Last week, I wrote about the signs that you might have food sensitivities. If you suspect that you do, your next question might be "Why?"
One of the main causes of food sensitivity may be something commonly called "leaky gut." There has been debate during the past twenty or so years between medical doctors and natural health practitioners over the legitimacy of the term, but the scientific research is catching up quickly.
What is a leaky gut?
The scientific term for leaky gut is impaired intestinal barrier permeability or intestinal hyper permeability. I'll call it leaky gut throughout this article, though, since it's the term you're more likely to hear.
Leaky gut is a dysfunction in the permeability of the gut lining. This can be either a breakdown in the lining of the gut or the function of the lining.
This allows large molecules, toxins, pathogens, or even otherwise good bacteria to pass through the intestinal wall, where they aren’t supposed to be.
While there is some argument about whether macromolecules can pass through the gut lining to enter the bloodstream, it is becoming increasingly accepted that toxins or food particles are entering the mucosal lining of gut, which leads to inflammation.
I'll quickly skip through the key signs you may have a leaky gut, the symptoms and conditions that are directly related to leaky gut and the chronic inflammation that it causes, and the causes of leaky gut to get to how to heal leaky gut.
I've been writing quite a bit about chronic inflammation and it's link to many chronic diseases and conditions.
You'll notice as I list both the signs and the chronic conditions and diseases associated with leaky gut, that they mirror those linked to chronic inflammation.
Key Signs You May Have a Leaky Gut
Leaky Gut Can Lead to Many Chronic Conditions
What Causes a Leaky Gut?
This is a relatively new concept as leaky gut is a result of our modern lifestyles and an increase in toxins, antibiotic use, and processed foods.
All of these have the potential to contribute to a leaky gut:
How do you heal a leaky gut?
The four R functional medicine framework works well for repairing leaky gut: Remove, Replace, Re-inoculate, and Repair.
This is was the topic of last weeks post on food sensitivities. Be sure to read it here, or grab your free Food Sensitivity Detective Journal if you haven't already.
This basically involves removing any dietary stressors and inflammatory foods from your diet. It may also include taking care of any overgrowth of bacteria or yeast in the gut.
It helps to remember that many food sensitivities aren't forever. Once you heal your gut, you may be able to return to many of your favorite foods, or at the very least eat them on an occasional basis.
It's common for leaky gut to impair digestion and nutrient absorption.
Digestive bitters can be helpful before meals to naturally stimulate the body's production of digestive enzymes. Taking a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar before meals can supplement stomach acid. Yes, we need our stomach to be acidic!
Replacing nutrients that aren't being absorbed is also helpful. You could be eating all the right foods, but not absorbing the nutrients from them. Find a vitamin and mineral supplement that is very easily tolerated and absorbed, following the theory that if your gut is inflamed, it is more difficult to absorb the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
When I was helping my son to heal his gut, I found the liquid supplements from Brain Child Nutritionals to be very helpful. The vitamin and mineral supplements are made to be very easily tolerated and absorbed, and are made with good ingredients. They also make a product called intestimend that we also used.
Don't let the focus on ADHD in children scare you. If you'll remember I'm convinced that that the mechanism that produces the ADHD symptoms in children is similar, if not the same as what produces the anxiety and depression symptoms in adults.) Read here about the gut brain connection.
I'm sure there are other easily absorbed supplements out there. This is just the one I've had a good experience with. Note: I'm not affiliated in any way.
This third step is to rebuild a healthy microbiome full of beneficial gut bacteria.
This involves adding the good bacteria back in with probiotics. See my probiotics posts here Part 1 and Part 2. And feed the probiotics with plenty of prebiotics and fermented foods. Read about probiotics here and fermented foods here.
Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Lactobacillus planetarium in particular, have been shown to support barrier function. In general, probiotics can also help to neutralize and absorb toxins.
If you suspect or know that your have SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth), hold off on probiotics and fermented foods until you have addressed it. SIBO can be aggravated by both probiotics and fermented foods.
Once the foods or other triggers that irritate your gut lining have been removed, then you can start the repair process.
The body will naturally heal itself, you only need to support the process by consuming gut supporting nutrients and foods.
Some foods that can be helpful are:
The healing process may seem daunting, but if you can think of the changes as being positive lifestyle changes, and incorporate them in a way that isn't restrictive, you'll find that you can enjoy life that much more!
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