The gut, or gastrointestinal (GI) system, includes everything from the mouth to the anus – with the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine (colon) in between. If you have a leaky gut – substances that should stay in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract pass through spaces called tight junctions. In a healthy gut, tight junctions act as gatekeepers, keeping partially digested food and microbiome in and allowing nutrients out as needed. Physical or chemical damage, pathogens, or if illness injures the GI tract, the tight junctions loosen, leading to you guessed it – a leaky gut! A leaky gut is a risk factor for developing other conditions like Crohn’s Disease, autoimmune, Chronic Fatigue, neurological disorders, and allergies.
All About Your Gut
The small intestine and large intestine contains approximately 250 square metres of surface area. Finger-like projections called villi line the intestinal wall and help with your absorption of nutrients from the foods you consume. When working properly, it forms a tight barrier that controls what gets absorbed into the bloodstream.
A single layer of epithelial (skin) cells exists in the stomach and intestines where they secrete mucus into the area where the microbiome live, the microbiome help to promote smooth digestion. The gut is also an organ of our immune system it is actually our biggest immune system organ. The mucosal membrane (composed of: epithelial cells, villi, tight junctions, mucous layer, and connective tissue) contains dome-like areas of lymphatic tissue called Peyer’s patches that coordinate your immune responses.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
Conditions in the Body
- Enteric Nervous System (ENS) signaling molecules such as serotonin, histamine, & anandamide
- Traumatic injury, including burns
- Inadequate supply of oxygen (hypoperfusion) to body tissues
- Food additives including nanoparticles, surfactants, & emulsifiers
- High-fat, high-carb Western diet
- Specific food components including sugar, gluten, & dairy
- An overly sterile environment
Infections & Toxins
- Environmental toxins
- Intestinal viral infections
- Decreased function & diversity of probiotics in the gut flora
- Alcohol consumption
- Drug use (including NSAIDs)
- Chronic stress
Leaky Gut Symptoms
Because a leaky gut allows foreign bodies to enter the bloodstream, it brings into play a wide range of effects on the body not all of them are related to the gut, some of the issues and or symptoms include:
- Inflammatory bowel diseases, including Crohn’s disease & ulcerative colitis
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Type 1 diabetes
- Stress-related psychiatric disorders
- Parkinson’s disease
- Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Food allergies or food intolerances
- Seasonal allergies or asthma
- Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or PCOS
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease & gluten sensitivities
- Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Mood and mind issues such as depression, anxiety, ADD or ADHD
- Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema
- Diagnosis of candida overgrowth
- Brain fog
- Joint pain
Natural Remedies for Leaky Gut
Carefully monitoring what goes into your body is one of the best remedies for managing a leaky gut. Following a healthy diet is one of the most effective steps you can take to help manage leaky gut. Some foods help leaky gut, including fermented foods which contain natural probiotics. Avoiding gluten and dairy can ease symptoms for some people. Most non-starchy vegetables contain high levels of antioxidants and high fiber which ease digestive irritation.
Lifestyle Diets For Leaky Gut
AID-IBD – (anti-inflammatory inflammatory bowel disease) diet – a modified form of the specific carbohydrate diet. The AID-IBD diet aims to restore a healthy gut microbiota to ease symptoms and promote healing.
Elimination Diet – is a short-term eating plan that eliminates certain foods that may be causing allergies and other digestive reactions — then reintroduces the foods one at a time in order to determine which foods are, and are not, well-tolerated.
Low-FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, which are short-chain carbohydrates. Gut bacteria easily digest FODMAPs which means they ferment during the digestive process. Studies have shown that a low-FODMAP diet improved digestive symptoms for non-celiac gluten sensitivity and other studies found parallel results for irritable bowel syndrome. Since digestive symptoms are similar among these conditions, it is likely a low-FODMAP diet can ease leaky gut symptoms.
Paleo Diet – which is high in meat, is sometimes recommended for improving digestive symptoms. Research suggests that collagen, a protein from animals, can help repair tight junctions and possibly repair leaky gut. Consuming meat isn’t without its compromises, as multiple studies have found that eating meat can increase your risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease. In contrast, studies show that a plant-based diet that’s high in fiber and fruits is associated with a lower risk of developing IBD.
Can Supplements help?
There are several herbs and supplements that can improve a leaky gut. People with inflammatory bowel disease often have vitamin D deficiency:
- Vitamin D3 -Animal studies found that vitamin D3 supplementation reduced
the number of bacteria that got through a leaky epithelial barrier and improved the tight junctions
- Aloe Vera -is known to lower gastric acid secretion levels in lab rats. Aloe also promotes a healthy balance of gut microbes
- Curcumin – supports the intestinal environment by reducing the irritation and the oxidative stress that weakens tight junctions
- Probiotics – important for creating a healthy overall gut ecosystem
- Enzymes – support overall digestion
- L-Glutamine – supports the intestinal environment by reducing the irritation and the oxidative stress that weakens tight junctions
- Quercitin – a plant pigment that comes from onions, apples, and citrus fruits, supports the gut barrier
- Zinc – an essential trace mineral that supports the immune system.
CONCLUSION: Personally I undertook a four month Elimination Diet, this was a challenge for the first week or so but I soon adapted and started to feel ‘better’. I was pretty desperate to make a change by the time I decided to try an elimination diet, but it made a huge impact on my life as it lead me to change what and when I ate. For me the elimination of wheat, rye, barley, dairy and processed sugar (not that I consumed much) has made such a difference to my overall health and wellbeing, it was worth the short term discomfort. I didn’t think I had an issue with these foods until I eliminated them! I also have noticed my exercise and cold weather Asthma has reduced to the point I actually cannot remember the last time I reached for my Ventolin inhaler and I certainly do not need to take daily preventative asthma medication anymore. Life changing.* One of my go-to meals is broth read here my recipe for Bone. Chicken Fish and Vegetable broths.
*NB: This is my own personal experience and views and I am not offering medical advice. Always seek guidance from your own Health Care Provider // G.P before reducing or stopping any prescribed medications, or incorporating dietary supplements.
Until next time
Be human, be kind, be you.
- Dulantha Ulluwishewa, Rachel C. Anderson, Warren C. McNabb, Paul J. Moughan, Jerry M. Wells, Nicole C. Roy; Regulation of Tight Junction Permeability by Intestinal Bacteria and Dietary Components, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 141, Issue 5, 1 May 2011, Pages 769–776,
- Diseases related to intestinal permeability https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4253991/table/Tab6/
- 7 signs symptoms you have leaky gut