Don’t Want A Leaky Gut? Then Avoid These Gut Irritants
There are some people who don’t believe leaky gut is a real condition. They just think it’s a fad dripping in snake oil for celebrity doctors to make millions selling books and instructional programs.
But ask anybody who has an autoimmune disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's Disease and Rheumatoid Arthritis and chances are that they will tell you leaky gut is very real.
Leaky gut is associated with every autoimmune disease, in which a person’s immune system attacks its own tissues in a case of mistaken identity.
More and more doctors and mainstream medical institutions are starting to recognize that leaky gut is the root cause for autoimmune disorders. Even a medical doctor who contributes to Harvard University Health Publishing, Dr. Marcelo Campos, wrote an article last year that said there is growing interest to develop medications to combat the effects of leaky gut.
Also known by its more medically-accepted definition of intestinal permeability, leaky gut, says Dr. Campos lacks the clinical studies in humans that show direct cause and effect.However, Dr. Campos acknowledges that “Some studies show that leaky gut may be associated with the autoimmune diseases mentioned above, plus lupus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, allergies, asthma, acne, and even obesity and mental illness.”
What is Leaky Gut?
Before we explore ways to avoid or resolve leaky gut, in case you’re not sure exactly what it is, here’s a brief rundown…
Imagine a 4,000 square-foot house. That’s a good size house, right? Well, it’s unbelievable to imagine but it’s true: inside our guts, our small intestine is covered in a lining that size!
If a house’s foundation, doors and windows are strong, nothing unwanted gets in. But if a house is dilapidated, a fixer-upper if you will, then it’s not going to keep unwanted debris—or potential thieves—from getting in.
The same is true with your small intestinal lining. But unlike the sturdy concrete foundation of a house that’s several inches thick, your sticky protective intestinal lining is only one miniscule layer of cells thick.
It’s easy to see how delicate and vulnerable this layer is. And the cells in this sticky protective barrier are held together by proteins that are supposed to form a tight junction. But with leaky gut, those junctions get loose and all hell breaks loose.
Undigested food particles, bacteria, viruses, parasites and other pathogens can leak out of the intestinal lining and into the bloodstream. This in turn creates an inflammatory reaction, potentially causing leaky gut symptoms.
So now that you now what leaky gut is, how do you prevent or resolve it?
Avoid Leaky GutDiet, duh.
Let’s begin with the obvious: added sugars and excess natural sugars. Excess sugar is bad because it gives rise to potentially harmful bacteria taking over the gut. This, over time, can weaken the integrity of the intestinal barrier.
Of course, diet plays a huge role in inflammatory conditions. But it’s not the only factor. Yet that’s exactly where we’ll start.
Conventional cow’s milk is another major leaky gut trigger. When you consume dairy, your body recognizes the casein protein like gluten. In fact, you may not actually be lactose intolerant. Rather, you may be casein intolerant (casein A1 to be exact).
Gluten, the double protein compound—a combo of gliadin and glutenin—in wheat and other grains is also a major contributor to leaky gut. That’s because when you eat anything with gluten, it signals a protein called zonulin to open the floodgates so to speak, to your intestinal barrier. The more gluten you eat, the more your intestinal barrier opens up and leaks.
But there’s other foods that you may want to avoid. Some of them may surprise you. For instance, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. These foods along with potatoes are in the nightshade family. Prominent gut health experts such as Dr. Steven Gundry believe nightshades are bad for your gut because they contain a protein called lectins.
Avoiding gluten and dairy alone may resolve your leaky gut symptoms.
There’s debate as to whether cooking nightshades and legumes (beans) lowers the lectin levels to the point where it’s safe to consume. Still, it may be prudent to eliminate high-lectin foods like nightshades and legumes until your symptoms go away.
Lectins are the protein in the shell, stalk or skin of the plant that protects it from being devoured by insects. Dr. Gundry and other leaky gut experts say that when we eat lectins, it causes an inflammatory reaction because the protein is very difficult to digest.
Also, don’t eat a ton of raw veggies. Salad may be healthy. But if you’re eating a small mountain of raw veggies, it could cause gas and bloating. That’s because people with leaky gut often lack enough digestive enzymes to digest all that fiber. The same goes for fermented foods. A little yogurt or sauerkraut is ok, just don’t overdo it.
Non-steroidal anti inflammatories (NSAIDs) may ease pain but they are bad gut irritants because they block “COX” enzymes, which also happen to protect your gut lining. Other gut irritants include antibiotics, oral contraceptives and antacids.
You know that feeling when you’re so stressed out, it feels like your guts are inside-out? Well, maybe your gut is trying to tell you something. Stress shunts the blood flow to your gut. In other words, when stress hormones are coursing through our bloodstream, digestion slows down. Indigestion and malabsorption of nutrients are the result.
So every day, practice stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, Tai Chi, yoga, etc.
RepopulateIn order to beat leaky gut, you need to improve your gut’s microbiome. Leaky gut virtually goes hand in hand with gut dysbiosis. That’s a fancy way of saying too much bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria.
In addition, if you have leaky gut, you may also want to take a broad-spectrum digestive enzyme at the start of each meal. Other supplements to consider for leaky gut include Betaine HCL (to supplement your stomach’s acid), and collagen powder and L-glutamine powder, both of which help repair the gut lining.
You can’t patch up the holes in your gut lining if you don’t have enough friendly bacteria. So if you’re not already taking a very high-quality, high-count probiotic (minimum 50 billion colony-forming-units), start doing so.
Leaky gut may not yet be an official medical diagnosis. But it’s becoming increasingly recognized. Follow these tips and hopefully you’ll be on the path towards optimal digestive health. And when your digestive health is optimized, all aspects of wellness improve.
What do you think about leaky gut? Get the conversation started by leaving a comment.