Leaky gut is a rarity; a rarity because a lot of people are afflicted by it yet it’s still considered a ‘taboo’ subject matter in the medical field this day and age. It has become a contentious point of debate between mainstream and holistic doctors for years. While the debate is ongoing, millions of people are suffering. When you have a leaky gut, most often than not, it would be misdiagnosed as other medical maladies like digestive diseases or even psychological and hormonal conditions. And the problems don’t stop there. You’d be given medications that only offer symptomatic relief which often worsen the condition in the long run.
So what exactly is this perplexing syndrome that confuses not just the sufferers but the entire medical community as well? In a nutshell, leaky gut syndrome is a medical condition where one’s intestinal lining has become too permeable or when the gaps between their cells become too wide. When this happens, ingested food can’t be properly screened out; allowing harmful chemicals or foreign matter to pass through the gut, into the bloodstream and to the rest of the body. As soon as foreign matter enters the bloodstream, it triggers a hyperactive immune response that results in inflammation. This condition may develop into an autoimmune disease when left unchecked for a long period of time.
Common Causes of Leaky Gut
Alcohol. It is one of the most widely abused substances the world over and has been known to affect almost every organ in the body; particularly those belonging to the digestive system. When taken in excess, alcohol elevates the acidity level in the stomach which then would lead into gastritis (inflamed stomach) and other intestinal and stomach ulcers. Excessive drinking stresses the liver and diminishes its ability to metabolize fats; leading to liver cirrhosis. Excessive alcohol intake can also irritate the walls of the gut and suppress the production of prostaglandins—substances that regulate inflammation and foster tissue repair just to name a few—contributing to the leaky gut syndrome.
Stress. When you’re stressed out, your body produces cytokines (small secreted proteins discharged by cells) resulting in inflammation. Constant stress weakens the body’s response to infection and causes digestive-related diseases to develop such as constipation, bloating, excessive digestive acid production, diarrhea, cramping and more. All of which contribute to the inflammation of the gut and once it’s inflamed, the permeability of the intestinal tract becomes too wide resulting in leaky gut syndrome.
Poor Diet. Eating unhealthy foods is one of your gut’s greatest enemies. Food items that contain MSG (Monosodium Glutamate), Hydrogenated fats (Trans-fatty Acids), Artificial Sweetener like Aspartame (E951) and basically everything you can find in processed foods should be avoided at all cost. You are what you eat and when it comes to processed junk foods, you’re basically eating toxins. These toxins can’t be effectively flushed out by the digestive system. They build up overtime and when that happens, your gut gets inflamed.
Medication. There are various drugs out there that have been known to aggravate leaky gut syndrome. Certain antibiotics, birth control pills, antacids, chemotherapeutic agents, steroid drugs and NSAIDS-non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can irritate the walls of the gut. Such medication should be avoided and whenever something of the sort is given to you, look for safer alternatives instead.
Healing Leaky Gut Syndrome
One of the best ways to healing your leaky gut is through natural means. It’s simple, effective and most of all economical. There are basically 3 steps to healing your gut naturally which I explained in great detail in the previous article. They are as follows:
- Treating Constipation— When you have constipation, there’s a big probability that you have a leaky gut. Normal transit time should be anywhere between 12 to 24 hours after every meal. When it takes longer, you are constipated. The most common mistake that anyone makes is to resort to over-the-counter laxatives that only provide temporary relief yet damage the gut through constant use. The most common drugs out there that should be avoided are Stimulant Laxatives such as Dulcolax, Ex-Lax etc. and Stool softeners like Colace and other similar medication. Instead of these medications, look for healthier alternatives like magnesium supplements, probiotics, water and proper diet.
- Treating the Inflammation—The first thing that you should do once your gut gets inflamed is to identify food intolerance. It’s trickier than what you might imagine it to be as food intolerance can often be misconstrued as food allergies. Just remember that unlike food allergies, food intolerances have immune reactions that don’t show up right away and only manifest 2-4 hours after every meal. Common symptoms include chronic diarrhea, insomnia, fatigue, IBM (irritable bowel syndrome), migraines, heartburn, skin eruptions, weight imbalances and more. If you experience any of these symptoms, you might have a leaky gut. After you’ve identified foods that you’re intolerant to, avoid them and look for healthier choices.
- Food Rotation—This is the final and probably the most demanding of all the steps as it requires careful planning and proper monitoring to be effective. Food rotation is a diet regimen where you’re only allowed to eat biologically related foods within a day for the whole duration of 4 days, hence the name. It’s a great way to determine foods that you are intolerant to. When undergoing this diet regimen, don’t forget to consult your doctor/nutritionist first and list the foods you’re allowed to eat in order to prevent health-related concerns from developing throughout the process. Print out the list and choose recipes that are quick and easy to prepare as well as those that are more suitable to your taste. There are plenty of free recipes out there so choose accordingly. Lastly, prepare a food journal that includes meal choices, date and time respectively. After every meal, list down the beverage and foods you’ve eaten and wait for 1-2 hours to record any bad reaction if ever there’s any. Compare your findings to subsequent journals and once you find out that there’s an identical bad reaction to the same food item in both journals, then you’ve just successfully identified which food you’re intolerant to. Remove the item immediately from your diet and wait for your leaky gut to completely heal before eating them again.
The leaky gut conundrum is unavoidable as of the moment but that doesn’t mean that we need to ignore it. The medical community is slowly recognizing it as a legitimate health concern. Opinions are changing and as soon as mainstream medicine jumps on the ‘leaky gut’ bandwagon, those who believe that it exists today would already be far ahead of them when that time comes. Let the doubters engage in counterproductive debates and let the believers start the healing process now!