Why People Are Talking About Leaky Gut
The term ‘Leaky Gut’ is becoming increasingly familiar as literally millions of people worldwide, experience problems with widespread inflammation and immune system illnesses.
Leaky gut is not recognized as a medical diagnosis by mainstream medicine. However, many naturopaths and functional medicine practitioners think leaky gut syndrome is linked to a variety of conditions.
The good news is that choosing the best foods to heal leaky gut goes a long way towards making improvements in your gut health. These foods are not only nutritious but taste great and can be easily incorporated into your regular diet.
How Do You Know If You Have Leaky Gut?
Some of the most common symptoms of leaky gut include bloating, digestive issues, fatigue, skin issues and sensitivity to food types that were not previously a problem for you.
There are many other conditions now associated with leaky gut such as:
- Nutritional Deficiencies
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Weight gain
- Joint pain
- Thyroid Conditions
- Syndrome X
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Celiac Disease
How Does Your Gut Become Leaky?
The health of your gut plays an extremely important part in overall good health. Numerous symptoms can develop if you have a leaky gut as it affects so many body systems.
It’s now becoming increasingly apparent to more of the general population just how important gut health is to overall well-being.
Leaky gut is brought on by the triple whammy of our fast paced stressful lifestyles, eating unhealthy processed food full of chemical additives, and the overuse of antibiotics.
- Eating a poor diet leads to an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria (dysbiosis) in your gut causing damage to the mucosal lining of the intestines.
- Antibiotics, steroid medication and over the counter pain relief such as ibuprofen and aspirin irritate the intestinal lining and causes damage to the mucosal layers.
Your gut lining then becomes permeable and the tight junctions or tiny gaps in the gut lining open. The damage caused leads to the condition known as ‘leaky gut’.
When your gut is ‘leaky’ it allows food proteins, bacteria and toxic waste products to enter the bloodstream rather than staying within the gut.
Once in the bloodstream your body registers them as foreign invaders. This then sets up an autoimmune response within the body which takes the form of allergic and inflammatory reactions and symptoms start to appear alerting you that something is wrong.
Luckily, we know there are several foods that have a beneficial effect on the gut and gut lining. These foods provide nutrients, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, prebiotics and probiotics needed to not only heal your gut but keep it functioning in a healthy condition.
3 Steps To Healing A Leaky Gut
In order to decrease the inflammatory response, the first step to healing a leaky gut should be to carry out food sensitivity testing to determine if you are sensitive to any foods.
An elimination diet removing the offending foods from your regular diet will aid greatly in kick-starting the healing process. Over a period of time, once you have healed your gut, you may be able to re-introduce these foods gradually and carefully back into your regular diet again.
5 Foods To Avoid
The fastest way to start healing a leaky gut is to remove foods you are sensitive to as well as:
- Artificial Sweeteners and Refined Sugar
- Regular Dairy Products
These foods can be difficult to digest and your digestive system needs a rest from having to work so hard. This will allow it to allocate more energy to the important task of healing.
Giving up bread and pasta containing gluten might be one of the best things you can do as part of a protocol for healing your gut.
- Zonulin is a protein increased by consuming gluten which breaks apart the tight junctions of the digestive tract. So avoiding gluten is important when healing a leaky gut.
- Grains – Not all grains have gluten, however they contain phytic acid as a protective coating that your body has difficulty breaking down and the result is inflammation of your gut. Sprouted gluten free grains may be eaten in moderate quantities, but it’s best to avoid them completely in the early healing stages.
- Sugar – If you have any form of yeast overgrowth or SIBO you should also avoid all types of sugar including honey, maple syrup, regular milk and fruit. Yeast overgrowth and SIBO are also linked to leaky gut syndrome and yeast feeds on sugar.
Giving up pasta was more difficult for me than giving up bread I must admit. But, there is the added benefit of reducing the amount of carbs you are eating when you skip pasta. I did miss being able to enjoy a bowl of bolognese or pesto sauce with pasta.
