Leaky gut syndrome… the name alone makes it clear that it’s something we’d rather not have! Leaky gut syndrome is a rapidly-growing condition that millions of people struggle with, many not even knowing it. Given its name, you may think it only affects the digestive system, but that’s not the case. Leaky gut syndrome can lead to many other health conditions, such as food allergies, low energy, joint pain, thyroid disease, autoimmune conditions and slow metabolism. So how can we not only fix leaky gut, but prevent our body from developing it? Dr. Josh Axe provides answers below.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Think of the lining of your digestive tract like a net with extremely small holes in it that only allow specific substances to pass through. Your gut lining works as a barrier keeping out bigger particles that can damage your system.
When someone has leaky gut (often referred to as increased intestinal permeability), the “net” in their digestive tract gets damaged, which causes even bigger holes to develop in their net, so things that normally can’t pass through, are now be able to.
Some of the things that can now pass through include proteins like gluten, bad bacteria and undigested foods particles. Toxic waste can also leak from the inside of your intestinal wall into your bloodstream causing an immune reaction.
Leaky Gut Symptoms and Progression
This leads to inflammation throughout your system and can cause symptoms, such as:
- Food sensitivities
- Thyroid conditions
- Joint pain
- Skin issues like rosacea and acne
- Digestive problems
- Weight gain
One of the biggest warning signs that you may have leaky gut — I recommend that you take a leaky gut test — can be that you’re experiencing multiple food sensitivities. Partially digested protein and fat can seep through your intestinal lining, making their way into your bloodstream and causing an allergic response.
This allergic response doesn’t mean you’ll break out in a rash all over your body, but it can lead to one of the symptoms I’ve mentioned above. If left un-repaired, it can lead to more severe health issues like inflammatory bowel disease, IBS, arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, muscle pain and chronic fatigue.
According to the Journal of Diabetes, there is a strong body of evidence pointing to leaky gut syndrome as a major cause of autoimmune diseases, including Type 1 Diabetes.
Another problem with leaky gut is that it can cause malabsorption of vital minerals and nutrients including zinc, iron and vitamin B12.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
There are four main causes of leaky gut which include:
Diet: The most common components of food that can damage your intestinal lining are the proteins found in un-sprouted grains, sugar, GMOs and conventional dairy. The problem with un-sprouted grains is that they contain large amounts of antinutrients or nutrient blockers called phytates and lectins. Lectins are found in many foods, not just grains, and consumed in smaller amounts, your body will do just fine with them. But foods that have large amounts of lectins are more problematic. Some of the lectins and foods that cause leaky gut include wheat, rice, spelt and soy.
Sprouting and fermenting grains reduces phytates and lectins, making these foods easier to digest. GMO and hybridized foods tend to be the highest in lectins since they have been modified to fight off bugs. Also, gluten-containing grains will damage your intestinal lining and cause leaky gut syndrome.
So while you are working to heal leaky gut and cure autoimmune disease, stay away from all grains, especially ones that contain gluten like wheat. Once your gut is healthy, you can add back in grains that have been fermented and sprouted to eat occasionally.
Conventional cow’s milk is another food that can cause leaky gut. The component of dairy that will harm your gut is the protein A1 casein. Also, the pasteurization process will destroy vital enzymes, making sugars like lactose very difficult to digest. For this reason, I only recommend buying dairy that is raw and from A2 cows, goats, sheep, or buffalo.
Sugar is another substance that will wreak havoc on your digestive system. Sugar will feed the growth of yeast, candida and bad bacteria, which will further damage your gut. Bad bacteria actually creates toxins called exotoxins that damage healthy cells and can eat a hole into your intestinal wall.
Chronic stress: It weakens your immune system over time, which cripples your ability to fight off foreign invaders like bad bacteria and viruses, leading to inflammation and leaky gut. To reduce stress, I recommend getting more sleep, schedule fun into your week, rest one day a week, meditate, and hang out with positive, uplifting people.
Toxins: We come into contact with over 80,000 chemicals and toxins every single year, but the worst offenders for causing leaky gut include antibiotics, pesticides, tap water, aspirin and NSAIDS. I recommend buying a high-quality water filter to eliminate chlorine and fluoride and look to natural plant-based herbs to reduce inflammation in your body.
Dysbiosis: Finally, one of the leading causes of leaky gut is a condition called dysbiosis, which means an imbalance between beneficial and harmful species of bacteria in your gut. For many, this imbalance can begin at birth because of a C-section or because the mother didn’t have a healthy gut herself. The overuse of prescription antibiotic drugs, tap water with chlorine and fluoride, and the lack of probiotic-rich foods contribute to this imbalance of good and bad bacteria.
The 4-Step Plan to Heal Leaky Gut
The good news is there’s a solution to successfully healing leaky gut. Here’s the protocol I have used with my patients over the years that has helped them see incredible results.
There is a four-step process that includes:
1. REMOVE foods and factors that damage the gut: the top foods to remove that cause leaky gut are sugar, grains, conventional meat, conventional dairy and GMO foods. The top toxic exposures to eliminate are tap water, pesticides, NSAIDS and antibiotics — but remember to always consult with your physician if he or she has prescribed these for you.
2. REPLACE with healing foods
3. REPAIR with specific supplements
4. REBALANCE with probiotics
The Leaky Gut Diet and 6 Healing Foods
Here are the six foods to heal your leaky gut.
1. Bone Broth – broth contains collagen and the amino acids proline and glycine that can help heal your damaged cell walls. I’ve had many of my patients do a bone broth fast for three days to help heal leaky gut and cure autoimmune disease.
2. Raw Cultured Dairy – contains both probiotics and SCFAs that can help heal the gut. Pastured kefir, yogurt, amasai, butter and raw cheese are some of the best.
4. Coconut Products – all coconut products are especially good for your gut. The MCFAs in coconut are easier to digest than other fats so they work well for leaky gut. Also, coconut kefir contains probiotics that support your digestive system.
5. Sprouted Seeds – chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds that have been sprouted are great sources of fiber that can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria. But if you have severe leaky gut, you may need to start out getting your fiber from steamed vegetables and fruit.
6. Omega-3 fats – add more anti-inflammatory foods like grass-fed beef, lamb and wild-caught fish like salmon.
If you can follow the above protocol, you are well on your way to successfully treating your gut for good.
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Want to read more?
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