If you are you suffering from brain fog, confusion, poor memory, irritability, or even a more serious disease like cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis or Alzheimer’s? All of these symptoms and more are linked with leaky gut syndrome. Physicians and natural medicine practitioners both agree, that the foundation of our health is located within the bowel, and combating disease involves healing a distressed and failing gut.
Leaky gut syndrome (LGS) is a condition on the rise in the U.S., and it often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. The symptoms of LGS can be uncomfortable and painful. Leaky Gut compromises your digestion and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
It occurs when the intestinal lining of the gut begins to break down, thus allowing undigested food particles and other things to pass through the walls of the intestine and into the blood stream.
Some of the things that can now pass through include proteins like gluten, bad bacteria and undigested foods particles. Toxic waste can also leak from the inside of your intestinal wall into your blood stream causing an immune reaction.
While there is no medication that treats this condition, there are plenty of natural items that will help heal the intestinal lining and bring it back to a pristine state, and I will go over all this below.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
There are 4 main causes of leaky gut:
- Poor diet
- Chronic stress
- Toxin overload
- Bacterial imbalance
Foods To Stay Away From
The most common food items that can damage your intestinal lining are the proteins found in un-sprouted grains, sugar, GMO’s, and conventional dairy. The problem with unsprouted grains is they contain large amounts of nutrient blockers called phytates and lectins.
These are sugar-binding proteins that act as a natural defense system for plants, and protect them from outside invaders like mold and parasites. The digestive lining is covered with sugar containing cells that help break down your food. Lectins gravitate toward this area and when they attach to your digestive lining it damages the gut, and causes inflammation.
Lectins are found in many foods, not just grains, but if you consume them in smaller amounts, your body will be just fine. But foods that have large amounts of lectins like wheat, rice, spelt, and soy are more problematic.
Sprouting & fermenting grains reduces phytates and lectins, and makes these foods easier to digest, and this is why I am a huge supporter of sprouted grain bread.
GMO & Hybrid Foods
These items tend to be the highest in lectins since they have been modified to fight off bugs.
Grains that contain gluten damage your intestinal lining, so while you are working to heal your system, stay away from all grains especially ones that contain gluten like wheat. Once your gut is healthy, add grains back into your diet that have been fermented and sprouted. Learn More About Gluten HERE
Conventional Cows Milk
The component of dairy that will harm your gut is the protein A1 Casein, as well as the pasteurization process that will destroy vital enzymes making sugars like lactose very difficult to digest. For this reason, I only recommend buying dairy that is raw and from: A2 cows, goat’s, sheep, or buffalo. PLEASE READ my article on Cow’s Milk HERE
This is another substance that will wreak havoc on your digestive system. Sugar will feed the growth of yeast, candida, and bad bacteria which will further damage your gut. Bad bacteria actually creates toxins called exotoxins that damage healthy cells and can eat a hole into your intestinal wall. If you feel you cannot give up sugar all of the way, substitute with my Healthier Sweetener Options you can find HERE.
Other Factors of Leaky Gut
Stress weakens the immune system over time which cripples your ability to fight off foreign invaders like bad bacteria and viruses leading to inflammation and leaky gut. To reduce stress, try to get more sleep, schedule fun into your week, rest more, meditate or exercise and hang out with positive uplifting people.
We come into contact with over 80,000 chemicals and toxins every single year but the worst offenders for causing leaky gut include antibiotics, pesticides, tap water, aspirin, and NSAIDS. Try buying a high quality water filter to eliminate chlorine and fluoride, and look to natural plant based herbs to reduce inflammation in your body.
Finally, one of the leading causes of leaky gut is a condition called dysbiosis,which means an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut. For many, this imbalance can begin at birth because of a C-section or because the mother didn’t have a healthy gut herself. The overuse of prescription antibiotic drugs, tap water with chlorine and fluoride, and the lack of probiotic rich foods contribute to this imbalance of good and bad bacteria.
Signs of Leaky Gut
Leaky gut syndrome is more common than you think. Autism, rheumatoid arthritis, periodontal disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn’s disease and colitis stem from the inflammation triggered by a leaky gut. Malabsorption of nutrients, candida and parasitic infections along with food sensitivities and allergies are also connected with this syndrome. Inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and acne are indicators a leaky gut too. This leads to inflammation throughout your system and can cause symptoms, such as:
- Weight Gain
- Digestive Issues
- Food Sensitivities
- Thyroid Conditions
- Joint Pain
- Skin Issues Like Rosacea & Acne
One of the biggest warning signs that you may have leaky gut can be that you’re experiencing multiple food sensitivities. When the partially digested proteins and fats seep through the intestinal lining, they make their way into your bloodstream which will cause an allergic response.
This allergic response doesn’t mean you’ll break out in a rash, but it can lead to one of the symptoms I’ve mentioned above. And, if left un-repaired can lead to more severe health issues like inflammatory bowel disease, IBS, arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, muscle pain and chronic fatigue.
