Today our bodies are under more strain than ever before. With our environment and food containing increasing amounts of chemical traces and our stress levels on the rise it’s no wonder most of us are dealing with inflammation and its resulting health issues.

In recent years one such condition, known commonly as leaky gut, has gained notoriety as a possible root cause for many chronic illnesses such as type one diabetes, skin conditions, autoimmune disorders and cancers. Though the links between leaky gut and how it affects the body are still unclear, one thing is certain: more Americans are dealing with this condition than ever before. The good news is that following a leaky gut diet can greatly help in healing from this condition.

In this article we’ll take a look into exactly what leaky gut is, the causes, and the surprising diet and lifestyle choices that have been shown to help people get their lives back and heal.

We’ve all Heard of Leaky Gut, but What Exactly is it and How Does it Affect our Bodies?

“Gut” is just a simple word for the digestive system, which starts in the mouth, travels down the throat into the stomach, through both the large and small intestine, and actually includes organs such as the gallbladder and pancreas.

Leaky gut is a common name for a medical condition known as increased intestinal permeability.  In simple terms this means that the protective lining of the intestines, which normally keeps nutrients in to be used by the body, has become excessively permeable or “leaky” allowing these nutrients to pass outside of the intestine.

Our intestines are large and complex in how they work- contrary to popular belief they are not simply an empty track they contain many working parts which help us to turn our food into fuel.

When our intestines are healthy, the intestinal barrier can act as a gateway which controls what gets absorbed into our systems and what gets filtered out as waste. Knowing this, we can see that the gut by nature is somewhat leaky by design. This is how we absorb our food. However, when this protective barrier begins to break down, larger openings are created that let larger waste particles such as bacteria and toxins pass through that otherwise would have been eliminated from the body.

The body is incredibly wise, and the immune system knows that these waste products don’t belong where they have been allowed to go due to this increased permeability. It is because of these runaway waste products that the immune system starts an inflammatory response causing all kinds of resulting issues for the rest of the systems of the body. Over time these “leaks” can become bigger and more permeable, allowing more and more toxins and bacteria to escape, and creating inflammation that is chronic. This chronic inflammation then causes a myriad of health conditions that can keep you from living your fullest life.

How do I know if I have a Leaky Gut?

Symptoms of leaky gut can vary from person to person but often include:

  • General fatigue and a feeling of just not being yourself
  • Stomach pain that persists despite conventional treatment
  • Lasting joint pain
  • Brain fog or confusion
  • Headache
  • Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies
  • Skin rashes and conditions such as eczema
  • Acne
  • Constipation, bloating, or diarrhea
  • Thyroid conditions

While it is still largely unknown exactly what causes leaky gut, we do know that there are several key players such as repeated use of medications such as antibiotics, stress, consumption of processed foods such as sugar, gluten, and alcohol. We are also becoming increasingly aware how an imbalance in the normal flora of gut bacteria affects gut permeability as well.

Disease and the Link to Leaky Gut Syndrome

Two thousand years ago the ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrities said “all disease begins in the gut” giving us valuable insight into a truth we are still in the process of understanding.  As it turns out he wasn’t so far off! As we discovered, leaky gut syndrome is now known to be at the root cause of many uncomfortable symptoms but left untreated for too long and these symptoms can become bigger issues that show up as chronic disease.  This is because the intestinal barrier has the critically important job of maintaining balance in the gut which accounts for upwards of 70% of the cells in the immune system.

The gut also houses our microbiome which makes up the ecosystem of beneficial bacteria with many important jobs such as regulating our nervous system, hormone balance, and digestion. Knowing all these important functions it is clear to see how when the intestinal lining becomes too permeable it leads to all sorts of problems for the rest of the body. Over a long period of time the leaky gut continues to create problems.

Examples of diseases beginning to be linked to intestinal permeability include:

  • Autoimmune disease
  • Certain cancers
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Asthma
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Allergies
  • Infections
  • Celiac disease
  • Parkinsons
  • Brain fog

The Link to Nutrition?

Since a Leaky gut is primarily an inflammatory condition one of the most powerful things that can be done on the road to healing is starting with being mindful of what goes into your body. This makes eating an anti-inflammatory diet that is right for you is the best place to get started! For example eating foods such as gluten can increase a protein in your body known as which increases intestinal permeability. Following a specifically tailored diet that is right for your body will help it begin to heal and decrease your symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, and muscle pain. If you feel overwhelmed the best place to start is to simply incorporate more of the following foods into your diet such as:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • High quality organic grass-fed bone broths
  • Organic nuts and seeds
  • Healthy fats such as avocado and coconut oils
  • Organic grass fed or wild protein sources like fish and bison
  • Whole organic herbs and spices
  • Gluten free whole grains
  • Cultured dairy products such as Kiefer
  • Foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids
  • A high quality probiotic supplement

When dealing with the beginning stages of healing leaky gut is is always best to avoid these foods:

  • Gluten and wheat-based products of any kind
  • Conventional dairy products such as cow’s milk
  • Foods that contain lectins
  • Sugar
  • Foods that are processed or come in packaging
  • Industrial seed oils such as sesame seed oil
  • Alcohol

What Can We do About It?

If you are experiencing some or any of these symptoms it is important to speak about them with a licensed practitioner who can help you figure out which foods, you should be adding and which ones you should be avoiding when aiming to heal your leaky gut. No two people are alike so it is important to seek the guidance of a knowledgeable health care provider who can help get you back on your path to wholeness and help you on your road to healing. With the right diet, the right care, and time, a leaky gut can be overcome, and you can get yourself back to feeling and being your best self.