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A Guide to Leaky Gut Syndrome and How to Heal It Naturally

A Guide to Leaky Gut Syndrome and How to Heal It Naturally

What do you think when you hear the term “leaky gut?” While most natural and alternative healthcare practitioners will understand it to mean increased intestinal permeability, the average person – and even many conventional physicians – may not. While there still exists some debate surrounding the recognition of leaky gut syndrome as a true medical condition, the host of gastrointestinal and non-GI symptoms that are attributed to it are certainly cause for further study.

What Is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut syndrome is believed to be the result of damage to your intestinal lining, which makes it less capable of protecting your body’s internal environment and filtering vital nutrients and other biological substances – both good and bad. When the small intestine is not bound by tight junctions, antigens and other biological substances from undigested proteins and fats to bacteria can pass (or “leak”) through it and into your bloodstream. The lining of the small intestine is only one cell deep, so when it is compromised, the toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles in your gut have complete, unregulated access to your bloodstream and, subsequently, your immune system.

“All Disease Begins in the Gut”

Hippocrates, who is often touted as the father of modern medicine, is reported to have said that “all disease begins in the gut,” and modern research has now shown that he was correct in his premise.  I see it in my practice every day: poor gut health leads to many more symptoms and underlying problems than those you might presume, and having a “leaky gut” causes more than just the expected GI symptoms. Leaky gut triggers an inflammatory autoimmune response throughout your body which lead can to many more common health concerns. We have seen dozens of these labs in my practice, and the correlation between labs that suggest severe leaky gut/increased intestinal permeability and autoimmune conditions like celiac, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, Crohn’s, and others is very strong. Other well-documented diseases and health issues that can arise from having a permeable gut include allergies, asthma, autism, eczema and psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, IBD, food sensitivities, thyroid issues, and much more.

What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?

So what causes leaky gut? In seeing hundreds of patients each year, I have come to the conclusion there are five main contributors to poor gut health.

1. Chronic Stress

The first contributor to poor gut health starts with ill-managed and chronic stress, which manifests in increased or severely suppressed cortisol.  Increased catecholamines (a type of neurotransmitter) from stress also play a role in breaking down mucosal lining, which can be found all along your digestive tract from your esophagus (esophageal mucosa) to your intestine (intestinal mucosa).

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2. Medication

The second contributors that will disrupt your gut health are pharmaceuticals and common medications like antibiotics, antacids, and corticosteroids. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are not targeted meaning that when you take these medications, they don’t just work on the intended target; they will also impact the good (we experience and generally accept this in the abundance of side effects of the medications we take). Antibiotics, one of the most commonly prescribed medications today, for instance, are known to destroy the beneficial bacteria in your gut and can cause a variety of other health issues. Even common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like acetaminophen and ibuprofen don’t come without risks, which is why it’s best to always consult with your doctor for guidance on medication and look to a healthy lifestyle and natural remedies as your first line of defense.

3. Infection

A third common cause of leaky gut is parasitic, bacterial, and fungal infections. In my practice, we can and commonly do run the GI Maps or Bio-Health 401H panel to screen for these common gut infections, and get you back on the path to health if an infection is identified.

4. Hormonal Imbalance

The fourth contributor to leaky gut syndrome is hormonal issues.  A poorly functioning thyroid, sustained elevation of cortisol levels, too much or too little of hormones like estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone can all impact and damage the lining of your intestine making it permeable for antigens.

5. Poor Diet

The fifth and probably most prominent contributor to poor gut health and syndromes like leaky gut is also the most avoidable: poor diet.  Poor nutrition plays an essential role in the deterioration of your gut’s microbiome. Many of the prime examples of foods and drinks that will harm your gut are staples of the North American diet: alcohol, gluten containing products (like bread, bagels, and cereal), dairy, overly processed foods, refined sugars, and the poor quality and unhealthy oils and trans fats used in many of the foods offered in fast food restaurants.

