Digestive Issues - Is it Leaky Gut?
You may have heard the term “Leaky Gut” before. It sounds kind of odd but it’s actually a serious condition that may cause any number of health concerns. You see, the digestive track from your mouth where you take in food, to your anus where you release waste is meant to be a closed system. Your digestive process is designed to break down the foods you eat into their usable components and then absorb them into your blood stream to be distributed to the rest of your body. There are checks and balances in the system to keep toxins and other invaders out of your blood stream and just moving right out of your body. When you have Leaky Gut Syndrome those checks and balances aren’t working correctly and molecules that aren’t meant to get into your blood stream are released into your system where they can cause health issues.
What are those checks and balances?
The most prevalent and important part of your intestinal tract is what’s called the Microbiome which is the natural bacteria that lives in your gut and helps with digestion, fighting off parasites or unhealthy bacteria and regulating elimination. There are approximately 100 Trillion bacteria in your gut and there needs to be a healthy balance of the different kinds of bacteria to make it all work properly.
There also needs to be a healthy intestinal wall lining. When the lining of your intestines becomes permeable your body will launch an immune response and attack the unwanted molecules in your bloodstream. Studies have shown this kind of immune response plays a role in auto-immune disorders such as Hashimoto’s, diabetes, arthritis as well as colitis, and depression.
What are the causes of Leaky Gut Syndrome?
There are a number of things that can cause an imbalance in the healthy bacteria and wall lining of the gut. One of the main ones is antibiotics. While they may be necessary to take at one time or another they destroy the healthy bacteria in the gut as well as the bad bacteria they are prescribed for and those healthy bacteria don’t just come back once you stop taking the antibiotic. They need to be re-populated through healthy foods and usually probiotic supplements. Other prescriptions drugs can disturb the balance in your gut such as steroids, hormone drugs like birth control and NSAIDS like ibuprofen.
Diet plays a huge role in your gut health because like any living organism, the bacteria in your gut need the right kind of food to flourish and grow. Diets high in sugar are especially bad for your gut because sugar is what the unhealthy bacteria love to eat. If they get fed more than the healthy bacteria the healthy bacteria can die off. Refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and unhealthy oils can also throw that balance off. Chronic stress is a factor as are chronic infections which lead to chronic anti-biotic use, which starts a vicious cycle. When the good bacteria are killed off the bad bacteria flourish leading to infections which are treated with things that kill off the good bacteria and on and on it goes.
Another diet related thing that has been shown to contribute to bacterial imbalance and weak intestinal wall lining is eating gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and kamut. Gluten contains a protein called gliadin which has been shown to increase a substance called Zonulin. Zonulin has been shown in studies to increase intestinal permeability. In other words, it breaks down your intestinal walls and allows molecules to enter that blood stream that shouldn’t. In fact, researchers found that by giving Zonulin to animals they could induce type 1 diabetes!
What are the symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome?
While it is common to have issues such as constipation, diarrhea, cramping or bloating, symptoms of leaky gut can be quite varied and may not actually involve bowel discomfort. You may have skin issues such as acne or eczema or you may have an auto-immune disorder. The one symptom that seems to be across the board is inflammation. Inflammation plays a big role in most of the auto-immune disorders but also may present itself as fatigue, generalized aches or even brain issues such as depression or anxiety.
What can I do to prevent or heal Leaky Gut?
Mainly, don’t eat toxins. If you do have to take medications that deplete your good bacteria make sure you replenish them with a good quality, multi-strain probiotic from a trusted company. Eat the foods that feed the good bacteria in your gut such as fermentable fiber found in sweet potato, yams and yucca. Eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chi , kefir and yogurt will help repopulate the good bacteria. Getting enough fiber in your diet will help as well. Also, if you have symptoms of leaky gut, get tested for parasites or infections and treat them as naturally but efficiently as possible always keeping in mind that you need to constantly replenish and feed the healthy bacteria.
There are a number of supplements you can take that will help heal and prevent Leaky Gut.
- Probiotics: Make sure your probiotic comes from a reputable company. The probiotics we carry here at Blue Sky Vitamin all come from companies that make sure they have live, viable bacterial strains in them and that they are handled and shipped properly to ensure potency. Many probiotics and supplements in general that you find on a store shelf may not have in them what they say is in them and have no studies backing up whether the strains they are using are actually helpful if they are in there at all.
- Glutamine: L-Glutamine powder is a powerful supplement for healing damage to the intestinal lining. It’s very healing and soothing for the gut and comes in capsules or powder. It’s also included in many other products geared towards intestinal health.
- Medical Foods: Metagenics has a line of medical foods that are specifically designed to heal and treat certain conditions. Ultra GI Replenish is their newest and is formulated to give people with compromised gut function what they need to heal. UltraInflamX is another one that is designed to help with gut function with a focus on reducing inflammation specifically.