ALL DISEASE BEGINS IN THE GUT.
What is leaky gut?
When I began this "real food" journey, I used to hear the term leaky gut...and I would blow it off. Probably a combination of not really knowing what it was and therefore assuming I didn't have to worry about it. STRANGE considering I grew up with severe digestive issues...but I believed that a doctor would have told me if I had leaky gut, right? [wrong.]
And the truth is, leaky gut will NOT show up just as digestive troubles, although this is where it originates...let me explain:
Leaky gut, also referred to as intestinal permeability, is a dysfunction much like it sounds. It is when your gut lining allows partially undigested proteins to pass through into your bloodstream...versus the fully broken-down amino acids that are supposed to pass through. Meaning, particles that are NOT supposed to get into your bloodstream are leaking into it.
Sounds harmless, yeah?
Not even close.
When these typically "tight junctions" loosen, not only will undigested food particles break through, but toxins and pathogens will as well.
All of this leads to inflammation, the CAUSE of ALL disease.
How do I know if my gut is leaky?
This question is actually rather hard to answer because while the cause may come back to leaky gut, the symptoms and "appearance" of leaky gut will be different in everyone.
Here are some signs that you may have leaky gut:
_ food sensitivities or food allergies (especially to gluten and dairy)
_ skin issues (ex: acne, eczema, psoriasis)
_ seasonal allergies
_ autoimmune condition
_ digestive distress (IBS, Colitis, Crohn's)
_ neurological issues
_ vitamin + mineral deficiencies (especially B12 and magnesium)
_ anxiety or depression
_ frequent colds
_ thyroid issues
_ struggle with weight (either over or under)
You may struggle with 1-2 of these signs, or you may possibly have a ton of these symptoms...either way, there is a [relatively simple] way to help heal leaky gut I outline below!
Better yet, WHY would my gut be leaky?
So maybe you have a lot of the symptoms listed above...you may be asking well "WHY would my gut be leaky in the first place?"
There are many causes to leaky gut. Let's expand on a few:
Well, doesn't a poor diet just lead to everything these days ;P duh! BUT this may not be the "poor diet" you are thinking of...
A diet that contains a lot of grains and legumes contains a lot of anti-nutrients (also called nutrient blockers like phytates and lectins). These anti-nutrients can really cause a lot of harm to the gut lining if they are not prepared properly by soaking and sprouting. (This reminds me to make a post about anti-nutrients in general because details about them are quite fascinating!) It's easiest to say that grains and legumes have properties to protect themselves - rightfully so. Therefore, a human's digestive system has to combat these anti-nutrients when we eat them causing more damage to us than we realize.
Need an example? Just sing the Beans, Beans, The Magical Fruit...tune. Gas is your body's way of telling you it's not digging the food you are eating ;)
There's also a protein called Zonulin, whose damages have been linked to autoimmunity and intestinal permeability according to the University of Maryland, School of Medicine. This protein is activated by eating gluten.
Of course, the typical poor diet choices of processed foods, sugar, fast foods, damaged fats, and alcohol will also lead to leaky gut...but I thought those mentioned above were more interesting.
Chronic stress leads to a depleted immune system, which of course, lowers defences for warding off foreign invaders.
It also leads to decreased stomach acid, which impairs the digestive system further north, causing even more problems in the gut. [Learn more about digestion in this episode of The Ladies Dish].
Toxin + Medication Overload
We come into contact with tens of thousands of chemicals every single year, but yet we hardly hear about the consequences unless we go digging.
Truth is, the antibiotics, aspirins, and NSAIDS we take without a second thought are damaging our guts far more than we ever imagined. Additionally, we have chlorine and fluoride in our water and pesticides spraying our food supply. All of these contribute to a weaker gut lining.
We are supposed to have good and "bad" bacteria is our gut, however there is a balance or harmony that should naturally occur in favor of the good bacteria. The above causes can create an imbalance, but we can even become out of balance at birth!
Babies born via C-section are not inoculated from the mother via the birth canal. In addition, mothers without a healthy gut flora may pass the imbalance on to the body.
The 4R Protocol for Healing Leaky Gut
**Note: this is not a cure-all, there may be a lot more going on beneath the surface, but using the 4R protocol will be a great starting place.
The first step is to REMOVE the foods and offenders that are damaging your gut. Choose a length of time to temporarily remove these foods COMPLETELY from your diet.
Some of the top offenders: gluten, soy, dairy, peanuts, corn, sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, eggs, nuts, processed and refined foods, refined seed oils, anti-inflammatory medications.
During the removal process, REPAIR your gut my eating nourishing, real, healing foods [and potentially supplements].
Some of the BEST foods to include during this time are homemade bone broth, omega-3 rich foods, coconut products, and lots of soluble fiber from produce. It is also recommended that you keep yourself sufficiently hydrated with lots of clean water.
Supplementation may be helpful, but not necessarily required, especially at first. It is best to work with a certified nutritionist or practitioner while choosing the correct supplements for you: digestive enzymes, L-Glutamine (amino acid), Licorice Root (adaptogenic herb), Quercetin (antioxidant), or Omega-3s (I recommend a Cod Liver Oil).
We also talked about supplements and how to make sure you are getting the best quality supplement on this episode of The Ladies Dish podcast.
During the removal process, REINOCULATE your body with probiotic-rich foods [and potentially a supplement]. Include foods like fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi. I find that with MOST clients, supplementing with a probiotic is very, very helpful and speeds up the healing process tremendously.
Slowly and methodically, REINTRODUCE the offending foods and pay attention for signs and symptoms to occur.
Wanna learn more?
Dana, Joy, and I covered LEAKY GUT in a Ladies Dish Podcast episode. You can listen here!
My Mindfull Makeover program has a 10-day REAL FOOD BODY REFRESH, a standard 4R Elimination Protocol, to help you start to identify food sensitivities and learn how the 4R protocol works. Sign up here to get notified when the next group opens!