I Have a Leaky What?

gut health Nov 05, 2019

Have you ever had a leaky pipe… maybe a leaky faucet… or worse, a leaky roof? If you’ve ever lived in a home, chances are the answers to the above questions are all: “yes”.

But what about your own body? Beyond the leaky problems that plague homeowners, it’s possible for your body’s internal “pipes” to become leaky and a bit dysfunctional. This condition — referred to as leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, if you want to be technical — leads to more than just localized gut inflammation and malabsorption, but to all-over body illness and disease.

What is Leaky Gut?

The surface of your intestines is covered with a protective mucosal layer that serves as a selective barrier and controls what gets into your bloodstream. Like a gatekeeper, this protective lining — which is only one cell thick by the way — forms very tight junctions, or gates, along the length of your small intestine. All 2,700 square feet of them! Under healthy and ideal circumstances, these junctions are just big enough for single vitamins, minerals, and the smallest fragments of digested proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to get through. But is anyone that healthy?

Like any wall that can deteriorate in extreme conditions, your intestinal lining can break down over time too. Tiny fissures can start to form from a myriad of causes. Unmanaged stress, gut infections or illness, food sensitivities, diets that regularly include alcohol or sugar, medications like NSAIDs and antibiotics, yeast or bacterial overgrowth, and even your good old genetics can all play a role in weakening your protective intestinal lining.

When these tiny fissures become larger, cracks and holes develop in the once protective barrier and are much larger than the individual nutrients that you want to get through and into your blood. It’s like leaving your backyard’s gate wide open and maybe even removing every fourth fence panel around your yard.

Instead of offering protection as it should, your gut’s gatekeepers shout, “Come on in, bad guys!” to undigested food particles, pathogenic bacteria and viruses, and environmental toxins that end up in your body. Under normal, healthy circumstances, these are some of the harmful invaders that would otherwise be carried out of your system. Only now, they slip through these “open gates” of your intestinal tissues and into your bloodstream. This once tight and selective barrier that should have protected you is now LEAKY and allowing invaders to pass freely in and out of your intestinal walls.

Over time, continued breakdown in the gut leads to local and systemic inflammation, major digestive problems, and even whole-body conditions including:

  • autoimmune disease
  • allergies
  • skin irritations
  • joint and muscle pain
  • migraines
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • chronic fatigue.

Who knew that your gut could be responsible for so much?!

And did you know that about 70% of your entire immune system resides on the surface of your gut tissue? When this tissue is compromised, your entire body suffers.

What Can I do to Heal My Gut?

So, what’s the best way to protect yourself from a leaky gut? Start with examining your dietary intake and remove the foods known to cause inflammation and gut barrier breakdown: high-sugar foods, processed foods and oils, and alcohol, for starters. Some additional foods that certain individuals find problematic include those from the nightshade family: tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant, peppers; gluten and grains; eggs; and nuts and seeds.

To best support your gut health, add the following foods and nutrients that are known to promote optimal gut health:

  • high-fiber vegetables and fruits
  • natural, plant-based fats
  • pasture-raised and wild-caught meats and seafood
  • whole, one-ingredient foods
  • foods that naturally contain pre- and probiotics
  • adequate “clear” hydration

For many, adding gut-healing nutrients in conjunction with enhancing dietary intake of gut-healthy foods can accelerate their healing journey.

Beyond the end of your fork, lifestyle factors like sleep, exercise, and stress also directly impact gut health and must be examined. Ideally, your sleep should be restorative, exercise needs to be moderated and never too extreme, and life stressors should be minimized or managed.

Do you think you might be a bit leaky?

While there’s no one direct approach to healing leaky gut or any other health-related condition for that matter, there are definitely some first steps that we can all take to take better care of the mission control of our body: our gut.

If you’ve already done many of these things and are still feeling less than your best, it’s probably time to look deeper. Testing for your specific food sensitivities, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, or checking for the presence of gut pathogens can help take healing to the next level.

Stay tuned for more about specific ways to achieve and maintain optimal gut health over the next few weeks. Until then, are you curious to know what can you do now to upgrade your gut health?

If you’re not quite sure where to start, let’s talk! Whether it’s a baby step or a giant leap, we’ll go forward together to restore your whole-body wellness from the inside out!

References:

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00598/full#B1

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/putting-a-stop-to-leaky-gut-2018111815289

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515351/

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