Food can be both our most powerful medicine and the sole reason for our sickness.
Are you already eating a healthy diet and still suffering from debilitating symptoms?
You may be dealing with Leaky Gut.
Leaky Gut can make it so that even some of the healthiest foods cause inflammation in your body and a flareup in uncomfortable digestive symptoms.
Doctors are often quite confused by people with leaky gut, as the set of symptoms they present with — ranging from fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, and digestive issues — don’t really match any specific diseases. On top of that, very often all lab tests come back normal (except for maybe zinc, iron and B12 deficiency).
This means that people suffering from leaky gut are often sent back home with no answers as to why they feel like something is wrong in their body.
I hope this article will help you understand what might be going on in your body, and what you can do to get rid of these symptoms, and get your life back!
COMMON SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF LEAKY GUT
- Digestive symptoms (diarrhoea, constipation, reflux, etc)
- Multiple food sensitivities
- Nutritional deficiencies (iron, zinc and B12)
- Frequent cold & flu
- Nasal/sinus congestion
- Joint pain
- Skin issues (rashes, acne, hives)
- Anxiety and depression
- Brain fog
- Auto-immune diseases (like Hashimoto’s)
WHAT EXACTLY IS LEAKY GUT
The healthy intestine has the important role of acting as both a barrier and a filter through selectively closing and opening intestinal tight junctions, depending on the need.
The healthy intestine allows for nutrients to be absorbed, and blocks the absorption of toxins and pathogens.
Think of the lining of your digestive tract as a net with extremely small holes in it that only allow specific substances to pass through. Your gut lining works as a barrier keeping out bigger particles that can damage your system.
When someone has leaky gut (often referred to as increased intestinal permeability), the ‘net’ (aka – tight junctions) in your digestive tract gets damaged, which causes even bigger holes to develop in your net. Now things that normally could not pass through are able to make their way through.
Some of the things that can now pass through include proteins like gluten, bad bacteria and undigested food particles.
When these food particles and other proteins enter the bloodstream through a leaky gut instead of being properly broken down and absorbed, they are now ‘foreign invaders’ and must be destroyed.
It’s like opening the front door of your house and allowing burglars to enter. The body’s defence system fights back (just like it does when you catch a virus) and it’s during this fight that uncomfortable symptoms are experienced.
This causes a vicious cycle, creating inflammation in the body, which creates more damage to the gut lining.
Most of the symptoms of leaky gut are caused by the multiple food sensitivities that develop as a result, and the inflammation this causes in the body.
This means that the best course of action to start feeling dramatically better is to identify and remove all sources of reactive foods and chemicals from your diet, which will not only eliminate symptoms, but also allows your gut to finally heal.
However, identifying the triggers is easier said than done. The reason for this is that the reaction to each specific foods can take up to 72 hours to show up — it’s called a delayed immune response, and is mediated by IgG (rather than IgE, which is responsible for a ‘true’ allergic reaction, which causes very quick and severe reaction to foods like peanuts).
By far the best way to identify your triggers is by doing an elimination diet… we will go into this in more details in a minute.
I am a big proponent of bio-individuality and the fact that no one-diet-fits-all, and leaky gut is the best example of this. The healthiest superfood on the planet can be your worst triggers if you have developed a sensitivity to them.
So never assume that because something is ‘healthy’ it is good for you.
One of the most important things I teach my clients is to learn to listen to their own body!
CAUSES OF LEAKY GUT
The cause of Leaky Gut is widely debated in the medical community. However, there is some level of consensus that the following are the basic contributors:
Diet: Consuming high amounts of refined sugars, processed foods, preservatives, refined flours and flavouring introduces massive amounts of chemicals into the body that are seen as toxic. If your body has a hard time keeping up, the toxins start to build up and cause inflammation.
Chronic stress: I’ve seen a stressful event or events as the trigger in many of my clients.
SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth): About 50% of people with SIBO also have leaky gut. Read more about SIBO here.
Inflammation: Any type of inflammation in the gut can lead to Leaky Gut. Unfortunately, this means that food sensitivities and resulting inflammation can create a vicious cycle. People with coeliac disease often have a leaky gut as a result, which can explain why gluten removal might not be enough for complete resolution of symptoms. Environmental toxins (like heavy metals and pesticides), are another common cause of constant inflammation leading to leaky gut.
Imbalance in gut bacteria (Dysbiosis)/gut infection: Yeast overgrowth (Candida), parasites and not enough good bacteria can all lead to leaky gut.
Medications: like NSAID and proton pump inhibitors (nexium, losec), to name a few.
Zinc deficiency: Zinc is a critical player in maintaining a strong intestinal lining. A deficiency of the mineral can lead to the mucosal lining losing strength and becoming more permeable. There are studies that show that supplementing with zinc when it is deficient can dramatically improve intestinal lining integrity.
Zinc deficiency is rampant in our society. Vegetarian and vegan are especially at risk (the best source of zinc is meat).
A leaky gut (and other digestive issues) can lead to zinc deficiency, creating a vicious cycle.
MOST COMMON TRIGGER FOODS
It’s important to understand that everybody will have different food triggers, and different symptoms associated with them.
Although you can react to practically anything you eat, it’s useful to know what the most common triggers are.
*Note that gluten and dairy are by far the most common.
- Gluten (it’s in everything… read labels!)
- Dairy (not just lactose, as it’s the protein that causes the reaction in this instance)
- Soy products
- Tomatoes and other nightshades
- Nuts and seeds
HOW DO YOU HEAL A LEAKY GUT?
Diet: Reducing the consumption of processed food and sugar will help tremendously.
Microbiome: Rebalancing your microbiome with diet, fermented food and/or probiotics.
Heal the gut lining: Bone broth and various supplements can be used to help this process.
Gut infection: Getting rid of any underlying infections in your gut (parasites, candida, SIBO, etc) is very important and often overlooked. If your symptoms do not get better despite your best efforts with diet, stress reduction, etc, it is worth looking into further testing to identify other infections that might be present in the gut.
Stress reduction: Often overlooked, but should be part of any healing protocols.
ELIMINATION DIET: Figuring out the foods that you are sensitive to via an elimination diet is the most important step, especially to reduce symptoms, and the inflammation in your body.
An elimination diet involves removing from your diet all of the most common trigger foods for 1 to 2 weeks, and then slowing re-introducing them, one at a time, and noticing any symptoms associated with specific foods.
As it can take up to 72 hours for the reaction to show up, it’s important to leave at least 3-4 days between testing each food.
Keen to try an elimination diet but not sure where to start?
CAN YOU CURE A FOOD SENSITIVITY?
Once you have identified your trigger foods, you will need to eliminate these from your diet for 3-6 months, as this is how long it takes for your body to ‘forget’ that these foods are enemies.
If you take steps to heal your gut, there is a good chance you’ll be able to eat these foods again. Yeah!!! 😀