Leaky Gut, otherwise known as intestinal permeability, is to the 21st century what Smallpox was to the 18th century and while only one is considered a true “plague”, they are both no less than raging epidemics running rampant spreading dis-ease and even death over much of the Western world.
I know there are those who might relegate that statement to cheap theatrics but hear me out. From the industrialization of our food sources to the “better living through chemistry” mindset of the 1950’s until now with “a pill for every ill” and finally the “cleanliness is next to Godliness so package, mummify, pasteurize, and sanitize every part of your life” ideals our society has clung to we have a full-blown health crisis on our hands that promises to affect up to 90% of the population, including young children.
All diseases begin in the gut.~ Hippocrates
We have spoken at length about the importance of gut health and the symptoms of digestion imbalances but considering at least 70% of the immune system is dependent on a healthy gut and as modern medicine seems to be hell bent on creating a veritable Alice in Wonderland by giving us one pill to “shrink” an illness only to have to give us another and another to combat the side effects of the one that is supposed to heal and another still to fix what breaks as a result of the first pill and the majority of those pills cause mass destruction in the gut it is no wonder incidences of such as autoimmune disorders (like Celiac, Chron’s, Lupus, Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis and more), inflammatory disorders (such as osteoarthritis, IBS, Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases, neurological symptoms and even food allergies and intolerances) and many other “immune” or “genetic” related disorders (such as anxiety, bipolarity, depression and even autism) are skyrocketing year after year.
Before we go forward, let’s go back a bit and explain the inner atmosphere of your intestinal wall. The gut is, in a sense, separate from the body in the fact that it is meant to keep invaders “out”. The small intestine is comprised of billions of cells, which bind tightly together to keep bacteria, viruses, and other toxins (including used hormones like estrogen) out of the body’s tissues and bloodstream. The intestines contain villi. Villi are finger-like projections on the lining of the intestinal tract and have hair-like cell membrane extensions called Microvilli. Think of villi as tiny fingers meant to catch nutrients and absorb them. Microvilli are responsible for producing enzymes and other secretions imperative for healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients.
In short. You want healthy villi and microvilli. It might shock you to know that, while in our society we have access to calorie dense foods mostly in the form of processed foods, we are a society of often under or even malnourished individuals. We need to be able to absorb and metabolize all the nutrients we can get.
What exactly is leaky gut?
With Leaky Gut Syndrome, essentially the intestinal lining becomes inflamed. When this inflammation occurs, the microvilli become damaged making it more difficult or impossible for them to produce the necessary enzymes or secretions for proper digestion. When that happens, the damage spreads to the wall of the intestines causing large gaps develop in the cells of the intestinal wall. This allows undigested food particles, bacteria, viruses and other toxins into the blood stream where they are perceived as invaders. The body mobilizes the immune system to attack and contain the invaders. Bear in mind, this immune system alert triggers an inflammatory reaction in the body. While, during times of acute illness or injury, this immune response is temporary, with leaky gut that immune response becomes chronic.
Chronic inflammation is bad, my beauties. It leads to all sorts of issues and it is the major cause of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders. It also contributes to estrogen dominance, skin issues such as rosacea and acne, and even obesity and possibly diabetes.
Let’s add insult to injury and bring the body’s largest organ, the liver, into the equation. The liver plays a huge role in detoxification as well as its many other roles such as glycogen storage to be used about 4 hours after a meal in order to control blood sugar, filtering toxins such as pharmaceuticals, environmental toxins, and alcohol, bile production (these contain bile salts which aid digestion), removing damaged red blood cells, and converting ammonia to urea so it can be released through the kidneys and bladder. As a result of a leaky gut, the particles released eventually make their way to the liver to be filtered from the blood.
This is when the whole process gets even more complex if not even the tiniest bit scarier. The liver has its own job to do in a perfectly balanced system. Leaky Gut Syndrome adds to the workload of the liver overworking the system, often to the breaking point. The liver is unable to neutralize the chemical onslaught and expels them back into the blood stream. (Yes, this goes for estrogen, too which contributes to estrogen dominance.) The chemicals (including used hormones) are then pushed into muscle and connective tissues and fat cells to prevent major organ failure.
This is all a vicious cycle. The liver gets so bogged down it can no longer filter the chemical onslaught from the leaky gut it starts to affect its ability to filter even day to day toxins present in a balanced body. The intestinal tract gets weaker and weaker, more and more substances are released into the blood stream which weaken the liver further and more and more toxins are stored in fat cells (leading to obesity) and tissues (leading to autoimmune and inflammatory disorders and disease). The immune system is called upon chronically to help negate the foreign invaders which are impossible to fight at such a level and, as a result, toxic oxidants and inflammation become chronic until the body can no longer do even the basic of detoxes and the body does the only thing it can do; break down the immune system.
