Is Your Gut Health Optimum?
During my journey with chronic fatigue syndrome one of the major factors contributing to my poor health was a leaky gut. Being leaky wasn’t the only thing wrong with my gut, I also had dysbiosis, a parasite infection and candida overgrowth.
My poor gut was in trouble, I had all the signs leaky gut healing was needed, and bad gut health was contributing greatly to my chronic fatigue syndrome, no wonder I was so ill.
While starting protocols to eliminate the parasite and candida overgrowth at the same time I also started the important process of healing my leaky gut.
Feeling your absolute best needs to start with restoring your gut health to optimum. This is important if you are a healthy individual. But, having optimal gut health becomes crucial if you are dealing with a chronic illness, as I was.
If your digestive system isn’t working as it should, you will be unable to absorb much needed nutrients from your food and supplements.
Your complex digestive system is connected to all your other body systems. When your digestion isn’t working well, nothing else will work as it should.
You might be asking ‘Is leaky gut real’? Unfortunately, I experienced how having a leaky gut is VERY real and the truth of exactly how important good gut health is to your overall well-being.
Until I fixed the problems with my ailing gut health and leaky gut, I was unable to recover completely from chronic fatigue syndrome.
Hippocrates over 2000 years ago said ‘All disease begins in the gut’. I learned firsthand that he definitely had a point.
What Is Leaky Gut And How Does Your Gut Become Leaky?
Leaky gut syndrome is not new, but it is a seemingly increasing problem. Awareness is growing as research shows just how important good gut health is.
Evidence points to the relationship between leaky gut and several serious autoimmune conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus.
Digestion starts in the stomach, but most digestion and absorption of nutrients from your food happens in the intestines. Your intestines also play a major role in defending your body against toxins and pathogens.
Importantly, over 70% of your immune system is located in your gut.
When working well and in good order, the mucosa, cells lining the gut, link together securely creating a barrier of ‘tight junctions’ which regulates the types of substances passing into your bloodstream.
It allows nutrients through while keeping microbes, pathogens and toxins out. If any foreign substances do manage to wiggle through into your bloodstream, your immune system quickly goes into action and white blood cells are marshalled to eliminate the foreign invaders.
However, if the integrity of the mucosal lining becomes weak, gaps in the tight junctions occur and intestinal permeability, or leaky gut happens.
Now that your gut lining has suffered damage, undigested foreign protein, toxins and food particles leak into the bloodstream and overwhelm the immune system setting up an inflammatory response.
Problems may start in your digestive system, but an increase of inflammation can cause issues throughout your entire body.
How Do You Know You Have A Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut issues can start slowly and you may experience the odd symptom of indigestion, e.g., increased burping, occasional bloating or constipation etc.
But, if you ignore these initial symptoms they can lead to further and much worse symptoms throughout your body ending up contributing to a negative and serious effect on your overall health.
10 Signs Your Gut Could Be Leaky
- Digestive Disturbances – Bloating, diarrhea, constipation, belching, indigestion and gas.
- Cognitive Problems – Forgetfulness, difficulty with focus and concentration.
- Pain – Arthritis and painful joints.
- Food Sensitivities – You become increasingly sensitive to foods you normally eat without problems.
- Nutritional Deficiencies.
- Sugar and Carb cravings.
- Fatigue – Tiredness that is unrelenting.
- Weak Immune Function- You keep catching colds and infections easily.
- Skin Problems – Acne, Rosacea and Eczema can make an appearance or increase in severity.
- Changes In Mood – Depression, anxiety, or mood swings appear.
Is There A Leaky Gut Syndrome Test?
The Lactulose/Mannitol urine analysis test looks for lactulose and mannitol which are by- products of a leaky gut, however, some practitioners think this test is not terribly accurate and think it better to carry out testing according to your symptoms. This method is a bit more involved, and is more time consuming than the lactulose/Mannitol test, but will give you a more comprehensive idea of what is going on in your gut.
Food Sensitivity test
If you start to experience symptoms of food intolerance like sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose, coughing or skin rashes etc., this signals that your immune system is hyper-reactive. Your body may be experiencing almost everything as a threat including the foods you have commonly always eaten without any issues.
When this happens, your system starts producing antibodies to foods you eat with resulting food intolerances. Usually, the symptoms are very clear to see as you get an obvious reaction shortly after ingesting the food.
However, often the intolerance creates a low-grade form of systemic inflammation which develops over time and the symptoms are not so obvious.
Carrying out food sensitivity testing can show you which food types you are reacting to and guide you to eliminate them by finding alternative anti- inflammatory food choices which will help your system calm down.
Once inflammation is under control and you have healed your leaky gut, the offending foods can slowly and carefully be re-introduced back into your diet. Elimination diets are not supposed to be carried out forever.
Comprehensive Stool Testing
When your gut is leaky and your microbiome is out of balance, your gut can become susceptible to opportunistic parasitic infections and yeast overgrowth.
Parasite Infections – Are more common than many people think and are not only confined to developing countries, they are also common in western countries too.
Parasites can be evident to the human eye or microscopic, meaning in some cases you can have a serious parasite infection without knowing it.
Dysbiosis – If your gastrointestinal system has become weak you can also have gut dysbiosis. This means the balance between the good and bad bacteria is out of whack with the bad guys gaining the upper hand. Conditions such as SIBO can show up and opportunistic bacteria such as E. Coli and H Pylori can also take hold.
