Leaky gut, or "intestinal permeability," is a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged, causing undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacteria to "leak" through the intestines and flood the blood stream. The foreign substances entering the blood can cause an autoimmune response in the body including inflammatory and allergic reactions such as migraines, irritable bowel, eczema, chronic fatigue, food allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and more.
With leaky gut, damaged cells in your intestines don't produce the enzymes needed for proper digestion. As a result, your body cannot absorb essential nutrients, which can lead to hormone imbalances and a weakened immune system.
What causes leaky gut?
In many cases, leaky gut is caused by a lack of stomach acid, and a lack of digestive enzymes, which cause undigested particles of food to irritate and permeate the gut wall. This is more likely to happen with foods that we consume on a regular basis, which get treated by the body as foreign invaders that need to be fought off.
The Path to Autoimmunity
When we eat these foods, the body triggers an immune response, producing antibodies, which can attack any part of the body, for some it will be the thyriod, or the lungs. For others it will be the bowl or the colon. Symptoms can include diarrhea, bloating, migraines, fatigue, skin issues and joint pain.
Leaky gut can also be caused by endurance sports, medications including antibiotics, oral contraception, steroids or over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, which can irritate the intestinal lining and damage protective mucus layers. This irritation can start or continue the inflammation cycle that leads to intestinal permeability.
10 signs you have a leaky gut:
1. Food intolerance
2. Chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas or bloating
3. Poor immune system
4. Headaches, brain fog, memory loss
5. Excessive fatigue
6. Skin rashes and problems such as acne, eczema or rosacea
7. Cravings for sugar or carbs
8. Arthritis or joint pain
9. Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD
10. Autoimmune diseases such as endometriosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's.
How to heal a leaky gut
The key to healing a leaky gut is changing your diet and eliminating the foods that your body treats as toxic. This is where food intolerance testing is vital as we cannot possibly guess all of the foods that may be triggering our immune system.
In addition to eliminating our trigger foods, we need to add a few things to help repair out leaky gut. These include digestive enzymes, and probiotics to restore the healthy bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract; and L-glutamine, an amino acid that acts like a glue to seal and heal the lining of the intestinal wall.
It takes approximately 12 weeks (three months), to repair the gut, after which you can slowly start to reintroduce the foods that were once destroying your quality of life.
Vegans and vegetarians or those who enjoy endurance sports, take medication, or lead stressful lives many need to take a small daily dose of L-glutamine (5g) on an on-going basis to help keep things intact.
L-glutamine does more than just heal the gut, it helps the body make the happy neurostransmitter GABA - something people suffering from anxiety and depression are often low in.
Test, don’t guess
We are all unique, so it’s important that you have a food intolerance test so that you know exactly which foods to avoid.
Hint, it’s not always gluten, I’ve seen kale, chickpeas and lentils! However, the winner by far is yeast! Egg whites and cows’ milk are a close second.
We are all unique!
Just like no two people have the same fingers prints, we are all biochemically different, which means one size does not fit all. That means your symptoms could be caused by other issues, so it’s important to follow a personalized plan that meets your nutritional needs.
All health problems start in the gut!
This might sound like a grand statement, but our health is diretly related to our gut ecology.
Dr. Robynne Chutkan, assistant professor of medicine at Georgetown University Hospital, says leaky gut "is likely to emerge as one of the most significant medical concepts of our time."
The good news is that it doesn’t take long to take back your health!
The best way to approach this is to see it as an opportunity to transform your relationship with food, so that by the end of the process, not only do you own your health, you can eat things that were once off limits without the fear of a flare up!