6 Foods that Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome
6 Foods that Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome
Gut health is central to every aspect of well-being. Healing the gut can improve your health, from immune function to mental health.
By Mark Zuleger-Thyss
One digestive difficulty that is the least understood — but getting more press coverage lately — is the occurrence of leaky gut syndrome.Leaky gut and leaky gut syndrome are terms most often used for people who suffer from painful digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or celiac disease.
The human body uses the process of digestion to break down food into a form that can be absorbed and used for fuel. The organs of the digestive system are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, and large intestine.
Leaky gut syndrome - in some circles - is considered a hypothetical condition that’s not currently recognized as a medical diagnosis. Hyper-permeability, along with inflammation of the mucous lining of our intestines, leads to a gradual erosion of the intestinal barrier over time.
What is Leaky Gut and how do you heal it naturally?
Your digestive tract includes over 4,000 square feet of lining, just one cell layer thick. These cells, called enterocytes, are like security guards, forming a secure barrier between your body and the outside world.
The digestive tract isn't just responsible for absorbing the good elements from the foods you eat — it's also responsible for keeping the nasty stuff out.
As foreign, edible materials — food, drink, medications, air particulates, etc. — enter your digestive tract, they're broken down and digested as they pass through your gut. The enterocytes maintain a tight barrier, ensuring only fully digested nutrients can adequately absorb and pass through the gut lining and into your bloodstream and organs. Intestinal permeability is another term that refers to how easily substances pass from your gut into your bloodstream.
In a healthy gut, intestinal permeability is kept at a minimum. But when the stomach isn't functioning as it should, the gaps between the enterocytes loosen, resulting in increased intestinal permeability, also known as a leaky gut.
When these gaps or holes allow substances that are only partially digested to get into your bloodstream, this will cause other unwanted and adverse health effects.
"The Sensitive Soul & A Gut Feeling"
The stomach, van Helmont argued, was far more than just a factory for the processing of food. It was, in fact, the seat of that mediator between the physical and the spiritual realms: the sensitive soul. From this he concluded the gut could know things equally as well as or before the brain could.
17th century alchemist and physician, Jan Baptist van Helmont (1580–1644)
What Causes Leaky Gut?
As with many conditions, genetics and lifestyle are the most significant factors at play. For example, some people are genetically predisposed to having a weaker gut barrier and are at greater risk for increased intestinal permeability.
We all have the potential to strengthen or weaken our gut lining due to the choices we make each day.
Lifestyle choices contributing to Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Poor Diet (Low in Fiber)
- Alcohol Use
- Frequent Use of Some Medications
- Genetic Predisposition
Gut-Healing Diets & The Microbiome
The most crucial factor in healing a leaky gut is your diet. Your microbiome is the community of bacteria that live in the body and generate neurotransmitters that promote a happy and healthy life.
The microbiome is the mind-body connection. When our body is healthy, our mind is happy. But when we fail to protect our microbiome, we find ourselves becoming depressed and fatigued.
To cultivate a robust intestinal lining and help repair permeability, you will want to eat foods that promote good bacteria. Fending off harmful bacteria is also crucial; typically, we do this with regular consumption of probiotics.
Your gut-healing diet might look different from another, and this is due to each having its own distinct microbiome.
Of further interest: Adding Digestive Bitters & Foods to Your Diet
Digesting the World Around You
Our digestive system is astonishing. We take in "stuff" from the outside world, do something magical to it, and it becomes a part of our living, breathing bodies.
When we’re having issues with digestion, it can mean we have a hard time processing what’s going on in our lives. Do you feel nauseous when you read the news? This may be a factor in how hard it is to digest food.
Naturopathic physicians manage a broad range of health conditions - especially digestive issues.
Certain Foods promote Leaky Gut – Avoid them!
If you think you might have a leaky gut, it's best to work with a qualified dietitian or gastroenterologist to find which foods are the troublemakers. Many of these foods will have nutritional value, and gradually eliminating them from your diet might reveal their harm to your system once you try to reintroduce them.
Gluten, sugar, dairy products, corn, soy, and lectins are the main culprits
You might not recognize lectins, but they are found in all gluten-containing grains. Lectins are a family of proteins found in almost all foods. Some people claim that lectins cause increased gut permeability and drive autoimmune diseases.
While it's true that certain lectins are toxic and cause harm when consumed in excess, they're easy to get rid of through cooking.
Lectins may bind to the cells lining your intestines, disrupting the tight junctions between the intestinal cells, and contributing to a leaky gut. If you're struggling with symptoms of a leaky gut, it may be helpful to scale back on these foods and see if symptoms improve.
Avoid Allergens & Inflammatory Foods when following a Leaky Gut Diet
- Unsprouted grains containing gluten (wheat, rye, and barley)
- Processed foods
- GMOs foods (GMO and hybridized foods tend to be the highest in lectins)
- Refined oils
- Processed foods made with synthetic food additives
- Heavy alcohol use
Three Superfoods for Leaky Gut
Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, seaweed, nuts, and seeds. Omega-3 also assists in reducing inflammation, which is often the cause of the symptoms you are experiencing.