According to the Journal of Diabetes there is a strong body of evidence pointing to leaky gut as a major cause of autoimmune diseases including Type 1 Diabetes.
Leaky Gut & Brain Function
One particular issue I want to touch on with leaky gut, is how it can affect the brain. If you’ve ever seen a child with autism experience a mood swing, this can be caused by intestinal permeability. Gluten & Casein-Free Diet’s have proven effective for many children with autism because these proteins can leak through the gut and act on the brain similarly to an opioid drug.
When opioid drugs attach to their receptors, they reduce the perception of pain. Opioids can also produce drowsiness, mental confusion, nausea, constipation, and, depending upon the amount of drug taken, can depress respiration. Some people experience a euphoric response to opioid medications, since these drugs also affect the brain regions involved in reward.
Examples of opioids are strong painkillers such as:
This is also why leaky gut has been linked to other psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. So, in many cases, if you can heal the gut you can heal the brain.
Tips To Heal Leaky Gut
Here’s the good news, a damaged gut responds well to certain foods, herbs and supplements, a clean diet and healthy lifestyle choices. Below are some of the best recommendations.
A clean diet is crucial for repairing the gut. By cutting back on or eliminating completely white sugar, gluten, processed foods, dairy (specifically cow’s milk, Greek yogurt and kefir are actually helpful because of their probiotic activity), refined carbohydrates, alcohol and caffeine, and eating plenty of high-fiber, nutrient-dense whole foods.
Because pesticides and GMOs antagonize the situation, consume mainly organic food. Essential fatty acids from fish, flax, or chia are also vital to healing the bowel and reducing inflammation. Drinking plenty of purified water is crucial as well to avoid gut-destroying contaminants.
Probiotics are my number one item on fighting Leaky Gut due to their proven health benefits in the intestines. Because a major contributing factor to LGS is inflammation in the intestines, reducing the amount of candida albicans which may be present in the gut can make a significant difference in healing.
Candida is a fungus that attaches itself to the lining of the intestines, causing inflammation, irritation, and damage to the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria which help to kill off the bad fungus. When taking a probiotic, be sure to find a brand that is reputable, refrigerated, and with a beneficial bacteria count upwards of ten million (per serving). Some probiotics come in doses as high as eighty organisms per serving. Consistency is key with probiotics, and taking them regularly over a long period of time will provide the most benefit for your body.
Raw Cultured Dairy
These items contain both probiotics and SCFA’s that can help heal the gut. Pastured kefir, Greek yogurt, butter, and raw cheese are some of the best.
These foods contain organic acids that balance intestinal pH and probiotics to support the gut. Sauerkraut, Kimchi, and Kvass are excellent sources.
All coconut products are especially good for your gut. The MCFA’s in coconut are easier to digest than other fats so better for leaky gut. Also, coconut kefir contains probiotics that support your digestive system.
Oftentimes, those suffering from leaky gut syndrome have low stomach acid. This creates poor digestion, causing toxins to leach into the body. Digestive enzyme supplements are helpful along with lemon or raw apple cider vinegar water.
Fiber protects the gut while sweeping fungus, harmful bacteria and other pathogens quickly out of the system. Good options include organic psyllium powder, ground flax and chia seeds.
Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds that have been sprouted are great sources of fiber that can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria. But if you have severe leaky gut, you may need to start out getting your fiber from steamed vegetables and fruit.
Also, consuming foods that have anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats are beneficial such as grass-fed beef, lamb, and wild caught fish like salmon.
Some herbs are known to calm inflammation and the damage that occurs in the gut. The two BESTchoices are Marshmallow Root along with Slippery Elm, as both soothe and coat the intestinal tract while minimizing the absorption of toxins. Other herbs to help heal the damage further by reducing excessive permeability are:
- Licorice Root
- Sheep Sorrel
- Fennel Seed
- Ginger Root
To eliminate parasites (that frequently accompany a suppressed digestive system):
- Black Walnut
- Caprylic Acid
- Grapefruit Seed Extract
This amino acid has been shown to repair damaged tissue in the intestinal lining, as well as promoting tissue regrowth and regeneration in the gut. L glutamine also strengthens the immune system, preventing bacterial, viral, and fungal infections from spreading in the body. This can be crucial in helping the intestinal lining heal, as pathogens such as candida and parasites can wreak havoc on the intestinal lining.
Since leaky gut syndrome contributes to malabsorption of many nutrients, it’s important to supplement the diet. A, B, C and E vitamins are essential as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium and coenzyme Q10. Colostrum helps to heal the intestinal lining and reduces inflammation. To rebuild gut wall integrity, L-glutamine is exceptional. And don’t forget a daily, high-quality probiotic.
Maintaining a balanced lifestyle is valuable for encouraging a healthy digestive system. Minimizing stress, gentle exercise, adequate sleep and slowing down during mealtime supports this healing process.
A well functioning gut with healthy gut flora holds the roots of our health. And, just as a tree with sick roots is not going to thrive, the rest of the body cannot thrive without a well-functioning digestive system.