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How Do I Know if I Have a Leaky Gut?
“Leaky gut” is a popular topic in the health and wellness spheres these days. It’s been blamed for many symptoms and conditions that seem to be all-too-common. Allergies, intolerances, joint pain, even autoimmune diseases can all be linked back to leaky gut.
But what exactly is leaky gut? What causes it? What kinds of issues are related to it? And most of all, what can you eat for leaky gut?
What is a leaky gut?
Simply put, your “gut” (a.k.a. “intestinal tract”) is a tube that makes up part of your digestive system. It’s not as simple as a hose or pipe; it’s an amazing tube made of live cells tightly bound together. Your gut helps your body absorb fluids and nutrients, digests your food, and houses billions of friendly gut microbes.
It’s also selective to what it allows past its barrier. Your intestinal tract purposefully keeps some things from being absorbed, so they pass right on through to the other end to be eliminated as waste. You don’t want to absorb many harmful microbes or toxins into your body, right?
FUN FACT: About 70-80% of our immune system is housed around our gut, so it’s ready for foreign invaders.
Absorption of fluids and nutrients happens when they’re allowed through this cellular tube into the circulation. And this is great! As long as what’s being absorbed are fluids and nutrients. The blood and lymph then carry the nutrients to your liver, and then around to the rest of your body; this is so that all your cells, all the way to your toenails, get the nutrition they need to be healthy and grow.
How does a gut become “leaky?”
The gut can become leaky if the cells get damaged, or if the bonds that hold the cells together get damaged. Leaky gut can be caused or worsened by a number of diet and lifestyle factors. Dietary factors like too much sugar or alcohol or even eating things that you’re intolerant to can all contribute to leaky gut.
Lifestyle factors like stress, lack of sleep, infections, and some medications can also be culprits in this area. Sometimes, if the balance of gut microbes inside the gut is thrown off, this can also contribute to a leaky gut.
Any contributing factors that alter the balance in your gut may cause our gut to become “permeable” or leak. At this point incompletely digested nutrients, microbes (infectious or friendly), toxins, or waste products can more easily get into our bodies.
Scientifically speaking, a “leaky gut” is known as “intestinal permeability.” This means that our intestines are permeable and allow things through that they normally would keep out. They “leak.”
As you can imagine, this is not a good thing.
What are the symptoms of a leaky gut?
Because so much of your immune system is around your gut, the immune cells quickly recognize a “foreign invader” and start their response. This is normal and good if the gut is working properly and not allowing too many things to “leak” in.
But when that happens too much, and the immune system starts responding, the notorious inflammation starts. Once the immune system starts responding it can look like allergies, food intolerances, and even autoimmune diseases.
Because the first place affected is the gut, there are a number of symptoms right there. Things such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea. Not to mention that if foods, even healthy foods, aren’t properly digested, their nutrients aren’t properly absorbed. Poor absorption can lead to lack of essential vitamins and minerals for the optimal health of every cell in your body.
Some of the symptoms can also occur on the skin. Acne, dry skin, itchiness, rashes, eczema, and hives can all be symptoms related to leaky gut. Even rosacea and psoriasis can be linked here due to their autoimmune component.
It’s possible that even some neurological symptoms are linked with leaky gut. For example, brain fog, fatigue, headaches, inability to sleep, and general moodiness can also be related.
Finally, a number of chronic inflammatory diseases are thought to be linked with a leaky gut. Things like Crohn’s, colitis, celiac disease, IBS, and MS. Even things like heart disease and stroke are possibilities.
What to eat for leaky gut
The general recommendation is to stop eating inflammatory foods and eat more gut-soothing foods. Incorporating a gut-soothing diet means cutting out grains, legumes, and dairy. Add to that list, food additives, alcohol, and refined sugars.
In their place, add in more green leafy and cruciferous veggies. These are full of nutrients and contain fibre to help feed your friendly gut microbes. You also want to add more sources of vitamin D which can come from fish and egg yolks, and also from the sun. Eat more probiotic foods like sauerkraut, dairy-free yogurt, and kombucha (fermented tea). Make sure you’re getting enough essential omega-3 fats found in seafood and seaweed. Finally, make sure you’re getting some coconut oil and bone broth. Coconut oil has special fats called MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), and bone broth has essential amino acids.
