Leaky Gut Syndrome refers to an increase in intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability in extreme cases. A healthy gut lining allows only specific components of food to pass through into the bloodstream. This is how nutrients enter the bloodstream and promote health. However, poor diet, stress, and certain medications such as NSAIDs can damage the gut lining over time. The result is a more permeable gut lining, which allows larger particles to enter the bloodstream while failing to properly absorb key nutrients.
Undigested food particles, gut bacteria, proteins, and toxic waste shouldn’t be able to enter the bloodstream. But when the gut lining becomes compromised (or “leaky”) they do, causing negative consequences.
While Leaky Gut was once thought to affect only those with serious medical conditions such as celiac disease, we now know that even slight increases in intestinal permeability can cause chronic health issues such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as systemic diseases or diseases involving other organ systems like type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and autism.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Some common signs and symptoms of Leaky Gut include:
Frequent food sensitivities.
Digestive issues such as bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
Inflammatory skin conditions.
Fatigue and low mood.
Foods To Avoid With Leaky Gut
Gluten-containing grains like wheat, spelt, rye, and barley can stimulate higher zonulin levels in certain individuals and this increases intestinal permeability. While whole grains can be a part of a healthy diet, they are best consumed soaked or sprouted to deactivate anti-nutrients. Anyone struggling with a leaky gut should avoid eating gluten completely until their gut lining is functioning properly again, as it is a particularly problematic protein.
Refined sugar added to foods like desserts and drinks and too much added natural sugar (like cane juice or maple syrup) can also be problematic for people with leaky gut syndrome. Sugar can cause imbalances in gut flora by feeding yeasts and bad bacteria, further damaging the gut.
Conventional milk can be problematic for those suffering from leaky gut. It is among the most common food sensitivities and therefore should be avoided. There may be a place in a gut-healing diet for fermented, organic dairy such as yogurt or kefir. Reactions vary from person to person, so work closely with your client to assess for any new or worsening symptoms when incorporating these foods. Consider trying goat or sheep dairy as the casein is less inflammatory from these sources and may even contain protective proteins, including immunoglobulins necessary for maintaining the immune system.
Foods To Incorporate To Heal Leaky Gut
A diet that promotes digestive health should focus on fibrous vegetables and fruits as these foods contain phytochemicals that have been reported to improve tight junction integrity by controlling proteins and inflammatory signaling pathways. While raw vegetables and fruits may be difficult to digest, cooked or blended vegetables are just as powerful in healing and supporting the body. Choose a wide variety of colorful vegetables and fruits with plenty of leafy greens.
Thanks to its healing amino acid profile, minerals, and gut-healing collagen bone broth can be incredibly nourishing for an inflamed gut. Homemade bone broth from organic, pasture-raised, or grass-fed animal bones is the most healing.
Filled with a wide variety of probiotic strains, fermented foods bring good bacteria into the gut. Cultured veggies like kimchi and sauerkraut, beverages like kombucha and kefir, and even preserved meats like prosciutto can support healthy intestinal flora.
Healthy fats reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and feed some species of good gut bacteria to support gut healing. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory and medium-chain-triglycerides (MCT) are easy to digest. Coconut products should be included as those with leaky gut syndrome can benefit from their MCT content.
This potent anti-inflammatory spice can decrease inflammation in the gut lining and throughout the body. It also helps support liver detoxification of environmental toxins that can worsen the disease.
Supplements That Support Gut Healing
The element zinc boosts the immune system and can limit gut permeability by its ability to modify the tight junctions of the intestinal lining.
One of the beneficial components of bone broth, collagen, can be added to the diet in powder form. Thanks to its high glycine content, it works to strengthen the gut lining while also reducing joint pain and increasing skin quality.
This key amino acid promotes gut health in many ways. It supports the growth and repair of intestinal cells, reduces inflammation, and coats the gut to protect against further irritation.
In addition to fermented foods, a quality daily probiotic will reintroduce good bacteria into the gut.
Anti-inflammatory omega-3s decreases inflammation in the body and can help to improve cardiovascular health and cognitive function.
***We ALWAYS suggest consulting with a trained health care professional before taking all supplementation.***
Jessica Mantell M.S., C.N.S., L.D.N.
CEO & Founder of NextGeneration Nutrition
NextGeneration Nutrition believes that better health should be accessible to everyone and that we all are able to improve our health through good nutrition, physical activity, and lifestyle change. We do not support setting shame-based goals but encourages embracing our bodies, genetics, and personality. Our philosophy is abandoning the “One Size Fits All” mentality to create a personalized wellness plan based on your biological makeup and your lifestyle.
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