What is a leaky gut?
Leaky gut is not exactly what the name may imply. Some hear this term and get a visual of their guts leaking out of their bodies. This does not mean diarrhea (though it can cause it in some cases) or the uncontrollable loss of intestinal fluids and fecal matter, as the name makes it sound. Leaky gut is the condition in where your small intestine begins to form small tears and holes in its lining. These holes and tears allow food particles, toxins and other harmful, undigested matter to slip through the protective layer of the gut and enter the bloodstream. Bad news bears here.
How do you get a leaky gut?
Leaky gut occurs over time when chronic inflammation disrupts the integrity of the intestinal wall. Inflammation is caused by poor diet, dehydration, alcohol, exposure to toxins, chemical pollutants, medications, NSAIDs, antacids, unknown/undiagnosed allergies and food intolerances.
What are the symptoms of leaky gut?
The symptoms of leaky gut include chronic digestive issues (constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating), chronic fatigue, skin problems (rashes, bad acne, rosacea), yeast infections, diagnosed food allergies or intolerances, chronic headaches or migraines, hormonal imbalances, and so on. More than 75% of your immune system resides in the gut, so when it becomes compromised, there is a good chance of developing an autoimmune disorder or disease.
5 Steps to Heal Leaky Gut:
Diet is the first step in healing leaky gut, and should always come before anything else. This is because inflammatory foods are the leading cause of leaky gut. The Autoimmune Paleo Protocol is perfect as it eliminates nearly all inflammatory foods, which also simultaneously eliminates potential allergens as well. The main things to watch out for are gluten, grains, dairy, hydrogenated oils and sugar. But it’s important to remove other things such as dairy, soy, nightshades and GMO’s to be sure those are not conflicting allergens causing inflammation and leaky gut. For more information on GMO’s, you may continue reading here.
Drinking enough water is critical to every system of the body. However, it’s not just how much water you drink but the quality of water you are drinking. Choose waters that have a total dissolved solids score of 300 ppm (parts per million) or more. These hard waters have higher mineral contents such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium. The higher content of minerals, the more your body will absorb the water. Ever notice that the more you drink, the more you find yourself visiting the bathroom? This is because you are not absorbing the water. So essentially you may be drinking a lot of water but still be dehydrated! Get a good filtration system at home, avoid drinking out of plastic bottles (especially those from large corporations who charge roughly $9/ gallon for tap water and put it in a bottle), and look for the TDS score (total dissolved solids) usually marked on the bottom or side of the label. Mineral water and Artesian water is best! If you can’t find these while out or traveling, add a pinch of himalayan salt to your water to increase mineral content.
“There are 10 billion biochemical reactions taking place in your body per second that are water dependent. When you become dehydrated, your systems begin to collapse. Half of your body weight in ounces is a good estimate for how much water you should be drinking each day,” -Paul Chek.
Without movement, there is no circulation and without circulation there is no elimination. Toxins get trapped in the body and inflammation builds up. So get moving! How you move depends on you, however. The best ways to use movement and exercise for healing are tai chi, yoga, Zone® (targeted breathing exercises that build strength), walking, hiking, and/or swimming! Before choosing an exercise program, be sure you are cleared of potential injury risks by a certified practitioner or trainer. If you are still suffering from a thyroid disorder, inflammation or joint pain,it is very important to avoid high intensity workouts and exercises. The same holds true if you have been told you need to reduce your stress load. The more stress you put on your body, the worse your condition may become. For example, if you struggle with hypothyroid, have tapped adrenals and live a stressful lifestyle, then it is a very bad idea to sign up for a half marathon or join a CrossFit box. Even if your fitness level is already advanced, think of this as starting over. You may see your body and easily feel your abilities with muscle and movement, but what you can’t see or feel is how your glandular system is struggling to recover and subsequently stealing energy and vitals from your organ system. If you really love running or CrossFit, choose only one or two days a week to do it and limit it to 30 minutes per workout. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a good way to get an intense workout doing your favorite activities without taxing the body.
The way you breathe has substantial effects on your body, such as aiding digestion, increasing circulation, improving sleep quality, and reducing your levels of stress. It can help you focus and also perform better in any activity, sport or exercise. It’s very likely that you may not be breathing correctly. Most people stop breathing properly in childhood! This is due to poor posture (sitting all day, lack of exercise, tv’s and video games), stress and poor diet. Yes, poor diet! When you do not eat well, your digestion slows down due to inflammation. The inflammation can cause irregular bowel movements which can cause pain and alter your posture, thus limiting diaphragmatic activation. It’s all a vicious cycle! So ask yourself, does your belly rise before your ribs expand during inhalation? If not, begin practicing proper breathing techniques right away. Now think about this: every vital organ of the body is located….where? In the core (torso). Your digestive system is located … where? Now, where do the mechanics of breathing occur? In the core also. So if our breathing mechanics are wrong, what do you think that does to our vital organs and our digestion? It constricts them, traps them, limits circulation to and from them. So breathe!
Supplements can help to heal leaky gut and are a great aid in improving digestion, but they should only be added when you have included and practiced the first four steps. Supplements can be a huge waste of money and forethought if your diet is not dialed in, movement and exercises are not consistent and/or appropriate for your needs and lifestyle, and hydration? If you are dehydrated, then you certainly will not be absorbing these supplements either. So once you have a good plan going for diet, movement, hydration and breathing, there are some good supplements to help heal the gut. Great places to start are quality digestive enzymes, l-glutamine to help heal the lining of the gut, sachromyces bouldari to help kill off candida and yeast promoting bacteria. MegaSpore is a good probiotic that I encourage every one of my clients to use. Also, think of food as a supplement! Many foods are better than others in healing the gut. Those include fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, lemons (add to your water), and bone broth. Those should be two big staples in your diet!
Written by: Sara Eye CPT, CHN, HLC III
CHEK Institute Practitioner, Counselor & Coach
Expert Holistic Nutritionist & Consultant