What Is "Leaky Gut" And What An Anti-Inflammatory Diet Is All About ?
What is Leaky Gut?
The human digestive tract is the place where food is broken down and nutrients are absorbed by our body. We all know how important the digestive system is when it comes to protecting your body from harmful substances. These walls of the intestines act as barriers, controlling what enters the bloodstream to be transported to our organs.
The tight junctions are those small gaps in the intestinal wall that allow water and nutrients to pass through, while blocking the passage of harmful substances. The intestinal permeability however refers to the process where substances pass through the intestinal wall very easily. When the tight junctions of intestinal walls become loose, the gut becomes weaker and permeable, and this will eventually allow bacteria and toxins to pass from the gut into our bloodstream. That’s what we call a "leaky gut."
Leaky gut syndrome (sometimes called intestinal permeability) occurs when the layer of cells that line the intestinal wall become irritated and stop working the way they should. Meaning the intestinal lining has became more porous, with more holes developing that are larger in size and the screening out process is no longer functioning properly. The fallout results in larger, undigested food molecules and other “bad stuff” (yeast, toxins, and all other forms of waste) that your body normally doesn’t allow through, to flow freely into your bloodstream.
Normally, these cells act as a protective barrier that absorbs particles from food, toxins, and other microorganisms. But if the cells get damaged, they can become porous or leaky. So instead of absorbing those particles, the particles make their way into the bloodstream.
In short, leaky gut leads to inflammation, linked to conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or inflammatory bowel disease. Other common stomach irritants, including NSAID pain relievers, alcohol, and antibiotics are thought to be culprits, too. Some integrative and alternative practitioners also say that a diet high in inflammatory foods—like gluten, sugar, or dairy—could also have an impact. “These foods are hard to digest, so they wear down the digestive system and leave undigested food particles in the gut—triggering inflammation,” says Dr. Taz Bhatia, an integrative health expert and also the author of The 21-Day Belly Fix.
Our body’s first reaction to all of these “foreign” stuff happening would be to fight, fight,fight. We always put our liver to work. sometimes overtime. Why is this happening? Because the liver screens out all the particles that our intestinal lining was supposed to be in charge of. Sometimes, in most cases, our liver liver has no chance in winning some battles or of keeping up with the constant flow of waste that goes straight into our blood together with all the toxins, either undigested food molecules, yeast, or other stuff that we accumulate into our boduy.
What happens with the imune sysyem? It wakes up and it is obviously not happy. It will turn on the full battle mode and will start fighting the toxins, trying to take them our ASAP. Sometimes, the body cannot keep up with this and cannot fight with all of the toxins, … causing them to inflame.
Inflammation is also an immune response and causes even more stress on your system. Now that your body is focused on fighting the large war, the little battles are starting to be ignored, like filtering out the blood, calming inflamed areas of the body, fighting bacteria, regulating the gut, etc. This process flow can lead to your body fighting itself and an array of autoimmune diseases such as Chronic Fatigue, MS, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis, and Fibromyalgia. The next step your body will do is that it will begin to produce antibody soldiers that have this mission: fighting against toxins.
If you’re having sensitivities to more than a dozen foods, you likely have leaky gut. Any undigested foods that are absorbed into the blood stream are now considered enemies of the state, and your immune system will develop reactions to many of them, leading to food intolerances.
Leaky Gut symptoms can vary from one person to another, considering the level of damage and of course, the affected tissues. If you find yourself having multiple food sensitivities, you can think of the fact that your immune system is developing antibodies to everything that you’re eating. If you feel that your body has some nutritional deficiencies, this is a sign that maybe you are lacking of vitamins and minerals from the improper breakdown of food in your intestines. The uncomfortable things such as diarrhea and constipation are some serious signs of inflammation of the intestinal walls. Having skin rashes? This is another way your body’s trying to take our the toxins through the skin perforations.
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a certified doctor of natural medicine, doctor of chiropractic and clinical nutritionist with a passion to help people get healthy by using food as medicine. In 2008, he started a functional medicine center in Nashville, USA which grew to become one of the most renowned clinics in the world. In his post titled 4 Steps to Heal Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Disease he thoroughly explains what you can do on a daily basis.
The cause of Leaky Gut is going hand in hand with the following contributors:
– Diet: Consuming high amounts of refined sugars, processed foods, preservatives, refined flours, and flavorings introduces massive amounts of chemicals into the body that is seen as toxic. If your body has a hard time keeping up the toxins start to build up and cause inflammation.
– Chronic Stress: Chronic stress almost always results in a suppressed immune system. A weakened immune system cannot handle doing it’s normal job and gets overrun with pathogens very quickly. This increases overall gut inflammation leading to increased permeability of the intestinal lining.
– Inflammation: Any type of inflammation in the gut can lead to leaky gut. This can be brought on by low stomach acid (which passes undigested food into the small intestine irritating everything it passes by), yeast overgrowth (Candida), bacteria overgrowth, infection, parasites and excessive environmental toxins.
– Medications: Any medication prescriptions or even over-the-counter pain relievers with Aspirin or Acetaminophen irritate the intestinal lining and decrease the mucosal levels (a membrane produces mucus on the intestinal lining as a natural protective measure). This can start or help to continue the inflammation cycle (more bacteria, yeast, and digestion issues) and promotes an increase in permeability.
