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Leaky Gut 101
Eleni Chechopoulos  |  Jun 12, 2018

You may have heard of leaky gut syndrome. It’s a phrase that’s getting tossed around more and more in the health and wellness sphere, so it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms, what causes it, and what to do about it!

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Indigestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Slow metabolism
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lowered immunity
  • Brain fog
  • Memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Thyroid issues
  • Imbalanced hormones
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Joint pain
  • Food sensitivities
  • Various skin issues, including rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis

What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

A healthy intestinal lining has tight junctions, but with leaky gut those tight junctions become compromised. The intestinal tract has the very important job of keeping the bad guys (foreign food proteins, bacteria, viruses, and fungi) contained and moving them out of the body by way of the colon. At the same time, it also allows important nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, to pass through its intestinal wall and into the body to be utilized.[1]

Leaky gut syndrome, or intestinal hyperpermeability, is when the villi and microvilli of the intestinal lining become damaged, inflamed, and more porous. This allows food particles, toxins, and microbes to “leak” through the intestine and into the bloodstream, where they circulate through the body. These substances are not meant to enter the bloodstream, and antibodies (proteins made by your body to fight foreign substances) are produced. The body sees these foods and toxins as foreign invaders and has an “allergic reaction”.

Now when certain foods are eaten, the body recognizes those foods as foreign and an immune reaction is brought on. Foods that could once be enjoyed freely now cause lots of trouble.

What Causes Leaky Gut?

 Leaky gut can be caused by: 

  • Stress
  • Infections
  • Antibiotics
  • NSAIDs[2]
  • Antacids
  • Poor diet
  • Processed foods
  • Preservatives
  • Excess sugar consumption
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Low stomach acid
  • Bacterial overgrowths
  • Parasites
  • Pesticides
  • BPA from plastic
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Being fed formula instead of breast milk as an infant

 People are often perplexed and confused as to why they’ve developed sensitivities to foods that never bothered them in the past, and it is because the causes of leaky gut are cumulative and builds over time. Corn tortillas may not have been an issue as a young teen, but as an adult they now bring on any number of the previously listed symptoms.

I’m Pretty Sure I Have Leaky Gut…Now What?!

If you suspect you’re suffering from leaky gut, there are steps you can take to reverse the situation you’re in! Leaky gut does not need to be permanent and can be mended.

 Reversing leaky gut is all about eliminating stressors, adding in healing foods and supplements, and repopulating the intestines with good bacteria.

To eliminate stressors, it is critical to avoid irritating and inflammatory foods. Consuming these foods never gives the digestive tract a chance to relax and repair, and causes constant inflammation, making the problem worse. Some of the most common inflammatory foods include wheat, gluten, corn, soy, eggs, dairy, sugar, alcohol, grains, coffee, caffeine, and additives such as xanthan gum, guar gum, and carrageenan.

Healing foods and supplements give the digestive tract the nutrients it needs to anti-inflame and help to repopulate the gut with good bacteria. Some beneficial foods and supplements include good quality fats, bone broth, grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb, pasture raised chicken, wild-caught fish, okra, fermented foods, turmeric, ginger, collagen, L-glutamine, vegetables, digestive enzymes, prebiotics, probiotics, slippery elm, and marshmallow root.

Nobody likes to hear that they can’t have something, but take a moment to consider which is worse—living with your symptoms indefinitely, or taking a moment to temporarily eliminate the foods that are causing a whole host of discomfort. The good news is that your food sensitivities may not be caused by the foods themselves, but by the compromised health of your intestinal lining. Once the digestive tract is repaired, certain foods may be able to be successfully reintroduced!

Eleni Chechopoulos, a soon-to-be Nutritional Therapist, went from constantly battling her weight and obsessing over calories to finding stability and balance through Functional Medicine and Nutritional Therapy. Driven by her own years of confusion and breakthrough success, she aims to help women make sense of their symptoms quickly and painlessly, identify their food sensitivities, fix their bloat and digestive issues, and lose the excess weight that has been clinging to them for dear life—all without counting calories or macros. 
Connect with her on Instagram here! and on her web site here!

[1] Wright, J. V., & Lenard, L. (2001). Why stomach acid is good for you: Natural relief from heartburn, indigestion, reflux, and GERD. New York: M. Evans.

[2] Sigthorsson, G., Tibble, J., Hayllar, J., Menzies, I., Macpherson, A., Moots, R., . . . Bjarnason, I. (1998, October). Intestinal permeability and inflammation in patients on NSAIDs. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1727292/

 

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