I wrote this article for Hilary’s Eat Well (the best veggies burgers on planet Earth, trust me). Please email me if you have questions about the topic!
Or, 5 answers to: What the heck is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
What is leaky gut?
Leaky gut is actually, “leaky intestines”.
What’s an intestine, you ask?
Our small intestine is the sexy organ in our digestive tract that our food moves into after exiting the stomach and before entering the colon so it can… (how to say this without sounding shitty) find its way out of the body.
The intestinal wall is a thin and delicate thing. Our skin is about 7 cells thick, and our intestines are about 1 thick! Despite it sounding concerning, this organ is supposed to be thin and permeable; like mesh fabric. This allows all the smallest elements of our food to be mobilized where they are needed, and used up by our grateful cells.
So when does this whole “leaky” thing come into play?
The thin gut is lined with cells that can “tear” (tight-junctions between our cells are split apart), and these holes allow food into the bloodstream. As you can imagine, holes in your digestive system = food escapes before it’s fully broken down. It’s sort of like leaving the hair salon before you’ve gotten the full haircut. Nobody wants to see that. So the food isn’t “finished” being digested (or, made smaller, to drop the science jargon) and thus able to be used by the body. Our super-bod doesn’t recognize these substances and goes into ass kicking mode, only causing more problems.
What are some leaky gut symptoms?
● GI distress: diarrhea, gas, bloating, constipation
● Headaches, brain fog, memory loss
● Excessive fatigue
● Nutritional deficiencies
● Inflammation: acne, skin rashes, achy joints
How do we get it?
Let me count the ways: chronic stress, excessive drinking, use of NSAID’s, antibiotics or steroids, poor food choices, food allergies and moderate amounts of sugar all increase the “tears” and weaken our ability quickly rebuild the walls. Anything that is unkind to our fragile (Keira) intestines. Anything that doesn’t digest or break down fully.
How do we heal it?
Great question! I always say, it’s not what we do some of the time that matters, it’s what we do most of the time. That one cake you eat on your bday probably isn’t the culprit of your leaky gut as much as the daily sandwich you have when you are gluten-sensitive, or the morning yogurt when you can’t digest milk. It can be shocking how our small daily decisions add up to a whole lotta (tummy) ache. The general approach to healing is to:
1) identify allergens + sensitizing agents*
2) remove said agents
3) increase digestive efficiency:
● eat good things (ie; foods you aren’t allergic to, foods you can easily digest)
● chew well (seriously, like, more than you want)
● increase your good bacteria intake (probiotics are your friend)
● reduce stress (yoga, breathing, massages, sleep like a baby)
● stay hydrated (vodka isn’t water, even though they totally look like siblings)
*It takes time, but healing is possible!
Healing is often shown through symptoms lessening in severity. Some people choose to never re-introduce allergens, while others can handle a little in their occasional diet.