Digestive health, more specifically our gut health, has become one of the most researched and popular topics in the medical world. However, gut health has always been an important subject when it comes to overall digestive health as well as mental health and overall physical health in general. In the words of the ancient Greek physician and father of modern medicine, Hippocrates – “All diseases begin in the gut”. Let’s elaborate a bit more. According to the saying, almost all of our health and immunity problems have their roots in the gut. It is our gut health and its good bacteria that determine our overall health, blood flow, immune health, digestive tract health, energy levels, metabolism rate, and even skin problems and physical performance. And according to numerous medical researches and clinical tests, it is 100% true. The reason is that our entire body functions around nutrition and so does the digestive system.
Without healthy gastrointestinal symptoms and flourishing gut microbiota, nutrition absorption becomes impossible. It also affects the functions of energy production, metabolism regulation, healthy blood flow, detoxification of the intestines by flushing out unwanted fibers, etc. Without proper nutrition and digestion, our body becomes an empty shell that cannot function without energy, bone or muscle strength, cardiovascular strength, and low blood quantity and quality. It eventually can lead to our demise as well. So, it is very important that you take proper care of the gut and its highly beneficial gut bacteria as well. And one of the many kinds of gut health problems includes Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Leaky Gut Syndrome or LGS is a diagnosable disease that originates from the intestines of the gut. This syndrome attacks our immune health, hinders the digestive process of the body, and disrupts gut health severely. The consequences of having this health problem can be painful and result in energy depletion, chronic pain and cramps, skin problems, hair loss, extreme stress, and food sensitivity. It includes painful symptoms of constipation, bloating, indigestion, and many more that have been discussed below.
The gut includes all the organs from the mouth to the anus. All those organs contribute to the functions of taking in food, breaking it down to food molecules and particles, digesting it, releasing energy, absorbing the nutrients, and flushing out the insoluble fibers and molecules by excretion. So, in particular, when we are concerned about leaky gut, we focus on the intestines, gut microbiome, and immunity. There are other organs involved as well, but these three are the most important parts of LGS.
What causes Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS)?
Our digestive tract consists of the intestines and inside these intestines, there are various enzymes and gut bacteria. As food particles break down in the stomach and reach the intestines there are microorganisms, there might be bad or harmful bacteria in the mix along with nutrition and fibers. The intestinal lining is tightly packed to prevent the leakage of gut bacteria into the bloodstream of the body. These walls also have gaps in them that allow the passage of water and nutrition into the bloodstream. When intestinal walls weaken and the gaps of the wall start widening, it leads to germs, toxins, undigested food particles, and bad bacteria escaping into the bloodstream. Thereby causing several damages to the gut lining, immunity, and energy levels. The intestinal lining muscles can weaken due to numerous factors, sometimes due to chronic disease, stress, gut health problems, malnutrition, prebiotic and probiotic deficiency, etc. This is called the LGS caused due to increased intestinal permeability.
A recent study behind this phenomenon of leaky gut and increased intestinal permeability, done in 2013 directs at zonulin as the trigger. Zonulin is a human protein that is released in the small intestine. The cause behind the excessive release of zonulin is the bad bacteria and gluten that are consumed through unhealthy foods. This protein-like compound loosens the tight intestinal lining and allows leakage. This is why a gluten-free diet is always recommended to heal and regulate gut health.
How does Leaky Gut Syndrome affect the well-being of your gut and overall health?
It can lead to health problems and diseases such as –
- Celiac disease
- Autoimmune diseases
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Gut dysbiosis
- Ulcerative colitis and
- Physical weakness that stems from these illnesses.
It is still unsure to researchers and medical experts if these diseases are caused because of the Leaky Gut Syndrome. However, according to the studies conducted on this matter, it has come to light that all of the above-mentioned diseases and health conditions are closely related to LGS. In fact, even mental conditions such as autism have LGS as one of their main symptoms. So, it is undoubtedly related to all such illnesses.
Leaky gut symptoms: How to know if you have a leaky gut?
When we feel a little pain in our belly, it is most likely we treat it like a common case of indigestion, unhealthy digestion symptoms, or gas. And we immediately try to soothe that pain through medication or home remedies. And yes, the home remedies do in fact work, maybe even better than certain medication or supplements sometimes. However, sometimes that pain might not be just a simple, treatable, or non-diagnosable stomach issue. It might be Leaky Gut Syndrome. But how would you recognize it in the first place? Try to pay attention to your body and look for these leaky gut symptoms.
