Intestinal permeability A.K.A. ‘leaky gut’ is gaining more and more attention by the day. This is partly because various diseases are believed to be increasingly associated with the health of our gut.
What is ‘leaky gut’?
Leaky gut, or often referred as “intestinal permeability,” is a condition where the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged. This can cause undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacteria to “leak” through the intestines and affect the blood stream. This is turn may cause an autoimmune response in the body including inflammatory and allergic reactions.
With leaky gut, damaged cells in your intestines don’t produce the enzymes which we need for proper digestion. As a result, your body cannot absorb essential nutrients, and therefore can lead to hormone imbalances and a weakened immune system according to research. (1)
Could I have signs and symptoms of ‘Leaky Gut’?
When the gut is ‘leaky’, gut bacteria and their associated products can escape the gut, which can produce inflammation and cause tissue damage.
Also, proteins (or partially digested proteins) can pass through the gut and promote both local or whole-body immune responses. Zonulin, for example, is a protein that causes tight junctions in the gut layers to open. When tight junction open, intestinal permeability increases. Bacteria and gluten are examples of agents that can cause ‘leaky gut’ by increasing zonulin (2).
The following are common findings with Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS):
- Digestive issues/bloating?
- Food sensitivities?
- IBD / IBS?
- Joint pain?
- Autoimmune Disease?
- Thyroid problems?
- Mood swings?
How can I make it healthier?
Diet is believed to be by far the most important factor in making your gut work. Unhealthy diets can create an imbalance in the intestinal barrier so the key to healing a leaky gut is changing your diet and eliminating the foods that your body treats as toxic.
- Cut out processed sugar: This should be your first priority. Sugar feeds bad bacteria and promotes yeast and candida overgrowth, all of which damage your gut.
- Avoid lectins and/or grains:Lectins can be beneficial by stimulating the immune system. However, they can also bind to the surface of gut-lining cells and disturb the gut barrier (3). Grains not only contain a large amount of gut irritating lectin, but several also contain gluten and other hard to digest proteins (4)
- Skip the dairy: Dairy contains the protein A1 casein that is harmful to your gut (some people can tolerate dairy, and if so, some research suggests foods like yogurt and kefir are high in nourishing bacteria therefore encouraged to be part of your diet).
- Eat local, organic, fresh foods: Our gut bacteria is also related to our soil bacteria. Large-scale commercial agriculture has changed soil organisms for good, producing more toxins than ever before.
- Eat prebiotic-rich foods: Sweet potato, carrots, asparagus, and squash contain fibrous prebiotic carbs that support good bacteria growth.
- Eat healthy fats: Foods such as fish, coconut oil, olive oils (not for cooking), avocados and probiotics help to restore the healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
Ditch drinking. Limit your alcohol as drinking alcohol in excess diminishes the diversity of bacteria in your gut. This in turn can disrupt the intestinal barrier function and increase gut permeability (5).
Drugs such as NSAIDs and PPIs
There are so many studies showing that conventional NSAIDs increase gut permeability within 24h of ingestion. This is especially evident when they are taken long-term (6), (7), (8). Stomach acid-suppressing drugs (PPI) also increase gut permeability (9).
Always use antibiotics with caution and follow your doctors prescription. However, regardless of how hard you’re working on your diet, you’ll undo those efforts if you rely heavily on certain medications. Western medicine is fond of prescribing gut-damaging antibiotics way too often. These drugs not only kill the pathogenic bacteria but a host of other important microbes with them.
Besides diet, stress management is one of the most profound ways to heal your gut biome. Studies show that stress affects the brain-gut axis and can lead to decreased nutritional absorption, enzyme production, oxygenation and blood flow to the GI tract (10), (11).
If you think you may have any of the symptoms mentioned, get checked by your health care provider.
Your lifestyle choices today can change the world tomorrow, so why not change it for better?
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