Leaky gut. It's a term that has earned much debate in the medical community over the last decade. Does it really exist? Did someone just make it up? Let me break it down for you! Here is what you need to know and understand about leaky gut.
Imagine a long tube stretching the length from your mouth all the way down to your navel. The tube is long and winding and through it, your food passes. As it passes through the tube, food is digested and absorbed, keeping your body sourced with all nutritional needs. On a good day, all goes well in the tube, with the work of digestion humming along like a finely-tuned machine.
But it's not always that easy to keep the lining of that tube intact. Chronic stress, medications, poor food choices or quality, alcohol, cigarettes and even hormone changes all can disrupt that lining, ruining the connection that the cells along the intestinal lining have. This literally can cause your nutrients and other predigested substances to "leak" or pass through, which in turn, triggers an inflammatory response in the body. In fact, most research today shows that the majority of inflammation begins in the gut or due to a "misfiring" in the digestive system, altering the microbiome [AKA, the delicate balance of bacteria in the belly]. Most doctors today prefer the term malabsorption or increased intestinal permeability. Call it whatever you prefer, but it's real, and I've treated thousands of patients who have suffered from it.
While there are advanced tests to help diagnose leaky gut, look for these common signs and symptoms including:
1. Abdominal Pain
3. Irregular stools [ex., constipation or diarrhea
5. Joint Pain
6. Fatigue -- especially after eating
7. Brain Fog
If you think you have more than three of the symptoms above, get tested for malabsorption or increased intestinal permeability. Common tests include stool tests for malabsorption and inflammation, blood tests for inflammation, breath hydrogen test to assess bacterial load and nutrient and essential fatty acid deficiencies. Looking for food allergies and food intolerances can help determine the cause of your leaky gut.
Road to Healing
Some of my favorite recommendations for healing leaky gut begin with food. If you are unable to do testing for leaky gut, consider pulling gluten and dairy out of your diet as starting steps. These proteins can be more difficult to break down and can worsen an already leaky gut. Watch your intake of sugar and alcohol, as these can increase the yeast load in your gut too. I usually recommend limiting alcohol to no more than four drinks per week and refined sugar needs to stay under 40 grams per day [less if you want to aggressively see results].
My favorite supplements for leaky gut include:
1. Glutamine -- an amino acid that rebuilds your gut lining.
2. Slippery elm -- an herb that coats the intestinal lining, promoting healing.
3. Aloe Vera -- which is so powerful and also helps to rebuild the gut lining.
4. Digestive enzymes -- especially ones that include amylase and lipase because these help to digest the food we eat to make the work of digestion better.
5. Probiotics -- a high quality probiotic can help balance the microbiome and improve digestion and absorption. Look for a high colony count (i.e., above 20 billion cfu) and a varied number of strains!
Finally, don't forget that leaky gut is often the root of many inflammatory diseases for children and adults, including ADHD, allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disease like lupus, colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and research is pointing toward cancer too. Fix your gut and see your overall health improve, that stubborn weight come off, energy increase and your hormones balance out! It's worth it -- you're worth it!