Leaky gut- What is it and how can I fix it?

Gut health is essential. It can affect metabolism, energy levels, immunity and digestion and absorption of nutrients. Even if you have a perfect diet, your gut has to be able to absorb the nutrients to help them work properly, otherwise you aren’t getting the true benefit of eating them. What causes a gut to be in poor health, and what can you do to make sure your gut is in optimum health?

Leaky gut syndrome (or increase in intestinal permeability) is when the lining of the intestines do not work properly to prevent large molecules from passing through. Normally there is a tight junction within the intestinal walls to allow for transport of small molecules (amino acids, electrolytes, water) into the bloodstream to be used by the body. When this tight junction is compromised larger molecules that should be blocked, such as undigested food particles and toxins can enter the bloodstream- no fun! This causes a variety of symptoms including gas, bloating, joint pain, muscle aches, fatigue, autoimmune reactions and food allergies.

Leaky gut typically is a result of things that weaken digestive function. This includes chronic antibiotic use, the use of NSAIDs (ibuprofen), chronic stress, drinking alcohol, and eating refined foods. Eating foods with anti-nutrients such as phytates and lignin can also cause leaky gut to happen because our bodies aren’t able to break down these foods very well and may lead perforations (holes) in the intestines. Phytates are found in grains, brown rice and oats. Lectins are found largely in wheat, rice and soy.

There are specific tests to test for leaky gut that you may want to talk with your doctor about if you believe you may be suffering with this condition. The tests include: urine test, stool and digestive analysis, blood test for IgG and IgA antibodies, or a bacterial dysbiosis test.

The good new is, you can heal your leaky gut. Here are the steps that should be taken.

  1.  Remove foods from your diet that are impairing gut health. The foods that are hard to digest and may be causing damage to your gut include grains, legumes and processed foods. These should be avoided, at least for the duration of the healing process.
  2. Begin eating more foods that restore gut health by reducing inflammation and promoting good bacteria. These foods include
    • yogurt with active cultures- great for replenishing beneficial gut bacteria
    • fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi- also great for replenishing beneficial gut bacteria
    • Coconut products- the medium chain fatty acids in coconut are easier to digest than other fats and can help to support the growth of good bacteria
    • Healthy fats- such as avocado, fatty fish, olives and healing bone broth can help to reduce inflammation that has occurred from your leaky gut
    • Sprouted grains- such as hemp seeds, chia seeds and flaxseeds are great sources of fiber that can help support the growth of healthy bacteria
  3. Gut healing supplements are also beneficial. These include fish oil, probiotics and L-glutamine. Fish oil targets inflammations and reduces it. Probiotics promote the growth of good bacteria in the intestinal tract. L-glutamine is the most beneficial as it is an anti-inflammatory essential amino acid that is responsible for the growth and repair of the intestinal lining.
  4. Manage stress more effectively. Stress promotes inflammation and increases healing time.

Here is what a sample day of eating looks like to heal a leaky gut:

Breakfast: Omelet made with omega-3 eggs. Berries. Coconut milk.

Lunch: Salad with chicken and avocado, olive oil and vinaigrette dressing. Fruit.

Snack: yogurt with chia seeds mixed in.

Dinner: salmon, sweet potato, broccoli.

Snack: smoothie made with banana, mango, kale, hemp seeds, coconut milk

Here’s to a happy and healthy gut!