Leaky gut syndrome is a rapidly growing condition that millions of people are struggling with and don’t even know it. From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut only affects the digestive system, but in reality, it can lead to many other health conditions.
According to research, leaky gut could be the cause of your food allergies, low energy, joint pain, thyroid disease, autoimmune conditions, and slow metabolism.
Think of the lining of your digestive tract like a net with extremely small holes in it that only allow specific substances to pass through. Your gut lining works as a barrier keeping out bigger particles that can damage your system.
When someone has leaky gut (often referred to as increased intestinal permeability), the “net” in your digestive tract gets damaged. This causes even bigger holes to develop in your net, so things that normally can’t pass through are now be able to.
Some of the things that can now pass through include proteins like gluten, bad bacteria, and undigested food particles. Toxic waste can also leak from the inside of your intestinal wall into your blood stream, causing an immune reaction.
This leads to inflammation throughout your system and can cause symptoms, such as these:
• Food sensitivities
• Thyroid conditions
• Joint pain
• Skin issues, like rosacea and acne
• Digestive problems
• Weight gain
• Syndrome X
One of the biggest warning signs that you may have leaky gut can be if you’re experiencing multiple food sensitivities. Partially digested protein and fat can seep through your intestinal lining, making their way into your bloodstream, which will cause an allergic response.
This allergic response doesn’t mean you’ll break out in a rash all over your body, but it can lead to one of the symptoms mentioned above. If left unrepaired, it can lead to more severe health issues like inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowl syndrome, arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, muscle pain, and chronic fatigue.
According to the Journal of Diabetes, there is a strong body of evidence pointing to leaky gut as a major cause of autoimmune diseases, including Type 1 diabetes.
Another problem with leaky gut is that it can cause malabsorption of vital minerals and nutrients, including zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.
There are four main causes of leaky gut:
• Poor diet
• Chronic stress
• Toxin overload
• Bacterial imbalance
The most common components of food that can damage your intestinal lining are the proteins found in unsprouted grains, sugar, GMOs, and conventional dairy.
The problem with unsprouted grains is that they contain large amounts of nutrient blockers called phytates and lectins.
Lectins and GMOs. Lectins are sugar-binding proteins that act as a natural defense system for plants and protect them from outside invaders like mold and parasites. This is good news for plants but bad news for your body.
Your digestive lining is covered with sugar-containing cells that help break down your food. Lectins gravitate toward this area, and when they attach to your digestive lining, it damages your gut, causing inflammation.
Lectins are found in many foods, not just grains. If consumed in smaller amounts, your body will do just fine with them. But foods that have large amounts of lectins, like wheat, rice, spelt, and soy, are more problematic.
Sprouting and fermenting grains reduces phytates and lectins and makes these foods easier to digest.
GMO-containing and hybridized foods tend to be the highest in lectins since they have been modified to fight off bugs.
Gluten. Gluten-containing grains can damage your intestinal lining, causing leaky gut. So, while you are working to heal your system, stay away from all grains, especially ones that contain gluten, like wheat.
Once your gut is healthy, you can occasionally add back grains that have been fermented and sprouted.
Conventional Dairy. Conventional cow’s milk is another food that can cause leaky gut. The component of dairy that will harm your gut is the protein A1 casein. Also, the pasteurization process will destroy vital enzymes, making sugars like lactose very difficult to digest.
For this reason, I recommend buying only dairy that is raw and from A2 cows [their milk does not contain A1 casein], goats, sheep, or buffalo.
Sugar. Sugar is another substance that will wreak havoc on your digestive system. Sugar will feed the growth of yeast, Candida, and bad bacteria, which will further damage your gut. Bad bacteria actually create toxins called exotoxins, which damage healthy cells and can create a hole in your intestinal wall.
Chronic Stress. Chronic stress weakens your immune system over time, which cripples your ability to fight off foreign invaders like bad bacteria and viruses, leading to inflammation and leaky gut.
To reduce stress, I recommend getting more sleep, scheduling fun into your week, resting one day a week, meditating on scripture, and hanging out with positive, uplifting people.
