Your gut is the gateway to health. If your gut is healthy, chances are you’re not doing too bad in the health sector. In fact, over 60% of chronic ailments could be healed if people just paid a little attention to what their gut was doing.
The prevalence of one particular gut ailment termed leaky gut syndrome has reached epidemic proportions, given the poor diet choices, chronic stress, toxic overload and bacterial imbalance of most individuals.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky gut syndrome is exactly as it sounds – the gut is leaking! When this syndrome takes hold of your gut, it essentially creates holes in the intestinal lining (you can think of the holes as leaks). These holes allow undigested food particles, bacteria, and other substances to enter your bloodstream where they don’t belong.
Leaky gut syndrome, also referred to as “intestinal permeability,” happens as a consequence of intestinal tight junction malfunction. Tight junctions are basically the gateway between your intestines and what is allowed to pass into the bloodstream. Their job is to maintain a delicate balance between allowing crucial nutrients to enter your bloodstream, while remaining small enough to prevent xenobiotics (disease-causing compounds from your diet or lifestyle) from passing out of the digestive tract, into the bloodstream and into the rest of your body (1).
Allowing foreign substances to enter the bloodstream presents a major problem. Food-derived antigens (proteins or partially digested proteins) can pass through the gut and promote both local or whole-body immune responses (2). The result? Acute inflammation, a normal part of the immune response, turns into chronic inflammation, which is at the root cause of pretty much every disease.
According to research, intestinal hyper-permeability has been linked to (3, 4, 5, 6, 7):
– Acute inflammatory conditions (sepsis, SIRS, multiple organ failure)
– Autoimmune disease (lupus, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia Type I diabetes and more)
– Celiac disease
– Chronic fatigue syndrome
– Chronic inflammatory conditions (like arthritis)
– Esophageal and colorectal cancer
– Gastric ulcers
– Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
– Inflammatory bowel diseases (Chron’s, ulcerative colitis)
– Infectious diarrhea
– Obesity-related metabolic diseases (fatty liver, Type II diabetes, heart disease)
– Parkinson’s diseases
– Respiratory infections (like asthma and sinusitis)
While leaky gut has been linked to many of the conditions above, you can still have leaky gut even without experiencing symptoms. Leaky gut syndrome works slowly, so you could happily live your life until a chronic condition comes along and stays for good.
Instead of waiting for that to happen, paying attention to early symptoms that are tell-tale of leaky gut syndrome is a great way to prevent damage from going any further.
10 Leaky Gut Symptoms and Signs
How do you know if you suffer from leaky gut syndrome? You will likely experience one or more of the signs and symptoms listed below:
1. Digestive Issues: gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD; Celiac, Chron’s and Ulcerative Colitis).
2. Inflammatory Skin Conditions: acne, psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis.
3. Diagnosis of an Autoimmune Disease: Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid arthritis.
4. Food Intolerances: with intestinal hyperpermeability comes over-production of antibodies to antigens in certain foods (especially gluten and dairy).
5. Thyroid Problems: hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), impaired metabolism, fatigue, weight gain.
6. Excessive Fatigue
7. Headaches, Brain Fog & Memory Loss
8. Nutritional Deficiencies: inability to absorb nutrients from food, as a result of an inflamed intestinal tract. Have a hard time absorbing vitamin B12, magnesium and are lacking digestive enzymes needed to break down and assimilate the nutrients in food.
9. Candida Overgrowth: too much candida in the body comes with symptoms such as skin and nail fungal infections, feeling tired all the time, digestive issues, difficulty concentrating, vaginal infections, and strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings.
