So What Actually Is Leaky Gut
To understand leaky gut, you first need to have a bit of background on how the digestive tract works. Your digestive tract includes over 4,000 square feet of lining, all of which is just one cell layer thick. These cells, called enterocytes, are like security guards, forming a secure barrier between your body and the outside world. The digestive tract isnt just responsible for getting the good stuff from the food you eat its also responsible for keeping the bad stuff out.
As foreign items food, drink, medications, air particulates, etc enter your digestive tract through your nose and mouth, theyre broken down and digested as they pass through your gut. The enterocytes maintain a tight barrier, ensuring that only fully digested nutrients that your body can properly absorb pass through the gut lining and into your bloodstream and organs. Intestinal permeability refers to how easily substances pass from your gut into your bloodstream. In a healthy gut, intestinal permeability is low. But when the gut isnt functioning as it should, the gaps between the enterocytes loosen, resulting in increased intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut. These bigger holes allow substances that are only partially digested to get into your bloodstream, which has a cascade of negative health effects.
- Digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, nausea, bloating, gas, and cramps
What Is A Leaky Gut Or Leaky Bowel
Our digestive system is made up of many organs. Each of these organs work together to break down the food we consume while absorbing all the nutrients and removing waste. The intestinal lining behaves like a barrier to prevent any harmful substances from entering the bloodstream. Leaky gut is the condition where gaps form in the intestinal walls. These gaps or holes make it easier for bacteria, toxins, and undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream. As a result, this may lead to triggering inflammation and changes to the good bacteria in the gut.
But what causes leaky gut? What you may not be aware of is that everybody has some level of leaky gut. As the intestinal lining is not impenetrable, it is normal for some food particles and bacteria to enter the bloodstream. However, this should be limited amounts.
It is believed that what may be causing leaky bowel in most people is our diet. The modern diet is a world away from how our natural diet should be. We tend to consume foods that are low in fiber, sugary, high in saturated fats, and consume alcohol too frequently. Therefore, our modern diet may be causing leaky gut.
Channel Your Inner Dalai Lama And Cut Work Stress Out Of Your Life
For the majority of us, our main source of stress is work.
And as we know, chronic stress is one of the top 5 causes of leaky gut, because it has a crippling effect on digestion and in general makes it very hard for your body to fight off the bad bacteria and yeast overgrowth causing leaky gut.
Not to mention the inflammation that flares up because of leaky gut.
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What To Eat For Leaky Gut
Though it may appear complicated, the best leaky gut diet plan is an anti-inflammatory diet that suits your uniquebody.
Though there are many possible diet options, there are onlytwo simple principles you need to follow:
- Eat a diet made up of real, whole foods.
- Avoid processed, artificial, and inflammatory foods.
I would add one more important principle:
- Avoid any food that you have a clear reaction to.
You may be tempted to religiously follow one of the many diets out there. But the truth is that your body and digestive tract are unique and need a custom approach. The best way to get there is to create your leaky gut food plan using basic principles, and to personalize the specifics for you.
Say Goodbye To Sugar In All Forms
Whilst refined white sugar found in popular foods/drinks like soft drink, ice cream, sauces etc is obviously bad, when you have leaky gut so are the more innocent sounding sugars like brown sugar, raw sugar etc.
Simply put, avoid all blatantly sugary products like sodas, sweets, desserts, etc, and also avoid the less obvious ones like sauces, low fat products.
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Wherever Possible Try To Do As The Drug
- Cut down drug intake and rely on more natural remedies. For example, breathing exercises and meditation can work well to replace mild pain relievers.
- Prevent the causes happening in the first place. This is the big one! So for example, NSAIDs are often taken during hangovers. Solution: dont get drunk. Another example headaches often flair up on days where you dont have enough sleep, drink too little water and/or OD on caffeine. Solution: ah well, you get the point.
- Take probiotics. Many drugs by design will strip your digestive system of bacteria, both good and bad, eg antibiotics59. So during and after use, consider trying a probiotic supplement, which can add more good bacteria to your gut. In particular, ask your doctor about S Boulardii, which is a probiotic yeast that can help our gut60, even when we are taking antibiotics.
Speaking from personal experience, I found that even seemingly necessary drugs were no longer necessary if I addressed the deep root causes.
For example, when working on a new doctor-supervised asthma protocol several years ago, I found it possible to cut down my corticosteroids intake by 80% within 30 days by addressing leaky gut itself.
