“All disease begins in the gut.”
Turns out, he wasn’t just being a dramatic…this is spot on.
This month, in the spirit of all the creepy, crawly, gross things that take center stage this time of year, I am focusing on gut health, in general, and all the [read: trillions of awesome] creepy, crawly bacteria that live in our digestive system.
Because we absolutely can’t talk about whole-person health and NOT discuss the system that is at the root of it all.
“Afterall, 60-80% of our immune system is housed in our gut!”
That’s amazing. And the best part is, through our lifestyle choices, we can give our immune system the nutrients and environment it needs to thrive. However, on the flip side, because the condition of our digestive system is so dependent on our lifestyle – nutrition, stress, physical activity, antibiotic use, etc. – when we don’t create routine and behaviors that support it…that’s when things can go to hell and a hand basket. And you can end up with a leaky gut.
What is leaky gut syndrome?
So what is a leaky gut, you may ask. Is it as nasty as is it sounds? [Spoiler: Yes.]
First, a little physiology…
In a healthy digestive tract, the cells of the intestines are nice and close. In fact, they are so close, the space between these cells are called “tight junctions.” These junctions keep all the digesting food/toxins/bacteria in, away from the bloodstream and other organs.
However, when these junctions start to loosen (due to a variety of factors we will discuss next), materials are able to pass through the intestines. So your guts are quite literally leaking into spaces they shouldn’t.
Short term, this causes an immune response that includes antibody production and resulting inflammation. Long-term, this can lead to a variety of issues including (but not limited to) autoimmune conditions, joint pain, skin issues, digestive problems, and weight gain.
What causes a leaky gut?
While some causes of leaky gut can be out of our control such as exposure to antibiotics (this can be a life-saving tool when used appropriately) or some environmental toxins, there are many parts of the leaky gut equation that are in our control. These include:
- Stress management (or lack there of…)
- Toxins (in the products we use, the water we drink, the medications we take, and on the food we choose)
- Dysbiosis (an imbalance between the good and harmful bugs in your gut)
How do you know if you have a leaky gut?
Tune into these common signs and symptoms of leaky gut syndrome.
- Chronic or frequent bloating
- Chronic or frequent diarrhea or constipation
- Chronic fatigue
- Frequent headaches
- Brain fog
- Frequent colds or poor immune system
- Experiencing multiple sensitivities to food
- Autoimmune disorders – The most common ones are rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, hashimoto’s (most common type hypothyroidism), Graves disease (hyperthyroidism), lupus, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative collitis, and psoriasis. For a full list, click here.
- Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, rosacea and psoriasis
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Mood issues, anxiety, depression, ADD, and autism
If you suffer from any of these issues, it is likely that a leaky gut is at play.
So…what can you do about it?
Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to heal your leaky gut aaaand keep it intact. Check out the strategies below and choose a couple to get started with today, ideally working from the top down to the bottom.
- Identify and remove food sensitivities. For many, a good place to start is with gluten, dairy, soy, and corn. A more rigorous elimination diet followed by a systematic and careful reintroduction can help to really shed light on additional the foods that your body does not appreciate.
- Introduce quality bacteria into the system by adding in probiotic-rich foods such as non-dairy yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, other fermented veggies. Even if you are eating these probiotic-rich foods on a frequent basis, I strongly suggest adding in a quality probiotic supplement daily.
- Add in other gut healing foods – coconut products, bone broth, and wild caught fatty fish like salmon, tuna, or mackerel.
- Limit your sugar intake. Sugar is one of the most pro-inflammatory substances we can put in our body. Read more about how you can limit your sugar intake here!
- Consider taking the following supplements: a quality probiotic (as mentioned above), collagen, fish oil, L-glutamine, and digestive enzymes to help further the healing of the gut.
- Create a self-care routine to minimize stress. Taking time to check-in with yourself, to care for yourself, or to simply allow yourself to be is absolutely necessary to achieving and maintaining gut health. Determine what brings your joy, both big and small, and schedule time for it. The key is to prioritize self-care like you would a doctors appointment.
- Lighten the load of toxic build-up by swapping out products – cleaning, personal-care, make-up, etc. – for more natural options or options with fewer ingredients. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s website called Skin Deep that rates personal products according to the toxicity of ingredients and environmental impact.
- Limit antibiotic use to when it’s truly needed. Talk to your doctor about other treatment options first.
- Get at the root cause of your inflammation so as to require less anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAIDs and other over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications can deplete the lining of the stomach and digestive tract over time with frequent use. If possible (based on your pain level and condition) work to discover the root cause of your inflammation and heal from there. You may find that your pain naturally dissipates as you take steps 1-7 to heal your leaky gut.
Please reach out with any questions or leave your comments below.
♥ Cheers to good health & happy healing! ♥
NOTE: Healing the gut and setting up a lifestyle to promote digestive health and general well being isn’t always a walk in the park. But the good news is, you don’t have to do it alone! If you believe you suffer from leaky gut syndrome and need some help with your healing, please PLEASE reach out. I would so much rather we tackle this head on the right way than to have you suffer and struggle until potentially things get worse.
Click here to get in touch with me!
- Yu QH, Yang Q (2009) Diversity of tight junctions (TJs) between gastrointestinal epithelial cells and their function in maintaining the mucosal barrier. Cell Biol Int 33:78–82
- Perl A (2004) Pathogenesis and spectrum of autoimmunity. Methods Mol Med 102:1–8
- Fasano A, Shea-Donohue T (2005) Mechanisms of disease: the role of intestinal barrier function in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal autoimmune diseases. Nat Clin Pract Gastroneterol Hepatol 2:416–422
- Bischoff S (2011) Gut health: a new objective in medicine? BMC Medicine 9:24