Healing Leaky Gut
Leaky gut is real. It sounds like a made-up thing but let me assure you it is a real condition. Intestinal permeability is the medical term. What exactly is leaky gut anyway? The wall of the intestinal tract is 1 cell thick; that’s thinner than the thickness of a sheet of tissue paper. This cellular layer is all that stands between the stuff we consume and our blood supply. Blood rushes through the body to carry oxygen and nutrients through the body to power the cells. Over time, after years of assaults on this cellular barrier, the tight junctions open and small, microscopic particles are able to pass through.
Inflammation, chronic illness, autoimmune disease, digestive distress, fatigue and many more health complaints can result. Until the intestinal lining is healed symptoms will continue and the disease state will worsen. The good news is the intestinal lining can heal and happily it can do so in a relatively short amount of time. An example is when you burn your tongue or bite your cheek. Those injuries can heal in a couple of days for most people. Similarly, the digestive tract, which includes the mouth and tongue, will heal as cells are turned over to form a new lining in time with a proper protocol.
When I work with clients to heal the GI tract, I build an extensive protocol for them that helps increase cellular healing and reduction of symptoms and inflammation. What I will share with you is what I coach my clients with and will give you some control over the health of your gut and give you a jump start in healing leaky gut.
- Cut out the sugar and simple carbs. I probably sound like a broken record but it is worth repeating. Sugar inflames and simple carbs (white pasta, rice, bread, potatoes and other starches) turn to sugar in the blood and act like sugar. Within minutes of eating these foods, your body’s immune function is reduced 50% for up to 5 hours because of the inflammatory process that ensues. Cutting out sugar helps the gut restore normal function and allows the tight junctions to heal without a constant inflammatory response forcing them open.
- Cut out the processed foods. Processed foods have little life in them. They may have once contained nutrients found in natural foods but after machines have mashed, ground, heated and extracted components they no longer have heat-sensitive nutrients left so manufacturers often add in synthetic vitamins and refined minerals back in so that they aren’t void of the necessary components of life. Synthetic nutrients are not natural and the body can’t use them the same way as it can natural nutrients found in good food. Likewise, processed foods contain bad fats that are inflammatory and put stress on the body and the tight junctions within the GI tract. If it comes in a can, box or bag, you may need to reevaluate the food to see if it is driving inflammation and causing leaky gut.
- Reduce toxic exposures from your environment. We live in a toxic world. There are industrial facilities just down the road from most towns and the wind will carry particulates through the air. People today brush their teeth with toothpaste filled with degreasing agents (SLS), slather their skin with lotions filled with parabens, wash their hair with smelly shampoo, apply deodorant containing aluminum and use any number of other toxic personal care products, fill their cars with fuel which gives off fumes and eat food with pesticide residue contaminants. All of these toxins build up in the liver and slow down detoxification. Some things can’t be changed, however, there are some things you have the power to reduce. Choose products made by clean brands to care for your skin, teeth, hair and other personal needs. Choose organic foods. Stand back from the pump when filling your car with gas. Drink filtered water and avoid plastic containers. Choosing safer items can help reduce the burden on the body’s detox systems which will help the GI tract heal.
- Throw out the vegetable oils. These oils, pushed on us through marketing ads claiming they are heart-healthy, but are made through extreme chemical processes that involve heat and detergents, which are very damaging. Examples are canola, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, peanut oil, vegetable, corn and other “cooking” oils. These oils are inflammatory to the body and can disrupt the microbiome (gut bacterial balance) that then can cause intestinal permeability.
- Reduce stress. Stress is a killer. It raises cortisol levels, the same as sugar and simple carbohydrate consumption, and causes inflammation and in turn contributes to leaky gut. There are ways to mitigate stress without medication. Prayer, meditation, exercise, deep belly breathing, and journaling are great options.
- Drink clean, filtered water. Water is essential for life. You can survive for weeks without food but only 2-3 days without water. Cellular health depends on water. The lining of the gut is made of cells and therefore requires water for optimal function. When choosing water sources, be sure to use a good filter or purchase water in glass bottles. Good filtering options are ROS (Reverse Osmosis Systems), Berkey water filtering units or for a quick, economical unit, try the Zero Water Pitcher.
To reverse Leaky Gut, you must be intentional. It won’t happen on its own but must be a priority and daily choice. Practice implementing the points above and add in some healing herbs and foods.
- Fermented foods. These support a healthy microbiome. Make sure these are purchased from the refrigerated section in your health food store or made at home.
- Bone broth or meat stock. Sipping on these delicious liquids provide necessary minerals and collagen that will soothe and support new cell formation in the gut and throughout the body.
- Tea and tinctures with marshmallow root, slippery elm, aloe and licorice root. These items are healing and provide a soothing coat that helps a leaky gut heal. Note: if you are on high blood pressure medication do not take licorice root, however, the other items listed are ok.
- Apple pectin is helpful. Make homemade apple sauce for the best results and consume 4 tablespoons each day.
With some intention, you can reverse leaky gut and heal the intestinal lining. It is well worth it since the health of your gut is reflected in the health of your body.