If you experience chronic and unexplained digestive issues like gas, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea, it doesn’t mean you have to suffer.
Intestinal hyper-permeability, also called leaky gut, is becoming more common due to the combination of chronic stress, poor eating habits and lifestyle, and common associated conditions. If you haven’t heard the term, “leaky gut syndrome,” let’s review what it is, how to find out if you have it, and most importantly, what you can do about it.
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What is leaky gut?
There is a single layer of cells along your intestinal lining that are connected by what we call tight junctions. There are small gaps in the tight junctions that allow water and nutrients to pass through into the bloodstream.
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Poor diet, toxins, chronic stress, and infections for example, can cause damage to the tight junctions, making the gaps larger and allowing the intestinal wall to become more permeable, creating a “leaky gut.
” If that happens, then larger particles- toxins, microbes, or undigested food proteins- can get through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream more easily.
Your immune system views these larger particles as foreign materials and goes on the attack, creating a cascade of inflammatory or immune reactions and can cause symptoms ranging from digestive issues (bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation) to headaches, joint pain, nutrient deficiencies, brain fog, fatigue, and rashes.
How do you know if you have leaky gut?
Certain medical conditions are associated with increased intestinal hyperpermeability, including PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), type 1 and 2 diabetes, celiac disease, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and auto-immune diseases. There are also several diet, lifestyle, and digestive imbalances that can increase the likelihood of leaky gut, including;
- Excessive use of NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Poor diet- high intake of added sugars and processed foods
- Excess alcohol intake
- Chronic stress
- Food sensitivities
- SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
- Gastrointestinal infections (bacteria, yeast,or parasites)
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The approach I take to assessing if you have leaky gut includes understanding your health history, symptoms, and current diet and lifestyle.
I may recommend testing that can help identify both the likelihood and underlying causes of leaky gut including; food sensitivity test, zonulin and comprehensive stool testing, or SIBO testing.
Leaky gut is a sign that there is an underlying imbalance that needs to be addressed in order to heal your gut.
What do you do if you have leaky gut?
The cornerstone of addressing leaky gut is to identify and treat the underlying causes as well as any contributing diet and lifestyle factors. In addition, I can help guide you using the 4R approach to heal your gut!
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Remove any foods that may be causing damage to the digestive tract. This will be different for each person, but in general, recommendations may include removing processed foods or individual food sensitivities, or even following a specific therapeutic diet.
Replace any nutrients that can help support healthy digestion. Herbs that are digestive bitters or tonics can help stimulate the production of stomach acid, digestive enzymes, or the release of bile in the digestive tract.
Herbs like dandelion, goldenseal, burdock, artichoke, and gentian are great for digestion and can be taken before meals to support digestion.
In some cases, taking broad spectrum pancreatic enzymes, betaine hydrochloric acid, or bile acids may be the best way to support digestion in the stomach and small intestines while healing your gut.
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Repair the damage. Removing food triggers and supporting proper digestion is part of the process. But, specific nutrients like L-glutamine and herbs like slippery elm, marshmallow root, aloe vera, or (deglycyrrhizinated) licorice root can help to heal the lining of your digestive tract.
Restore your microbiome. Your microbiome is the collection of healthy bacteria that live in your digestive track and influence your digestion, absorption, immune system, mood, and hormones.
Eating high quality fermented foods or taking a probiotic supplement can help replenish your gut microbes on a regular basis. Supporting your microbiome is an essential way to improve and prevent leaky gut.
If you’ve been struggling with chronic digestive issues, fatigue, brain fog or any other unexplained symptoms, then I am the doctor for you! When it comes to gut issues, the sooner you get them addressed the better and the healthier your will be.
Schedule a video appointment with me and I’ll take the time to uncover the root causes of your symptoms and help you heal using individualized natural solutions!
At WellnessScript, we solve health problems others can’t. Our Video appointments are great for everyone as they fit into our crazy and hectic schedules and ensure that you have the time you need to feel heard and get all of your questions answered.
Co-editor and Creator: Akanksha S