At this point, symptoms become more pronounced. Food sensitivities, pain, weight gain (or loss from malnutrition), a breakdown of tissues, neurological symptoms, even anxiety, depression and bi-polarity symptoms become the norm.
Modern medicine fails as most doctors do not even acknowledge the existence of Leaky Gut Syndrome tending to prescribe potent pharmaceuticals (including H2 blockers, antibiotics,and NSAIDS) which contribute even more to the development of Leaky Gut Syndrome. Many doctors believe it is a psychosomatic occurrence prescribing anti-depressants which can dangerously raise serotonin levels.
Leaky Gut Syndrome IS real and IS chronic and debilitating.
There is good news. We now know enough about healing the gut that we can stop Leaky Gut Syndrome in its tracks and reverse it.
What are the symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky Gut Syndrome has a variety of symptoms including (but not limited to) abdominal pain, heartburn, fatigue, depression, migraines, loss of mental clarity, insomnia, bloating, anxiety, gluten intolerance, malnutrition, muscle cramps and pains, poor exercise tolerance, metabolic dysfunction and food allergies.
Leaky Gut Syndrome has also been linked with many conditions including (but also not limited to) Celiac Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia and MES, Austism, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Eczema, Dermatitis, Rosacea, and Ulcerative Colitis.
Again, 70% of our immune system is located in the gut. It isn’t surprising how, when traced back, many symptoms of illness and disease can be traced back to Leaky Gut Syndrome, or, at the very least, gut dysbiosis.
What causes a leaky gut?
Take a deep breath, beauties. Obviously a diet full of low or non-nutritive food-like substances is a problem. Let me knock you for six for a moment and tell you that high fiber “healthy whole-grain” diet may not be doing you any favors either with insoluble fiber and gluten acting like “sticks and twigs” banging up the wall of the intestine. (The research thought this was a good idea because one, the grain industry needed to have something to do with all that excess grain they grew and two, because the idea of creating microtears would stimulate the immune system’s need to heal. Boy they didn’t think that one out, eh?) Even eating vast quantities of raw dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, chard and spinach, indeed any other high fiber diet, raw can cause problems as our bodies do not produce the enzyme to break down cellulose the way, say, a cow or other ruminant would.
So ok, diet is the cause of leaky gut? Not so fast.
Food allergies and intolerance (as they trigger an immune inflammatory response), pharmaceuticals drugs in general but especially pain relievers like NSAIDS, stomach medications (H2 blockers), chemotherapy, antibiotics, infections, candidiasis and eating foods that would encourage candida overgrowth, hypochloridia (reduced stomach acid), parasites, untreated Celiac Disease, radiation (including EFTs), stress and gut dsybiosis (microbiome imbalance) all play a large part in the development of Leaky Gut Syndrome. Even worse news, Leaky Gut Syndrome can exacerbate any number of health issues listed above and create the perceived need for many of the “cures” above.
What can be done about Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Eliminating common food allergens (at least temporarily) such as gluten and grains, nuts, and even certain vegetables and fruits can alleviate symptoms almost immediately and take a vast amount of stress off the digestive tract. Reducing your chemical burden by switching up your beauty and personal care regimen to natural and organic products and stopping all non-essential medications, especially pain relievers will stop the onslaught of stress on your digestion and will halt xenoestrogen exposure staving off estrogen dominance. Consider changing up your vegetables and fruits to organic (when needed) to reduce your pesticide load .
Ditch that “high fiber” whole grain, high raw fibrous vegetables (blend when wanting to eat them raw so at least they are predigested or cook them well with a little healthy saturated fat), diet in favor of grass-fed meats, wild game, and pastured poultry, raw dairy, lots of fruits and vegetables and limited nuts (limit those to macadamia, smaller amounts of hazelnuts, and even smaller amounts of almonds), jasmine or basmati rice, and quinoa.
Bone broth and gelatin are incredibly healing to the gut as bone broth is nutrient dense and rich in minerals and anti-inflammatory amino acids as well as being a great source of digestible protein, and gelatin helps seal up the “leaks” encouraging healing.
Prebiotic foods as well as limited amounts of probiotic type foods such as Greek Yoghurt and kefir can help repopulate the gut and a broad spectrum probiotic, when taken appropriately at the appropriate time during healing can help balance gut dysbiosis.
Everyone is individual. Finding a nutrition expert that is also well versed in gut health can get you on the path to vibrant health quicker than you think!