Symptoms of leaky gut include –
- Bloating. It is caused by the inability of your digestive system to properly absorb nutrients from food. This can happen if you have a leaky gut. Because when the undigested food particles and bacteria from the gut lining leak into the bloodstream, the immune cells pick up on them and the body starts producing antibodies against them. Which causes bloating.
- Diarrhea and constipation. Food sensitivity increases tenfold if you are suffering from LGS.
- Inflammation, cramps and pain. This is one of the most common symptoms of a leaky gut. As the cavity on the intestinal walls starts growing and the flow of nutrition and gut bacteria in two separate regions start mixing. It leads to a disruption of beneficial bacteria in the gut environment and thus inflicts painful inflammation.
- Other various symptoms and consequences of having this health disorder are – eczema, headaches, fatigue, alarming energy loss, acne, arthritis, celiac disease, and joint pain.
What foods should you avoid to heal leaky gut and some leaky gut diet alternatives?
Here are all the leaky gut foods you should stay away from during this period of time. And what leaky gut diet plan foods should you replace them with.
- Avoid High gluten grains
- What to eat as its alternative? – Gluten-free food alternatives like corn and rice flour products.
- Avoid Wheat-based products
- What to eat as its alternative? – Gluten-free grains like quinoa and healthy alternatives to glutenous food.
- Avoid Alcoholic beverages
- What to eat as its alternative? – Fruit smoothies, herbal tea, and lemonade refreshers! Find a lot of healthful drink alternatives to alcoholic and soda beverages.
- Avoid Salad Dressings and Sauces
- What to eat as its alternative? – Healthy condiments like the probiotic food kimchi (fermented cabbage), avocado dressings, pesto, bone broth, hummus, cultured Greek yogurt or kefir yogurt, etc.
- Avoid Artificial sweeteners
- What to eat as its alternative? – Natural sweeteners like fruit purées, agave syrup, small amounts of raw organic honey, etc.
- Avoid Oils
- What to eat as its alternative? – Essential oils and herbal oils may be used to soothe the inflammation caused due to increased intestinal permeability.
- Avoid Dairy products
- What to eat as its alternative? – Try lactose-free low-fat milk and dairy products. Plant-based milk and dairy products are also safe to use.
- Avoid Baked, Refined, or Processed Goods
- What to eat as its alternative? – Organic food products, dark chocolate, cocoa, sourdough bread, eggs, and more healthy non-inflammatory food products that are not high in protein, carb, and fiber content.
- Avoid Grains and legumes
- What to eat as its alternative? – Oats, probiotic foods, fruits (highly recommended – apples, oranges, cranberries, pomegranate juices, blueberries, and bananas), green vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
What happens to your gut when you avoid these foods?
Avoiding these foods can lead to a healthy gut environment and lower the risks of dysbiosis (the disbalance in the gut microbes). As explained earlier, the germs and bacteria in the gut lining that reside in the small intestines escape into the bloodstream due to weak intestinal cells that loosen the tight junctions to increase intestinal permeability. If you can avoid eating these foods, then there is a much less chance of their active bacterial properties and undigested food particles disrupting the gut flora. Thereby, minimizing the harm to your gut health and the beneficial bacteria residing in your gut.
Following a healthy leaky gut diet plan and also healthy fats also helps promote faster healing of your gut and intestinal permeability and reduces inflammation. There are multiple ways to include these healthy foods in your daily diet. One of the best ways to do so is by cutting down on unnecessary and even potentially damaging foods and beverages from your daily diet. Include all the nutritious alternatives to them to attain maximum benefit.
Also, try to include natural dietary supplements that have quality natural and patented ingredients.
Why should you avoid these foods?
Gluten should be avoided due to its inflammatory nature. It affects the intestines and enlarges pores on the wall cavity. Making the small intestine more permeable and leaky.
A protein called lectin is present in wheat and wheat products that are known for causing inflammation and damage to the intestinal tracts.
Aside from that, various protein-rich foods contain several microorganisms that are useful to the body with a healthy gut. However, these microbes cannot be easily digested by a leaky gut. And it can cause inflammation, cramps, and diarrhea. Therefore, it’s wise to go off too much protein-rich food for some time if you have a leaky gut.
Refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and flavored beverages, including alcohol contain inflammatory properties. Therefore, their consumption should be limited or completely cut off.
