It doesn’t sound very appealing, and those who suffer from leaky gut will certainly affirm that suffering from this syndrome is far from fun. But what exactly is leaky gut and what is best leaky gut treatment for those who experience it?
What is Leaky Gut
The jury is still out on the exact definition and diagnosis of leaky gut, with its causes and symptoms being wide and varied and the medical community not in full agreement. However, it is generally known that leaky gut is a syndrome that occurs as a result of malfunction of the intestinal tight junction which causes toxins, microbes and undigested food particles to permeate into the blood stream, causing inflammation of the body which can then lead to further disease.
When the gastrointestinal tract is healthy, it will digest food, absorb vital nutrients and expel waste without difficulty. A healthy gut wall will encourage a healthy immune system by only allowing required particles and nutrients into the bloodstream.
However, when the gut wall is leaky and allows antigens, microbes, undigested foods, toxins and infection to leak through the wall and seep into the body then it can put the body’s immune system into overdrive, hampering the efficient function of the intestine and causing other health issues.
It is thought that there are a number of possible causes of the gut damage that leads to the permeability of the intestine. Many of these factors are lifestyle related, such as using anti-inflammatory drugs, excess consumption of sugar, alcohol and processed foods, as well as exposure to pollutants and toxins, chronic stress, and due to imbalances in the microbiomes in the gut which might happen after taking antibiotics long-term, for example.
With so many of these lifestyle factor being ones that many people experience in daily modern life, it is not surprising that leaky gut is on the rise.
What are the Leaky Gut Symptoms
You might be wondering how to know if you are suffering from leaky gut. With there being disagreement and differences in opinion among doctors about leaky gut, it is important to know what some of the symptoms of leaky gut are, just in case you are experiencing it, as otherwise it might go undiagnosed.
While symptoms of leaky gut vary, there are some common signs of leaky gut. A minor leakage will result in problems in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract such as bloating, excessive flatulence, and cramps. If the leakage is more serious then the symptoms can become more widespread in the body and can include fatigue, joint pain, rashes, and respiratory issues.
A Norwegian medical study has found links between leaky gut and health problems which include allergies, asthma, autism, autoimmune disease, skin conditions like eczema, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis and Type 1 diabetes.
Some of the other health conditions that have strong linkages to leaky gut include:
• Having food sensitivities
• Inflammatory Bowel Disease
• Autoimmune Disease
• Thyroid Problems
These conditions can often be improved if leaky gut treatment is undertaken. While leaky gut can be quite serious, it is good to note that the cells of the intestinal lining replace themselves every three to six days. This means that your gut can repair itself quickly if changes to diet and lifestyle are made and maintained.
What is the Leaky Gut Diet
Focussing on diet is one of the key leaky gut treatment methods. Leaky gut causes malabsorption of nutrients which can lead to deficiencies in vitamins such as B12, magnesium and enzymes used to digest food. Therefore, it is recommend to eat a clean whole foods diet with plenty of fresh organic produce to avoid malnutrition and to have the healthiest gut possible. It is also essential to stay well hydrated so that your body can remove toxins easily from the intestines.
It can be beneficial to undertake an initial nutritional cleanse or elimination diet which can remove common allergens and help the body to remove bad bacteria, candida overgrowth or parasites that can increase levels of inflammation in the intestinal walls.
Starting an elimination diet involves removing common irritants such as coffee, refined sugar, alcohol, soy and processed foods which contain chemical additives, as these can cause damage to the intestines and can cause overgrowth of bad bacteria and pathogens. A properly conducted elimination diet can help you pinpoint which foods are causing trouble in the gut.
Fibre Rich Foods
One of the most important ways of keeping a healthy gut is consuming adequate fibre as this will the body to digest food properly and will also protect the gut wall and support the growth of healthy bacteria. Good sources of dietary fibre include all fruits and vegetables as well as sprouted nuts and seeds such as chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds.
Other crucial foods to consume for effective leaky gut treatment are omega 3 & 6 and EFAs, the good fats which are necessary for keeping the gut well lubricated and to allow the absorption of fat soluble vitamins that can build up the lining of the gut. Good food sources of these fats include cold-water fish, coconut oil, and olive oil, seeds like hemp, flax, nuts like walnuts and almonds, eggs and avocado.
It is also recommended that a good quality probiotic is consumed every day in order to keep the gut flora healthy and balanced. Having a gut with well populated good bacteria can ensure healthy digestion, less bloating and gas as well as lowered risk of disease. It can also be useful to eat fermented foods that provide prebiotic and probiotics to the system to help make the gut more robust. These foods include raw cultured dairy such as kefir and yogurt, as well as sauerkraut, tempeh, and kombucha.
The final dietary aid for restoring gut health is the consumption of the essential amino acids glutamine, proline and glycene, all of which are known to help to rebuild damaged cell walls and maintain gut structure and function. Glutamine can ward off inflammation and possible irritants and is found in foods such raw cabbage, aloe-vera, legumes and beans, eggs and seafood. Bone broth is also recommended as a good source of amino acids.
How Can Leaky Gut Be Treated
A well as experimenting with diet and eliminating different foods to see if there are any triggers, there are other lifestyle changes that can be made to try and restore the intestinal lining to a healthy state for long term health.
Ongoing stress can have the negative effect of causing inflammation of the intestines as well as compromising the immune system. Stress can be triggered through our work, not getting adequate sleep or not taking out enough time to relax. Many people find that gentle exercise such as walking can help to minimise stress, as well as meditation and breathing exercises and spending time ach day doing hobbies that keep the mind active yet rested.
In addition to a probiotic supplement, it is also recommended that people with leaky gut supplement with a good food-based multivitamin to make-up for nutritional deficiencies that are often common with leaky gut. It can also be useful to take a zinc supplement as this can support a healthy immune system as well as resupply the body with zinc that can be destroyed by this syndrome. Taking digestive enzymes with meals can also be beneficial in supporting good digestion and to prevent discomfort when eating.
Even after the leaky gut symptoms have healed, it is important to maintain these healthy diet and lifestyle habits to prevent a return to the problems. A healthy digestive system is linked to your nervous and immune systems, so maintaining a healthy gut is essential for good overall health
If you suspect you suffer from leaky gut then you will find that our Thailand Fitness Bootcamp provides a great opportunity to start the elimination diet and nutritional cleanse as well as try bone broth that can be really helpful as a leaky gut treatment.
Kiefer D, Ali-Akbarian L (2004). “A brief evidence-based review of two gastrointestinal illnesses: irritable bowel and leaky gut syndromes”. Alternative Therapy Health Medicine 10 (3): 22–30.
Liu, Z., Li, N., & Neu, J. (2005). Tight junctions, leaky intestines, and pediatric diseases. Acta Paediatrica (Oslo, Norway : 1992), 94(4), 386-393.
Hollander D. Intestinal permeability, leaky gut, and intestinal disorders. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 1999 Oct;1(5):410-6.