Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, once said, “All disease begins in the gut.” The cells in your gut naturally absorb vital nutrients that keep you healthy. These cells are linked together by tight junction proteins, which form a barrier between your intestines and your bloodstream. While these junctions are effective, factors like poor diet, stress, and infections can break them apart. When they do, you develop leaky gut. Leaky gut is as gross as it sounds. When your tight junctions weaken, microbes, toxins, and other unwanted material can break through your intestinal lining and enter your bloodstream. There, they can cause a wide variety of all-too-common symptoms. Some signs of leaky gut include:
- Skin issues like eczema or acne
- Asthma and seasonal allergies
- Food sensitivities, allergies, or intolerance
- Chronic pain such as arthritis or fibromyalgia
- Chronic illnesses like depression and anxiety
- Poor immune system
- Autoimmune disease diagnoses like celiac disease, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis
- Obesity-related metabolic diseases like heart disease, fatty liver, and Type II diabetes
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Thyroid diseases
And the list goes on and on. As it turns out, Hippocrates’ statement is pretty accurate. While leaky gut causes a wide variety of problems, there are also ways to prevent and repair these tight junctions and help your body return to working functionally. In this article, you will learn what causes leaky gut, how to heal leaky gut with diet alterations, and how Boston Direct Health can help.
Causes of Leaky Gut
While medical practitioners are still trying to determine what exactly causes leaky gut, there are a few contributing factors that they’re aware of. Zonulin, a protein, is known to regulate intestinal permeability. This basically means that it controls the material passing from inside the gastrointestinal tract into the rest of your body. Bacteria and gluten can trigger the release of zonulin, causing leaky gut. Aside from zonulin, there are a few other potential leaky gut culprits:
Stress is defined as a threat to your body’s balance. It can have both short-term and long-term effects on the functions of the gastrointestinal tract. When stressed, your body becomes susceptible to a wide array of gastrointestinal disorders like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, and more.
When your body is inflamed, it increases intestinal permeability. If it’s constant, it can weaken the tight junctions in your bowels and cause leaky gut.
Studies show that vitamin A can improve intestinal barrier function and growth – especially when it comes to parasites like Giardia. Vitamin D and zinc also have a protective effect on tight junctions. Zinc specifically can help against damaged caused by chronic alcohol exposure, diarrhea, colitis, and other gastrointestinal ailments.
High sugar diet
Diets that are high in sugar can damage your intestinal wall and causes diseases such as Type II diabetes. They are also potential risk factors of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Smoking can change the composition of helpful bacteria in your intestinal tract, which can lead to increased inflammation. By quitting smoking, you reduce the number of harmful gut bacteria introduced to your body while helping raise the number of healthy bacteria protecting your gut.
Lack of sleep
When you’re not sleeping enough, your body doesn’t distribute healthy gut bacteria properly. If this bacteria isn’t there to protect your intestinal permeability, then harmful materials can damage it and possibly result in leaky gut.
Excessive alcohol intake can increase the risk of intestinal permeability. Alcohol interacts with certain proteins that could weaken tight junctions, allowing for leaky gut.
Food to Avoid When Improving Gut Health—And What to Eat Instead
Everyone’s body chemistry is different, but as a general rule there are a few foods to eat and others to avoid when combating leaky gut. Here are a few food/food categories that you should cut out of your diet when what you should eat instead:
Gluten Gluten is potentially a huge culprit when it comes to leaky gut and should be avoid completely if your tight junctions have weakened. Until your body is balanced again, stop eating breads, pastas, cereals, oats, barley, and rye.
Eat: Gluten-free grains
Grains like rice (both brown and white), buckwheat, and gluten-free oats can help improve your gut.
Avoid: Junk food
Junk food is usually on “what to avoid” lists, and this one is no exception. Fast food and foods that are high in sugar, carbonated beverages, chips, and other unhealthy snacks should be avoided while you’re trying to heal your gut.
To some, fruits may not be as appealing as junk food, but pineapple, coconut, bananas, berries, and kiwis can helpful for your gut and can also satisfy your sweet tooth.
Not all dairy has to be avoided, but processed dairy should be. Processed milk, cheeses, and ice cream can be harmful to the gut – especially if it’s already inflamed.
Eat: Cultured dairy products
Like we mentioned before, not all dairy has to be avoided. Yogurt, greek yogurt, traditional buttermilk, and kefir can help you get your dairy fix while your repairing your leaky gut.
Avoid: Processed Meats
As a general rule, avoid processed foods as much as you can when you’re trying to heal your body. This includes meats such as bacon, cold cuts, hot dogs, etc.
Eat: Healthy Proteins
Replace your processed meats with eggs, lamb, chicken, beef, turkey, and fish that are rich in omega-3 (tuna, salmon, herring, etc.). Nuts also come in handy here, both in raw and milk form.
Avoid: Refined Oils
Avoid oils like sunflower, soybean and canola.
Eat: Healthy Fat Oils
Avocado oil, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil make for get cooking replacements. Alletess Labs When it comes to improving nutrition, allergy and immunology testing, and clinical support, Alletess Labs is a market leader and is used by Boston Direct Health. Over 250 million people suffer from allergies worldwide and can help create customized plans specific to your food sensitivity needs. As a member of Boston Direct Health, you will have access the amazing labs that Alletess has to offer and make combating leaky gut easier than ever. For more information, contact us today!