Leaky gut, or “intestinal permeability” can happen when your gut gets damaged due to too much sugar and alcohol, or eating foods you’re intolerant to. It can also be from stress, lack of sleep, or imbalance in your friendly gut microbes. The symptoms of leaky gut are vast – spanning from digestive woes to skin conditions, even to autoimmune conditions.
It’s important to cut out problem foods and drinks and add in more gut-soothing things like green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and probiotic foods. It’s also important to ensure you’re getting enough omega-3 fats, vitamin D, and amino acids.
Recipe (gut soothing): Slow-Cooked Chicken Broth
1 whole chicken, cooked, bones with or without meat
3 carrots, chopped
2 celery, chopped
4 bay leaves
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Herbs and spices as desired (salt, pepper, paprika, parsley)
2 handfuls spinach
1 – Place chicken bones, and meat if using, into a slow cooker.
2 – Add chopped vegetables, vinegar, and herbs/spices.
3 – Cover with hot water (about 2 litres/8 cups).
4 – Cook 8 h on medium or overnight on low.
5 – Add spinach 30 minutes before serving.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can strain it before serving, or serve it with the cooked vegetables as soup.
can be terrible. The pain, vision problems (including aura), nausea, etc. can
be debilitating; especially if
they stick around for hours or even days.
about 15% of adults, so they’re fairly common. And, while the exact cause is not known, there are lots of known
triggers. Many foods and drinks are common triggers of migraines. You may have
noticed certain foods, and drinks trigger your migraines. Sometimes the
migraine comes on within an hour of the food/drink. Other times it may happen
several hours, up to a day later. Avoiding these triggers can help.
ways these foods and drinks trigger migraines is by their action on the blood
vessels in the brain. When the brain’s blood vessels constrict and then dilate
(widen), this seems to cause migraines. Many of the foods I’m listing below
affect the constriction and dilation of blood vessels during a migraine
you care about suffers from migraines, this post lists common triggers.
Avoiding these can be a great tool to reduce these uber-painful headaches. You
may be sensitive to
one, or many of these foods/drinks. They act as migraine triggers in some
people, but not all. You can find out by eliminating them and see if avoidance
migraines is hard cheese like cheddar and Swiss; this is because they contain
“tyramine” which is from an amino acid in the protein found in
cheese. Other foods high in tyramine include those that are aged, cured, dried, smoked or pickled.
These include sauerkraut and tofu.
migraine-triggering foods are
cured or processed meats. Things like hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon
are in this category; this is because of their nitrates and nitrites that can
dilate those blood vessels in the brain. Even if these are not a trigger for
you, it’s best to eliminate them from your diet because of other health issues
they’re associated with like colon cancer.
news, but the third common migraine triggering food is chocolate. The evidence
is conflicting, as some studies show a link and others don’t. You may or may
not be sensitive to
chocolate’s effects on the brain; you have to eliminate it to find out.
like monosodium glutamate (MSG) also trigger migraines. MSG is often found in Chinese food and is
a common migraine trigger. There is not a lot of research on this, but it’s
something to consider eliminating from your diet to see if it makes a difference.
trigger for headaches and migraines. Red wine and beer seem to be the most
common culprits. We’re not sure why, but it may be red wine’s compounds such as
histamine, sulfites, or flavonoids.
water have also been shown
to trigger headaches and migraines. So try not to eat or drink things that are
sweeteners like Aspartame are another common trigger. Aspartame is in diet
sodas and other processed foods to make them taste sweet without adding sugar.
As with MSG, there is not a lot of research on its effects with migraines. But
again, it is something to consider eliminating from your diet and see if that makes a difference.
common food/drink triggers for migraines. Maybe one, or more of these trigger
migraines for you. The best way to know is by eliminating them from your diet
for a few weeks and see how that works.
hard cheeses, processed meats, chocolate, alcohol, ice water, and artificial flavors
trigger migraines for you (or someone you care about)? Let me know in the
leaves (or a tea bag)
(or tea bag) for 5-10 minutes.