Is it just me or is this term showing up everywhere? Leaky Gut! What the heck is it and why is everyone’s guts starting to leak. The idea sounds extremely disturbing. I found out about 6 months ago that I am fortunate enough to have this health issue. After some blood, urine, saliva and stool tests I was able to learn that this was indeed the case. I was also able to make the connection between my leaky gut and all my food allergies and hopefully my findings can be helpful to you!
“Gluten free” has been the craze for a couple years now, and everyone who can eat gluten gets real annoyed with those of us who cannot, and like to talk to them about it. I am allergic to gluten (and much more) and I am starting to meet other people like me who can’t eat normal healthy items of food such as chicken or turkey. But why? Well, Leaky gut is when the pores in your intestine widen, which allows undigested food particles and toxins into the bloodstream, which should not happen. Since these items are not supposed to be in the blood stream, they cause the immune system to attack these unidentified items. This is what often leads to all these crazy food allergies for people such as being allergic to chicken. With leaky gut, eating a piece of chicken causes it to go into your small intestine where pieces of undigested chicken that should stay there, end up getting through those large pores and enter your blood stream. Your immune system does not recognize these particles and begin to attack these intruders which then makes your body allergic to chicken. Big bummer. So, what causes this annoying condition to happen?
There are different ways one can develop a leaky gut. One common cause is not having a balance of flora in your gut. A lot of people have too much bad bacteria instead of good bacteria and this causes inflammation causing the pores in your intestine to open up. Some of the other common causes are gluten dairy, alcohol, and sugar. Some of the toxic culprits can also be medications such as Advil and Motrin, antibiotics, or acid reducing drugs such as Prilosec OTC. I have used tons of Advil over the years from lots of chronic pain and menstrual pain and I’m afraid that’s the culprit for me.
If you think you might have this here are some symptoms of having a leaky gut. One big sign can be digestive issues such as gas, bloating, or IBS. I have been told I have IBS since elementary school and they say there is no treatment. Cool! Other symptoms are seasonal allergies or asthma. Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) can be indicators as well as autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, Hashimoto’s, lupus or celiac disease. Most people with leaky gut complain of chronic fatigue and mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. Skin issues can also be a hint you have leaky gut such as acne, rosacea or eczema. So if any of this has been an issue for you, it would not hurt you to check into if you have leaky gut. The hard thing is that leaky gut is not widely known and studied in the AMA world of medicine. I am having to do a ton of online research about this issue and here are some of the things I have been noticing in what seems to be most popular in the Functional Medicine community. Here’s some of my research.
Now reminder: I AM NOT A DOCTOR but I am having to try so many different things for my health and I hope that I can help some of you if you have the infamous “non-diagnosable” diseases and issues. One of the big things to fixing leaking gut is going on an elimination diet which removes the toxic and inflammatory foods for a certain period of time. My approach, which has been helpful but pricey, is getting a food allergy blood test. I went to a functional doctor, and my insurance did not cover this so it cost about $1800 to get the full testing. This tests hundreds of foods and toxins that may be affecting your body. I found out I am allergic to the most random things such as chicken, turkey, onions, bell peppers, tapioca starch, blue berries, pineapple etc… This was very annoying to hear, but also so helpful to learn. The difficult things is that these foods that I am allergic to, don’t necessarily give me a reaction right after I eat them. I won’t get a stomach ache or a migraine right after I eat, but the inflammation that it’s causing is affecting me more than I know. So, I did these tests through my Functional doctor,Dr. Norling. You can contact her to work with even if you are not in California. If you need to take any tests, she can happily send them to you in the mail.
Another approach is doing the two week elimination diet where you take out these inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, soy and common food additives. Eliminate one food at a time and keep a journal of how you feel after every meal. Keep note of your energy level, how your stomach feels and how your bowels react during the absence of each food. It is weird at first, I know, but it’s helpful to go back and read what you’ve been experiencing. After two weeks, you then re-introduce the foods and continue journaling the effects. If you get bloated, fatigued, or gassy then most likely your body does not like that food. Most functional doctors suggest that you stay off that food for 2-3 months before reintroducing a food that was causing issues for you. When you do reintroduce the food, you need to include it in all three meals in the same day. Continue to note how you feel and if it is not good, then you should probably keep that food out of your diet for a while.
While you are eliminating foods, you want to replace them with whole foods and lots of fruits and veggies, lean meats and whole food fats. You will also want good fiber to help eliminate toxins and byproducts through your large intestine. Foods full of fiber include berries, legumes, nuts and seeds. You can add flaxseed or chia seeds to any shake or meal. I understand this is hard because I am not the biggest fan of cooking. If I do cook, it’s most likely the same thing for the whole week. Try to visit farmers markets for fresh fruits and veggies and take some times scanning some recipes on Pinterest. It really does help and makes a big difference for your body.
You will also want some supplemental help to heal the leaky gut. One helpful supplement is Glutamine which is a great amino acid that can heal soft tissue in the lining of your intestines. I included a link to the Glutamine that I use, so you can order from a good brand. Another smart option is to take a probiotic. These are full of good bacteria which help restore the balance of your gut flora. I take a probiotic powder VSL that has over 500 Billion probiotics ( you can get it from Costco) and is awesome. You can use the capsules or the powder and just put it in your protein shake. I also love drinking Kombucha which is a probiotic and my dad and I have been making Sauerkraut which is another type of probiotic. Another good item to add is Omega 3 which combats inflammation. You can take a supplement or eat more fatty fish like salmon. I also take a few more items that are highly recommended from my Functional doctor such as, Ultra Inflammax, Mastic Gum and Gastrozyme.
I realize that this can be a long and frustrating process, but you must allow yourself some grace. You will cheat and eat something you’re not supposed to and you will get overwhelmed wondering if you will ever get better. Remember that this is not a quick fix issue and can be a lifelong process to great health! Just remember to give yourself a huge congrats for disciplining yourself to even start! I am realizing there are so many more people out there like me and it’s encouraging to know that health can be achieved. Even if you don’t have perfect health a month from now, try to focus on the little changes. Maybe you are less bloated after a month or maybe you have a little less acne on your body! These are huge and you must celebrate every little improvement because big change starts with lots of little changes! You can do it!!! Please comment and let me know your issues, and if you have struggled with this! Any things you have used that have been working?? We all want to know 🙂 Happy Health!!