can take to help improve your gut lining. Both collagen and gelatin have amino acids in them called glycine and proline, which help to repair the intestinal lining.
L Glutamine can also be used to help. L Glutamine is an amino acid that is very effective for helping with leaky gut because the cells in your gut lining are able to absorb is really well. As the cells consume L Glutamine, they can regrow themselves and help repair the lining. We carry L Glutamine here.
You can also look at Slippery Elm, which has been used as a remedy for digestive issues for a long time. Slippery elm works by helping to create a slippery surface on your intestinal walls, which also helps to form a barrier and help your gut heal. Here are some great sources of slippery elm.
Healthy Foods for Leaky Gut
As you begin to start your treatment for leaky gut, you may wonder what foods are helpful to eat. Some foods aren’t as helpful as others, and some foods can wreak havoc if your gut is hyperpermeable and the food is still causing reactions.
First, don’t eat foods that have a negative effect on your body. If you continue to eat those foods, your body will continue to react, which makes it harder for healing to take place.
Next, if it’s appropriate, eat foods that are naturally high in probiotics and good bacteria. Foods like sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt and kimchee can be helpful. If you can’t tolerate dairy and want to drink kefir, you can make water kefir. Or you can try kefir and yogurt made from goat’s milk to see if you can tolerate it better than cow’s milk. Also, try alternative, dairy-free yogurt like yogurt made from coconut milk.
Last, if you can handle it, you can eat more foods that are made up of resistant starch. Foods like yams, sweet potatoes, cooked rice, bananas and potatoes. Resistant starches end up in your large intestine, where bacteria break it down to form short-chain fatty acids. An important short-chain fatty acid is called Butyrate. Studies show that resistant starch may be able to help to lower inflammation in the body and other positive effects. Resistant starch also might be able to improve insulin sensitivity.
If resistant starches give you excessive gas or make your symptoms worse, lay off of them for awhile while you treat your leaky gut with other protocols and then try consuming them again.
Lifestyle Changes That Can Help Improve Leaky Gut
Stress is one thing that can contribute to a whole host of health maladies, including digestive problems. Stress is everywhere and it’s hard to avoid, but there are some things you can do to reduce stress. Here are a few ideas:
Sleep more. Sleep helps your body to rejuvenate and helps to control hormone levels that can help to decrease anxiety. There are SO many reasons to get adequate sleep and this article goes into much more detail.
Do something you love. You will feel happier, have a purpose, and live a fulfilling life.
Go outside each day. You don’t have to go outside for a long time. We know life gets busy. Being outside can lower your cortisol, which a hormone connected to stress. Being outside might also improve depression and anxiety in some people. This is a great article that discusses the benefits of spending some time outside.
Meditate. In our modern world, we deal with a lot of “fight or flight” situations. It’s ongoing and can cause chronic stress and inflammation. When we meditate, it can help us to counteract these negative effects. Meditation can be done in a variety of ways! You can sit quietly and ponder a thought. You can pray. You can listen to a guided meditation. And for me, hobbies like knitting and crocheting are VERY meditative and relaxing. And sometimes, just a few minutes of meditation can help significantly. When I’m going through a lot of stress, I like to listen to short, guided meditations on YouTube. This one is my absolute favorite.
If you are going through symptoms that you believe might be attributed to leaky gut, contact a well-qualified practitioner and get started on testing and treatment. We are here as your source for any foods or supplements you need during treatment, so you can live a more healthful and happy life.