How to Heal Your Gut Naturally

While it is important to understand what leaky gut and intestinal permeability means and to examine its root causes, even more critical is learning how to heal your gut naturally.  For the purposes of this article, we will focus on food as medicine as I believe a great deal of improvement can come from your diet and nutrition alone. Just as important as knowing what not to eat is knowing what foods promote gut health. These are some easy lifestyle and diet changes that anyone can make.

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Top 5 Foods for Leaky Gut Syndrome

In addition to eating a healthy diet that is low in processed foods and high in whole foods, there are some foods that I recommend to patients who are looking to heal their gut and support overall gut health.

Bone Broth

One food product that is excellent for healing the gut is bone broth. It contains both proline and glycine (amino acids that can help heal your damaged cell walls) as well as collagen which is great at “holding the body together,” so to speak. Collagen is found in some of the most important structural elements of the body from bones to tendons to joints. While simple to make, bone broth requires the right ingredients and a lot of time. While many people regularly make bone broth at home, there are also a growing number of distributors across the United States and Canada that will ship bone broth to your front door.

Fermented Foods

Another very helpful food in promoting gut health is fermented vegetables. They contain natural probiotics and organic acids that help balance intestinal pH. Fermented vegetables are a long-standing culinary tradition in many cultures. While the Germans are known for their sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), Korea is known for kimchi (made from a variety of fermented vegetables and spices) and Russia for kvass (a fermented grain beverage). Whether you grew up with fermented vegetables as a common side dish or not, including them in your diet can do wonders for your intestinal health. While fermented vegetables pack the extra healthy punch of natural probiotics, a point worth mentioning is that good old steamed vegetables and fruits are also helpful in healing a severe leaky gut.

Cultured Dairy

This gut-healthy food is a staple in my family’s home and contains both short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and probiotics: cultured dairy. I know, first I mention dairy as a common dietary cause behind poor gut health, and now I tell you it’s a good choice for your overall gut health. While many people are sensitive to dairy in its most common forms (think a big glass of milk or cheese on your pizza), cultured dairy products impact the body differently. Some examples of healthy cultured dairy products include kefir, high-quality strained yogurts, and even butter made from grass-fed milk. These healthy options may not always taste the best when compared to their sugary counterparts like flavored yogurts and ice cream, but they are excellent for your gut health.

Sprouted Seeds

Another food category that is beneficial for your gut is sprouted seeds, which are seeds that have been allowed to germinate, a natural process that reduces anti-nutritional compounds in the seed. Sprouted flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are among those I recommend. These sprouted seeds are great sources of fiber and other nutrients that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.

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Coconut Oil

I also recommend introducing select medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) like unrefined coconut oil into your kitchen and diet. I enjoy it with my morning tea and as a cooking oil. Coconut oil is easier to digest than other fats (due to its structure) so this makes it easier on your digestive system.

The Bottom Line for Your Gut Health

While you don’t have to eat all of these gut-healthy foods every day to reap the benefits, try combining them to get as many as possible. For example, mixing coconut oil and kefir gets you your probiotics and your healthy fats in one tasty snack.  These foods will help you optimize your gut flora and heal the damage that has been done to your intestine over the years. If you suffer from any symptoms or illnesses associated with leaky gut, I strongly urge you to start with simple diet changes so you can begin your journey back to health and vitality.

Mike, FDN, PT

www.mikedaciuk.com

info@mikedaciuk.com

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About the Author:

After completing his Degree at Ryerson University and spending 15 years in Corporate, he graduated from the Functional Diagnostic Nutrition program in California and is now the CEO of Interactive Body Balance where he oversees a vibrant functional medicine health practice. Transitioning from Corporate to the entrepreneurial paradigm has involved seeing patients and clients via the conventional method but also virtually. He has authored the popular self-help book titled “The Transformation From Within” and the Functional Medicine Book ” How To Restore Your Health”, hosts the highly ranked ITunes Podcast called Interactive Body Balance, is creating multiple online health courses while also presenting to audiences around the world.

Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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