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What the heck is leaky gut?

leakygut1Think, for a moment, of the intestinal lining as a tile floor. For a tile floor to not leak, we put grout between the tiles. When the grout is damaged, the floor leaks.

The same goes for your intestinal lining. The space between the cells (called tight junctions) is like grout, ensuring that undigested food does not make it into your body.

Food must be digested all the way down to the most simple substances (glucose, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and fats) in order to be transported across the cell wall, through the cell, back out the other side, then through the space between the intestinal lining and the blood vessels, and finally into the blood stream.

When the “grout” in the intestinal lining is damaged (due to stress, antibiotics, yeast, gluten, to name the known causes), then partially digested food (stress reduces our ability to digest food) can get between the cells into the area where your immune system is “on guard” waiting to attack “foreign substances.”

This is where IgG and IgA food sensitivities develop.

Once the immune system attacks, it sends inflammatory signals throughout the body (what I refer to as an “inflammatory cloud”), which is why symptoms of food intolerance and leaky gut can appear anywhere, not just in the digestive tract.

Just as a drop of ink discolors an entire gallon of water, one exposure to an intolerant food can cause severe symptoms (usually within 1-4 days) after consumption. But not only that! The exposure becomes an additional stress on the body which perpetuates the susceptibility to illness.

It makes sense that the immune system reacts to the foods that are coming through—the foods that you eat most often.  So an important distinction is that the priority solution is to heal the leaky gut, not just to avoid the foods that are triggering the reaction.

How do you know if you have leaky gut?
There are tests available that specifically measure whether substances that don’t usually traverse the intestinal lining, are getting through.  Another way to identify leaky gut is by doing an IgG and IgA food sensitivity panel which you can order through my website. Based on the number and severity of IgG and IgA reactions, as well as the types of foods that show as reactive (beans for example), we can presume that leaky gut exists.

How do you heal leaky gut?

  1. Avoid the foods that the immune system is attacking is the first step to healing leaky gut because it helps to reduce inflammation and to prevent the perpetuation of leaky gut. Read 5 Success Tips for Avoiding Food Sensitivities here.
  2. Address the underlying cause of the leakiness.
  • The single best thing you could do to address the underlying cause is to avoid gluten because it directly causes leaky gut by disrupting the “grout” (by stimulating a substance called zonulin).
  • Take digestive enzymes (and hydrochloric acid when needed) helps to ensure that all food is fully digested by the time it gets to the intestines.
  • Address intestinal yeast overgrowth, heavy metal toxicity, and infection anywhere in the body (Lyme, Mono, tooth infection, etc) when it is present.
  1. Take nutrients and herbs that have been shown to heal leaky gut.  These include, but are not limited to, L-glutamine, N-acetyl glucosamine, zinc, berberine, herbal licorice (Glycyrrhiza), quercetin, and aloe vera leaf extract.  To see products that contain these ingredients, intended to help heal leaky gut, click here. 
  2. Take probiotics. The healthy bacteria (microbiome) that live in our intestines actually protect us from leaky gut. The balance of bacteria is easily disrupted by recurrent use of antibiotics, inflammation, and environmental toxins.You can help to restore the balance of healthy bacteria in your intestines by taking a high quality probiotic. I recommend choosing a product that is refrigerated and that does not contain dairy. Check out these examples of products I recommend.

What is the impact of leaky gut?
While leaky gut (also known as intestinal permeability) is established in the medical community, and significant research on the subject is coming out every year, it is not often addressed in conventional medical care.

Meanwhile, it is a major underlying cause of illnesses of all sorts, in every system of the body. From chronic fatigue, sinusitis, and interstitial cystitis—to anxiety, depression, hypothyroidism, autoimmunity (of all types), and cancer, leaky gut is both an originator of illness and a result of illness.

Stress and the adrenal response (cortisol and adrenaline) are both a result of leaky gut and a cause of leaky gut, due to the suppression of digestion, immunity, and hormone function. Supporting and rebalancing adrenal function is an important part of healing leaky gut.

How long does it take to heal?
Putting a stop to the vicious cycle associated with leaky gut is not done overnight. It requires diligence, consistency and changes both in diet and lifestyle over months to years.

The good news is that it is possible to heal.  I’ve seen it in practice. Patients report a gradual decrease in symptoms and tendencies to illness.

Overall, healing leaky gut is a TOP priority for achieving optimal health.

Dr. Doni

 

About The Author

DR. DONI WILSON is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, natural health expert, nutritionist, and midwife specializing in gluten sensitivity, intestinal permeability, adrenal stress, and insulin resistance. She helps women, men, and children overcome their most perplexing health challenges and achieve their wellness goals. She does this by crafting individualized strategies that address the whole body and the underlying causes of health issues. She is the creator of The Hamptons Cleanse and author of The Stress Remedy: Master Your Body’s Synergy & Optimize Your Health.


Find out how stress of all types affects your body at TheStressRemedy.com, and sign up for Dr. Doni’s Weekly Wellness Wisdom e-newsletter for tips to empower you and your path to wellness!

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DISCLAIMER: Donielle Wilson is NOT a licensed Medical Doctor (MD). She is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor in CT and WA states and practices as a health consultant in New York. Any reference to the practice of naturopathic medicine does not apply in New York State. Information on this website is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine including psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, (iii) the creation of a physician patient or clinical relationship, or (iv) an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any third party product or service by the Sponsor or any of the Sponsor's affiliates, agents, employees, consultants or service providers. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly.