What Is Leaky Gut, How Can It Affect Our Body and How To Prevent It
Today’s topic is one of the most discussed healthy issues in the last years – leaky gut. I’m sure that most of you have a certain idea what is that but I’d like to highlight some information and also, provide a short list of ways on how to prevent leaky gut in our body.
We live in a world where keeping our gut healthy and our gut lining intact is extremely difficult. All of us are exposed to various antibiotics and other medications, as well as toxins entering our body from literally everywhere.
When toxins, bad bacteria and foreign substances get absorbed through the damaged gut lining and go into the bloodstream, they get distributed around the body. Wherever they get inside the body, they cause problems. If they get into the brain, they will start either learning disability or a mental disorder, starting from as mild as forgetfulness and slight depression, maybe going to inability to focus and eventually finishing with severe conditions such as autism and schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder or epilepsy. When these toxins get into other tissues in the body, whether it’s the kidney, the bones, the liver or any other organ, they will help a disease to be born. Indeed, all diseases begin in the gut.
Leaky gut syndrome is also called “increased intestinal permeability”. The syndrome appears when the intestinal lining of the gut becomes too porous and allows toxins, bad bacteria and foreign substances to actually leak out into the bloodstream where they do not belong. The lining of the intestine is made of millions and millions of cells. These cells join together to create a tight barrier that acts like a security system and decides what gets absorbed into the bloodstream and what stays out. Remember that everything we put into our mouth goes straight to the small intestine. The intestines have only one layer to protect us from damaging substances. That layer acts as a barrier and needs to be maintained in great condition because it literally saves our lives. If the layer is intact, the toxins and the unwanted microbes get excreted as waste. And this is how it should be.
But how do we damage the barrier in our gut?
Our intestines have tight junctions (very small gaps), that allow nutrients to pass into the bloodstream. These junctions should remain very tight. However, certain health conditions cause these tight junctions to loosen, potentially allowing harmful molecules or bigger undigested particles to enter the bloodstream instead of going out of the body. Science shows us some of the triggers that may lead to leaky gut and here are some of them:
- Gluten – Studies show that gluten can be particularly harmful to the gut wall as it increases the production of zonulin – a protein that can weaken tight junctions. Zonulin is a protein that regulates the tight junctions of the small intestine. When zonulin is released in the intestines, the tight junctions open slightly and allow larger particles to pass through the intestinal wall. Regular consumption of gluten-containing foods increases the risk for leaky gut. Studies also show that patients, put on gluten-free diet for a certain period of time, experience improved gut lining and healthier gut flora.
- Processed foods – They usually contain higher amounts of sugar and often contain substances called emulsifiers. Emulsifiers are additives added to the processed foods in order to bound the ingredients together and increase the shelf life of the products. However, that’s really bad for our gut lining because these emulsifiers can erode the lining of the small intestine, leading to leaky gut.
- Alcohol – I will never be able to understand why alcohol is so attractive to people. It has zero benefits to human body’s health. Alcohol consumption may lead to increased intestinal permeability and studies confirm that. You can read them here.
- Antibiotics, pills and other medications – Pills contribute to weakening the gut microbiota and increased risk of leaky gut. It shouldn’t be antibiotics, it can be also birth control pills. The antibiotics are number one cause of gut imbalances, because they have been prescribed for a long time now, ever since they have been discovered. Every course of antibiotics wipes out the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Try to avoid all types of non-natural medications if possible.
How to find out if you suffer from leaky gut?
If you experience any of the signs below, you may suffer from leaky gut:
- Autoimmune disorders such as celiac disease or lupus
- Hormone imbalance
- Digestive problems
- Any type of skin issues
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
I will leave here for you a more detailed information about the link between leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. It’s worth reading it if you suffer from lupus or type 1 diabetes.
Can we treat leaky gut?
We surely can. However, it’s a bit difficult and so far there isn’t a single pathway to follow. Each of us is different, our bodies react differently to the same foods or medications, therefore treatment will be approached individually. We need to properly evaluate what’s happening in your body, find the possible triggers and use some tools to eliminate them. One thing may not work but two others may heal your gut.
If you need to treat leaky gut, make sure that you reach out to an experienced professional or a holistic health coach who could help you address your gut issues correctly. Certainly the first step to be taken is to review your diet. I would then recommend an elimination diet in order to confirm if you have any food sensitivities. Once we have the data, we can proceed with healing the gut by implementation the right lifestyle habits.
How to prevent leaky gut?
Tip number one – invest in your digestive health. This means that we should be more attentive about following a gut-healthy diet that limits processed foods, high-fat and high-sugar foods, and includes enough fiber. As we all know, meat and diary have no fiber.
- Try to avoid gluten-rich foods.
- Maybe limit your meat and diary consumption as much as possible.
- The same applies to alcohol – you don’t really need that in your life 🙂
- Start your day with clean warm water to help you properly flush out all the waste from your intestines.
- Try to always read the leaflet of any pill you might need to take. There might be healthier alternatives on the market.
- Avoid antibiotics when possible.
- Consume fermented foods – if possible homemade – which will help you grow healthy gut bacteria.
- Incorporate raw healthy foods with lots of fiber to help you flush out the waste more regularly.
- Eat more healthy fats – raw nuts and seeds, avocado and coconut.
- Naturally boost your collagen – collagen contains amino acids which help repair the gut lining.
