When I first heard the term leaky gut years ago, my interpretation was all wrong. I pictured someone who had leaky gut as not being able to control their bowels. I later realized that I was not the only one with this impression. Many times I have brought up the term leaky gut with clients and their response is typically: “Oh, I don’t have that.” Yet, on their intake form, I see things such as overuse of antibiotics, birth control pills, and NSAIDs (ibuprofen, Tylenol, aleve, celebrex, aspirin), along with histories of chronic stress and poor eating habits. These are all VERY common causes of leaky gut. Then one look at their symptoms and I can tell, typically without testing, that an individual likely may indeed have leaky gut. It’s then that I know it’s time for an explanation.
What IS leaky gut (LG)?
In our guts, or intestines, we have a lining that serves many purposes including absorption of nutrients, immune function and protection from foreign substances entering the body. A healthy gut will have tight junctions on the intestinal walls with tiny spaces that allow nutrients from food to be absorbed in the body, but will keep larger food particles and other toxins from entering the bloodstream. When these tight junctions are compromised, food particles and other toxins are allowed to” leak” into the bloodstream. Since these proteins don’t belong outside of the gut, the body mounts an immune response and attacks them, leading to a host of symptoms.
In addition to more obvious digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, colitis, celiac and irritable bowel, there are several very common NON-digestive disorders that are either caused by or exacerbated by leaky gut. Treat the following concerns as warning signs that you may have LG.
- Seasonal allergies or asthma
- Skin problems including rosacea, acne and eczema
- Mood disorders like depression, anxiety and ADD
- Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or polycystic ovary syndrome
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, hashimotos, lupus, and psoriasis
At this point, it’s most likely clear that you do not have to have gut symptoms to have a leaky gut!
And by now you may be asking yourself: “What can I actually DO about this problem? Is it possible to “fix” a leaky gut?
I am happy to report that both Jane and I work with countless clients who deal with this issue every day, and there is no question that healing is possible. To adequately address these conditions, you must rebuild your healthy gut flora and heal your intestinal barrier. This typically involves diet changes, stress reduction, and often a couple of targeted nutrients/supplements. We always address the diet first and foremost, and will begin to implement the following changes with our clients:
- Strictly limit sugar (including artificial sweeteners), processed foods, trans fats, and damaged oils (corn, safflower, canola, soy, safflower)
- Root out common food allergens such as gluten, dairy, soy, and corn
- Eat plenty of fiber* (fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, well cooked legumes, sweet potatoes, yams)
- Eat fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kim chi, etc., and/or take a high-quality, multi-species probiotic
While there is no quick fix to healing a leaky gut (it didn’t become leaky overnight), healing is possible and the benefits will be life changing for you – especially if you are plagued with some of the chronic issues listed above. A great place to start would be to join our 7 Days to Better Digestion email series here.
Now we want to hear from you! Have you heard the term “Leaky Gut” before? Which of the above diet changes will you start with or what healthy habit are you already doing to support your gut?
*Some people with more severe digestive issues may not tolerate high amounts of fiber and need to be careful when adding in fiber.