It seems the term “leaky gut” is being heard more and more these days. And while we may hear the term, many of us still aren’t sure what exactly leaky gut means? It certainly doesn’t sound good, because anything leaking from our gut can’t be good, but it also sounds like if we had it we would know it. The reality is that leaky gut affects many people but they simply don’t know it. The other reality is that this condition causes many other health problems, from allergies, colitis, Crohn disease, to irritable bowel syndrome. How does this happen?
Leaky gut refers to what is happening in the small intestine. The small intestine plays an important role in delivering vitamins and minerals to the other parts of the body through the microscopic pores that line its surface. These pores allow the small intestine to be semipermeable, which means only certain things are allowed to pass through while others are not. To remain healthy, the body needs the nutrients to pass through but not the toxins or undigested food particles. Leaky gut happens when those undesirable elements do pass through the small intestine and enter the body through the bloodstream. But what happens to the small intestine that causes these microscopic pores to open larger than they should to let this occur?
The two most common causes of leaky gut are:
- A flora imbalance in the gut
If chronic constipation is something you continually face, inevitably those “stopped” toxins will begin to irritate the lining of the small intestine. This irritation leads to inflammation which in turn cause those microscopic pores to enlarge. If left untreated, this constant inflammation can lead to IBS, colitis, or Crohn disease.
Gut flora, also known as gut microbiota, is the cluster of bacteria found in your intestines. In a healthy gut, there is a balance between both the good and the bad bacteria. The good bacteria aids in digestion, helps in the production of some vitamins (B and K), and prevents harmful microorganisms from taking over the body. The bad bacteria are those that can cause illness or chronic condition if allowed to take over the gut. This imbalance between the good and bad bacteria (or flora) in our gut can also cause those pores to expand if left untreated due to chronic inflammation, just like with constipation. This imbalance is caused by a diet high in fat, processed foods, alcohol, stress, and medications.
What can a person do to ensure there is a healthy balance of bacteria in their intestines?
- Take the amino acid glutamine because of its ability to heal soft tissue, like the lining of the intestines.
- Eat foods that contain probiotics like yogurt, kefir, or sauerkraut due to their high levels of good bacteria which help to restore balance.
- Increase Omega-3 rich foods in your diet – salmon, edamame, and walnuts, or take a fish oil supplement.
- Eliminate sugar from your diet, or other common irritants like soy, gluten, dairy, and additives found in processed foods. Reintroducing foods after two weeks will help you identify the culprits.
- Limit consumption of alcohol and pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin.
- Stick with whole foods – organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Help your body function as it should – in balance.