- Take a short walk after eating – even a 15 min walk can help have better digestion.
- Always eat mindfully and slowly. Remember that we eat in order to give our bodies life. Food heals us, we are not here to consume everything simply because it may be delicious. If it doesn’t feed your good gut bacteria, maybe it’s better to not put it in your mouth.
At the end I want to highlight how important it is to avoid any autoimmune disease. We know that having an autoimmune disease means that our own body cells are attacked by other cell of our own body. I think it’s pretty scary – my body to attack itself.
Science shows that leaky gut can lead to numerous autoimmune diseases so by keeping our gut lining in good condition, we can stay away from autoimmune diseases.
Last but not least, I would like to share with you what I’ve learnt from Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition while studying to become a health coach. Read how our gut can serve us or break us.
I wasn’t actually prepared to hear that but it shocked me what could be the hidden cause of autism. It’s a sensitive topic but the information might be helpful for some of you. Scientists say that the vast majority of the autistic children are actually born with perfectly normal brains. They were perfectly normal children before autism came in. What happens to children who eventually get diagnosed with autism is that in the first 2 years of their lives their gut flora gets damaged. It can be that either the child doesn’t acquire the gut flora from the first moments of his birth or the flora gets damaged further.
As far as the science knows, the baby inside the mother’s womb is sterile and its digestive tract is also sterile. When the baby is being born and it goes through the birth canal, it swallows his first mouthfuls of bacteria which becomes the baby’s gut flora. That means that whatever lives in the mom’s birth canal becomes the gut flora of the baby. Where does the birth canal flora of the woman come from? It comes from the bowel of the woman. Therefore, if the woman doesn’t have healthy gut flora, she will pass unhealthy gut flora to her baby too.
Babies, who are born through a Cesarean section have their gut populated with another flora, which usually comes from the hands of the people that look after the baby or from the nipples of the mother. The gut flora gets spread by our hands all over our bodies. Therefore the nipples of the woman are also heavily populated by its own flora. The baby’s gut flora also depends on the fact whether the baby is breastfed or bottle fed. Breastfeeding is essential for normal flora to get hold of the gut lining. Bottle fed babies develop completely different gut flora from the breast fed babies since they haven’t had the chance to pass through the birth canal and swallow this essential bacteria right at the moment of birth.
If the baby has acquired abnormal gut flora right from the very beginning of his life, the baby is left immune-compromised. As a result, the child falls prey to all sorts of infections, every bug and virus that goes around. Very often doctors prescribe antibiotics even to newborns so from one course of antibiotics to the next course of antibiotics, whatever precious good bacteria that baby has acquired from his mother, gets wiped out. And usually by the end of the first year, this child has got a very abnormal gut flora. This abnormal gut flora consumes the food that comes along and converts it into hundreds of very toxic and poisonous substances. These substances are absorbed into the bloodstream and eventually they get into the child’s brain.
What happens with a baby who develops autism? We know that the babies are like sponges. They listen to everything, they look at everything, they touch everything, they mouth everything – they are collecting information from the environment using their senses – their sense of hearing, their sense of vision, their touch, their taste buds. That sensory information is then passed into the brain to be processed. That is where the baby learns that this is mommy, this is daddy, and this is a toy, I play with this toy like that, I don’t throw it, I don’t destroy it. But if the child’s brain is clogged with toxicity coming out of the gut of the child, then that brain cannot process the sensory information appropriately.
All this information turns into a noise in the child’s brain and from that noise the child cannot decipher anything useful. As a result, the baby cannot learn that this is mommy and this is daddy, and doesn’t understand what to do with toys, with the food, and develops all sorts of inappropriate behaviour; develops autism. If the levels of toxicity is different and the type of toxins is different, the child may not become autistic but may develop hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder.
Human brain is one very hungry organ of our body. It needs food all the time and the food of the brain is high quality proteins and fats. It consumes about 40% of all nutrition that goes into the bloodstream. If a person has multiple nutritional deficiencies, the brain starves. At the same time, this very same brain is being bombarded with a river of toxins coming out of the digestive tract and getting right to the brain. Therefore, in these cases, the brain cannot function properly.
One more important thing: When a river of toxicity is coming out of the gut and is circulating around the body, eventually, this toxicity should leave the body somehow. This is how it happens: A lot of toxins leave the body through urine. Normally, when we pee in the morning we flush out the waste that our body has detoxed during the night. Urine is an excretory channel in the body. When this toxin urine goes through the kidneys, it damages them. When toxicity accumulates in the bladder, it burns the lining of the bladder and starts a chronic inflammatory process right in the bladder. This condition is called interstitial cystitis.
When toxins leave the body through sweat, they cause problems in the skin. The person would develop all sorts of skin rashes, pimples and eczema, psoriasis etc.
In order to deal with all these conditions, we have to focus on the health of the digestive tract. This means – proper food for human beings, regular exercise, good sleep and as less stress as possible. It can take years to heal from an autoimmune disease but it isn’t impossible. Many people have already healed their allergies by changing their diet and lifestyle.
There are things we can’t control – I personally can’t control the air I breath, the stressful situations or sleepless nights but I can control what I put into my mouth and how much I move my body. I definitely say no to medications and everything that may contain toxic ingredients. It is worth it.
Stay safe and healthy! ♡