10. Hormonal Imbalances: strong PMS symptoms, estrogen dominance, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Common Causes of Leaky Gut
Common factors that cause the intestinal barrier to become “loose” so to say, include:
– Gluten sensitivity
– Excessive consumption of inflammatory foods
– Use of antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
– Infections like candida, intestinal parasites, and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
– Chronic stress
– Lack of healthy gut bacteria
How To Repair Leaky Gut Syndrome and Heal Naturally
If you suspect you’re suffering from leaky gut syndrome, there are many things you can do to reverse the problem and heal naturally (or just prevent LGS in the first place). The points I covered above regarding the causes of Leaky Gut Syndrome suggest ways in which we can remediate the problem.
1. Stop Consuming Inflammatory Foods
One of the biggest culprits of Leaky Gut Syndrome are inflammatory foods. Unfortunately, these are the foods most people grew up to love. Packaged foods, frozen meals, sugary treats, fast food, you name it.
Foods that cause inflammation actually damage epithelial tissue, which is your gut tissue (13). This damage can lead to intestinal permeability, as it creates small holes in the gut lining.
Foods that inflame the gastrointestinal tract include:
– GMO corn and foods in general
– Fried foods
– Wheat (gluten is a major trigger for most people, even those without Celiac disease)
– Refined sugar and carbohydrates (like white bread)
– Red meat (particularly packaged and processed deli meats)
– Highly processed vegetable oils (sunflower, safflower, canola)
– Additives and preservatives found in processed foods
As you get rid of the foods above, start incorporating foods that will heal the gut like fermented foods (kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi), green juices and smoothies, almost all fruit and vegetables (make sure fruit is ripe, otherwise it won’t digest well), coconut, spices like turmeric and ginger, and healing teas like peppermint.
2. Reduce Your Stress Load
High stress levels cause chronic inflammation by weakening your immune system (14). If your immune system isn’t functioning well, it won’t have as much defence against foreign bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. Therefore, they have a higher chance of inhabiting your body and creating inflammation (which causes leaky gut).
While reducing stress is easier said than done, it is really important that we keep it to a minimum. Stress not only causes leaky gut, but it negatively affects our entire body.
To help reduce stress in your life, here are a few tips:
• Start the day with a fibre-packed green smoothie to balance energy levels and provide your body with calming minerals like magnesium.
• Go to bed earlier each night (preferably before 11 p.m.) – this can be made easier by shutting off all electronics by 9:00 p.m.
• Spend time outdoors, especially in nature. Fresh air and greenery is proven to help lift moods. Plus, you’ll be getting much-needed vitamin D, which promotes a happier mood, and also reduces gut inflammation.
• Slow down and stretch, do some yoga, or meditate for 15 minutes each day. It will help your body release endorphins (your body’s natural anti-depressants).
3. Boost Gut Bacteria
Probiotics and pre-biotics are so incredibly important when it comes to healing the gut and preventing Leaky Gut Syndrome. Probiotics help keep bad bacteria out of the digestive tract, and they also help strengthen the gut lining, which helps prevent leaky gut (16). Not enough good bacteria in the gut can also lead to candida overgrowth.
Pre-biotics are also necessary to feed the probiotics in our gut. Pre-biotics can be found in powder form, or if you eat a majority of your food raw, you’ll be getting plenty of them.
Many different factors affect our body’s natural stores of good bacteria and pre-biotics. If you’ve ever been prescribed and gone through a round of antibiotics, you can guarantee your good bacteria stores are depleted. Chronic stress, consuming refined carbs and sugar, and food borne illnesses like salmonella and E.coli also contribute to lower stores of good gut bacteria. If you were born via C-section, your healthy bacteria stores will also be affected.
If you want to re-balance your gut with healthy microbes that’ll make you thrive, eat some of the foods below:
– Coconut yogurt
– Apple cider vinegar
– Beet Kvass
– Chickpea Miso
– Water kefir
You can also supplement with a probiotic. My favourite brands are Puradyme and Garden of Life.
When it comes to leaky gut, pay attention to things that might be off in your body. Listen to your intuition. Even if you don’t have noticeable signs and symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome, you’ll only be doing yourself a favour by following a gut-supportive diet.