What is a leaky gut
When you hear about “leaky gut” what are the first questions that pop into your mind? What is it? Why would this happen? What does it mean for overall health? And what can you do to prevent it?
The outside of your body is wrapped in your skin’s protective layers. So too, the inside of the body is protected by the lining of the intestines. While our skin has multiple layers, the lining of the intestines is only one cell thick. This single layer allows us to absorb nutrients efficiently while keeping toxins, harmful pathogens, and undigested bits of food out of the bloodstream. However, there are a number of factors such as microbes, chronic stress, the Standard American Diet, exposure to environmental toxins, additives, pesticides or mold that damage the gut lining. This damage leads to what is commonly known as leaky gut or increased intestinal permeability.
Stopping the Leaks: Repairing Your Gut Lining
The gut lining can be easily damaged. It is also remarkably resilient and able to repair itself. The process is dynamic and it changes depending on the external factors and internal inputs, as the body is trying to maintain balance. Using a functional medicine approach, it is possible to heal and repair a leaky gut, with the 5 R program outlined below.
Remove the irritants. A number of foods are known to create inflammation in the body and might need to be removed for a while to give the digestive tract a break. Common culprits include gluten, corn, soy, dairy, eggs, peanuts, and shellfish. Avoid packaged foods because they are high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and preservatives which can disrupt the balance of microbes in the gut.
Also, one may need to remove toxins or irritants that may be present in the cleaning or personal care products and gradually switch to clean, non-toxic versions. Be aware of toxins in the work environment or public places, and take steps to protect yourself or support your body’s ability to detoxify.
Take a good look at the mental and emotional irritants that create stress in your life. Consider whether work, relationships, or finances are contributing to your stress. Chronic stress keeps cortisol at high levels and provokes inflammation, the overgrowth of pathogenic microbes, and the development of leaky gut.
Replace digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid (HCL), or bile. The production of digestive enzymes decreases with age. Enzymes may also be low in people who don’t eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables. Stomach acid and bile production may also be insufficient. If enzymes, stomach acid, or bile production are inadequate, foods do not digest correctly, contributing to the irritation and inflammation of the gut lining.
Repair the gut lining. Several foods, herbs, and supplements help soothe irritation and inflammation and promote healing in the gut lining. These include:
- Bone broth
- Slippery elm
- Flax seeds
- Omega 3 fatty acids
Reinoculate with beneficial probiotic organisms to promote a healthy, balanced microbiome. Consider including fermented foods like sauerkraut or other lacto-fermented vegetables. A healthy balance of beneficial microbes helps to reduce inflammation and promote the repair of the gut lining. You may need to include the use of a high-quality probiotic supplement. Working with a functional medicine doctor to find a probiotic that fits your unique needs can be particularly helpful.
Rebalance your lifestyle. This may be the most vital point of all. Taking the time to manage and reduce your stress levels is key to healing a leaky gut. If chronic stress continues, pathogenic microbes will constantly crop up, inflammation will remain high, and the gut lining will never have the opportunity to repair itself.
Ways to promote overall balance in your life include:
- Prioritizing downtime and sleep
- Taking time to play or pursue something you enjoy
- Cultivating healthy relationships
- Gentle movement
If you suspect you are dealing with the effects of a leaky gut, now is the time to act. Dr. Sisu can help you reduce your symptoms and restore balance to your gut. Call to set up an appointment today!