Toxins. We come into contact with over 80,000 chemicals and toxins every single year, but the worst offenders for causing leaky gut include antibiotics, pesticides, tap water, aspirin, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
I recommend buying a high-quality water filter to eliminate chlorine and fluoride. Also, look to natural plant-based herbs to reduce inflammation in your body.
Dysbiosis. One of the leading causes of leaky gut is a condition called dysbiosis, which means an imbalance between beneficial and harmful species of bacteria in your gut. For many, this imbalance can begin at birth because of a cesarean section or because the mother didn’t have a healthy gut herself.
The overuse of prescription antibiotic drugs, tap water with chlorine and fluoride, and the lack of probiotic-rich foods contribute to this imbalance of good and bad bacteria.
The good news is there’s a solution to healing leaky gut:
• Remove foods and factors that damage the gut.
• Replace with healing foods.
• Repair with specific supplements.
• Rebalance with probiotics.
This is the protocol I have used with my patients over the years, and it has helped them see incredible results.
The top foods to remove that cause leaky gut are sugar, grains, conventional meat, conventional dairy, and GMO-containing foods.
The top toxic exposures to eliminate are tap water, pesticides, NSAIDs, and antibiotics—but remember to always consult with your physician if he or she has prescribed these for you.
5 Healing Foods
1. Bone Broth. Bone broth contains collagen and the amino acids proline and glycine, which can help heal your damaged cell walls. I’ve had many of my patients do a bone broth fast for three days to help rapidly repair leaky gut.
2. Raw Cultured Dairy. This dairy contains both probiotics and short-chain fatty acids, which can help to heal the gut. Pastured kefir, yogurt, amasai, butter, and raw cheese are some of the best.
3. Fermented Vegetables. These contain organic acids that balance intestinal pH and probiotics to support the gut. Sauerkraut, kimchi, and kvass are excellent sources.
4. Coconut Products. All coconut products are especially good for your gut. The mid-chain fatty acids in coconut are easier to digest than other fats and so better for leaky gut. Also, coconut kefir contains probiotics that support your digestive system.
5. Sprouted seeds. Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds that have been sprouted are great sources of fiber that can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria. But if you have severe leaky gut, you may need to start out getting your fiber from steamed vegetables and fruit.
Also, consuming foods that have anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, such as grass-fed beef, lamb, and wild-caught fish like salmon, is beneficial.
Top 5 Supplements
There are many supplements that support your digestive health, but I believe the most beneficial are L-glutamine, probiotics, digestive enzymes, aloe vera juice, and licorice root.
1. Probiotics. Probiotics are the most important supplement to take because they help replenish good bacteria and crowd out bad bacteria. I recommend getting probiotics in both food and supplement form.
2. Digestive Enzymes. Digestive enzymes ensure that foods are fully digested, decreasing the chance that partially digested food particles and proteins damage your gut wall.
3. L-Glutamine. L-glutamine is critical for any program designed to heal leaky gut. Glutamine is an essential amino acid that is anti-inflammatory and necessary for the growth and repair of your intestinal lining. L-glutamine acts like a protector and coats your cell walls, acting as a repellent to irritants.
4. Licorice Root (DGL). Licorice root is an adaptogenic herb that helps balance cortisol levels and improves acid production in the stomach. DGL supports the body’s natural processes for maintaining the mucosal lining of the stomach and duodenum. This herb is especially beneficial if someone’s leaky gut is being caused by emotional stress.
5. Quercetin. Quercetin has been shown to improve gut barrier function by sealing the gut because it supports creation of tight junction proteins. It also stabilizes mast cells and reduces the release of histamine, which is common in food intolerance.
If you can follow the above protocol, you will be well on your way to healing your gut for good.
This article is provided for information only and is not meant to prescribe medical care. Please consult a physician for treatment of any medical problems.
Dr. Josh Axe is the founder of Exodus Health Center, one of the largest wellness clinics in the United States. This article was edited for brevity and originally published at GreenMedInfo.com. Join their free newsletter. Read the full version at bit.ly/1AKejbp.