What is leaky gut and what causes it?
Leaky gut is a condition where the gut wall has been damaged by a variety of causes, such as pathogens, inflammatory foods, alcohol or prescription medications.
The symptoms can present as many different issues, or in some cases may not occur at all.
The most common symptoms are:
- Diarrhoea and loose stools.
- Gas and bloating
- Skin conditions, acne, psoriasis, rosacea, hives relating to food allergies.
- Nutritional deficiencies (e.g low iron or b12 anaemia)
- Autoimmune diseases (psoriasis, alopecia, crohns disease)
How to heal a Leaky gut and optimise digestion
The first step to healing a leaky gut is to remove the causes, whether that be inflammatory foods that damage the gut lining, stopping or reducing alcohol, managing stress or stopping the use of NSAIDS if possible.
The top offending foods that are difficult to digest and damage the gut wall are:
Gluten/Wheat: In sensitive individual’s gluten can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, A protein that can break apart the tight junctions holding your intestines together. When the junctions separate, they allow undigested food particles, bacteria, and antibodies to slip through into the blood stream, this is what can lead to food allergies and autoimmunity.
Dairy: The protein in cow’s dairy called A1 Casein, can trigger a similar reaction to the protein in gluten, and can cause digestive upset and IBS symptoms in a lot of people.
Sugar: All sugar feeds yeasts and pathogens in the gut, these pathogens can then poke holes in the gut lining and be a factor in leaky gut.
Alcohol and caffeine:Can also be irritating, inflammatory and cause damage to the gut wall. Herbal teas and green tea are a health alternative to coffee and tea.
Remove any hidden food allergies e.g. Soy, corn, eggs.
Supplements to calm inflammation and repair the gut wall:
Supplements can be very useful in aiding healing when changing the diet isn’t enough. The following supplements can help in speeding up the healing process:
l-Glutamine: L glutamine is an amino acid, used by muscles and tissues for repair. It is used by the gut to seal and heal. It repairs the holes of the gut.
NAG: N-acetyl glucosamine is an amino saccharide. It combines with mucin secreted from goblet cells to form the glycocalyx (a protective layer) that lines the digestive tract. Wild oats has a particularly good product by biocare called permatrol, which contains both l-glutamine and NAG for gut permeability.
Probiotics: Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for our health. Our guts are full of bacteria, both good and bad. It is when this balance is tipped in favour of the bad bacteria that problems occur. Keeping our good bacteria topped up helps to balance out any overgrowth of pathogens and candida in the gut which can contribute to leaky gut problems. I particularly like a soil based probiotic like Kiki health biotics.
Enzymes and Betaine hcl: In people with leaky gut the amount of digestive enzymes and betaine hcl may be low, this means that food may not be getting broken down properly. When this happens, it allows undigested food particles to slip through the gut wall into the blood stream and cause an immune reaction. It will also cause nutritional deficiencies as the nutrients cannot be absorbed properly from the food if it is not digested adequately. Adding in a digestive aid complex can help to break down the foods, assimilate the nutrients and stop symptoms like gas, bloating and heartburn. The product I like to recommend is nutrigest by Nutri advanced. It’s a high potency digestive enzyme with betaine hcl added, so it’s a broad spectrum digestive support.
Tumeric and omega 3: A good wholistic turmeric can be very helpful in calming down the inflammation caused by leaky gut. It can also help in strengthening the liver, which is being overworked when a person has leaky gut. This is because it is having to detoxify the foreign bodies that have escaped the stomach into the blood stream. I like the wholistic Turmeric or Turmeric Life kind by Pukka available at Wild Oats. Omega 3 possesses anti-inflammatory benefits and is also useful for the inflammation from leaky gut. It also aids skin problems that leaky gut can cause such as acne and psoriasis.
By adding in these simple tips, you can be well on your way to a more peaceful digestion and reduction of autoimmune and skin problems in the future.