In my previous blog post about the healing benefits of bone broth, I mentioned one of the conditions it can be beneficial for is leaky gut syndrome. For some of you, that may be a familiar term, for others it’s something you may not have heard of before. In my Lyme and chronic illness journey, one of the things that most of my doctors agreed on was how important healing my leaky gut would be for my overall health and healing process.
What is leaky gut?
Leaky gut syndrome is a condition in which the mucous lining of the small intestine becomes porous, allowing toxins, micro-organisms, and food particles to directly enter the bloodstream which will trigger an immune response and will cause multiple symptoms.
The function of the mucosal lining of the small intestine can be compared to that of a window screen, which lets air inside but keeps insects out. Every 3 to 5 days, the mucosal lining sloughs off a layer of cells and produces new cells to keep the lining semi-permeable.
What causes leaky gut?
Factors such as stress and impaired digestion can lead to an excessively permeable membrane or “leaky gut”. For most people, it is caused by diet. Consuming foods that are common allergens such as gluten, soy, dairy and eggs make your body react to them as if they are a foreign invader which causes inflammation. When you eat foods that are not tolerated well by your body, your immune system will produce antibodies which trigger symptoms such as diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, pain and various other symptoms. That’s why it’s important to listen to your body and notice how you feel after eating certain foods so you can eliminate them from your diet.
Leaky gut can also be caused by medications including antibiotics, steroids or over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, which can irritate the intestinal lining and damage protective mucus layers. This irritation can start or continue the inflammation cycle that leads to intestinal permeability.
For me it was a combination of things. My diet along with medications I took over the years trying to get better caused a perfect storm in my gut and allowed bacteria, fungus, parasites and viruses to grow.
What are the symptoms of leaky gut?
- food allergies
- IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- eczema, psoriasis, acne
- pancreatic insufficiency
- multiple chemical sensitivities
- joint pain and muscle pain
- gas and bloating
- poor immune system function
- skin rashes
- memory deficit
- shortness of breath
- systemic inflammation
- sugar and carbohydrate cravings
- depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD
- autoimmune diseases
How do you fix leaky gut?
There are many supplements you can take to heal leaky gut but I’d like to share the ones that I feel are most important in your recovery.
One supplement everyone should incorporate into their daily lives whether you have an illness or are healthy is probiotics. They replenish the intestines with the good bacteria that naturally live in our digestive tract. They help with digestion, bloating, keeping candida and other bacteria at bay and help heal the colon. I always recommend one that is broad-spectrum and contains multiple strains of bacteria in high amounts, usually in the billions.
Another helpful supplement is fish oil. The omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils aid to reconstruct the intestinal lining with new cells. It also supports cardiovascular health, eye and brain health and supports a healthy mood. You want to make sure the fish oils you choose are free of mercury, PCBs and pesticides and are sustainably sourced. Also make sure it has a good ratio of both EPA and DHA. One of my favorite brands is Nordic Naturals. They come in softgels or liquid and don’t cause me digestive upset.
The last supplement I recommend actually contains two of the most important nutrients for your intestines. A healthy functioning intestinal tract repairs itself approximately twice per week. The two nutrients necessary for this process are L-Glutamine and N-acetyl-Glucosamine. They work to soothe and heal the damaged areas of the intestinal tract lining. IntestiNew also contains ingredients which help to reduce inflammation and promote healing of the intestinal tract.
Diet and Lifestyle suggestions
Besides supplements, there are a few more things you can do to get your colon in optimal health.
Avoid factors that may cause or exacerbate leaky gut syndrome, such as:
- alcohol and caffeine
- chemical food additives and preservatives
- refined carbohydrates
- mold and fungus (including mushrooms)
- exposure to environmental toxins
Eat a diet high in fiber and leafy greens while reducing your red meat intake. Add a daily cup of bone broth to your diet. Add in raw cultured dairy products such as coconut yogurt and kefir to feed the good bacteria in your colon. Include fermented vegetables into your diet such as sauerkraut to balance intestinal pH and feed the good bacteria. Chia, flax and hemp seeds feed good bacteria as well and are a great source of fiber.
It’s all about finding balance for your body and doing what’s right for you. We can all benefit from eating more veggies, drinking more water and reducing stress.
Do you struggle with leaky gut? What have you found that works for you? Please share your story with us in the comments!