Do You Have a Leaky Gut?
There’s A LOT of talk in the health world about gut health these days. You’ve probably even heard that the key to reversing a whole host of health issues, ranging from skin issues to serious autoimmune conditions, starts with healing your so-called leaky gut. After all, Hippocrates is famously credited with stating that “all disease begins in the gut”.
Several factors are thought to disrupt the normal intestinal environment and contribute to a leaking gut.
But what the heck is a “leaky gut” – and how do you know if yours is actually leaking?
This refers to damage and/or thinning of the lining of the small intestine (aka, your gut). Your small intestine acts as the barrier between the outside world and the rest of your body, which is a pretty important job.
The small intestine is also where partially digested food from the stomach (and anything else you take in from the outside world, like medications and supplements) is further broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream, where it is then carried for use throughout the rest of the body.
If your intestinal wall is damaged, thinned, or has gaps in it – known as impaired intestinal permeability, the breakdown and absorption of the food you eat is also impaired.
Partially digested compounds, bacteria, and chemicals that shouldn’t be absorbed can quite literally “leak” across the intestinal membrane and into your bloodstream.
The immune system then kicks into action, reacting to these foreign substances that have crossed the intestine as dangerous intruders.
It is believed that this immune response (from leaky gut) may be the underlying cause of other diseases, like:
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Food allergies and intolerances
Skin conditions like eczema, acne and psoriasis
Several factors are thought to disrupt the normal intestinal environment and contribute to a leaking gut such as:
Excessive intake of unhealthy fats, refined grains, gluten, sugars, processed vegetable oils, processed foods and alcohol, which promote inflammation and digestive trouble.
The use of antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs like ibuprofen). These can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut and cause damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal system, respectively, if used frequently.
Disturbances in the gut microbiome. Overgrowth of bad bacteria in the small intestine in relation to the good, healthy bacteria (your gut flora) that help digest your food.
Chronic stress, which can also cause inflammation throughout the body, including your gut.
Most healthcare professionals don’t recognize leaky gut as a real diagnosis and there isn’t a standard test to determine if you are suffering from it.
But wether the claims about leaky gut are true or not, gut health is something to consider when it comes to your overall health. If you’re experiencing digestive woes, like bloating and irregularity, or any of the symptoms above, it’s possible your gut health and digestion may be impaired and that your gut is, in fact, in need of healing.
Here are some good habits to support a healthy intestinal environment and properly functioning gut:
Reduce greatly, or eliminate wheat, dairy and sugar.
Eat whole, minimally processed foods with a focus on fiber-rich plant foods.
Include fermented foods, like raw sauerkraut or kimchi, which contain good-for-your-gut bacteria.
Sip bone broth or take a collagen supplement. Collagen is thought to help rebuild and restore the gut lining.
Take an omega-3 supplement or include 2-3 servings of fatty fish each week to help combat inflammation.
Take a daily probiotic supplement to support your gut micro biome.
Find natural alternatives to pain relief, like essential oils or meditation, instead of relying on over-the-counter NSAID’s which are known to damage the lining of the gut and cause digestive issues.