Digestive problems, food allergies and sensitivities, and autoimmune diseases are becoming more and more common. Could this be a result of what is called “leaky gut”? Some nutritionists and doctors think so, and, because of this, focus their approach to these problems by healing the gut.
Leaky gut or intestinal permeability is a condition where the integrity of the intestinal wall has been compromised. This creates gaps in the intestinal wall that allow large, undigested food particles to pass through an immune layer and into the bloodstream. The body doesn’t recognize these large particles and turns the immune system into attack mode just like when bacteria or viruses pass into the body. All of this leads to a chronic state of inflammation which is the root cause of many of today’s diseases.
So, what causes leaky gut? Poor food choices, undiagnosed food sensitivities/allergies, and an imbalance in bacteria in the gut contribute to hyper-permeability. The good news is leaky gut can be reversed 100% through diet. Introducing fermented foods and sometimes probiotic supplementation along with anti-microbial saturated fats will help restore bacterial balance in the gut. Identifying food intolerances and removing them from the diet will help reduce inflammation and overstimulation of the immune system. Avoiding a diet high in processed foods and focusing on a natural, whole foods diet will also help heal the gut.
Good bacteria in the gut help reduce permeability and prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria, candida (yeast), fungi, parasites, and viruses. The good bacteria will help clean and seal up the gut. Fermented foods use to be a common staple in the diet, but nowadays most people never consume them. Fermented foods help colonize the gut with beneficial bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. Lacto-fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut are a great way to incorporate fermented foods into your daily diet.
Antimicrobial saturated fats include coconut oil and butter from grass-fed dairy cattle. These fats contain compounds that help combat unfriendly microorganisms in the gut. These microorganisms will damage the intestinal lining contributing to leaky gut. These fats are preferred for cooking and baking, and should be consumed daily.
The harder part of reducing leaky gut is identifying food sensitivities and/or allergies. A simple diet diary, sometimes, is all that is needed to identify the culprit. Writing down what you eat, when you eat it, and what symptoms are felt throughout the day will help identify foods that the body is sensitive to. Other times, a more rigorous process of identification is needed through an elimination/challenge diet. Common culprits are gluten, dairy, and soy, and a good place to start when trying to find out your food sensitivities.
Millions of Americans suffer from digestive disorders and spend a lot of money on treating the symptoms. Simple diet changes can be extremely beneficial and sometimes life changing. The dietary changes get to the root problem and heal the gut instead of masking the symptoms with medications. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” –Hippocrates