What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Our Gastro-Intestinal tract is the location where the digestion of food takes place and the nutrients from these foods are absorbed. The intestinal lining is semi-permeable and only allows water, vitamins and minerals to pass through into the bloodstream. The lining acts as a barrier and restricts food antigens, bacteria, pathogens and toxins from passing into the bloodstream. When our intestinal lining becomes compromised or loose, it allows many harmful substances along with vitamins and nutrients into our bloodstream. This phenomenon is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome or Intestinal Permeability.
Who is Prone to It?
All of us have a leaky gut to some extent as this barrier is not completely impenetrable. Some of us who are suffering from chronic conditions such as celiac disease, Crohn's disease, autoimmune diseases, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, allergies, obesity and even mental illness may be more susceptible to changes in the proper function of the intestinal permeability in our digestive system.
In reality, our modern, fast and hectic lifestyle may be to blame.
What Causes It?
A Leaky gut allows toxins, bacteria and other harmful substances to enter our bloodstream. These substances have a negative impact on our immune system and can help trigger or develop a chronic autoimmune disease, if left untreated for a long time. Here are a few factors that can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome:
- A High Sugar Diet. A diet high in sugar damages the barrier function of the intestinal wall.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Taking NSAIDs for a long time can increase intestinal permeability and cause a leaky gut. NSAIDs lower inflammation, fever and pain. . But this effect also reduces the prostaglandins that protect the cells of the GI tract and promote blood coagulation. This leads to an increased permeability of the GI tract barrier.
- Heavy Alcohol Consumption. Over drinking can also cause a leaky gut. Alcohol damages the cells of the intestinal lining and causes imbalance in the proper functioning of the intestinal wall.
- Nutritional Deficiencies. A deficiency of Vitamin A, D and zinc can lead to a leaky gut. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is a diet containing high fat, sodium, sugar and calories and very low levels of nutrients. Intestinal problems such as celiac diseases and leaky gut syndrome are caused by a deficiency of nutrients in our body.
- Chronic Inflammation. Inflammation present in our body for a long time can cause a leaky gut.
- Stress and Anxiety. Chronic stress has many negative consequences on our digestive system, including a leaky gut.
- Poor Digestive Health. Our GI tract is home to millions of good and bad bacteria. An improper balance between the two types of bacteria can affect the intestinal lining and lead to a leaky gut.
- Overgrowth of Yeast. Too much yeast in the gut may contribute to leaky gut.
What are the Symptoms?
If you have the following conditions, you may be suffering from a Leaky Gut:
- Digestive problems such as chronic diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, gas or bloating
- Weakness or fatigue
- Chronic Headaches or Migraine
- Mental Issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, autism or ADHD
- Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis or rosacea
- Joint Pain or Arthritis
- Memory Issues and Brain fog
- Hormonal problems such as PCOS or PMS
- Food intolerance and allergies
- Weakened Immune System
- Chronic Inflammation
- Autoimmune conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
- Frequent Infections
How does having leaky gut syndrome affect one's day to day life?
Leaky Gut Syndrome may be uncomfortable and can negatively affect your quality of life. It can affect your digestion, mental health, immune system, weight and more.
It can lead to autoimmune conditions which may cause many problems for you and your family. It can affect your relationship due to anxiety, depression or a low sex drive.
How can it affect long term health?
It can affect our long term health in many ways. Leaky Gut is a precursor for many chronic diseases. It may become a major health concern for you, if left untreated.
A Leaky gut lays the foundation for serious health conditions so it is advised to get yourself diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. A proper treatment plan is the best way to prevent future health issues and live a healthy life.
What can be done to help with this condition?
Adopt these lifestyle changes to heal your leaky gut and improve digestion: 6
- Exercise Regularly
- Get a good night's rest
- Reduce anxiety and stress
- Avoid taking antibiotics for minor or unnecessary issues
- Quit smoking
Changes made in your diet can relieve symptoms and fix your leaky gut.
Here are some positive dietary additions to improve your digestive health:
- Vegetables such as carrots, kale, cabbage, mushrooms, beetroot, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, yams, turnips, etc.
- Fermented foods such as tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut and miso
- Fruits such as grapes, papaya, bananas, passionfruit, blueberries, kiwi, strawberries, pineapple, oranges, lemon, mandarin and raspberries
- Seeds such as sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds and more
- Gluten-free grains such as brown and white rice, gluten-free oats, sorghum, buckwheat, etc.
- Healthy fats such as avocado oil, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil
- Fish such as tuna, salmon, herring and other fishes rich in omega-3
- Meats such as lean cuts of chicken, beef, lamb, turkey and eggs
- Fermented or cultured dairy products such as kefir, yogurt, Greek yogurt and traditional buttermilk
- Beverages including teas, coconut milk, nut milk, water, and kombucha
- Nuts including peanuts, almonds, and nut-based products
Avoid these foods as much as you can to heal your leaky gut:
- Wheat-based products including wheat flour, bread, cereals, pasta, couscous, etc.
- Grains having gluten such as rye, bulgur, oats, barley, seitan and triticale
- Processed meats including deli meats, cold cuts, bacon, hot dogs, etc.
- Baked goods such as cakes, cookies, muffins, pastries, pizza and pies
- Snacks including popcorn, crackers, muesli bars, pretzels, etc.
- Junk food such as potato chips, fast foods, candy bars, sugary cereals, etc.
- Dairy products like milk, ice cream and cheese
- Refined oils including sunflower, canola, soybean and safflower oils
- Artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose and aspartame
- Sauces including hoisin sauce, soy sauce and salad dressings
- Beverages such as sugary drinks, carbonated beverages, and alcohol
Remedies that can help?
- Take a Prebiotic and a Probiotic Supplement. Prebiotics are food for your good gut-friendly bacteria. Products such as Molkosan are whey fermented with the bacteria Lactobacillus that helps convert sugars to lactic acid, a prebiotic.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that live inside your gut. You may consume yogurt and fermented foods on a regular basis as they are loaded with healthy probiotics.
- Take Supplements that heal the gut. Digestive enzymes, L-glutamine and A.Vogel's VeganOmega3 are really good for digestive health. Omega-3 Essential fatty acids are known to bring inflammation down and lubricate the intestines.
- Drink Tea. Ginger tea is really good for digestion and has got amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea can also help in digestive disorders. Another reason green tea improves digestive health is because the catechins present in green tea tend to improve the production of the digestive enzyme known as pepsin. Therefore, the digestive system works better and absorbs nutrition from the food you eat.