Last week, I wrote about the relationship between stress and cortisol. Today and I am focusing on stress and leaky gut, and how they affect our overall gut health. My goal is to continue to shed light on how different conditions or symptoms are actually associated with stress – despite being often overlooked as the underlying root cause.
By understanding the physiology of our bodies and individual stress responses, we can predict what is going to happen next in our bodies. And then, reverse and heal it.
What Is Leaky Gut?
Understanding the Intestinal Walls
Intestinal walls are comprised of hundreds of thousands of cells (roughly the size of a tennis court if you can believe it!) that slough off and grow back in a 72-hour cycle. Their job is to finalize the digestion of our food and allow nutrients to get into our bodies, while also preventing undigested food and bacteria from getting through. So it is a responsive barrier between us and the stuff that is inside our intestines.
Unfortunately, ongoing stress makes it difficult for intestinal cells to be as healthy as can be and to do their job. Additionally, Glutamine, an essential amino acid that acts as an energy source for intestinal cells, is reallocated when the body experiences an abundance of stress.
Leaky gut – also known as intestinal permeability – is when the healthy cells in your intestines are compromised due to stress from medications, alcohol, gluten, pesticides, and/or emotional stress exposure. When this happens, space is created between the cells, allowing undigested food, toxins, and bacteria to pass through the gaps, across the intestinal lining, to the tissue underneath, and eventually into our bloodstream.
Upon identifying larger particles penetrating the cells, the immune system considers itself under attack; thinking it could be a virus or other threat, it creates an immune response and antibodies, which is what food sensitivities to occur.
This also makes it less likely to properly digest our food and absorb the nutrients we need.
*It’s also important to note that food sensitivities and food allergies are two different things. An allergy is when an antibody called IgE is produced, creating an immediate allergic response in the body, which typically presents itself as hives, swelling and/ or closing of airways. A sensitivity is when a different antibody is produced – IgA and/or IgG – which are delayed response antibodies, leading to more subtle symptoms over time.
Common Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Leaky gut is actually A LOT more common than people suspect. In fact, I strongly believe that we all have some degree of it – whether mid, moderate, or severe. That said, it can be hard to detect because:
- It’s not tested for in the regular doctor’s office.
- Second, it doesn’t always cause digestive symptoms.
- Food sensitivities don’t cause an immediate response, so it’s hard to associate something you ate with how you feel. The responses can actually take anywhere from a few days to a week (with IgA) and over three weeks (with IgG).
Here are some of the common symptoms you might experience:
- Achiness and joint pain
- Unexplained headaches
- Allergies or allergic reactions
- Sinus congestion and/or frequent sinus infections
- Anxiety and/or depression
- PMS, PCOS and other menstrual irregularities
- Weight gain
- Bloating, heartburn/reflux, stomach pains, and/or bowel changes
- Autoimmune conditions, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or M.S.
I have even seen leaky gut responsible for fertility issues, menstrual irregularities, HPV, abnormal pap smears, and other chronic infections or conditions.
How Stress Causes Leaky Gut
So how exactly does stress cause this? Going back a bit to cortisol, we know that cortisol is the main communicator in the body, which is continuously sending signals to the various systems. When we have a stress exposure, our cortisol message “shifts.” It still sends signals throughout the body, however, it can either be louder or quieter, sending slightly different messages than when healthy.
In the case of the digestive system, when there’s a stress signal coming through, digestion is automatically decreased because the ability to digest food properly is put on the back burner. The intestinal cells become less healthy, and leaky gut develops. Immune responses to foods increases and nutrient absorption decreases. Inflammation spreads throughout the body, sending yet further stress signals that perpetuate the pattern.
From here, we can make two important distinctions:
- Leaky gut is more than a local digestive issue and result of stress; it is a complex issue that creates more stress. It is one of the major root causes of health issues.
- We are dealing with something that can be reversed. By working backward, we can make different (better) choices to heal leaky gut, decrease the inflammation, and resolve the health issues caused by it.
Reversing the Cycle and Healing – Naturally
Addressing leaky gut allows us to address and heal the bigger health picture. When we do so, we become resilient and are able to fight off infections, rebalance hormones and fix autoimmunity.
We can do this through:
- Identifying foods that are causing inflammation through food sensitivity panels and eliminate those foods from our diet. (Gluten is known to be a major stressor that causes leaky gut.)
- Taking digestive enzymes to help your body digest food better, such as Dr. Doni’s Enzyme Support. And doing so will decrease reactivity to foods and help the intestinal cells heal quicker.
- Taking glutamine and herbs* that are anti-inflammatory, such as DGL and aloe, all of which are in Dr. Doni’s Leaky Gut Support powder.
- Focusing on balancing gut bacteria. You can start by adding a high quality probiotic, such as Dr. Doni’s Probiotic. If you have digestive symptoms and/or a history of antibiotic use, then a PCR DNA stool panel to measure your gut bacteria should be done.
The most important thing to know – and celebrate – is that we absolutely CAN reverse and heal leaky gut naturally, without medications (actually there are no medications that help with leaky gut; they are only known to make it worse).
My Patients’ Experience Healing Leaky Gut
In fact, recent examples show how effective treating leaky gut is for total body health.
- One patient with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s Disease) has been working with me for 3 weeks to address his leaky gut and over-growing bacteria and is reporting a 40% improvement already.
- Another patient has eliminated her nausea and vomiting episodes thanks to healing leaky gut.
- And still another patient has worked with me to avoid gluten and heal leaky gut and is now migraine-free and medication-free for the first time in ages – after only 6 months of working together.
Healing leaky gut makes a difference for digestive issues – and more – because it is a root cause that goes beyond its symptoms.
Years back, when healing leaky gut for myself, I created the 21-Day Stress Remedy Program based on the diet changes and supplements I took. In the program, I guide you to avoid the most common food allergens – gluten, dairy, egg, and soy – and show you how to make incremental changes over 21 days that will help get leaky gut healed.
You can do the Stress Remedy Program with or without supplements, but if possible, I suggest using the pea protein shake and leaky gut healing products, to speed up your recovery.
If you’d like to find out whether you have food sensitivities and/or leaky gut – you can start out by doing a food panel at home yourself. It’s a finger poke, and the results take about 2 weeks to come back. This way you can start implementing right away.
If you are getting a sense of how leaky gut could be a major underlying cause of your health issues, and would like to work with me one-on-one to help you heal leaky gut, and to create a strategy to start balancing everything that got out of balance due to stress, then start by applying to meet with me for an initial appointment. We can discuss whether the Leaky Gut Solutions Program is a good fit for your case.
More than anything, I want you to know that Leaky Gut can be healed. And by taking steps to heal leaky gut, you’ll be addressing your health on a deeper level. From here, you can make giant changes to your health. You can reverse autoimmunity. You can eliminate the need for medications to help with pain because the pain will be gone.
15th January 2020
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.