Let’s unwrap a common medical mystery together. I am talking about gut inflammation, also known as “leaky gut”.
What exactly is leaky gut? Why is it so hard to diagnose? Do I have it?
Let’s learn about leaky gut together!
What is” leaky gut”?
Leaky gut occurs when the tight junctions that hold together the cells in your gastrointestinal tract become irritated and weaken. The cellular barrier becomes loosened, forming unwanted space between cells. This new space allows things to pass through the cell barrier and enter the bloodstream that would usually not be able to get in. Things like food particles, waste products, and bacteria. When these unwanted things enter into the bloodstream your immune system is triggered and begins to show symptoms of leaky gut.
Symptoms of leaky gut are similar to those of other digestive conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and Chron’s disease. Symptoms can include constipation, cramps, bloating, food sensitivities, or nutrient deficiencies.
How do we get it?
Leaky gut is linked to eating a diet that is low in gut-friendly fiber. The USDA recommends adults consume 25-30 grams of fiber per day. It can also be from consuming too much added sugar and saturated fat. Leaky gut may even result from stress or an imbalance in the diversity and numbers of your friendly gut microbes. As you age, your cells can get damaged more easily and heal slowly, including the cells that line your gut. This can leave you more susceptible to loosening of the gut barrier.
Leaky Gut Image by Microbiome Labs
Why it matters?
Over 2000 years ago, Hippocrates claimed that “All Disease Begins In The Gut,” and as research continues to evolve, we are learning more about the connection between gut health and predisposition to certain diseases. What we know is that the actions that occur in your gastrointestinal tract, do not just stay there. Your gut sends signals to your brain and the immune system. Leaky Gut can trigger chronic low-level inflammatory reactions responsible for depression, anxiety, autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s, allergies and food intolerances, weight gain, brain fog, and more.
What can we do to avoid it/fix it?
Our first approach to leaky gut is to address inflammation and eat a more gut-friendly diet. This means reducing alcohol and processed foods that tend to be high in fat and added sugar. It is also beneficial to avoid foods that you are allergic or sensitive to.
Enjoy foods that are rich in gut-friendly probiotics and fiber. Fiber is a prebiotic which works alongside probiotics to optimize gut health. These foods include:
- Yogurt or kefir
- Fermented foods (e.g. sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso)
- Fruits and vegetables (e.g. berries, apples, broccoli, carrots)
- Nuts and seeds (e.g. cashews, walnuts, chia seeds)
- Whole grains (e.g. oats, corn, quinoa)
- Astragalus (can be found in herbal teas & essential oils)
Regular exercise can aid in digestion and promote digestive health. As well as the importance of stress management, sleep quality, and not smoking. Yoga is particularly effective at boosting the immune system and aiding in digestion through twisting poses.
I heard Gluten can cause Leaky Gut – is that true?
Gluten is a protein found in some grains including wheat, rye, spelt, kamut, and barley, and is made of two peptides called gliadin and glutenin. In gluten-sensitive individuals, gluten can prompt the release of zonulin, a protein that can create space between the tight junctions holding your intestines together. This opening – referred to as Leaky Gut – allows substances such as toxins, microbes (including bacterial toxins such as Lipopolysaccharides), undigested food particles, and antibodies to escape the intestines and enter the bloodstream where they can create inflammation. To be sure, not everyone needs to follow a gluten-free diet to avoid leaky gut, but those who know they are sensitive to gluten or have Celiac Disease should avoid gluten grains and fillers found in processed foods.
Try out these gut-friendly recipes!
*note that if you have yeast overgrowth, or suspect that you do, you should avoid drinking Kombucha. Some practitioners recommend it, but we often see exacerbated symptoms of yeast overgrowth which can be quite miserable and take longer to get rebalanced.
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