Then a friend introduced me to ‘zoodles’, noodles made from zucchini and I found I was still able to enjoy my favorite pasta sauces and, making noodles from zucchini or sweet potato is really easy with a spiralizer.
How Long Does It Take To Heal A Leaky Gut?
It can take quite a long time for full gut healing to take place. In my case it took approximately two years to heal my gut completely.
I had a number of things going on, including a stubborn parasitic gut infection and a candida yeast infection. Both of those also had to be treated and eliminated resulting in a lot of gut healing work that had to be carried out at the same time.
My gut health had been deteriorating for several years, so I was prepared to do whatever necessary in order to feel better and knew it couldn’t be achieved overnight.
Suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, I had so many symptoms, with more popping up seemingly on a weekly basis.
Even the slightest improvement in any of my symptoms was cause for celebration for me. I knew patience was needed to heal my gut issues.
At the beginning of my gut healing journey I also used a great supplement recommended by my naturopath to soothe my irritated gut and help provide much needed gut healing nutrients.
Of course, the time taken for leaky gut healing will be dependent on how bad the damage is to your gut and how willing you are to adhere to a healthy gut healing protocol.
The surface area of your intestines measures approximately 300 square meters, which is a pretty big area, with the cells of your gut lining constantly regenerating.
A Harvard study states that the intestine is the most highly regenerative organ in the human body. Which means the good news is that the gut lining, known as the epithelium, regenerates completely every five to seven days.
However, for some people who have no idea that they are sensitive to gluten until they carry out testing, healing can take some time. In order for the inflammation to reduce sufficiently from eating gluten, healing may take around 6 months.
Each particular case is individual and you will need the guidance of your naturopath/functional medicine practitioner as you go through the stages of your gut healing protocol.
Healing will be gradual, however during the process you will start to experience small incremental improvements along the way and symptoms will start to reduce in number and severity indicating you are on the right track.
If you are like me and dealing with many symptoms all at once, even a small reduction in any of those symptoms will feel like a major victory.
These small ‘victories’ will encourage you to keep on keeping on with your gut healing protocol, knowing that you are heading in the right direction. Patience and persistence will pay off over time.
You may have to remove several of your favorite foods from your diet, but don’t worry there are some great tasting and nutritious foods you can add into your diet that will be extremely beneficial, not only to your gut but to your overall health.
Best Foods To Heal Leaky Gut
So now you know the foods you should avoid in order to begin healing your leaky gut. It probably seems like most of the foods you are used to eating are now no longer a part of your daily diet. So what on earth CAN you eat to rebuild your gut?
Stay away from the centre aisle supermarket shelves. Better yet, get acquainted with your independent high street butcher, local veggie shops, and local farmers markets.
In general a diet low in processed food consisting of fresh organic vegetables, organic pasture fed lamb, beef and poultry, wild caught fish, organic eggs and healthy fat is best while healing leaky gut.
The more you can eliminate processed foods that irritate your gut, the faster you can heal it.
1. BONE BROTH
Containing collagen and amino acids, bone broth can help heal the mucosal barrier of the gut. Drinking one or two cups of free-range grass fed beef or chicken bone broth each day can provide great healing benefits.
When did we stop consuming foods containing healing broths? I blame the low calorie/fat- free era for it. Growing up in a cold climate, I was brought up on soups and stews which contained the nutrients from broth my mother cooked up regularly on the stove top to feed the family.
Not only were these foods nutritious, but necessary as she had a large family to feed with a limited budget to do so. We had soups and stews made with the broth from ham hocks, mutton and chicken.
Try this easy and delicious chicken bone broth recipe as a way to get started. In the beginning stages of gut healing it is important to drink as much bone broth as possible.
Bone broth needs to be gently simmered for many hours in order to extract the healing minerals from the bones. A great way to do this by using a slow cooker as it can be simply set and left to safely simmer away when you are working.
