Leaky Gut, it’s as Yucky as it Sounds
(Video version can be found at my Facebook page – Peggy Smith Wellness, August 2, 2018)
The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, said, “All disease begins in the gut.” More than two millennia after his death, scientific research has now proven he was onto something all those years ago. For over three decades, study after study has been published discussing our growing understanding of immunity, gut function and how modern diets and lifestyles negatively contribute to overall health by damaging our digestive system. There is a specific kind of damage that is truly wrecking havoc and it is called leaky gut syndrome (that name is such a visual representation of what is truly happening). In the medical literature, leaky gut is often referred to as “intestinal hyperpermeability.”
The intestines are protected by a single layer of specialized cells. It is AMAZING when we consider that if this single layer of cells was stretched out and laid flat it has a surface area of two tennis courts, but is only one half the width of a strand of hair!! This huge, thin layer is all that separates the external environment from our internal biology! About 70-80% of our immune system lies right behind this thin barrier. It is what keeps toxins and food particles out of the bloodstream and lets nutrients and vitamins in. You might be thinking – how does it do that?? Kinda like kids (and sometimes hubbies) can have selective listening, our gut lining has what is called selective permeability. The lining is held together by tight junction proteins. They are like the gorilla glue of your gut lining. Leaky gut symptoms are a consequence of these intestinal tight-junctions malfunctioning.
When you have leaky gut, certain tiny particles that should never be able to enter your bloodstream start to make their way through. The body recognizes these things as foreign particles and goes on the defensive and elicits an immune response. If it goes on for an extended period of time the normal part of your immune response that serves to fight infections and diseases winds up over-performing, leading to chronic inflammation, which is at the root of most diseases.
Some of the underlying causes of leaky gut include:
- Poor diet — especially a diet that includes allergens and inflammatory foods
- Chronic stress – no one has a problem with that do they?
- Toxin overload — toxins include drug and alcohol consumption but we also come into contact with lots of toxins and chemicals in our daily lives that are much harder to avoid. The worst offenders for causing leaky gut include antibiotics, pesticides, aspirin and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
- Bacterial imbalance — also called dysbiosis, which means an imbalance between good and bad species of bacteria in your gut.
We really need to take leaky gut seriously as the chronic condition of hyperpermeability has been linked to numerous symptoms and health conditions. Some of those include.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s)
- Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (often referred to as SIBO)
- Celiac disease
- Respiratory infections
- Chronic inflammatory conditions (such as arthritis)
- Thyroid disorders
- Obesity-related metabolic diseases (Type II diabetes, heart disease)
- Autoimmune disease (lupus, MS, Type I diabetes, Hashimoto’s, to name a few)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Propensity towards weight gain or obesity
- Food sensitivities
- Mood issues and autism
While these diseases are linked to leaky gut syndrome, it’s not yet established that leaky gut causes any of these conditions, just that people who have leaky gut are more likely to have a number of other health problems. So while the scientific evidence has not yet proven that leaky gut syndrome is actually responsible for these conditions, it strongly suggests that leaky gut and other dysfunctions tend to occur simultaneously. For me, that is enough evidence to do what I can to “get my house in order”.
If you are interested in how you might do that as well I wanted to leave you with a few suggestions.
To help reduce bad bacteria:
1. LIMIT USE OF Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (EX. ALEVE, IBUPROFEN) – compromise the barrier function of the lining of the gut and change the gut flora
2. REDUCE USE OF ANTIBIOTICS – antibiotics can’t differentiate between bad bacteria that are making you sick and good bacteria that need to be in your gut. It kills them all which creates an imbalance – known as dysbiosis.
3. LIMIT USE OF ANTIBACTERIAL SOAPS AND CLEANING PRODUCTS – there is now evidence that long term use contributes to bacterial resistance to antibiotics and may have unanticipated hormonal effects. Our bodies need to be in contact with bacteria to develop natural immunities that keep us healthy. Children whose lives are too sterile are actually at a greater risk of developing seasonal allergies, food allergies, hay fever and other immune – related sensitives!
4. AVOID ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS – they change the population of gut bacteria that direct metabolism which can lead to obesity and diabetes. Artificial sweeteners enhance the populations of gut bacteria that are most efficient at pulling energy from food and turning it into fat.
To help promote good bacteria:
1. EAT LOTS OF PLANT FIBERS – broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (kale, cabbage and cauliflower)
2. EAT WHOLE GRAINS – has all three parts of the seed (the bran, the germ and the endosperm) Bulger, brown rice, oats, farro, quinoa
3. CONSUME FERMENTED FOODS – they directly inoculate your gut with healthy bacteria that crowd out the unhealthy bacteria. Examples include kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, kimchi, kefir
4. BUY LOCAL – has more nutrients, less likely to have chemicals on it, fewer hands have touched it.
If I can help in any way, don’t hesitate to reach out!
As always friends, Be WELL!!
XO – Peggy