The funny thing is by following many of the ideas on this page you will naturally find your use of these drugs reduces, ie the vicious cycle stops. Gut happy!
So You Might Also Want To Consider Temporarily Cutting
- All nightshades. Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers etc. These guys come packed with their own form of bug repellent, alkaloids. Suffice to say, not everyone responds well to them and they can cause inflammation and digestive issues93.
- Eggs. These can spike a high allergy response in a lot of people, and the lysozyme in egg white especially may be troublesome94.
- Nuts. Like eggs, these may not react well with your body95.
- Seeds. Seeds are meant to survive dormant for long periods of time and through varying conditions so, due to being constructed of natures tough-to-crack materials, even the sprouted ones can cause issues for some people.
- All vegetable starches. If youre still struggling 30 days into the diet, well then sadly, even that innocent looking sweet potato has to go96.
- All fruits. That low sugar berry shake you started loving on the leaky gut dietwell, that is out!
- All dairy. If you were eating raw unpasteurized yogurt for the probiotics or sheep cheese, stop. Its out as well97.
Of course the best news is that these eliminations arent necessarily permanent.
In idea #36 below, well look specifically at how to reintroduce these borderline foods in later to see if they still cause issues or whether some can be permanently added back into your diet.
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Suggested Treatments Range From Bogus To Dangerous
The Myth: Many solutions that leaky gut syndrome proponents recommend are based in fad diets, which declare that normal foods cause serious problems in most people. For instance, proponents of leaky gut syndrome recommend that patients avoid any foods with high sugar content , claiming that the excess sugar causes an overgrowth of a certain strain of yeast in the GI tract that is responsible for the damage to the intestinal wall. In addition, they say that sensitivities to gluten or lactose damage the intestine, and they recommend avoiding all dairy products and anything containing gluten.
Debunked: Fruit will not cause yeast to attack your intestines. While a small percentage of the population have symptoms related to gluten and lactose intake, these foods cause no problems for most individuals. Following these practitioners instructions is more likely to lead to nutritional deficiencies rather than reduced symptoms.
Another issue in this field is that many people in the popular media who support this unverified condition try to sell special products as a treatment for leaky gut syndrome. They offer unproven treatments for a condition that has no medical basis. Additionally, since many of these supplements havent been well researched, taking them could cost you a lot of money, do little to reduce your symptoms, and could even be dangerous.
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Pasta Hold The Gluten
Pasta is one of those comfort foods that people on a leaky gut diet or with weight issues have a hard time letting go of. The great news is that more people are waking up to the benefits of eating less gluten, so there are now super-delicious options to satisfy your pasta cravings without the guilt. And without compromising your nutritional goals.
For those who think they may be suffering from leaky gut syndrome, or anyone who wants to improve their gut health in general, here are some delicious and nutritious gluten-free pasta alternatives:
- Brown rice pasta
- Zucchini noodles
Foods To Use With Caution For Leaky Gut:
Most people do quite well simply removing inflammatory andartificial foods and eating a variety of real foods. But sometimes, theirsymptoms continue despite these changes.
Four categories of foods that you may need to evaluate ifyou arent feeling better with your new diet are grains, dairy products, FODMAPfoods, and nightshades.
Many people have an immune system response to grains, whether they are gluten-free or not. These include wheat, rice, oats, corn, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, and more. In some cases this is due to plant lectins, which are plant defense compounds.
Lectins can cause an immune response. If your health issues trend toward joint pain, brain fog, chronic fatigue, or autoimmune diseases, consider removing all grains for a few weeks to see how you feel.
Many people dont tolerate dairy well, either due to lactoseintolerance or an immune reaction. Use caution with dairy products like milk,cream, cheese, sour cream, ice cream, and half and half. Some people who reactto dairy can tolerate ghee, or clarified butter. Dairy is one of the mostcommon foodsensitivities, so consider removing dairy to assess how your bodyresponds.
Nightshade vegetables, which include tomatoes, peppers,eggplant, potatoes, and okra, cause joint pain and immune reactivity for somepeople. If you have a lot of joint pain, consider removing nightshadesfor a period of time to see how you feel.
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Heres How Digestive Enzymes Can Help
Firstly, they work alongside our bodys own natural enzymes to take the food we eat and break it down into individual nutrients that our body can then actually absorb27.
Example of nutrients in foods would be things like amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. All the fuel our body loves!
