Pipes running into nothing from a house

What is Leaky Gut?


If you have been with me for a while, you likely know that I struggled with digestive issues for most of my life. You can read more on my personal journey in my Food Philosophy statement should you wish to do so. Whereas I managed to get better and (largely) live pain free these days, I know how important gut health is in order to be and feel healthy overall. Today, I wanted to touch on a topic that people may or may not be familiar with. But that I, personally, believe is super important though: What is Leaky Gut.

Water with lemon in a glass jar and some oranges and honey on the side
Anda Ambrosini auf Unsplash

Why Do We Need a Healthy Gut?

So I just said that a healthy gut (one that is also not leaking) is important for health overall. But why? If our gut is not healthy, it usually means that our entire bodily system is not well overall too. If you think about: 80% of your immune system resides in your gut. 90% of serotonin is also produced in your gut. Serotonin is our happy hormone. If your gut is unwell, it usually means that you are likely struggling overall. Your gut also has a direct connection to your brain and supports it in regulating mood, digestion, and sleep. Have you ever noticed that after, e.g. a bout of diarrhea your brain is really foggy and you are struggling to concentrate. That is part of that connection.

Coffee with a coffee filter and and hot water being poured through it
Eiliv Aceron on Unsplash

What is Leaky Gut?

If our guts are not healthy, our immune system will be activated and starts to work overtime. Our immune system is there to defend us and it needs to do a hell of a job. We are eating loads of “foreign” (i.e. food) substances and bacteria that enter our system through the stomach and gut every day.

Our intestinal tract, the one all our food broken down into its individual components is right next to our blood stream and immune system. These two are only separated by one cell of gut lining. On the one side is food and waste products (i.e. poop), and on the other side of the lining is your blood stream and your immune system. The idea is that the food and waste products each stay on their side of the equation and the nutrients that we need in order to support our body are filtered through the lining and then hit the blood stream. From there, they get transported to where they need to be transported to. Think of it as a coffee filter that is only meant to let through the “good” stuff and not the “bad” stuff that makes the coffee unpleasant.

Leaky gut can cause a whole range of challenges for your body

When the lining is broken – through microtears or higher damage – not only the nutrients extracted but also food and waste products hit our immune system, which usually results in an inflammatory response.

Scientific evidence has caught up with what some scientists have suspected for a while. Inflammation in our bodies – too much of it and the wrong kind – can cause a range of challenges. From premature aging to hormone dysregulation. Most Western chronic diseases are rooted in inflammation. Diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, autism, depression, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

A woman who is sitting down and holding her head due to a headache
Aiony Haust on Unsplash

How Do We Experience a Leaky Gut?

A leaky gut can show up as a range of symptoms. Above, I have listed the most extreme ones. You could also be experiencing food sensitivities, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, or gas. But it does not stop there. Skin issues such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis can be signs of a leaky gut. If you experience a lot of brain fog, joint pain, or head aches it could also point to a leaky gut.

Roasted sausages on a baking tray
Amr Taha™ on Unsplash

Why Do We Get a Leaky Gut?

Unfortunately, our lifestyles are one of the biggest contributors to a leaky gut. Whereas there is a range of things that can cause it, it is usually driven by our diet. Highly processed foods, foods that are low in fiber, and high inflammatory foods (ones with gluten and sugar) can all damage our gut lining. In fact, every time we eat gluten we get microtears in our gut lining. For some people they heal a lot faster than for others. Antibiotics, advil, steroids, and acid blocking medication can also lead to a leaky gut.

All of these factors influence the microbiome and can cause it to change, which can lead to a leaky gut. There are also certain environmental toxins which are harmful towards our gut. Pesticides, plastic, heavy metals, and glypholsate to name a few. The EWG site has fantastic resources to check what chemicals are most commonly in your environment and what you can do to reduce them. I have linked it here.

Stress can also be a contributor to leaky gut. And last but not least, I want to mention high fructose corn syrup. In order for our bodies to absorb fructose, it has to produce a lot of energy and work. We need ATP in order to complete the process. But ATP also supports the gut lining and so, if we are depleting ATP we are also weakening the gut lining. You can learn more about ATP specifically in my post about What are Mitochondria.

Colorful veggies on a plate
Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

How Do You Heal a Leaky Gut?

Admittedly, this topic is not “fun”. But it is fundamental to our health. I can tell you from my own experience that healing your gut also has extended benefits on all other areas of your life. So, how do you heal a leaky gut?

It perhaps makes sense to work with a health care practitioner of your choice. Likely from a functional medicine perspective. If that is not available to you at this time, or you want to try this on your own, start by trying the following:

  • Remove the highly processed stuff from your diet in order to get rid of bad bacteria in your gut
  • Look out for foods that irritating to your gut personally. This can be gluten, soy, eggs, sugar, alcohol, steroids, etc.
  • Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins (I will reference the EWG post one more time here)
  • Eat the rainbow in terms of fruits and veggies so that you get a variety of antioxidants into your body. Be sure to also consume loads of really good pro- and prebiotic foods. Bone broth is also excellent in order to support gut healing
  • Consider adding micronutrients such as zinc, magnesium, selenium, glutamine, curcumine, evening primrose oil, and vitamin A (always consult with a health care practitioner prior) to your diet

Fixing and treating your gut is an important part of being healthy. You will feel better in so many ways – simply by fixing your gut. The path may not be easy, but you will get there 🙏🏻. Beautiful cover photo by Tania Alieksanenko on Unsplash.

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