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Intestinal Permeability, more commonly referred to as “leaky gut syndrome” is a condition relating to the health of the small intestine. Leaky gut occurs when the “tight junctions” of the small intestine, essentially the “gatekeeper” between what is allowed to pass through the gut wall into the blood stream, become permeable or “leaky.”

This permeability of the gut can allow undigested food particles, toxins, microbes and more to pass through the gut wall into the bloodstream, triggering an immune response from the body, and often resulting in a variety of health conditions and chronic inflammation.

What can cause leaky gut?

  • NSAIDS/pain medications like ibuprofen
  • Dysbiosis (bacterial imbalances in the small and/or large intestine)
  • Excess alcohol
  • Poor diet
  • Food allergies
  • Excess weight
  • Excess stress
  • Stress
  • Chronic inflammatory diseases (may contribute to and be made worse by leaky gut. This is common and challenging cycle.)

What are some common symptoms of leaky gut?

  • Diarrhea, constipation, IBS
  • Multiple food sensitivities
  • Low immunity/frequent infections
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic pain
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Skin rashes
  • Arthritis, especially at a young age
  • “Brain fog” or fuzzy thinking
  • Frequent gas and bloating
  • Food cravings including sugar, carbs and starchy foods

Can you heal leaky gut?

Yes! With diet, lifestyle changes and supplements, it is possible to heal leaky gut syndrome. “The 4 R’s” are a simple and effective way to approach leaky gut.

  1. Remove foods that you may be allergic or sensitive to. This means any food that triggers even a mild immune response in your body. Often a simple blood test can help you figure out which foods you may be responding to. These food will need to be removed from the diet for 3-6 months, possibly longer depending on the severity of the permeability and other health factors.
  2. Replace offending foods with foods that are nutrient dense, non-inflammatory and do not elicit an immune response from the body. Most often this includes vegetables, fruits, good quality meats and fats. A caveat here is that with leaky gut, a person can have an immune response to even the healthiest foods. This is where food allergy testing can be helpful.
  3. Repair the intestinal tract with health foods and supplements. Bone broth contains collagen and other nutrients show to help rebuild the lining of the gut wall. Common products include L-glutamine, slippery elm, licorice root and more. Digestive may also be helpful taken with meals to help more fully break down foods eaten. There are also a variety of supplements available on the market, and some are better suited than others. Consult with your health care provider to choose the best products for you.
  4. Rebalance/Reinoculate the intestinal flora with probiotics and cultured foods including fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchee and pickles (fermented, not made with vinegar). For those who can tolerate dairy, organic plain yogurt is also a good option. You can also supplement with high quality probiotics for additional benefit.

The Leaky Gut Diet

The diet for healing leaky gut will vary depending on a persons individual needs and the roots causes(s) of the leaky gut.

Generally foods, that support healing a leaky gut include:

  • Fresh, lightly cooked vegetables
  • Berries and limited fresh fruit
  • Organic animal protein
  • Bone broth
  • Legumes, soaked for at least 12 hours before cooking
  • Fermented foods

Foods to limit include:

  • Gluten
  • Most grains, unless well soaked
  • Refined sugar
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Processed meats
  • Dairy

Supplements for Leaky Gut

  • L-Glutamine
  • Licorice root
  • Slippery elm
  • Probiotics
  • S. Boulardii
  • Herbs for dysbiosis, if necessary. Consult with your healthcare provider.

Yours in better health and wellness,

Merritt Jones, LAc, MS, CNC

References:

Maes, Michael, Leunis, Jean-Claude (2008), Normalization of leaky gut in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is accompanied by a clinical improvement: effects of age, duration of illness and the translocation of LPS from gram-negative bacteria

Gecse K., Róka R.,  Séra T., et al., (2008) Leaky Gut in Patients with Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Inactive Ulcerative Colitis

Maes M  , Coucke F , Leunis JC  (2007), Normalization of the increased translocation of endotoxin from gram negative enterobacteria (leaky gut) is accompanied by a remission of chronic fatigue syndrome.