Understanding Leaky Gut Syndrome and How to Heal Your Gut Naturally
Leaky Gut Syndrome is one of many diseases that results from chronic inflammation. Poor gut health and inflammatory bowel diseases can be significant causes
Gut Health is Connected to All Aspects of Your Health
Gastrointestinal issues may be as simple as gas and bloating, or as severe as food sensitivity and constipation, yet these conditions are not a natural part of daily health or the process of aging. Gut health serves as a direct indicator of overall health; thus, digestive issues can be symptoms of more severe conditions.
The Gut Responds to Diet and Lifestyle
The gut is very responsive to your diet and lifestyle. Many conditions, such as Leaky Gut Syndrome, are both reversible and curable. This article is designed to address underlying queries including:
- What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
- What causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?
- What are the signs and symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome?
- Are there diagnostic tests for Leaky Gut Syndrome?
- How to reverse and heal Leaky Gut Syndrome – Reset, Replenish, Resist
Being more informed about your health, and Leaky Gut Syndrome can support you to ask appropriate questions with an Integrative Health Practitioner.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky Gut Syndrome involves the lining of the gastrointestinal tract becoming leaky or more permeable, like small holes in a boat, allowing wastes, toxins, and pathogens to escape the gut and enter the bloodstream.
It is estimated that the gut contains as many as 500 different species of microbes which make up around 1.5 to 3 kilograms of an individual’s total body weight! Most of these microbes are right for you and essential for adequate immunity, digestion, and survival while others can lead to infection and disease.
Substances within the gut are usually destined to remain in the gut. Alternatively, they are excreted from the body—not circulated throughout the body. So, those circulating substances can cause a host of painful symptoms and co-morbidities.
What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?
To understand what causes Leaky Gut Syndrome, it is important to first appreciate the role of the gut lining in overall health. The gut lining can be thought of as a chain-linked fence that allows nutrients to cross it and holds water and electrolytes in but prevents substances such as allergens, bacteria, fungi, and parasites from passing through (leaking).
The gut lining comprises a surface area of approximately 400 square meters and requires twice as much energy as the brain to function effectively. The condition of the gut lining directly influences overall health.
Conditions like Leaky Gut Syndrome can damage that fence, enlarge its holes, and ultimately allow harmful substances to cross. Despite its challenging symptoms, Leaky Gut Syndrome does not occur all at once.
Inflammation can Trigger Leaky Gut
There are varying degrees of the severity of Leaky Gut Syndrome which are induced by several inflammatory triggers including:
- Pesticides (i.e. glyphosate)
- Blood sugar imbalance
- Food allergies
- Low stomach acid
- Sleep deprivation
- Environmental toxins
- Too little or too much physical activity
Any of these factors can put the immune system into overdrive thereby damaging the gut lining. A damaged gut lining allows bacteria, large food particles, and debris to enter the bloodstream and be mistaken for potentially harmful microbes. Thus, the immune system launches an even more significant attack generating a buildup of inflammation within the gut that can ultimately spread to the joints, skin, thyroid, and also the brain.
This spreading inflammation is commonly referred to as chronic inflammation.
Genetic / Hereditary Connections to Leaky Gut Syndrome
Ongoing research is seeking to confirm a genetic or hereditary component that predisposes individuals to develop Leaky Gut Syndrome. For instance, one study found that 70 percent of people who were related to someone with celiac disease but did not currently have any symptoms of the disease, had higher intestinal permeability than people not related to someone with celiac disease.
This may be a genetic issue or possibly a hereditary one connected to the inherited microbiome via the mother’s birth canal as well as contact with all family members.
Also, a specific hormone called melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) regulates gut lining permeability. So, deficiency in MSH could also contribute to the development of Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky Gut Syndrome manifests itself in different ways depending on the status of the immune system, as well as your degree of chronic inflammation and exposure to inflammatory triggers. For these reasons, signs and symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome vary and may include one or more of the following:
- Abdominal bloating
- Acid reflux
- Acne or eczema
- Adrenal fatigue
- Anxiety, depression, or mood swings
- Bad breath
- Changes in cognition
- Chronic fatigue
- Crohn’s Disease
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Difficulty losing weight
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Hormonal dysfunction
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Joint pain and swelling
- Liver or gallbladder issues
- Nutritional malabsorption
- Rashes or hives
- Seasonal allergies
- Skin fungus
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Ulcers in the small intestine
Leaky Gut Syndrome can also increase the risk for underlying conditions such as Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), Candida Overgrowth, or Parasite Infection as a result of bacterial imbalance.
Diagnostic Tests for Leaky Gut Syndrome
If you have been experiencing any of the signs and symptoms listed above, then that is a good indicator that your gut health is not optimal. However, poor gut health does not automatically produce increased intestinal permeability.
The cells that make up the gut lining regenerate (or replace themselves) every two to three days. So, while treatment can be started to support the gut lining without confirming increased intestinal permeability, there are tests available to evaluate the degree of intestinal permeability. These tests include the Lactulose/Mannitol Test and the Antigenic Permeability Screen.