This role is super important for those of us with leaky gut, because our damaged gut lining is potentially not absorbing nutrients properly, and yet needs the nutrients to repair itself. i.e. digestive enzymes can help us get out of the vicious cycle.
Secondly, by helping us break down food better, digestive enzymes also ensure less large food molecules make their way through our gut. This is a big win since it means less irritation of the gut lining, as well as fewer large food molecules making their way through our gut barrier and into the bloodstream .
You can find an in-depth explanation of all of this in my article on digestive enzymes and leaky gut.
What Is The Fastest Way To Heal Leaky Gut
Leaky gut doesnt happen alone. Its always part of a picture of poor gut health, and is often accompanied by conditions like IBS, autoimmune disease or allergies. Solving your health puzzle is never a quick fix, but testing can help you find a good place to start.
For example, a Gut Health Test could reveal you have dysbiosis, a yeast overgrowth or an H. pylori infection. Tackling these issues will also address leaky gut.
The fastest way to start healing leaky gut is to clean up your diet.
However, nothing is a quick fix. It takes more than a couple of weeks of cutting out pizza to get good gut health.
Because everyone is different, everyones ideal diet is different too. For example, some people like to include lots of whole grains, like quinoa, brown rice and oats in their diet. Whole grains feed their good gut bacteria, regulate their bowel movements and maintain their energy levels throughout the day.
For other people, grains can exacerbate their gut dysbiosis , resulting in bloating, diarrhoea or constipation.
Still, there are some diets which have been found to be helpful for leaky gut:
- Gluten free5
- Intermittent fasting9
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Eating Health Foods That Really Arent Healthy
We grew up being told that foods such as dairy, grains, and legumes are healthy. As it turns out, these foods might be whats keeping you from fixing leaky gut. Dairy is one of the two most inflammatory foods. Seventy percent of women overall stop producing the lactase enzyme needed to properly digest dairy after they finish breastfeeding, which is why so many people have a dairy intolerance.
Here Is The Nutrient Profile For Brown Rice Vs White Rice:
Another valid point in the whole brown rice vs white rice discussion: Both the bran and germ are still intact in brown rice. This makes brown rice much harder to digest. Because the bran and germ can be so irritating to the digestive tract, it can also lead to leaky gut syndrome, especially if eaten on a regular basis .
Leaky gut is partially caused and definitely aggravated by grains like brown rice the grain essentially tears the lining of the gut, allowing undigested food particles, toxins, bacteria, etc. to enter the bloodstream. This leads to allergies, mental disorders, autoimmune diseases and so much more.
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How To Prepare Rice
This little tidbit I took for granted because I learned it back in 2003, again from my Korean boyfriend.
Rice needs to be rinsed in cold water until the water runs clear.
Rinsing it removes excess starch and contaminants and improves the taste and texture.
Warm or hot water can start the cooking process, which we dont want to do yet.
My boyfriend told me that his mom would fill up their rice cooker pot with cold water and pour it off 3 times. That was her ritual.
3 times is the minimum, and you often need to rinse it more thoroughly if its been sitting around unused for a long time.
When my local co-op ran out of jasmine rice for a few weeks, I ordered some online and found that it needed to be rinsed about 6 times before the water started to run clear.
To be honest, Ive never really soaked my rice before, as I mentioned was an option above. Maybe Ill try it out!
Step-by-step guide to rinse your rice:
What A Day On A Leaky Gut Diet Might Look Like
Take a break from your usual white toast and breakfast cereal, instead scramble some eggs with sauteed onions and tasty greens. Or opt for a chia seed bowl with plain yoghurt, walnuts, flaxseed and blueberries.
As well as giving your gut the best start to the day, the protein and healthy fats in these options will keep you feeling fuller for longer!
Try to dial back the processed and allergen-containing sandwiches and tacos, instead get a healthy dose of fibre and nutrients with a large, colourful kale, red cabbage and carrot salad, layered with healthy goodies like turkey, sunflower seeds and a miso dressing.
If youre not a salad person, try a scoop of tuna or chicken salad folded into a romaine lettuce bun and a side of kimchi.
Muesli and protein bars are full of sugar and refined oils so stay well clear. Instead, focus on whole food snacks that are high in fibre and have a healthy dose of protein to help properly balance your blood sugar. Snacks are also a great way to up your fruit and veggie intake:
- Yogurt and berries
- Apple slices and nut butter
- Raw almonds
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