Due to the required long cooking time you should also ensure you are making your healthy bone broth in a non toxic ceramic lined slow cooker. You don’t want any nasty chemicals from a non stick liner potentially leaching into your broth.
I admit, it can get tiresome chugging down cups of bone broth each day. If you reach this stage, here are some ideas for ways to incorporate broth into your diet.
The sticky, wobbly quality of gelatin makes it beneficial to health as it helps form cartilage and connective tissue in the body which assists in providing elasticity for your joints.
Additionally, as a component of bone broth, it provides amino acids like glycine found to be helpful in healing the gut lining.
Glycine is also important to help balance digestive enzymes so necessary to digest food properly. Without adequate digestive enzymes, you can experience common digestive issues like bloating, indigestion and acid reflux.
One great source of gelatin is homemade bone broths as mentioned above. However, the additional benefits of gelatin can be further incorporated by including pasture- raised grass fed beef gelatin powder to healthy and delicious dessert recipes like this gut friendly and sugar free coconut lime panna cotta recipe.
You can also add a teaspoon of grass fed gelatin powder to healthy smoothies, or try making healthy sugar free gummy bears. These are just a few simple ideas for adding gelatin into your regular diet.
Containing medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), coconut products are great for gut healing. This type of fat is very easy to digest making it great for gut healing. Additionally, coconut has antimicrobial and anti fungal qualities which enable it to destroy bad bacteria and candida in the gut too.
Coconut can easily be added into your diet by using the milk as a base for smoothies, delicious curries and desserts.
Coconut yogurt is also becoming increasingly more widely available.
You can use coconut flour for baking as a gluten free substitute for standard wheat flour. Coconut flour also acts as a prebiotic that helps feed the probiotics in your gut. Healthy breads, muffins and slices can all be made using coconut flour.
Coconut oil can also be used for sauteing and frying and you can add it to healthy smoothies too.
Try my delicious panna cotta recipe mentioned above. The base is coconut milk rather than dairy and includes grass fed gelatin as the setting agent. This means you get two great gut healing ingredients in one recipe coconut and gelatin. Give it a try!
Containing both short chain fatty acids and probiotics, raw cultured dairy from pasture fed animals such as yoghurt and kefir can help heal the gut. Yoghurt and kefir are great sources of probiotics. If raw dairy is not tolerated, coconut kefir and yoghurt can be used instead.
Kefir has been used for centuries in Europe and Asia and is a great way to boost digestive health.
It is packed with nutrients and probiotics helping contribute to a healthy immune system.
Made using starter grains which are a combination of beneficial yeasts and bacteria that react with the milk or liquid kefir makes for a lightly fermented drink.
5. OMEGA 3 FATS
Naturally anti inflammatory foods like wild caught fish, grass fed lamb and beef, flaxseeds and sea vegetables are very beneficial in healing a leaky gut.
This study found that Omega 3 fatty acids play a part in creating a healthy gut biome.
Stay away from farmed fish and choose good fish sources of Omega 3 fats such as Alaskan salmon, mackerel and herrings.
6. FERMENTED VEGETABLES
Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi have been used for centuries for their gut supportive probiotic quality. Containing organic acids which balance the pH of the gut and probiotics to supply the good bacteria the gut needs, they are a great source of natural probiotics.
It is essential to get the balance of friendly bacteria right for your gut to be in good health.
Eating a couple of small portions of fermented vegetables each day provides trillions of this good bacteria to your gut.
Luckily, fermented vegetables are probably one of the easiest healthy probiotic containing foods to make at home. You can very quickly make several jars of crunchy fermented vegetables and sauerkraut using this simple fermentation kit.
Putting It All Together
As a first step, carry out testing to find out if you have any food sensitivities. Remove the offending foods as well as any highly inflammatory foods from your diet.
Replace these foods with the delicious gut healing foods mentioned above and try including them every day. Be consistent with your diet and patient as it can take some time to heal a leaky gut.
Please feel free to leave any comments or questions you have below, I’ll be happy to get back to you.