The expression “leaky gut” is getting a lot of attention in medical blogs and social media lately, but don’t be surprised if your doctor does not recognize this term. Leaky gut, also called increased intestinal permeability, is somewhat new and most of the research occurs in basic sciences.
What exactly is leaky gut?
Inside our bellies, we have an extensive intestinal lining covering more than 4,000 square feet of surface area. When working properly, it forms a tight barrier that controls what gets absorbed into the bloodstream. An unhealthy gut lining may have large cracks or holes, allowing partially digested food, toxins, and bugs to penetrate the tissues beneath it. This may trigger inflammation and changes in the gut flora (normal bacteria) that could lead to problems within the digestive tract and beyond. The research world is booming today with studies showing that modifications in the intestinal bacteria and inflammation may play a role in the development of several common chronic diseases.
Did you know that inside our bellies we have an intestinal lining that covers more that 4000 square feet of surface area? I knew that I had a big belly but did not realize it was that big! And when working correctly this lining forms a tight barrier that controls what gets absorbed into our bloodstream. Research is booming in how cracks or holes in this lining allows partially digest food and toxins to penetrate surrounding tissue. This is where the term leaky gut comes from.
Did you also know that 80% of your immune system is in your gut. Which is why it is often said a healthy gut means a healthy you!
Leaky gut syndrome affects millions of people around the world, and many don’t even know they have it. The good news is, by making simple changes to your diet you can prevent and reverse leaky gut syndrome and lower your risk for developing autoimmune disease and other issues.
What causes leaky gut?
Your gut can become leaky due to a number of factors, two of the biggest culprits are found right on your plate.
Many foods may worsen the symptoms of inflammation. Such foods include sugar, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and red or processed meats.
Green beans. Chickpeas. Eggplant. Tomatoes. Those all sound healthy, right? There are plenty of foods that you might consider healthy, yet eating these foods might directly be causing your inflammation, and even your leaky gut.
If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune or thyroid disease, or believe you have a leaky gut, you should avoid these inflammatory foods:
- Legumes such as lentils, peanuts, chickpeas, soybeans.
- Nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes.
The two inflammatory foods absolutely everyone should avoid completely are gluten and dairy.
When you eat gluten, it travels to your small intestine, where it triggers the release of zonulin, a chemical that signals the tight junctions of your intestinal walls to open up. When that happens, you have a leaky gut. Thanks to the groundbreaking research of Dr. Alessio Frasano, we know that Zonulin signals the tight junctions of your intestinal wall to open up. When that happens, you have a leaky gut.
Dairy also causes inflammation in a large percent of the population resulting in digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea, as well as other symptoms including acne, and a stronger presentation of autistic behaviors. I believe dairy is one of the most inflammatory foods in our modern diet, second only to gluten.
What is it about dairy that causes inflammation and leaky gut? There are two components of dairy that tend to cause inflammation: the sugar (lactose) and the proteins casein and whey. Casein is a protein with a very similar molecular structure to gluten and 50% of people who are gluten intolerant are casein intolerant as well.
Controversy still exists on whether leaky gut causes the development of diseases outside the gastrointestinal tract in humans. However, it is always a good idea to eat a nutritious, unprocessed diet that includes foods that help quell inflammation (and avoids foods known to trigger inflammation), which may, at least in theory, help to rebuild the gut lining and bring more balance to the gut flora. This recipe could make you feel better, without any side effects. It is definitely worth a try.