“Leaky gut” is a popular topic in the health and wellness spheres. It’s been linked to many symptoms and health conditions that seem to be all-too-common these days. Things like allergies, food intolerances, joint pain, and even autoimmune diseases and other chronic health conditions can all be linked back to leaky gut.
But what exactly is leaky gut? What causes it? What kinds of issues are related to it? And most of all, what can you eat for leaky gut?
What is a leaky gut?
The key to understanding what is meant by “leaky gut” requires some knowledge of our gastrointestinal system (GI tract). The “tube” that is our GI tract is technically considered to be outside of our body.
Materials such as foods, pathogens, drugs or anything we ingest are processed by our digestive and intestinal system so we can absorb our nutrients and also be protected from anything that is harmful before it “enters” the body, which technically means it will then enter the bloodstream. Once inside the bloodstream, substances are considered inside the body.
It’s also selective to what it allows past its barrier. Your intestinal tract purposefully keeps some things from being absorbed, so they pass right on through to the other end to be eliminated as waste. You don’t want to absorb many harmful microbes or toxins into your body, right?
Absorption of fluids and nutrients happens when they’re allowed through this cellular tube into the circulation. And this is great! As long as what’s being absorbed are fluids and nutrients!
The blood and lymph then carry the nutrients to your liver, and then around to the rest of your body; this is so that all your cells, all the way to your toenails, get the nutrition they need to be healthy and grow.
How does a gut become “leaky?”
The gut can become leaky if the cells get damaged, or if the bonds that hold the cells together (known as tight gap junctions) get damaged. This then allows substances like undigested food particles, environmental chemicals and other substances to get past the intestinal barrier and into the bloodstream where they initiate an immune response, promoting inflammation and setting the stage for chronic disease.
Leaky gut can be caused or worsened by a nutrient poor diet of processed and refined foods, refined sugar and lifestyle factors.
Lifestyle factors like stress, lack of sleep, infections, and some medications can also be culprits in this area. An imbalance of gut microbes (dysbiosis) inside the gut can also contribute to a leaky gut.
Any contributing factors that alter the balance in your gut may cause our gut to become “permeable” or leak. Which basically means at this point incompletely digested food particles, microbes (infectious or friendly), toxins, or waste products can more easily get into our bloodstream.
Scientifically speaking, a “leaky gut” is known as “intestinal permeability.” This means that our intestines are permeable and allow things through that they normally would keep out. As you can imagine, this is not a good thing.
Most people don’t realize that leaky gut is not only a stomach issue, but is also a serious risk factor to your health. Symptoms of leaky gut can vary from person to person and it can masquerade as many different health conditions or symptoms.
Because so much of your immune system is around your gut, the immune cells quickly recognize a “foreign invader” and start their response. This is normal and good if the gut is working properly and not allowing too many things to “leak” in.
FUN FACT: About 70-80% of our immune system is housed around our gut, so it’s ready for foreign invaders.
But when that happens too much, and the immune system starts responding, the notorious chronic inflammation starts, (which is at the root of most diseases). Once the immune system starts responding, symptoms can manifest in allergies, food intolerances, and even autoimmune diseases.
Common symptoms of Leaky Gut:
Because the first place affected is the gut, there are a number of digestive symptoms that may be experienced. Things such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea.
Not to mention that if foods, even healthy foods, aren’t properly digested, their nutrients aren’t properly absorbed.
Poor absorption can lead to lack of essential vitamins and minerals for the optimal health of every cell in your body.
Some of the symptoms can also occur on the skin. Acne, dry skin, itchiness, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, and hives can all be symptoms related to leaky gut. Even rosacea can be linked here due to their autoimmune component.
Neurological symptoms have also been linked with leaky gut. For example, brain fog, fatigue, headaches, inability to sleep, and general moodiness.
Finally, a number of chronic inflammatory diseases are thought to be linked with a leaky gut. Things like Crohn’s, colitis, celiac disease, IBS, and MS and more…
So, as you can see, leaky gut is a big deal and can affect many different body systems and manifest in a whole host of health issues.
What to eat for leaky gut
There are many steps to repairing leaky gut that involve a whole foods diet, lifestyle, and supplemental approach to restore gut integrity, and various other factors need to be considered as well.
Triggers need to be removed, digestion and the microbiome need to be supported and restoring the integrity of the gut lining is crucial.
Here are some things you can do to get started
The general recommendation is to stop eating inflammatory foods and eat more gut-soothing foods.
Incorporating a gut-soothing diet means you may have to temporarily remove certain foods, such as – gluten, grains, legumes, and dairy. Add to that list, food additives, alcohol, processed foods, refined foods and sugars and caffeine.
In their place, add in more green leafy and cruciferous veggies. These are full of nutrients and contain fibre to help feed your friendly gut microbes.
You also want to add more sources of vitamin D which can come from fish and egg yolks, and also from the sun.
Eat more probiotic foods like sauerkraut, dairy-free yogurt, and kombucha (fermented tea).
Make sure you’re getting enough essential omega-3 fats found in seafood and seaweed.
Finally, make sure you’re getting some coconut oil and bone broth. Coconut oil has special fats called MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), and bone broth has essential amino acids that help soothe and restore gut lining.
Practice the steps to successful digestion and better gut health. Download your free copy here.
It takes time and commitment, so it is important to stick with it over the long term.
Leaky gut, or “intestinal permeability” can happen when your gut gets damaged due to a nutrient poor diet of processed and refined foods or too much refined sugar and alcohol. It can also be from stress, lack of sleep, medications and OTC medications or imbalance in your friendly gut microbes.
The symptoms of leaky gut are vast – spanning from digestive woes to skin conditions, even to autoimmune conditions.
It’s important to cut out problem foods and drinks and add in more gut-soothing things like green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and probiotic foods. It’s also important to ensure you’re getting enough omega-3 fats, vitamin D, and amino acids.
Here is my favourite chicken broth recipe that is slow-cooked, to help get you started with an amazing food to help soothe and restore gut health.
Helping you make sense of it all
I know it can seem overwhelming and confusing when you are starting out on your health journey, I can help.
It all starts with making small changes and knowing where to turn when you need a little guidance.
If you are ready to make some changes regarding your health and don’t know where to start, I am here to help! Let’s chat.
We can discuss your health concerns, health goals and some simple strategies and you can determine if a holistic approach is right for you.