“Leaky gut” is a popular topic in the health and wellness spheres these days. It’s associated with many common symptoms and conditions such as; Allergies, intolerances, joint pain, even autoimmune diseases is linked back leaky gut.
But what exactly is leaky gut? What causes it? What kinds of issues are related to it? And most of all, what can you eat for leaky gut?
What is a leaky gut?
Simply put, your “gut” (a.k.a. “intestinal tract”) is a tube that makes up part of your digestive system, which is still considered the outside of your body. It’s not as simple as a hose or pipe; it’s a fantastic tube made of live cells tightly bound together. Your gut helps your body absorb fluids and nutrients, digests your food, and houses billions of friendly gut microbes.
It’s also selective to what it allows past its protective barrier. Your intestinal tract purposefully keeps some things from being absorbed, so they pass right on through to the other end to be eliminated as waste. You don’t want to absorb many harmful microbes or toxins into your body, right?
FUN FACT: About 70-80% of our immune system linked to our gut, so it’s ready for foreign invaders.
Absorption of fluids and nutrients happens when they’re allowed through this cellular tube into the circulation, as tiny particles. And this is great! The blood and lymph then carry the nutrients (these small particles) to your liver and circulate to the rest of your body, providing all your cells with the nutrition they need to be healthy and grow.
How does a gut become “leaky?”
The gut can become leaky if the cells get damaged, or if the bonds that hold the cells together get damaged. Leaky gut can be caused or worsened by several diet and lifestyle factors. Dietary factors like too much sugar or alcohol or even eating things that you’re intolerant to can all contribute to leaky gut. Gluten, dairy, and egg whites are three foods that are known triggers for leaky gut damage.
Lifestyle factors like stress, lack of sleep, infections, and some medications can also be culprits in this area. Sometimes, if the balance of gut microbes inside the gut is out of balance, this can also contribute to a leaky gut.
Any contributing factors that alter the balance in your gut may cause our gut to become “permeable” or leak. At this point, incompletely digested nutrients, microbes (infectious or friendly), toxins, or waste products can more easily get into our bodies.
Scientifically speaking, a “leaky gut” is known as “ hyper-intestinal permeability.” Meanings that our intestines are permeable and allow things through that they usually would keep out in. They “leak.”
As you can imagine, this is not a good thing.
What are the symptoms of a leaky gut?
Because your digestive barrier is leaking everything and anything, large food particles, toxins, microbes, etc., into the blood supply, this is a massive trigger for your immune system. The immune cells quickly recognize a “foreign invader” and start their response.
When the immune system starts responding, the notorious inflammation always follows behind to help with the resolution. Once the immune system starts responding, it can look like allergies, food intolerances, joint pain, fatigue, and can lead to autoimmune diseases.
Because the first place affected is the gut, and the damage that occurs can cause several digestive symptoms — such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation, or diarrhea. Not to mention that if foods, even healthy foods, aren’t properly digested, their nutrients aren’t properly absorbed. Poor absorption can lead to a lack of essential vitamins and minerals for the optimal health of every cell in your body.
Some of the symptoms can also occur on the skin.
Acne, dry skin, itchiness, rashes, eczema, and hives can all be symptoms related to leaky gut. Even rosacea and psoriasis can be linked here due to their autoimmune component.
Research is showing that several neurological symptoms are linked with leaky gut — for example, brain fog, fatigue, headaches, inability to sleep, and general moodiness.
Finally, many chronic inflammatory diseases are also linked with leaky gut. Things like Crohn’s, colitis, celiac disease, IBS, and MS. Even things like heart disease and stroke are possibilities.
What to eat for leaky gut
The general recommendation is to stop eating inflammatory foods and eat more gut-soothing foods.
Incorporating a gut-soothing diet means cutting out gluten grains, legumes, and dairy. Add to that list, food additives, alcohol, and refined sugars.
In their place, add in more green leafy, starchy vegetables, and cruciferous veggies. These are full of nutrients and contain fiber to help feed your friendly gut microbes. Eat more probiotic foods like sauerkraut, that feed the good bacteria. Make sure you’re getting enough essential omega-3 fats found in seafood and seaweed. Finally, make sure you’re getting some coconut oil and bone broth. Coconut oil has special fats called MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), and bone broth has essential amino acids.
Leaky gut, or “hyper-intestinal permeability” can happen when your gut gets damaged due to too much sugar and alcohol, inflammatory foods or eating foods you’re intolerant to. It can also be from stress, lack of sleep, or imbalance in your friendly gut microbes. The symptoms of leaky gut are vast – spanning from digestive woes to skin conditions, even to autoimmune diseases.
It’s essential to cut out problem foods and drinks and add in more gut-soothing things like green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and probiotic foods. It’s also essential to ensure you’re getting enough omega-3 fats and amino acids.