Leaky Gut is a condition in which the small intestine becomes abnormally permeable and allows large protein molecules (polypeptides) and pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses into the bloodstream. The immune system recognizes these invaders as foreign and potentially dangerous and launches an immune attack on them. Depending on each individual response, a person can have the following reactions: gastrointestinal complaints such as cramps, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation, skin irritations such as a rash or hives, asthma, joint pains, or muscle soreness. More serious autoimmune diseases have been linked to leaky gut as well. If the polypeptides being absorbed through the small intestine closely resemble the body’s own tissues, the immune system will also attack the body. This can lead to the development of diseases such as Crohn’s Disease, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis, and Lupus. Leaky Gut also plays a large role in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. In addition, studies have now concluded that the majority of children with Autism have a leaky gut, and this directly contributes to the worsening of their condition.
A healthy intestinal lining only absorbs single amino acids and di or tripeptides. It also absorbs many vital nutrients such as essential fatty acids, vitamins A, D, E, B12, and folic acid, and minerals like copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. If the intestinal lining is compromised our body’s fall short of these nutrients, many of which are necessary for the healing of damaged tissue and for a healthy immune system. No matter how much healthy, nutrient rich foods we eat, or body’s cannot absorb it. We end up in a negative cycle of nutrient deficiency, damaged intestinal lining, immune reactions, and then disease. In order to break the cycle we must figure out what is causing the damage and then heal the intestines.
There are several causes of Leaky Gut: poor digestion, Celiac Disease and other food sensitivities, excessive use of alcohol or NSAIDS, candidiasis, or parasites. Eliminating the culprit 100% is the only way to completely heal the intestinal lining. Think of your lining like your skin. If you had a cut on your arm, you would not expect it to heal if you continuously scratched it. Your intestinal “band-aid” is to avoid the food or drug that is scratching the wound.
Allergy testing or elimination diets are good tools for finding food sensitivities. Common allergens to look at include gluten containing grains (especially wheat), dairy, soy, corn, nightshade vegetables, citrus fruits, strawberries, and sugars. However, any common food can be an allergen to the individual person. Sometimes a person may choose to keep a food journal to track their symptoms. It can be helpful, however the problem with food journals is that symptoms can be hard to track. Sometimes the body will react to food consumed 3 or 4 days ago, it is not always an immediate response. Allergy testing or Vega testing may be a more direct route. Healing a Leaky Gut takes time, and patience is the key to a full recovery.
If the cause is candidiasis or parasites, than an appropriate cleanse would be the right choice. Avoid alcohol and NSAIDS completely as they can damage the intestinal lining and halt the recovery process. Many people with rheumatoid arthritis take NSAIDS to control their pain, however they may be directly contributing to the pain by destroying the small intestine, allowing polpeptides into the bloodstream, and creating inflammation around the joints. Finding a more natural approach to the inflammation through herbal supplementation may be the better choice.
Aside from eliminating the individual food intolerance, it is important to consume a whole foods diet filled with nutrient dense, healing foods. Avoid all processed foods and sugar in any form. Even if gluten and dairy are not the culprits, it is a good idea to avoid them anyway, as they are difficult to digest and can aggravate an already sensitive system. Concentrate on consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, raw or lightly steamed. Grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, millet, brown rice, and amaranth are all gluten free and provide lots of fiber and complex carbohydrates. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and easy to digest, if they aren’t an allergen then include them in the diet regularly. Beans and legumes are also great plant based sources of protein and provide plenty of fiber. Consume fermented foods regularly; sauerkraut, kim chi, miso, plain yogurt, and kefir are very healing and provide a variety of good bacteria to heal the intestines and protect against foreign microorganisms. Yogurt and kefir are dairy based, however their fermentation makes them easier to digest. Include healthy fats in the diet from avocados, nuts and seeds, olive oil, flax oil, butter, and coconut oil. We are all individuals and the important thing to remember is that even though a food is inherently healthy, our bodies may see it as a toxin. If any of the foods listed above cause a reaction in the body, don’t consume them.
There are various supplements that are therapeutic for the lining of the small intestine. These supplements can speed the healing and improve symptoms quickly.
- Aloe Vera Juice
- N-acetyl glucosamine
- Enzymes (particularily proteases)
- Hi Potency Multi-Vitamin and Mineral
- Fish Oil (Omega 3’s)
Of course diet is the number one factor in healing a Leaky Gut. The body will not heal if it is continuously exposed to a toxin. Find your toxin and eliminate it!
By: Krista Boulding, RHN