What IS Leaky Gut?
All disease begins in the gut
– Hippocrates was on the nail when he made the connection between the gut, our health and food as medicine.
Scientists are beginning to discover the importance of our gut biome in relation to our overall health. So much so that the gut is often referred to as out “second brain”, because the enteric nervous system consists of sheaths of neurons located in the walls of the gut. This is known as the vagus nerve and runs from the mouth to the anus – our entire digestive system.
Unfortunately our modern lifestyles consisting of nutrient deficient foods, lack of movement and exercise, sleep deprivation and chronic stress are contributing to an imbalanced gut microbiome, which can lead to dysbiosis and contribute to a condition known as “leaky gut”. Our intestinal wall lining (the epithelial barrier) is covered with tiny finger-like projections, called villi, which form tight junctions and should allow only the relevant nutrients to pass through into the bloodstream to be carried to where they are needed in the body. When we have a state of dysbiosis, the can villi become damaged and flattened so that the tight junctions no longer form an effective barrier.
This allows partially digested foods to cross through the damaged area of the gut lining and enter directly into the bloodstream. With the epithelial barrier damaged in this way, it can also allow microbes to pass through. When the immune system detects foreign particles in the bloodstream – be it food or microbes – it launches an attack. This leads to an inflammatory response, resulting in food intolerances with symptoms such as allergies, anxiety, brain fog, depression and eczema starting to occur. Prolonged dysbiosis can lead to more serious auto-immune conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart conditions, Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis and many more.
What can cause leaky gut?
- antibiotics – these are particularly harmful to gut microbes as they kill both healthy and harmful ones
- diets high in refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods
- continued use of steroids and NSAIDs (Non-Sterodial Anti-Inflammatory Drugs)
- diets low in fermentable fibre
- regular consumption of alcohol
- chronic stress
- chronic infections
How can we resolve leaky gut?
- Remove all triggers, such as the offending foods and toxins, from the diet
- Replace digestive enzymes, bile salts, hydrochloric acid need to be replaced to bring the system back to optimal levels. This can be done through supplementation
- Reinoculate by adding pre- and pro-biotics to repopulate the gut with healthy microbes
- Repair the gut with correct nutrients through eating real, whole, unprocessed foods
- Rebalance by addressing lifestyle issues contributing to stress, lack of exercise etc…
It is important to get adequate amounts of exercise (balancing general movement with exercise that makes you sweat and elevates your heart rate), drink plenty of water, engage in proper sleep patterns, and perhaps learn some relaxation techniques to help combat stress.
Some useful supplements are:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis probiotics
- L-Glutamine – an amino acid which helps to heal and seal the gut, and also aids in post workout recovery
- Omega 3 Fish oil to reduce inflammation, balance hormones and support the immune system
- Prebiotics – these help to feed the friendly bacteria in the gut and allow them to thrive in a healthy environment.
- Fermented foods such as live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir.
- Zinc – this is important as it is utilized to form digestive enzymes, and also for regulating hormones
- PH Balancing or Alkaline Foods – green foods such as spinach, kale, broccoli, chlorella, spirulina are great at keeping stomach acid levels optimal. Also try and start the day with a glass of hot water and lemon juice before eating or drinking anything.
Start your journey back to health.