While these diagnostic tests do not offer a 100 percent accuracy in confirming Leaky Gut Syndrome, they can serve as invaluable measures of gut permeability, active immune response, and current level of inflammation.
Usually offered by independent laboratories, intestinal permeability tests are no more invasive or involved than the need to fast for a short period or drinking a sugar solution followed by a simple blood test. For more information or to schedule an appointment, consult an integrative healthcare provider.
How to Reverse and Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome – Reset, Replenish, Resist
The first steps to reverse and heal Leaky Gut Syndrome is to RESET the gut and digestion.
These following suggestions should be discussed with an Integrative health practitioner ¹.
For 3 to 5 days, cleanse the gastrointestinal tract by consuming organic broths, like bone broth, to boost levels of essential amino acids and nutrients. Consider adding oregano oil or peppermint oil to the broth for their antimicrobial effects of eliminating microbes within the gut. You can also drink herbal tea, raw apple cider vinegar diluted with water, or lemon water for the same antimicrobial benefit.
Meanwhile, consume ginger or peppermint to improve digestion along with slippery elm to strengthen the gut lining. Coconut oil throughout the day can serve as an abundant supply of clean fat and antioxidants thereby strengthening the body during the cleanse. Additionally, drinking pure aloe vera juice can also help heal the gut lining while promoting more regular, productive bowel movements.
Following a Cleanse, Replenish the Gut
After cleansing, replenish the gut by supplementing with gut-health promoting nutrients in the daily diet. See also our guide to Food for Leaky Gut
Fighting inflammation is key to healing a leaky gut. A powerful antioxidant is appropriate like curcumin, the active ingredient from one of the world’s most famous spices, Turmeric. Curcumin supports the elimination of free radicals from the body and prevents tissue injury within the gastrointestinal tract. (Ask an Integrative Health Practitioner about consuming 1,000 to 2,000 mg of curcumin per day ¹ ). Turmeric can also be added to just about anything like meat marinades, stews, sauces, and even smoothies. Non-Dairy Turmeric Lattes are now a popular drink too.
Sometimes considered as effective as aspirin and ibuprofen in fighting inflammation, ginger promotes digestion as well as motility within the gut. Ginger has been used for ages to relieve symptoms related to heartburn, nausea, migraines, menstruation, and morning or motion sickness. However, ginger also has an antimicrobial ability which resists bacteria commonly involved in leaky-gut or gastrointestinal infection.
Surprisingly not considered essential, L-glutamine is the most concentrated amino acid in blood plasma. Its crucial role in digestive tract maintenance and immune response regulation makes it easy to recognize L-glutamine’s ability to repair the gut lining while also functioning as an antioxidant. L-Glutamine is so effective at repairing tissue that it has also been used to enhance and improve nervous system function.
Sometimes the best treatment for Leaky Gut Syndrome involves an indirect approach, and pea protein is an excellent example of this. Pea protein is a high quality, vegan protein ideal for individuals with autoimmunity or food sensitivities. It indirectly improves the bacteria living in the gut by favoring the growth of healthy microbes and boosting short-chain fatty acid production. The latter reduces inflammation while healing the intestinal gut lining.
With powerful healing effects, quercetin maximises immune health while restoring the barriers and overall integrity of the gut lining. This pigment found in plants (like onion skin) even acts as an antioxidant controlling oxidative damage to tissues and thereby protecting the gut lining from future damage. It also boosts the body’s level of glutathione, which is sometimes referred to as “the master antioxidant.” Elderberries, red onions, white onions, cranberries, and green hot peppers boast the highest levels of quercetin.
Zinc deficiency is an excellent example of a health condition that may initially manifest symptoms in the gut. The body needs zinc to maintain the lining of the gut. Without zinc, the gut can quickly become leaky (or more permeable) to waste products and pathogens that should not be in the bloodstream and which can compromise immunity. Zinc glycinate is a highly bioavailable form of zinc that can reverse such leakiness, restore the gut lining, and support immunity all in one supplement.
Avoid Inflammatory Triggers
After resetting and replenishing the gut, it is essential to RESIST as many of the inflammatory triggers as possible. Some triggers such as pregnancy, menopause, and even environmental toxins are unavoidable; yet, maintaining the REPLENISH phase of the treatment plan should help to overcome those triggers’ effects.
It can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 months to fully heal the gut. After all, since Leaky Gut Syndrome does not develop overnight, curing this condition will take some time.
Follow a Consistent Treatment Plan to Recover from Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Reset the gut to improve symptoms
- Replenish the gut with essential nutrients
- Resist inflammatory triggers
With this approach, gut health will improve, and the body will be well on its way to recovery.
Get the Right Support
(1) Mindd Foundation recommends you consult with a qualified Integrative Health Practitioner to get appropriate testing, diagnosis, and specific health care recommendations.
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