Leaky gut is a condition that is very damaging and is not widely known about. I know, because I had it. It brought me food allergies, digestive pains, increased sickness, and fatigue. Oh the fatigue. And the very unfortunate part is that I did it to myself. Unknowingly, of course.
This is why I believe education is so important… for all of us. Not just the doctor, but the patient. If the patient understands just a little more about themselves and their bodies, then maybe that’s the straw that prevents them from getting sick. And that’s the point of healthcare. Not to put a band-aid over a sickness and make someone more ‘comfortable’ with some medicine, but to prevent the sickness in the first place. (Of course there are circumstances where things may not be prevented, and in these cases where hope may be lost comfortable is a blessing.)
Leaky gut is increased intestinal permeability. Leaky = holes. Gut = intestines. Leaky gut means the spaces between the cells of the intestines have become enlarged and nutrients that have not been fully broken down can get through into the bloodstream. When this happens, food allergies can develop. This is when people become sensitive to certain foods that they may not have had problems with before.
Simply put, leaky gut is caused by inflammation. Oh the infamous inflammation. It’ll be the death of us. Insult to the gastrointestinal tract can cause inflammation. Insult can be caused by anything from antibiotics, a poor microbiome (the bacteria you have inside) from birth, constant inflammatory diet choices, lack of stomach acid, pesticides… and a combination of all of them.
My personal issue with leaky gut started with a long-term course of antibiotics for 9 months. I did not know at the time how important it was to replace the beneficial bacteria in my intestines that were killed by the antibiotics, with probiotics. I started getting very sick and soon realized it was because of this. Antibiotics should not be used often, only when truly needed. For instance, the common cold should not be treated with antibiotics, since it is caused by a virus. Antibiotics only kill bacteria. If you do use antibiotics, remember to take a quality probiotic supplement, such as Probiotic Synergy that you can find in my store. The ‘good’ bacteria inside of you have a very important job to protect you against ‘bad’ bacteria that may enter your system. The proper functioning of your gastrointestinal tract provides a majority of your immune system.
This leads into your microbiome. The type of bacteria you have inside of your gut, dictates many factors in your health. If you have a poor bacterial profile, you may be more prone to getting sick and accumulating inflammation.
Your microbiome can be maintained through healthy diet choices, supplementation of beneficial bacteria (Probiotic Synergy), and maintenance of that balance with herbs, such as GI-Microb. Inflammation causing foods include processed foods, cooking with vegetable oils, sugar, trans fats, and red meats. It’s helpful to limit these foods or cut them out. Replace these foods with whole organic foods. And I always recommend cooking with unrefined coconut oil (since it is heat stable).
It is very important to make sure you are producing enough hydrochloric (stomach) acid. This acid is secreted when food enters the stomach. It helps with digestion of foods and with preventing unwanted bacteria from entering the intestines. Symptoms of not producing enough include burping after meals, heart burn, bloating after meals, and especially after eating meat (which requires more hydrochloric acid). If you experience any of these symptoms, a good way to test if you are not producing enough acid is to drink a shot of unfiltered apple cider vinegar after your meal. If it helps symptoms to go away, you are not producing enough. If you are not producing enough, it is important to supplement with an HCL supplement.
Lastly, avoid pesticides when possible. The most common pesticide ingredient is called glyphosate. When ingested this chemical causes damage to your intestinal microvilli. The microvilli are what helps nutrients pass through to your bloodstream. When they become damaged, the cell spaces get larger and we get leaky gut.
Organic, organic, organic. I know it’s more pricey, but there are always ways to lessen the bill. Planting your own garden is a great way to offset higher grocery store costs. Shop at farmer’s markets, it’s always cheaper from farm to table. And don’t buy fruits and vegetables that are out of season.
Now the food allergies I am going to talk about are considered an IgG immune reaction. This is not the same type of immune reaction when someone is allergic to (for example) peanuts where the throat swells and breathing gets difficult. An immediate allergy is called an IgE reaction, and is not what we are talking about.
IgG immune reactions cause slower, less noticeable reactions. And they are typically caused by the most common foods we eat. Therefore, this list of the most common (IgG) food allergies is of the foods we eat the most in this country. This type of food allergy is associated with leaky gut. And the way to rid yourself of these allergies is to also repair the damage in your gut, which we will talk about next.
1. Wheat (this is where the protein gluten comes in)
Doctors who have been treating this condition have come up with a simple step by step process to repair a leaky gut.
1. Remove. First and foremost, if we want to fix our intestines…. all foods that cause us problems, aka allergies or sensitivities, NEED to be removed. If you keep exposing yourself to problematic foods, you will not be able to repair your intestines. Foods that cause you problems also cause inflammation. And as long as inflammation is hanging around, it is difficult to repair the leaky gut. So please remove any foods you are aware of that give you problems. If you do not know, then it is advised to do an elimination diet to find out. It is also advised to eliminate non-organic foods here, since glyphosate damages the intestines. You can read about elimination diets also here.
2. Repair. Once the constant insult from foods you are eating is removed, repair can begin. This is what I have done and recommend to others.
–Anti-inflammatory. Taking an anti-inflammatory supplement helps to clear out any remaining inflammation, so that the damage can heal. Without clearing inflammation, the damage cannot heal. I recommend fish oil (or flaxseed oil if you are vegan/vegetarian) AND turmeric or combo inflammation support. This combination includes several different anti-inflammatory agents and helps clear it more quickly.
–Glutamine. This amino acid, that is used in a powder form, is known to repair the gut lining. It is commonly known to be used for post workout muscle repair, but is also highly beneficial for the gut. I have used this with great success and recommend it to others. I used Evviva Nutrients, which you can find here.
3. Reinoculate. Step 3 can be started at the same time as step 2. There are several strains of beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacillus plantarum, that have been seen to help with repair of the gut lining. So it is helpful to reinoculate with probiotics at the same time as repair. You can find a high quality probiotic supplement here.
4. Reintroduce. Once the repair is complete, which can take 6 months to years. It is important to be diligent and do not ‘cheat.’ Once you are there, foods that you were once allergic to should be able to be reintroduced without a problem. It is important to not be afraid of these foods, and to understand that the harm they caused you was temporary. It is easy to accumulate fear, and I want you to know it is not necessary and may need to be addressed within yourself.
Leaky gut can be a tricky condition, but with perseverance and resolve, it is easily overcome. Be strong, you deserve it.