Did you know that gut dysfunction – sometimes known as leaky gut – is connected to a host of other medical concerns from skin issues to hormone health and everything in between? The gut, for certain, has a greater role in overall health than we currently appreciate.
Many people, that I’ve come across deal with all kinds of digestive issues from heartburn to IBS, feel as if they can’t do anything about it. Sadly, too little attention is paid to healthy digestion. Most folks just deal with the pain and discomfort of digestive issues without knowing that there is plenty to do about it naturally, with minimal side effects and maximal results.
There is an entire gamut of reasons to heal your digestive concerns!
It is important to note that you should first have your stomach and digestive issues evaluated and treated by a trusted health care provider before starting on a journey to heal your digestion. There can be dysfunction at many steps along the way, and it is crucial to work with an expert on these matters to get to and treat the root of the problem. For example, ulcers and IBS can both cause pain, but have very different causes and need to be addressed very differently.
However, for many people who experience an array of symptoms from allergies to joint pain to mental health to hormone issues, leaky gut may be the problem.
What is leaky gut?
Intestinal permeability syndrome – known informally as leaky gut– is a state of inflammation in the small intestine that causes larger-than-normal gaps between the intestinal cells, causing a “leakage” of food particles beyond the digestive system. Even though these substances are benign foods, the immune system then recognizes these particles as foreign and mounts an inflammatory response against them. But the repercussions of leaky gut go beyond Crohn’s and IBS.
Leaky gut syndrome is currently being explored as a factor in diabetes, neuro-psychiatric disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and a wide array of other conditions. I know that many of my patients with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions, for example, benefit from treating their leaky gut with dietary, nutritional and supplemental remedies. Since most nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine, leaky gut may result in nutritional deficiencies as inflammation can inhibit proper absorption of vitamins and minerals.
How does leaky gut happen?
Leaky gut is often the result of what scientists are now recognizing to be non-celiac gluten sensitivity, where ingesting gluten causes an inflammatory response in the digestive system. Some people may be sensitive to other foods and experience the same consequences of gut inflammation and the host of symptoms that come along with it. Neuronal and hormonal factors also play a role in gut permeability – the more I research into hormones and the GI system, the more I realize the two are intricately connected and profoundly influence one-another. Other causes of inflammation, such as chronic stress which releases the inflammatory hormone cortisol, have also been shown to alter digestive function and permeability.
What can I do to heal a leaky gut?
There are many approaches to heal this issue. Naturopathic doctors often speak of the “heal and seal” approach: our aim is to reduce intestinal inflammation and permeability by calming the digestive tract and filling the gaps between cells. Some of the following solutions may be useful to try, but consulting a professional such as a naturopathic doctor who is well-versed in leaky gut syndrome will help you to more effectively eradicate the problem.
Avoidance of inflammatory foods – one of the best ways to help your gut to heal itself is to avoid the foods that cause the inflammation in the first place. For many people, those foods include gluten (in wheat, rye, barley, and some other grains), and occasionally dairy, but the foods may be different for each person. Many folks with autoimmune conditions benefit from an autoimmune diet – eliminating common food allergens such as wheat, dairy, egg, and some nightshade vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes.
Glutamine – this amino acid is conditionally essential – in other words, the body normally synthesizes enough of it unless it undergoes tremendous stress. Glutamine provides food for the cells of the gut and is used to repair damaged tissue – most of its research and use in hospital settings is for tissue healing in burn victims. Glutamine is an important nutrient for cells lining the gut and studies show it can help repair gut tissue. In practice, I like to combine glutamine with other compounds and nutrients that decrease inflammation and benefit the intestinal lining – most if not all of which are included in Designs for Health’s GI Revive, which is one of my favourite remedies for healing the gut.
Probiotics – are a must-have for a healthy gut. Many different factors such as foods, stress and hormones can throw off our gut bacteria, which is an important predictor of healthy mood, metabolism, and immunity. Most grocery-store probiotics are fairly weak, and recent research shows that it can be quite difficult to favourably shift gut bacteria. This does not mean you shouldn’t try, it means you should consult with your naturopath for their preferred strains and manufacturers of probiotics.
Bone broth – an old remedy gaining recent popularity, bone broth is often touted as the cure-all for gut and joint related concerns. Yes, bone broth is a source of collagen, but investigations have shown us it is not the rich source of minerals that some people once thought it to be. There may be many benefits to bone broth, but few, if any, scientific studies confirm those claims so far.
Fasting – though it may sound downright torturous at first, fasting was shown in a meta-analysis (which is a scientific analysis of several research studies) to benefit factors of gut permeability and can decrease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Although these effects need to be further studied on a larger scale, fasting may form a portion of your treatment plan. Fasting should always be medically supervised, so please consult your healthcare provider before undertaking a fast. (I will be further reviewing the benefits of intermittent fasting in a seminar for Wellness Wednesdays here at Wallis for Wellness. Stay tuned for updates!)
The gut is the gateway to good health. If you suffer from mild digestive complaints and struggle with other health concerns, your gut may be both the problem and the solution. See a Naturopathic Doctor to get to the cause of your health concerns – which likely originate in your gut.
For more information on how food timing and fasting can help with your health concerns, including diabetes, healthy weight, brain health and leaky gut and more, come visit us at the clinic.