A leaky gut can seem inconsequential, but it’s more important than you think, and it can have big health consequences if it goes untreated. A leaky gut is a condition wherein the tight junctions of your intestinal lining begin to loosen and permeate, allowing particles that should remain in the intestine to pass into the bloodstream.
While some basic dietary changes can help heal your damaged intestinal lining, for some people this damage is more extensive and can cause significant health issues. In this case, it may be time to consider getting help to heal your leaky gut from the inside out.
What Is Intestinal Permeability (aka Leaky Gut)?
In simple terms, a leaky gut occurs when the junctions between cells in your intestinal lining start to break down and widen the spaces between them. When these junctions, or tight-knit cells, become loose and porous, then large food particles and other substances that don’t belong in your bloodstream can pass into it and cause all kinds of problems for you. Because the food particles that enter your bloodstream don’t belong there, your body starts to attack them with antibodies and white blood cells like it would a foreign invader.
What causes leaky gut syndrome?
Leaky gut syndrome occurs when there are gaps between cells in the intestinal wall, allowing food particles or other substances into your blood stream that should never get past your intestines. There are many reasons why this can happen, including frequent antibiotic use, infection, certain medications, poor digestion, inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, pancreatic insufficiency, ulcerative colitis, or even eating foods you are intolerant or allergic to i.e gluten. These factors can cause an increase in zonulin – a protein that signals the tight junctions between cells to open up. When this happens, the gaps widen and particles such as toxins, microbes and partially digested food particles leak through your intestinal wall and cause inflammation throughout your body.
Processed & Sugary Foods Cause Intestinal Permeability
Intestinal permeability is not hereditary; it is acquired through the foods we eat as well as the behaviors we engage in on a daily basis. In fact, common processed and sugary foods such as white flour-based products like pasta, pizza dough, cereals, croissants, and other baked goods can lead to intestinal permeability even without an allergy or intolerance to glute
What does leaky gut syndrome do to you?
Leaky gut syndrome causes many problems for those who have it. For example, since the “holes” in your digestive system allow large food particles into your bloodstream which don’t belong there, your body starts attacking them and this can lead to chronic inflammation, digestive issues and autoimmune diseases.
The types of gastrointestinal issues that can be related to intestinal permeability
Intestinal permeability and intestinal epithelial barrier dysfunction are associated with a number of gastrointestinal conditions and chronic diseases, including:
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Autoimmune hepatitis
- Celiac disease
- Acute gastroenteritis
- Diverticular disease
- Bowel obstruction
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Learn more about increased intestinal permeability and the link to gastrointestinal conditions here!
Food Sensitivities and Leaky Gut Syndrome/Increased Intestinal Permeability
If you already have an autoimmune disease or chronic inflammation, getting tested for food sensitivity can provide significant relief because it allows you to avoid the foods that are most likely irritating your gut and fueling your disease.
It’s important to note, however, that there’s no general consensus regarding the optimal tests available for assessing food sensitivities! Your unique situation will determine the tests that are best for your practitioner to use. An elimination diet can also help you quickly identify food sensitivities without testing that can sometimes be expensive.
So what do we know about the top eight food sensitivity culprits?
- Gluten – If you’re gluten intolerant, your immune system is confused. When your body encounters gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye), it thinks this protein is a dangerous invader like a virus or bacteria.
- Corn – Corn contains many undigestible carbohydrates that act as “fake” estrogens – which is fine if you’re a plant, but not so great if you’re a human. These “plant estrogens” can promote the growth of estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer cells and interfere with your metabolism.
- Yeast – The cell walls of yeast (“candida”) contain proteins that may react to hormones in your thyroid gland, causing autoimmune Hashimoto’s disease . And once these proteins trigger an immune reaction, they become even more inflammatory inside your digestive tract.
- Soy – Soy is rich in natural goitrogens , which can worsen or mimic the symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Soy also contains isoflavones, which act like fake estrogens once inside your body.
- Caffeine – This stimulant raises your estrogen levels and can lower your thyroid hormone production.
- Wheat – Wheat contains a protein called gliadin , which increases prolactin levels in your body. And eating lots of bread increases the amount of phytoestrogens in your diet, too.
- Bad Fats & Oils – The hydrogenated oils used to make all kinds of processed foods contain dangerous trans fats that increase inflammation and lead to weight gain and inhibit proper metabolism. These same inflammatory fats also interfere with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K, encouraging bone loss and slowing down your immune system.
- Grains/Legumes – Lectins are proteins found in most plants that can be toxic or disruptive to humans! They can cause leaky gut syndrome, where partially digested food leaks into the bloodstream, adding bulk to fecal matter, which can lead to more bloating, diarrhea, discomfort and gas