Functional Medicine places a lot of emphasis on the gut--and for good reason. Scientific research has shown that bad gut health is tied to several metabolic and chronic disorders. Also, we've found that around 80 percent of your immune system lives in the gut, and 90 percent of your serotonin (the neurotransmitter that regulates mood, digestion, and sleep, among other things) is made there too.
But today there are a range of insults that assault our guts on a regular basis. Some of them, like our diet, we have control over, but others, like environmental toxins, will get us whether we want them to or not(although there are techniques to reduce our exposure). This has resulted in an onslaught of a condition referred to as "leaky gut," which likely impacts all of us to some degree.
In today's newsletter, I would like to bring you up to speed on leaky gut-- what it is, what causes it, and how to treat it.
The only thing that separates your digestive system from your bloodstream is the lining of your gut and stomach. This lining serves as a barrier to selectively permit certain crucial nutrients to pass into your bloodstream through what are called "tight junctions" but does not permit other things to pass through.
When these junctions are damaged, they begin to allow particles through the gut into the bloodstream that aren't supposed to be there. This condition is referred to as increased intestinal permeability, or "leaky gut."
Hazardous bacteria, viruses, and also food proteins can pass through a leaky gut. When this occurs, the immune system, which does not expect to find foreign particles in the blood, responds by launching an assault that can cause a full-on autoimmune attack or trigger allergic reactions or sensitivities, which can all result in extensive, chronic inflammation.
Leaky gut is the result of the gut lining being under chronic, long-term attack. There is no single source of the disorder, but a variety of factors can contribute to it, such as:
● Overuse of antibiotics and certain medications
● Environmental toxins or toxin overload
● Poor diet and chronic stress
● Glyphosate and other chemical pesticides
● Certain proteins located in gluten
● Bacterial imbalances in the gut
If you believe you could have a leaky gut, there are a number of signs to keep an eye out for. Symptoms that can indicate leaky gut include:
● GI discomfort, including chronic diarrhea, constipation, and bloating
● Skin conditions such as eczema or acne
● Joint pain
● Headaches, fatigue, or difficulty concentrating
● Nutritional deficiencies
● Hormonal or mood imbalances
The only way to treat a leaky gut is to separate and remove the underlying sources. I always recommend working with a Functional Medicine specialist who can run the proper tests to identify the source of your unique problem. As soon as you successfully find and remove or mitigate the root causes, you can repair and restore your microbiome.
Getting rid of the bad. The first step in healing leaky gut is to identify and eliminate its possible causes. Because a poor diet is frequently a contributing factor, an elimination diet is a good place to begin to see if particular foods are part of the problem. You can remove known inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, soy, and eggs in addition to gut-busting foods that include sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
Also, think about reducing or getting rid of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), unnecessary antibiotics and steroids, and acid blockers (in cooperation with your physician, obviously!).
Lastly, if you think environmental toxins could be acause, take actions to alleviate or eliminate them as much as you can. This maymean eliminating plastic bottles and containers or buying a high-quality HEPAair filter, for instance.
Repairing the damage. When you've successfully identified and alleviated the origin, it's now time to repair and restore a healthy gut. The main way to do this is to promote your healthy gut bacteria with what I call "biome-builders"-- gut-healing foods your good bugs will like.
You can promote healthy gut bacteria by working on adding the following foods to your diet:
● Fiber. Aim for at least 25 grams of fiber daily from your organic vegetables (not processed grains).
● Veggies. Consume an abundance of polyphenol-rich veggies daily. Try to fill your plate three-fourths full with non-starchy veggies for each meal. Try to eat organic whenever possible, or follow the EWG's Clean Fifteen or Dirty Dozen produce list.
● Prebiotics. Include plenty of prebiotic foods such as Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, leeks, dandelion greens, jicama, chicory root, and asparagus.
● Probiotic foods. Incorporate plenty of probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, fermented soy, unsweetened yogurt or kefir, miso, and natto.
● Bone broth. Incorporate grass-fed bone broth for a gut-healing boost.
● Supplements. Think about taking supplements to help with leaky gut like zinc or curcumin. These supplements will help support digestion and nutrient absorption and your body's inflammation responses.
Over 1,500 years ago, Hippocrates said that "all diseases begin in the gut." He was right then, and the data shows he's still right today. Yet we live in a period where the gut is assaulted frequently. We are therefore all likely impacted to some degree by leaky gut, but the good news is we aren't powerless. We can take action to provide our guts the TLC they need to thrive, and in turn, they will repay the favor.
I 'd urge you to use the information in this article as motivation to do an actual "gut check" on yourself and see what improvements you can adopt to live a longer, healthier life-- beginning today.