I remember coming home by the end of the day dying to get out of my jeans! I could pop on my jeans in the morning no problem – but by end of day I looked like I had swallowed an over sized muffin! I also began developing these weird itchy bumps on the inside of my elbows and under my armpits. I went to the doctor who gave me some cortisone cream and sent me on my way. This went on for years and I finally came to realize that corn, coconut, avocado and chocolate were the triggers for the hives. I also developed chronic migraines, sore muscles, insomnia and fatigue. Super FUN – but I finally realized I had developed a leaky gut and these symptoms were the consequences of it.
By now you may have heard the term “leaky gut” it’s a term being thrown around quite often these days in the blogosphere of nutrition. Today I am going to share with you exactly what leaky gut is, signs and symptoms of it and how you can begin repairing it.
What is Leaky Gut?
I remember when I first heard the term” Leaky gut” and it instantly conjured up this vision of my intestines springing leaks everywhere and pouring out some foul looking brown liquid into my body. Luckily this wasn’t quite what was happening – but not far off.
Our intestinal walls have tight junctions that you can think of as the gatekeepers to your blood stream. This tightly woven web is there to keep out things like toxins, food particles and microbes and let in the good stuff like vitamins and minerals from the food we eat. Essentially when your gut is leaking these tight junctions begin to break open and these toxins and food particles are now able to float into the blood stream. Your body say’s “Hey wait a second this isn’t supposed to be here” and sets up an attack against the particles. Your body will send out something called antibodies, which can be considered as your defense system. This defense system sees these foreign particles and sends out an immune attack against them. It does this essentially by creating inflammation that will destroy the intruder. The inflammation flares up only when the antibody has detected the threat it has learned to recognize.
Bottom line: If your gut is leaking food particles into your body it will begin to set up an immune attack against the foreign particles which can lead to long term systematic inflammation.
Now here comes the problem, this inflammatory response can show up differently in numerous ways here are some of the most common;
- Autoimmune disease: celiac, psoriasis, arthritis, lupus, crohns etc.
- Chronic acne
- Foggy brain
- Hormonal imbalance
- Food sensitivities
- Histamine intolerance
- Thyroid conditions
- ADD/ ADHD
As you can see leaky gut can be connected to some of the most common health complaints if not all of them!
Which means if you are wanting to feel better and recover from any of these problems you MUST address the gut.
The main causes of leaky gut;
- Poor Diet
- Dysbiosis (an imbalance between beneficial and harmful species of bacteria in your gut.)
What you can do
1. Change your diet
First and foremost, you need to change your diet. One of the biggest causes of leaky gut is eating a diet high in refined, GMO and processed foods. Not only that some of the so called “healthy foods” could be causing problems – Eg. whole grains and beans. Depending on what your health problems are you will want to eat a diet that is low in inflammatory foods like a Paleo or autoimmune paleo diet that is GMO free and preferably organic. You can read more about the healing effects of different diets in this article “ Eat to Heal”.
2. Remove the bad guys
Not only do you want to remove any harmful foods but also other harmful factors such as parasites, candida overgrowth, H. pylori and small intestinal bacteria overgrowth. Talk to a health practitioner or your doctor about getting tested for these and how to remove them.
Changing your diet will usually have drastic results on how you feel and in repairing your leaky gut but for many, added supplements and healing foods are necessary and highly recommended.
Top supplement recommendations for leaky gut include;
- Curcumin: Inhibits the inflammation and oxidative stress linked to tight junction opening.
- L-Glutamine: Is presently the best-known compound for reducing intestinal permeability.
- Licorice root: Improves acid production in the stomach and supports the body’s natural processes for maintaining the mucosal lining of the stomach and duodenum.
- Digestive enzymes: Enzymes break down the food particles so they do not exist as larger particles that will physically irritate the gut lining or activate the immune system. Plus, helps absorb nutrients from the food we are eating which for many people with leaky gut are lacking in.
- Probiotics: Help repopulate the gut with good bacteria.
Top healing foods to incorporate into your diet;
- Bone Broth: Homemade broth contains collagen and the amino acids proline and glycine that can help heal your damaged cell walls. 1-2 cups a day to help repair leaky gut.
- Fermented foods: Sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, beet kvass is some of the most popular fermented foods. Fermented foods can deliver trillions of good bacteria into your system helping to crowd out the bad and repopulate the bowels. Check out this article on how to begin making your own fermented foods
- Resistant starch: Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that has been shown to improve gut health and promote weight loss. It feeds the good bacteria helping them to multiply.
The best sources of resistant starch are Bob Red Mills Raw potato starch. Start with ½ teaspoon mixed into water and slowly move your way up to 1-2 tablespoons a day. Plantains, green bananas, beans and cooked cold potatoes or rice (must be cold for it to have resistant starch).
As for me, I finally discovered I had a parasitic infection, which I am sure I contracted on one of many worldly trips. I also was stressed out and not eating the right “healthy” foods for my body. Over the years, I have been able to keep the leaky gut at bay with high amounts of curcumin, fermented foods and my own version of a paleo type diet. If you suspect you have leaky gut it’s always recommended to get help with it as it can be quite complex.
If you would like to book a free 15-minute discovery session to find out how I can help you with your digestion book here.