– Yeast: Yeast is found in normal gut flora but as soon as it begins to get out of hand it mutates into a multi-celled fungus (usually Candida) that grows tentacles to grab onto the intestinal lining and stay put, consequently making its own holes in the lining.
– Lack of Zinc: Zinc is a critical piece of maintaining a strong intestinal lining. A deficiency of the vitamin can lead to the mucosal lining losing strength and becoming more permeable. There are studies that show that supplementing with Zinc when it is deficient can dramatically improve intestinal lining integrity.
Here at Akasha we often have integrative nutrition courses led by our 2 medical doctors specialised in Integrative Medicine teaching how to heal the gut and what an anti inflammatory diet is all about. Within our food here on retreat we promote a menu that is gluten free, dairy free & processed sugar free, a light detoxifying menu eliminating potential causes of inflammantion and high in essential nutrients.
Visit our retreat schedule here for details on our next vegan yoga retreats.
If you suffer from these conditions please check with a medical advisor as none of the information on our website and on this blog constitutes medical advice.
Foods to eat?
As previously mentioned, leaky gut syndrome isn’t an official medical diagnosis, therefore, we have no recommended treatment. Don’t worry though! You can do plenty of things to improve your digestive health. If you are thinking of joining us in Transylvania, we must let you know that all of our all-inclusive yoga retreats are designed and use this concept:
You can start incorporating a diet in your life that is rich in foods that aid the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
The following foods are great options for improving your digestive health:
Roots and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash and turnips, yams and carrots
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, arugula, beetroot, Swiss chard, spinach, ginger, mushrooms, carrots, kale, eggplant and zucchini.
Fermented vegetables: Kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut and miso.
Fruit: Coconut, grapes, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, oranges, mandarin, lemon, limes, passionfruit, bananas, blueberries, raspberries and papaya.
Sprouted seeds: Chia seeds, seeds, flax seeds, sunflower and more.
Gluten-free grains: Buckwheat, amaranth, rice (brown and white), teff, sorghum and gluten-free oats.
Healthy fats: Avocado, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
Fish: Salmon, herring, tuna and other omega-3-rich fish.
Eggs and Meats: Eggs, Lean cuts of chicken, beef, lamb and turkey.
Herbs and spices: All herbs and spices.
Cultured dairy products: Kefir, yogurt, traditional buttermilk and the one and only Greek yogurt.
Beverages: Bone broth, teas, coconut milk, nut milk, water and kombucha.
Nuts: Raw nuts including peanuts, almonds and nut-based products, such as nut milks.
Foods to Avoid
As any diet, avoiding certain foods is crucial. Some foods have been shown to cause inflammation in your body, which may promote the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria linked to many chronic diseases.
The following list contains foods that may harm your gut bacteria, trigger digestive symptoms and find yourself bloated, constipated and diarrhea:
Wheat-based products: Bread, wheat flour, couscous, pasta, cereals etc.
Gluten-containing grains: Barley, rye, triticale, bulgur, seitan, and oats.
Processed meats: Cold cuts, hot dogs, deli meats, bacon etc.
Baked goods: Cakes, pies, pastries, muffins, cookies, and pizza.
Snack foods: Crackers, muesli bars, popcorn, pretzels, etc.
Junk food: Fast foods, candy bars, potato chips, sugary cereals, etc.
Dairy products: Milk, ice cream and cheeses.
Refined oils: Canola, sunflower, soybean and safflower oils.
Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame, sucralose and saccharin.
Sauces: Salad dressings, as well as soy, teriyaki and hoisin sauce.
Beverages: Alcohol, sugary drinks and carbonated beverages.
one day Sample Menu
We thought about a menu therefore, below is a healthy one-week sample menu for improving your digestive health. It promotes foods that will grow the health of your gut bacteria.
Breakfast: Blueberry, banana and Greek yogurt smoothie.
Lunch: Mixed green salad with sliced hard-boiled eggs.
Dinner: Beef and broccoli stir-fry with zucchini noodles and sauerkraut.
Breakfast: Omelet with veggies of your choice.
Lunch: Leftovers from Monday’s dinner.
Dinner: Seared salmon served with a fresh garden salad.
Breakfast: Blueberry, Greek yogurt and unsweetened almond milk smoothie.
Lunch: Homemade salmon, egg and veggie frittata.
Dinner: Grilled lemon chicken salad with a side of sauerkraut.
Breakfast: Gluten-free oatmeal with one-fourth cup raspberries.
Lunch: Leftovers from Wednesday’s dinner.
Dinner: Broiled steak with Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes.
Other Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
Although diet is key, here are sime other ways you can use to improve your gut’s health:
Take a probiotic supplement
Limit alcohol intake
Take into consideration that the leaky gut syndrome is not a diagnosis recognized by mainstream physicians, because there is little evidence to prove that it is actually a serious health problem. Sue to the fact that nowadays foods are getting all sorts of treatments, there is a chance that the leaky-gut syndrome to be felt by many of us.
To combat leaky gut syndrome, make sure you eat foods that promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, incorporate fruits in your daily life, cultured dairy products, healthy fats, lean meats and fibrous and fermented vegetables.
P.S.Avoid processed and refined junk foods