Why Does Every Nutrition Pro Tell Me To “Heal My Leaky Gut” — How Can It Be Leaking?!

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There’s A LOT of talk in the health world about gut health these days. You’ve probably even heard that the key to reversing a whole host of health issues, ranging from skin issues to serious autoimmune conditions, starts with healing your so-called leaky gut.

Afterall, Hippocrates is famously credited with stating that “all disease begins in the gut”.

Several factors are thought to disrupt the normal intestinal environment and contribute to a leaking gut.

But what the heck is a “leaky gut” – and how do I know if mine is actually leaking? (Eww!)

This refers to damage and/or thinning of the lining of the small intestine (aka, your gut). Your small intestine acts as the barrier between the outside world and the rest of your body – a pretty important job!

The small intestine is also where partially digested food from the stomach (and anything else you take in from the outside world, like medications and supplements) is further broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream, where it is then carried for use throughout the rest of the body. If your intestinal wall is damaged, thinned, or has gaps in it – known as impaired intestinal permeability, the breakdown and absorption of the food you eat is also impaired.

Partially digested compounds, bacteria, and chemicals that shouldn’t be absorbed can quite literally “leak” across the intestinal membrane and into your bloodstream. The immune system then kicks into action, reacting to these foreign substances that have crossed the intestine as dangerous intruders.

It is believed that this immune response (from leaky gut) may be the underlying cause of other diseases, like:

  • Systemic inflammation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Celiac disease
  • Diabetes
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Skin conditions like eczema

Several factors are thought to disrupt the normal intestinal environment and contribute to a leaking gut.


12 SIMPLE SNACKS RECIPES BELOW


Contributors to leaky gut include:

  • Excessive intake of calories, unhealthy fats, refined grains, sugars, and alcohol, which promote inflammation and digestive trouble.
  • The use of antibiotics and NSAIDs (i.e. ibuprofen). These can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut and cause damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal system, respectively, if used frequently.
  • Disturbances in the gut microbiome. Overgrowth of bad bacteria in the small intestine in relation to the good, healthy bacteria (your gut flora) that help digest your food.
  • Chronic stress, which can also cause inflammation throughout the body, including your gut.

Most healthcare professionals don’t recognize leaky gut as a real diagnosis and there isn’t a standard test to determine if you are suffering from it. Whether the claims about leaky gut are true or not, gut health is something to consider when it comes to your overall health. If you’re experiencing digestive woes, like bloating and irregularity, it’s possible your gut health and digestion may be impaired and that your gut is, in fact, in need of healing.

Good habits to support a healthy intestinal environment and properly functioning gut include:

  • Eat whole, minimally processed foods with a focus on fibre-rich plant foods.
  • Include fermented foods, like raw sauerkraut or kimchi, naturally cultured yogurt & kefir (unsweetened), or kombucha, which contain good-for-your-gut bacteria.
  • Sip bone broth or take a collagen supplement. Collagen is thought to help rebuild and restore the gut lining.
  • Take an omega-3 supplement or include 2-3 servings of fatty fish each week to help combat inflammation.
  • Take a daily probiotic supplement to support your gut microbiome.
  • Find natural alternatives to pain relief, like essential oils or meditation, instead of relying on over-the-counter NSAID’s which are known to damage the lining of the gut and cause digestive issues.

RECIPE

Gut Soothing Banana Berry Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • ½ cup kefir (or plain, unsweetened whole milk, naturally cultured yogurt)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup berries, any kind
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds or ground flax
  • 1 scoop collagen powder

 

Preparation

  1. Place all ingredients in blender and blend until desired consistency reached.
  2. Blend in a few ice cubes if you prefer a cold, frosty smoothie OR use frozen fruit.

REFERENCES

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2009: Intestinal Barrier Function: Molecular Regulation and Disease Pathogenesis
BMC Gastroenterology 2014: Intestinal Permeability – A New Target For Disease Prevention & Therapy
Is Leaky Gut Syndrome a Real Condition? (An Unbiased Look)


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