The Natural Way to Heal a Leaky Gut

Although the leaky gut is a widely experienced ailment, it is a poorly understood condition that remains a mystery as its many symptoms do not only vary from individual to individual but are also similar to those that occur in many other diseases. It is, therefore, not surprising that leaky gut has been associated with ailments of the gastrointestinal tract as well as non-gut related conditions such as anxiety and fatigue. Leaky Gut syndrome is hard to diagnose and has only recently been recognized as a separate medical condition. However, there are proven methods that have been shown to reverse leaky gut. If you identify with some of the symptoms listed below, or if you’ve already been diagnosed with leaky gut, then you’ll want to learn the natural way to heal a leaky gut so that you can experience a better quality of life.

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

While the term "leaky gut" may bring up visions of gaping holes in your gut, leaky gut actually refers to the increased permeability of the intestine. To understand what this means, let's take a step back and look at the digestive system at large.

The digestive system is made up of many organs that work together to break down the food you eat, absorb nutrients released during digestion, and eliminate all undigested matter from the body. Digestion of food takes place in the stomach through the action of enzymes to release nutrients. As the digested food moves into the small intestine, it absorbs the nutrients released from food for use by the body.

The process of absorption takes place on the surface of the inner wall of the small intestine that is lined with a layer of specialized epithelial cells linked together by tight junction (TJ) proteins. This intestinal lining is selective in its action, as it allows only nutrients and water to pass through its tiny pores into the bloodstream while blocking the entry of everything else present in the digested food. (1)

But in the leaky gut syndrome, the lining of the intestine is less selective and is unable to carry out selective absorption because the pores in the intestinal lining widen and become bigger. The increased intestinal permeability allows pathogens, toxins, bacteria and metabolic waste that would normally move on to the large intestine for excretion, to enter the bloodstream. The presence of foreign bodies in the bloodstream triggers an immune response to fight these entities resulting in inflammation that can go on to cause a wide array of symptoms. (2)

What Causes Leaky Gut?

There are several factors that could cause a leaky gut.

The first is in the genes; you may have been born with a genetic predisposition to a leaky gut. That is, you have a weaker intestinal lining and so may just have a higher risk of developing leaky gut syndrome.

Your lifestyle can also play a role in causing a leaky gut. Poor dietary habits that include a diet of highly processed, high fat, high sugar and low fiber foods could weaken the lining of the intestine over time and cause a leaky gut. People with high sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in whole grains, may be at a higher risk of developing intestinal permeability. Additional causes could include an imbalance of gut microflora and bacterial infection, both of which can affect intestinal permeability. Furthermore, leaky gut may occur in older adults as body cells are more susceptible to damage, and healing slows with age. (3)

Higher levels of zonulin, a protein that regulates tight junction of the intestinal lining, may play a role in increasing pore size and increase risk of leaky gut. Other causes of leaky gut are regular consumption of alcohol and intake of NSAID such as Ibuprofen, as well as treatment with chemotherapy and radiation can cause the lining of the intestine to weak and increase intestinal permeability.

In addition to the above-mentioned causes, changes in intestinal permeability have been observed in patients with chronic inflammatory diseases such as celiac disease, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, autism spectrum disorders, asthma, and type-1 diabetes. Other conditions such as colon cancer, autoimmune diseases, obesity as well as food allergies and intolerances have been associated with leaky gut syndrome. (3,4)

Leaky Gut Symptoms

Leaky gut symptoms vary widely, some of which include digestive disorder symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and burping. However, there appear to be other symptoms of the leaky gut that are not associated with complaints of the digestive system such as fatigue, confusion, anxiety, eczema, weight gain, migraines, joint and muscle aches, skin rashes and variations in blood sugar. By making changes to your lifestyle and diet you may be able to relieve some of the symptoms of the leaky gut naturally. However, you need to keep in mind that there is no magic cure for the leaky gut and just as the leaky gut syndrome developed over a long period of time, you need to be patient and give your body time to heal before you notice significant improvement. There is simply no fast gut repair cure.

How to Heal a Leaky Gut

Leaky Gut Diet

Try to eat healthily – adopt a version of a healthy diet that works for you. Include healthy foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts and seeds in your daily diet. Stay away from processed foods like deli meats, hotdogs, cold cuts, cakes, crackers, sugary drinks, and cookies as much as possible from your diet. You may also want to avoid leaky gut foods that have the potential to irritate intestinal linings such as gluten-containing grains and products like wheat, barley and pasta.

Improve Gut Bacteria

Include cultured dairy products and fermented foods such as yogurt, buttermilk, Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and miso in your diet. These foods will help replenish the good bacteria in your gut. Avoid alcohol and over-the-counter pain management medication, both of which have a negative effect on gut health.

Reduce Gut Inflammation

Calm the inflammation in your gut by including fish, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and avocado oil in your diet.

Decrease Stress

Practice meditation and yoga to reduce stress in your life as stress can aggravate gut inflammation and symptoms of a leaky gut. Try to get enough sleep and spend time in working out on some form of exercise to strengthen your digestive system.

Try Gut Healing Supplements

Supplements like fish oil, L-glutamine, and probiotics may help heal your intestinal lining and reduce symptoms of a leaky gut. Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are known to reduce inflammation. L-glutamine is an amino acid that plays an important role in healing soft tissues like the lining of the intestines. Aloe Vera has been used for thousands of years to heal damaged epithelial tissues and the intestinal lining. Aloe Vera is also an adaptogen that helps the body adapt to stress. Probiotics are full of good bacteria that will aid in restoring gut microflora and reduce symptoms of leaky gut. There is some evidence that supplements of zinc and Saccharomyces boulardii, a nonpathogenic yeast, may also help repair intestinal permeability. It is important that you take the time to discuss the safety and precautions you need to be aware of with your medical provider before taking any supplements.

Conclusion

Now that you have a better understanding of the causes and symptoms of a leaky gut, you can start by taking small simple steps listed above to repair and heal the leaky gut naturally.

About the author

Sukhsatej Batra has a Ph. D in Foods and Nutrition with a passion for motivating people to improve their well-being and achieve results through healthy lifestyle changes. Previously, Sukhsatej has worked as a Senior Research and Development Scientist and college professor.

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7045478/
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5440529/
3. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0116p46.shtml
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5214347/