“Leaky gut.” It seems like everyone’s either talking about it or has it, or has it and is talking about it, but…
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WHAT IS LEAKY GUT?
Leaky gut is when the walls of the small intestine become too permeable, and allow bacteria and toxins to pass, or, “leak” through into the bloodstream.
How does this happen?
The small intestine is naturally permeable, meaning, that it has tiny openings, known as, “tight junctions,” which allow the nutrients from our food to pass through the walls of our intestine into our bloodstream. This is referred to as “intestinal permeability.”
But, over time, these tight junctions can become loose – this is called "increased intestinal permeability" – and things that shouldn’t, i.e. bacteria and toxins, can pass into our bloodstream along with the nutrients from our food.
WHY IS LEAKY GUT A PROBLEM?
When things enter your bloodstream that are not supposed to be there, your body sees them as “foreign invaders.” Your immune system kicks on and goes into attack mode to combat these invaders, this immune response can be categorized as inflammation or an inflammatory response.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF LEAKY GUT?
Inflammation from leaky gut can show up in a number of ways including (but not limited to)…
- Puffy eyes
- Skin issues
- Weight fluctuations
- Joint pain
- Digestive issues: bloating / gas
WHAT CAUSES LEAKY GUT?
It’s important to note that leaky gut is not a recognized medical diagnosis. In fact, some medical professionals deny that it even exists. However, PMS was not a recognized medical diagnosis until 1931 and, that certainly doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist, amiright ladies?
ANYWHO, a protein called zonulin is the only KNOWN regulator of intestinal permeability. When it's activated in genetically susceptible people, it can lead to leaky gut. Two factors that trigger the release of zonulin are bacteria in the intestines and gluten.
In addition to zonulin, there are other factors, mostly of those of modern life that are also believed to play a role in making the gut more permeable:
We know, we know, sugar is the devil. But we’re not talking about naturally-occurring sugar here. We’re talking the processed, white stuff. And excessive amounts of it – a diet high in refined, processed sugar, particularly fructose (i.e. high fructose corn syrup, soda, candy, etc.) has been shown to harm the barrier function of the intestinal wall. (Source 1, Source 2)
NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs):
These are things like over-the-counter pain meds. So, next time, instead of popping three Advil at the sign of any minor ache or pain, take a minute to consider if you REALLLLY need it. (Source 3, Source 4, Source 5)
Your best, bio-available sources of vitamin A come from beef liver, cod liver oil, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, broccoli, and sweet red peppers. The best source of vitamin D? Sunlight: direct, mid-day sun exposure to your chest and torso for 10-15 minutes a day.
Basically, the cause of every bad thing in the world, chronic stress – which can be mental, emotional, environmental, dietary, or physical (even too much exercise counts!) has been found to be a contributing factor to multiple gastrointestinal disorders, including leaky gut. (Source 11)
While yeast is naturally present in the gut, an overgrowth of yeast (which, coincidentally, can be brought on by all of the previously listed factors, may contribute to leaky gut. (Source 12)
Sugar, alcohol, OTC pain meds, and stress…
Sooooo basically anyone that went to college probably has leaky gut.
Just kidding. Kind of…
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of inflammation and can identify with these lifestyle factors – either now or in the past – you might want to consider giving your gut a little TLC.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
Try to mitigate the lifestyle factors listed above, i.e. cut down on the processed sugar, alcohol, and stress. Common sense stuff, but easier said than done, we will admit.
To further help support your gut, stay tuned for our next post:
THE BEST FOODS FOR DIGESTIVE HEALTH