What is Leaky Gut?
When you have a healthy gut, your intestinal lining forms a barrier that regulates what gets absorbed into the bloodstream through your stomach. When this barrier isn’t functioning properly, it can develop cracks or holes which allows toxins to penetrate the surrounding tissues. Once the lining has been breached, partially digested food, yeast, viruses, and parasites are free to wander into your bloodstream. This is what can cause inflammation and changes to the bacteria in your gut. The levels of beneficial bacteria in your gut are delicately balanced. Any changes to this balance can be responsible for leaky gut syndrome. Here are some of the symptoms that can be indicative of a leaky gut:
· Food Allergies or Sensitivities
· Nutritional Deficiencies
· Gas or Bloating
· Chronic Diarrhea
· Allergic Reactions
· Major Depression
· Hormone Imbalances
These are just some of the leaky gut symptoms that you may experience. Many of these symptoms can be the result of a number of different conditions, so make sure that you speak to your doctor about what your symptoms mean.
Leaky Gut Triggers
So, what exactly causes the bacteria in your gut to become imbalanced? There are many different things that could contribute to the imbalance and inflammation. Here are five factors that could be triggering leaky gut syndrome.
1. Diet: Your diet could potentially be triggering leaky gut syndrome. If you are consuming anything that causes inflammation or an increase in harmful bacteria in your gut, your diet may need to change. Things like processed foods, gluten, and alcohol are known to increase gut inflammation. It has also been found that diets that are high in refined carbohydrates and sugar can contribute to the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut while also preventing the growth of beneficial bacteria. Also eating a diet deficient in protein can further exacerbate the issue. Threonine is an essential amino acid that is required for mucus production. This is key to maintaining your intestinal walls and can only be acquired through diet since your body cannot produce it on its own. If you are suffering from a leaky gut, it is important to make sure you are getting amino acids through high quality protein sources.
2. Stress: Psychological stress can absolutely have effects on your body that go beyond your mental health. Scientists believe that stress can have an influence on bacteria production. When we are experiencing mental, emotional, or physical stress, our bodies release hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine. The body typically uses these hormones to protect us from any danger, however, they are also known to cause bacteria to multiply rapidly or mutate. This will cause the gut to be thrown out of balance. Once this happens you are at risk for things like leaky gut syndrome. It is important to manage your stress levels to avoid a variety of health issues that can be triggered by stress.
3. Antibiotics: If you have developed a leaky gut after taking medication, it is possible that what you were taking caused an imbalance of bacteria. Antibiotics work by destroying pathogenic bacteria, but your medication can’t tell the difference between good and bad bacteria. Just a single round of antibiotics can cause changes in your gut bacteria for over a year. Pain relievers and antacids can also cause damage to the intestinal lining. Some medications also include gluten as a filler, which is a trigger in itself.
4. Toxins: Environmental toxins that exist in our food and water supply can also destroy bacteria in the gut. Things like pesticides, herbicides and food preservatives can all destroy the protective bacteria in your gut. While these can be difficult to avoid completely, one way you can offset this is by ensuring that you are sufficient in glutathione (the body’s primary antioxidant). Talk to your doctor about if glutathione supplementation is right for you.
5. Infections: Things like yeast infections, parasitic infections or intestinal viruses can cause an overgrowth of a bacteria in the gut. When the H. pylori bacterium becomes overgrown, leaky gut can be triggered.
Chronic Conditions and Leaky Gut
More studies are needed to show a definitive cause and effect, but there are studies that suggest that leaky gut may contribute to certain autoimmune diseases like lupus, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. Some other conditions that may have a correlation are chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, arthritis, allergies, asthma, acne, obesity, and mental illness. If you have one of these conditions, it’s possible that a leaky gut is responsible for your symptoms. If you find this to be the case, the good news is that managing your leaky gut can help improve symptoms of your chronic condition. Identifying this as a factor is the first step to the positive management of both issues.
Steps to Take Today
If you have been diagnosed with a leaky gut, there are some steps you can take immediately to start improving your symptoms. As discussed previously, diet is going to play a large part in balancing your gut. You should remove all inflammatory foods from your diet as soon as possible. This will be things like gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. Removing any foods that are considered toxic such as sugar, caffeine, and alcohol is essential as well. You should also begin managing any stress you have in your day-to-day life and visit your doctor to ensure you have no current infections.
Once you have taken these steps you can begin taking digestive enzymes to assist with your body’s inflammation responses and probiotics to help re-establish a healthy microbiome in your gut. Some people also use collagen to help repair damaged cells, as it is rich in amino acids.
When you become mindful of the bacteria in your stomach, you will be on your way to a healthier and better functioning gut. Once you repair your gut you will see an improvement in your overall health. Your digestive issues will disappear, food sensitivities can resolve themselves, and even your skin can improve. If you have a leaky gut, start taking the steps to improve your symptoms today.