As a mere observer, I’ve noticed every few years either an existing health condition or a new diagnosis gets unveiled and is naked for the health conscious to see. There are times when everyone seems to either have or be talking about the same diagnosis. Getting its time in the limelight now is leaky gut.
Leaky gut is a condition in which the tight junctions in the mucosa lining the intestines become permeable. The permeability allows our body to move things through and to our bloodstream that would not have normally made the cut. Imagine there is a sorting facility in your gut. While particles are meant to be packaged up and shipped out, some are sneaking through the compromised junctions and causing a hypersensitive immune response. As it should, because these are things such as bacteria or larger, undigested particles that we want to leave the body, not circulate. And once this junction has been compromised, it becomes easier and a much more frequent occurrence.
But how in the world is the increased permeability happening in the first place? It’s not a one and done kind of deal, but more of a process of accumulation. As the queen of making comparisons that make sense to me but not others, get a load of this. Have you ever washed your hands so much that they become dry? And when they become dry they start to crack or even bleed? The first time you washed them it wasn’t a big deal, but the accumulated effect (given that you haven’t been oiling your hands between washing) was that they became raw. That’s pretty much the same thing that happens with our intestinal mucosa. You eat a spicy dish one night? No problem. You’re stressed over something for a day? We’ve got you covered. But if you experience stress, eat a diet of foods that have the ability to break things down without rebuilding (like spicy and acidic) and don’t do the work to counter the effects, the lining will start to become irritated. The same is true if you eat a food that gives you diarrhea or heartburn and don’t pay attention to the signs your body is giving you. It’s having that reaction to tell you that it’s had enough.
As leaky gut is now a phrase popping up in our lexicon, you might be surprised that it is incredibly tough to diagnose. To my knowledge, only one company provides a lab test for this. Instead of having a test, your healthcare practitioner may go off of the signs and symptoms that you are experiencing and recommend you make some changes. Some of the symptoms include increasing food sensitivities, aches, pain, swelling, brain fog, abdominal bloat and reaction to sugar or carbohydrates. If this is you and you’ve cleared out the possibility of other issues, a change in your routine may be in order. With guidance from your healthcare provider, here’s a course of action to consider:
Eliminate the foods that are more permeable. This includes wheat, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, dairy, millet, quinoa, soy, nuts, beans, rice, potatoes, food coloring. It isn’t all inclusive in that you will have a reaction to all of these nor does it meant that if it isn’t on the list you should be consuming a lot of it. Rather it is a list of what ranks high on having the ability to move through the tight junction if invited. Eliminate these foods for two weeks.
Soothe your gut. This means add a coating to your mucosa so that it can heal. You can do this with marshmallow root, slippery elm, chamomile or aloe vera. Do this in conjunction with the food elimination.
Ignite your digestive fire. Having a fire that can breakdown what you put in is essential. To increase your digestive fire (now safer since you have soothed the lining of your intestines again) try ginger tea, cumin + coriander + fennel tea or simply having a little pepper before or with your meal. Also consider adding a probiotic since you’re going through a major healing phase for your gut. This is also a step done at the same time as the food elimination.
Introduce food again! Don’t forget this step. Unless you have a legitimate allergy, you should be able to digest what you eat without reaction. If you omit a food for good, you are simply making your gut weaker but not challenging it now and then. Even if you add one food every three days to be sure you don’t have a reaction, you might still find you react. If this is the case, go on to another food and note it’s reaction. Ideally, one could stick with these steps and eventually get back to a healthy digestion within a couple of months. As with most things, there will be exceptions.
While you go through these four steps, don’t forget to pay attention to the causative factors that are NOT food! Work to manage and support your body during times of stress, have consistency in your day and get plenty of sleep. Gut, be leaky no more!