Do You Have a Leaky Gut? How to Spot It and Improve Digestive Health
7 minute read
Leaky gut syndrome is a common digestive condition despite not being typically diagnosed by doctors. Over the last few years, leaky gut syndrome has gained more attention, as it has been discovered to be an underlying cause of several ailments.
Marked by increased intestinal permeability, leaky gut syndrome allows toxins to spread in your body, causing illness. Knowing what to look for is the only way to treat it before it gets out of control.
Where Does a Leaky Gut Come From?
Your digestive system consists of several organs that work together to break down food, absorb nutrients, and excrete waste. Most of the nutrient absorption occurs in the intestines through tight junctions.
Your intestines also serve to protect your body from toxins and foreign particles that may be ingested. Poor diet, food allergies, and stress can damage your intestinal wall and the tight junctions become more permeable.
As the permeability of your intestine increases, undigested food particles and toxins can leak through and enter the bloodstream. These foreign particles in your blood are detected by your immune system, triggering a autoimmune response that can also target healthy cells and tissues.
Damaged intestinal cell does not allow for optimal nutrient absorption, which negatively impacts hormonal balance and your immune system.
Leaky gut syndrome can be treated, and intestinal permeability can be repaired. The key to successfully reversing damage is to correctly identify the syndrome.
The signs of a leaky gut to look out for include:
♦ Nutritional deficiencies
♦ Weakened immune system
♦ Excessive fatigue
♦ Brain fogs, headaches, and memory loss
♦ Gas or bloating
♦ Chronic diarrhea or constipation
♦ Skin rashes
♦ Carb or sugar cravings
♦ Depression and/or anxiety
♦ Arthritis or joint pains
There is not much evidence to suggest that leaky gut syndrome in itself is dangerous. There is, however, plenty of evidence that links leaky gut to autoimmune diseases.
Widespread or chronic inflammation triggers immune reactions at an uncontrollable rate. Because leaky gut syndrome and several diseases often exist together, it is not clear if intestinal permeability is an underlying cause or a symptom to chronic disease.
Fixing the Leaks & Improving Health
The key to healing a leaky gut is making dietary changes. Eliminating trigger foods that your body reacts to (gluten, soy, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and dairy) is the usual place to start. A process of elimination will usually identify the trigger foods.
Once these foods are no longer in your diet, you will notice an improvement in symptoms. In addition to avoiding trigger foods, there are several foods to add to promote digestive health and repair.
The key foods to add as part of a leaky gut diet are those that support the bacterial community living within your gut. When this community is unbalanced, harmful bacteria can take over which contributes to inflammation and increased intestinal permeability.
By supporting the growth of beneficial bacteria, your digestive system functions more efficiently and leaky gut syndrome can be prevented. The more balanced this gut community is, the better protected your gut is from damage and it can be allowed time to heal.
Probiotics along with dietary fiber is the first step in reversing a leaky gut. In addition to this, there are simple steps you can incorporate into your life to help your gut heal and to restore optimal digestive function and overall health.
Reduce stress: Stress, whether real or perceived, causes an increase in stress hormones, and excessive amounts can damage the tight junctions in your intestinal walls. The more you relax, the less cortisol and epinephrine is floating around your body.
| Related: How Is Your Mental Health Affected by the Health of Your Gut? |
In this condition, your tight junctions can heal, and digestion and health can return to normal, so long as you maintain a control over stress. Try meditation, yoga, mindfulness, and deep-breathing exercises throughout your day to bring your gut some much needed downtime.
Add digestive enzymes: Probiotics help to restore bacterial balance to a damaged gut, but enzymes help with the breakdown of food. Your body produces these enzymes naturally, but aging, stress, and poor diet can cause them to become depleted.
Undigested food in the form of large proteins and bacterial byproducts can damage your intestinal lining, leading to a leaky gut. Digestive enzyme supplements can provide additional digestive support to ensure all food is efficiently broken down.
Eat more healthy fats: Not all fats are bad. Saturated fats are dangerous for your heart health and digestion. In contrast to this, short chain fatty acids can help to feed the cells lining your gut, which allows them to heal from any damage.
The bacteria living in your gut produce these beneficial fatty acids, so feeding them the dietary fiber they need to thrive provides all the beneficial fats your gut needs. In addition to this, increasing consumption of healthy fatty acids like omega-3s will help to heal your gut and protect from inflammation.
Get more sleep: A lack of sleep leads to increased stress hormones, which have been shown to damage your intestinal walls. Making sure you follow a regular sleep pattern and get between 7 and 9 hours each night will allow time for your body to heal.
A rested digestive system will function more efficiently, which means you will get the nutrients you need and protection from a leaky gut.
Fatty acid supplements: Omega-3 fatty acids can be found as a supplement, such as krill oil, or in fresh fish and nuts. These beneficial fatty acids not only nourish the cells in your intestines so they can heal, but they provide protection from inflammation and oxidative damage.
The Bottom Line
Leaky gut syndrome is problematic but also easily fixed. So long as you watch for warning signs, you can detect it before too much damage is done. With simple diet and lifestyle changes, you can heal your gut and get back to living comfortably.
We need to remember that your gut has a much wider influence that just processing and eliminating food. A healthy gut is the key to a healthy and happier you.