This is such a common question that I get. First, know that it is ‘technically’ called intestinal permeability, but somehow it was coined with a nickname of leaky gut. Second, this is not a disease or an illness, but a symptom (and quite common).
Leaky gut happens when the intestinal lining becomes damaged, and allows particles to get through- undigested food, bacteria, fungi, etc. Then these items go directly into the bloodstream which can activate antibodies and cause autoimmunity. A ‘normal’ gut should only allow teeny tiny molecules to pass through, but when the intestinal lining becomes inflamed, then larger molecules are allowed to pass through. This is how food sensitivities, or IgG reactions, form.
What causes leaky gut?
First, a poor diet. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is a primary cause, due to its low fiber and highly processed items. Additionally, many of the SAD diet choices are full of additives and trans fats which contribute to inflammation.
Another common cause is stress. Yes, stress. Prolonged stress can actually decrease immune function, and lead to a leaky gut (among other problems). If stress is something you don’t know how to get under control, check out my stress management blog by clicking HERE.
Environmental toxins are another driver of leaky gut. That includes items that you put on your body, or even things like weed killer, bug sprays, and cleaning products that may be inhaled.
Medications are another major factor in leaky gut, since many NSAIDs and birth control pills can damage the gut lining and affect the balance of the gut.
If you’re wondering what leaky gut looks like, here are some clinical clues:
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Stomach pains
- Food intolerances
- Gas or indigestion
- Brain fog
- IBS or IBD
- Chronic nasal congestion
- Chronic headaches or migraines
Of course, the list continues, but those are some of the most common things to be on the look out for. So if you read this and went…ahhh crap, I’ve got leaky gut, don’t worry. You can absolutely work to heal it.
Healing a leaky gut
Start small. Truly, something like chewing your food really well, eating until you’re satisfied versus full, and relaxing during meals goes a long ways. Of course, changing your diet is going to be key if you’re eating a lot of refined, processed foods as well. As tough as it can be, consider an elimination diet (check out my previous blog here) to identify any food sensitivities. The top ones to eliminate are going to be gluten, dairy, soy, and sugar.
Work on stress management. If you’re someone who is always wired, uptight, or feel overwhelmed, then it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate your daily routine and put some steps in place. Perhaps you need some morning meditation in your life. Or some deep breathing exercises throughout the day. Or an app like Headspace on your phone. Whatever it is, daily self care is going to be crucial.
Make sure you’re getting good sleep. 5 hours a night is not going to cut it, you’re gonna want to aim for 7-9 hours each night. Try to get to bed around the same time, and aim for some early morning sunshine to help with your circadian rhythm. If sleep doesn’t happen easily, then there’s a deeper underlying issue to explore.
And finally, you’ll likely need some supplements. While they aren’t the answer, they’re a piece of healing. I consider them triage, like medication, while you figure out what’s triggering leaky gut. Top choices include glutamine (although if you struggle with anxiety, go slow), quercetin, and high quality probiotics.
If you’re doing allll the things (or at least everything above) and are still not getting results, then it may be time to seek out a practitioner to help determine what else is going on. Feel free to book a complimentary 20 minute consult with me, or reach out and I’ll help you find someone in your area.