Alcohol may be the reason why a leaky gut even happened in the first place. It wears down the protective walls and linings of the intestines, reduces the nutrition absorption rate of the gut, and plays a role in producing excessive bile in the liver, leading to diarrhea, inflammation, and an imbalanced gut microbiome, and liver damage.
The disturbance in bacteria in the gut leads to indigestion of the protein found in milk and dairy products. This causes digestive health distress and on regular consumption, it can cause harm to the gut.
Grains, junk food, and GMO (genetically modified foods) also contain similar non-digestible inflammatory properties that make them hard to be easily digested by the gut.
Baked products contain refined carbohydrates that one must avoid if they are suffering from a leaky gut. They also contain gluten and other non-digestible ingredients in them.
Our body cannot handle the proper digestion of grains and legumes with Leaky Gut Syndrome. This is why they must be avoided during this time period. They can cause inflammation and increase the damage to the intestinal wall.
A Myth! Foods that you thought were bad for your gut
If you are nervous about what foods are safe for you and help in healing leaky gut, we got you. These foods may be termed as bad and not nutritious for your gut during the leaky gut. However, they have immense health benefits and can provide anti-inflammatory healing properties to your gut. Here are some leaky gut diet myths and cooking hack myths debunked for you.
- Fermented foods are actually great for your gut because of their probiotic effects. The bacteria found in fermented foods are immensely helpful for your gut microbiome and add to the beneficial bacteria. They are friendly bacteria and not harmful.
- Probiotic foods (excluding dairy products) are also very important for healing intestinal permeability and promoting digestive health, as it restores the healthy bacteria in your gut flora.
- Try to include healthy foods like bone broth, miso, sauerkraut, and kimchi into your leaky gut diet as well.
- Certain carbs are not all bad for your gut. Try low glycaemic carbs and slow carbs foods like sweet potatoes, cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, and arugula.
- And no, unlike what many critics claim, it is not always recommended for you to cook all foods and food products. Cooking certain foods may bring out the nutrition however many food products have such nutritional properties that get lost when cooked. Look for healthful recipes that contain no gut harming ingredients and spices.
- Yes, too many high-fiber foods may be harsh on your gut. However nonstarchy and high fiber foods like cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens can provide healthy antioxidants and prebiotic fiber for your gut microbiome and improve digestive health.
- Also, take note of your high fiber consumption content. Replace insoluble fiber with soluble fibers in your leaky diet plan for fewer IBS symptoms and a low-risk rate.
Conclusion: Wellbeing tips and how to maintain a balanced and healthy diet!
Here are some tips for you to get through your day with a healthy gut and pain-free mobility.
- Get enough rest and sleep.
- Reducing stress is mandatory and it can be managed with enough sleep.
- Get on probiotic and prebiotic supplements. They help heal and repair your gut, and intestinal permeability and provide you with long-term benefits on your energy levels and immunity.
- Do not take any nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or use medically approved alternatives to get relief from the pain.
- Try to create a healthier schedule for your weekly meals that contain balanced meals and enough nutrients.
- Wash your vegetables and fruits with warm water and store them in clean sanitized places to avoid bacteria.
- Try to fill in your body’s deficiencies. Provide your body with enough nourishments so that the immune system health strengthens.
- Don’t go on extreme or nutrition deficient diets for unhealthy weight loss.
- Try limiting the usage of antibiotics during this period. To explain this reason simply – the immune cells in your body produce enough antibodies when you have a leaky gut. This causes bloating which comes as a symptom of a leaky gut.
- Exercise regularly to improve digestive health, blood flow and energy levels.
- Stop bad habits like smoking and drinking. They lower the body’s immunity, blood quality, gut health, and lung health and promotes deterioration of the heart and cells.
Sources linked below:
Tim Koping (Medical M.Sc Physiology, Founder of Original Eating, and a Professor at a Leading Health Institute in the US): I am a medical M.Sc physiology graduate and the founder of Original Eating, an online resource that provides information and advice about healthy eating. I have a strong interest in health and nutrition, and I am passionate about helping people to eat well and live healthily. I have over 15 years of experience working in the health and nutrition industry, and I am dedicated to providing accurate, reliable information that can help people to make healthy choices for themselves. My work with Original Eating has been featured in publications such as Men’s Health and more, and I am frequently consulted by journalists for expert commentary on dietary issues. However, in my spare time, I also enjoy reading, hiking, and playing the guitar.