Candida – This form of yeast overgrowth occurs commonly with a leaky gut condition. Yeasts such as candida release toxins which is also an inflammatory trigger. The resulting inflammation adds to the damage of the gut lining.
All these conditions can be tested for with comprehensive stool testing. Once you know what you are dealing with a treatment protocol can be developed to rid you of any invaders or overgrowths and start getting your gut back into balance as you also treat your leaky gut.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
Sudden traumatic events like going through a divorce, suffering a concussion or other stressful event can cause your gut to become leaky.
If this is coupled with long term stress it can lead to a suppressed immune system which in turn leads to increased gut inflammation and your leaky gut condition will worsen.
Many commonly eaten foods such as grains, gluten, sugar, conventional dairy and refined processed food all contribute to inflammation and create damage to the gut lining. Lectins found in legumes can also cause damage to your gut.
Antibiotics, steroid medication and NSAIDS are also common gut wall irritants leading to your gut becoming leaky. While drinking unfiltered tap water and the chemicals from processed food are other reasons a leaky gut develops.
Even if you stick to eating unprocessed food, the pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables can also contribute. Your body sees these chemicals as foreign invaders and sets up an autoimmune response.
As you can see there are many reasons why you may end up with a leaky gut and a comprehensive review of your lifestyle and diet is needed before you can start any healing protocol.
How Do You Heal Leaky Gut?
Healing leaky gut can mean you need to make some changes to your diet. Are you a long- time lover of eating high quantities of processed and fast food? Then the changes you need to heal your gut will appear pretty drastic, less so if you already eat a basically healthy diet.
What Foods Should You Avoid If You Have Leaky Gut?
If you have carried out any of the tests mentioned above, this will guide you to any possible sensitivities and foods which you need to exclude from your diet for a while.
Additionally, there are some food types which you should avoid if you want your gut to heal.
- Refined carbs, processed grains and gluten.
- Eggs, meat and poultry raised on corn and cheap feed.
- Added sugars used in processed canned food, bread, snacks and confectionery.
- Refined vegetable oils such as corn, canola and GM soybean.
- Pasteurized dairy products.
- Trans fats used in packaged and processed foods.
- Non organic fruit and vegetables.
- Processed food containing chemicals and preservatives.
What Foods Should You Add That Heal Leaky Gut?
If you look at the above list and realize with dismay most of the foods on the list make up your normal daily diet, you’re probably wondering, what on earth CAN you eat?
Don’t worry, there are many foods you can add to your regular diet that not only help with gut healing but are delicious too. Your diet should be free of refined food. Concentrate on eating protein and vegetables, small amounts of fruit and limit grains to sprouted only. Include some nuts and seeds too.
You’ll have an adjustment period as you get used to shopping for and using some of these new foods. But, persevere as you’ll start feeling better and even enjoying some of the new foods. Over time your gut and general health will thank you.
Everyone is different, and we each respond in our own unique way to various foods. Many of these foods could be new to you, so try adding a couple at a time and check how your system reacts.
If you experience any new unwanted symptoms then drop that particular food. You will also need to take any food sensitivities, yeast overgrowth, histamine intolerance etc., into account too when deciding which foods to add for gut healing.
- Bone Broth – try this easy recipe for making your own at home
- Fermented Foods – Fermented vegetables, yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, kefir.
- Healthy Fats – Coconut Oil, avocado and extra virgin olive oil.
- Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
- Grass Fed Beef and Beef Gelatin
- Omega 3 Rich Fish – Wild caught salmon, herrings, sardines.
- Free Range Poultry and eggs.
Leaky Gut Treatment Supplements
There are some useful supplements that can provide further help with gut healing.
- Digestive Enzymes – It is important to take digestive enzymes on any gut healing protocol as they help break down the molecules in your food making it easier to process. Inflammation caused by food sensitivities and toxins in your gut can decrease the production of enzymes.
- Zinc – Studies show the importance of zinc for gut health as it is an essential nutrient needed to ensure the integrity of the gut wall.
- L Glutamine – Some people say L Glutamine is the most important supplement for healing leaky gut. It helps seal the tight junctions by enabling your gut cells to regenerate quickly. I used this supplement which contains L Glutamine and several other beneficial ingredients to help soothe your irritated gut and rebuild the lining all at the same time. It is a great supplement combining several ingredients in one easy to take powder, saving the need to buy a lot of different supplements.
How Can You Tell If Your Gut Is Healing?
The good news is that gut cells naturally turn over pretty fast, every few days in fact. This means that by removing irritant inflammatory foods and replacing them with gut healing foods, you can heal leaky gut quite quickly. Some people can see results in about one month.
However, if you have some of the other issues mentioned in this article e.g., candida or parasites, complete healing of your gut will take longer.
In my case due to my gut being in a pretty poor state with more than leaky gut symptoms to deal with, it took two years before all of my symptoms were gone and I felt fully healthy again.
Bottom line though, you’ll see signs leaky gut healing is taking place when your symptoms start reducing. This is the best indication that your efforts are paying off and your gut health is improving.
Putting It All Together
If you suspect you have leaky gut, carry out comprehensive stool testing in order to find out what exactly is going on in there. Food sensitivities may also be a factor and testing should be carried out to find the offending foods which you will need to eliminate for a period of time.
Remove unhealthy, inflammatory foods and replace them with healthy foods from the list. Try a few gut healing supplements to see what works for you. Before long, you’ll feel your symptoms start to reduce. Once full leaky gut healing has been achieved you’ll no longer experience any of the annoying symptoms, they’ll be a thing of the past.
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