Food as Medicine | Foods for Leaky Gut Syndrome
A good gut-healing diet will generally contain these foods:
Slippery Elm Tea
Slippery elm tea is used to reduce inflammation in the gut, which helps reduce the occurrence and severity of leaky gut symptoms. It may also help people suffering from IBS, IBD, or other digestive disorders.
Apple Cider Vinegar
While apple cider vinegar has many uses and health benefits, it's thought to help the leaky gut by killing the yeast. If you suffer from candida and it's contributing to your symptoms of a leaky gut, a tonic of apple cider vinegar may help restore some balance to your system.
Apple cider vinegar also has natural antimicrobial properties, which kill the harmful bacteria in your gut and helps restore the natural balance of good bacteria in your intestines.
Some experts recommend a tablespoon added to some warm water. You may also add a squeeze of lemon for taste. You may put it on your meat before you eat it to help pre-digest it.
Cooked, Organic Vegetables
While eating raw vegetables is certainly in vogue in health circles, raw vegetables can be hard to digest for people suffering from leaky gut. They may worsen symptoms, especially gas and bloating. Cooking your vegetables can help assist with indigestion. Purchasing organic vegetables will ensure the food you're eating is free from pesticides which may further harm your digestive tract.
In addition, eating fermented vegetables like miso, kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir may also provide your gut with important microorganisms and bioactive enzymes to help aid in healthy gut lining and digestion.
Ginger has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic properties, making it great for people suffering from leaky gut. It also helps reduce feelings of nausea you may be experiencing. Another benefit of ginger is that it improves the production of gastric juices, including stomach acid, bile, and pancreatic enzymes, to aid digestion.
Drinking some ginger tea or adding fresh ginger to your meals can be a great way to add this healing food to your diet.
Peppermint tea is good for digestion and helps stimulate the production of gastric. While you may drink peppermint tea, there are also time-released peppermint capsules that will allow the peppermint to move through the stomach and into the intestines before they're released, where they will have the most impact on your intestinal health.
Pumpkin seeds are filled with nutrients that help with digestion. If you suffer from parasites, pumpkin seeds contain natural anti-parasitic properties.
“Magnesium [found in pumpkin seeds] is involved in over 600 reactions in the body. In terms of gut health, it is imperative to understand how magnesium regulates neurotransmitters which send messages throughout our brain and nervous system.”
Annette Reeder, The Biblical Nutritionist
Leaky Gut & Other Serious Health Issues
If not addressed and repaired, intestinal permeability can lead to severe health issues, such as:
Eczema & Psoriasis
Depression & Anxiety
Muscle Pain & Chronic Fatigue
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS)
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Trauma and the Spiritual Meaning of SIBO
Looking at the causes of SIBO—a long illness, disordered eating, chronic stress—we are looking at more symptoms. These are commonly symptoms of trauma.
When the nervous system cannot regulate, many systems in the body become unbalanced. It’s easy for the digestive system to tip out of balance, as it is one of the first places that is affected by the fight-or-flight response.
When we’re scared, the blood and energy vacate the digestive system to ready the limbs for fighting or fleeing. Digestion is quite energy-intensive: it’s not possible to run from a tiger and effectively digest our food at the same time.
When our stress becomes chronic, whether because we have a toxic relationship, stressful job, or are trying to recover from a traumatic experience, the digestive system doesn’t get the energy it needs to do its job well, and imbalances such as SIBO can occur.
Addressing the underlying stress or trauma can go a long way toward resolving the symptoms of SIBO.
Summing Up Leaky Gut Syndrome
Also called intestinal permeability, Leaky Gut is a condition in which the cellular junctions of the intestinal wall become damaged, allowing undigested food and bacteria to "leak" into the bloodstream.
This syndrome has been implicated in many autoimmune disorders like IBS and celiac disease. However, it is not yet a widely recognized medical condition. Symptoms can include bloating, gas, joint pain, fatigue, skin issues, thyroid issues, and headaches.
Although leaky gut is not well understood, there is evidence that a carefully crafted, personalized diet can help alleviate symptoms.
Avoiding gluten, dairy, sugar, and other common irritants while focusing on healthy fats, fermented foods, probiotic supplements, and lifestyle factors can help support your microbiome.
To naturally heal Leaky Gut, prioritize consuming fermented foods, bone broth, coconut, fruits and veggies, and high-quality meat, fish, and poultry.
More on the Gut …
Your Gut in Intellectual Terms
Those Anatomical “Gut Feelings”
The importance of the health of your gut cannot be overemphasized.
For centuries, European academics had followed ancient Greek thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Galen in viewing the human soul as divided into three parts.
At the top of this hierarchy was the “rational” soul, located in the brain, which managed intellectual operations: logical reasoning, memory, and the power of the will. Situated lower and in the chest or heart – was the “sensitive” soul, governing motion, emotion, and sensory perception. Then finally, there was the “vegetative” soul, which governed the basic operations necessary to all living organisms: growth, nutrition, and reproduction.
These processes took place in the “lower parts” – the digestive and reproductive organs.
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