Basics of Leaky Gut

This explanation has been a long time coming, it’s another one of those topics I’m asked about weekly. To paint a picture of leaky gut is no simple task. There’s no singular symptom or precise series of events that cause its presentation. It can happen quickly or deteriorate over years, and the time it takes to heal a leaky gut depends on your unique biochemical makeup.

Purpose of the gut.

Let’s picture our guts for a moment. The gut is intended to be a series of impermeable winding tubes that absorb nutrients from what we ingest and excrete what we don’t need as waste product. We can even tell by the consistency and odor of stool when an individual isn’t absorbing their nutrients properly. Anywho, the bacteria located inside our guts should be abundant and diverse. Bacteria helps in the digestive process, keeps our immune system healthy, influences genetics, and more.

  photo courtesy of draxe.com

photo courtesy of draxe.com

An enormous percentage of your immune system is in your gut.

Tiny gate keeper-like components called tight junctions keep the entire lining of the gut sealed from the rest of your insides. If those tight junctions become loose and open up, substances you ingest leak into your bloodstream. An immune reactions occurs when substances your bloodstream doesn’t recognize start floating around inside of it. Antibodies are created to combat the foreign substances the body thinks it needs to protect itself against. This mechanism is how allergies occur, but it’s fundamentally the same if you were to catch a virus. The body will release compounds to fight off invading threats.

Food allergies, toxins, pesticides, antibiotics, painkillers, hormonal birth control, yeast overgrowths and more contribute to the loosening of the tight junctions in your gut lining and a condition called dysbiosis. And while the government will say pesticides don’t affect your gut, they absolutely affect the shikimate pathway of bacteria that inhabit your gut.

Dysbiosis and LPS.

Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are an endotoxin released by good bacteria to protect itself from opportunistic bacteria in the gut. LPS are highly inflammatory and contribute not only to leaky gut proliferation, but also fat accumulation, hyperglycemia, and insulin resistance. Leaky Gut as a product of dysbiosis and LPS presence can leave many food particles undigested as they move through the GI tract. These undigested particles feed gut bacteria, furthering dysbiosis and inflammation as microbe imbalance promotes inflammation.

Dysbiosis is a term for the pathogenic alterations of distribution and quantity of microbes in the gut. As a general rule, 80% should be beneficial bacteria and 20% opportunistic (pathogenic) bacteria. Causes of dysbiosis include:

  • Pharmaceuticals

    • Antibiotics - alter microbiota up to 16 months after use

    • Oral birth control

    • Corticosteroids

    • Chemotherapy

  • Diet  

    • Inadequate fiber

    • Inadequate fermented foods

    • Artificial sweeteners - alter microbiota, total energy extraction from gut increased and glucose intolerance drives alteration

    • Dehydration

  • Stress

    • Sleep deprivation

    • Radiation

    • Gut motility alterations - scar tissue, hernias, etc..

  • Birth style

    • C-sections - the microbiome begins at childbirth from vaginal delivery to preinocculate the GI system for innate immunity, c-section babies can only harbor microbial communities on human skin.

Side effects of a leaky gut.

So while poor digestion is the presumptuous answer, leaky gut has been shown to correlate with a handful of other conditions too. A diverse group of microbes (bacteria and yeasts/fungi), depends on abundance and diversity driven by diet and environmental influence. In the presence of a leaky gut and altered microbiota, side effects can include:

  • Thyroid dysfunction

  • Candida overgrowth

  • Mental health changes

  • Migraines

  • Weight changes

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Skin conditions

  • Food allergies / sensitivities

Reversal of leaky gut.

This 4-step process is intended to take a minimum of 90 days. The more severe the damage is to the gut lining, the longer the healing process will take.

  1. Remove trigger substances

    • Food allergies / sensitivities

    • Pharmaceuticals

    • Chemical toxins

    • Non-organic foods

  2. Replace diet with nutrient dense foods and digestive enzymes

  3. Repair gut lining

    • Bone broth (grass-fed beef, chicken, turkey)

    • Gelatin powder (grass-fed bovine hide)

    • Glycine (animal-based supplement)

    • Vitamin C (whole foods complex)

    • Quality protein (grass-fed, pastured, organic)

    • GI-Encap

    • Curcumin

    • Butyrate

    • Vitamin A

    • Restore

  4. Reinoculate with beneficial bacteria (pre- and probiotics) and yeasts

Leaky gut support.

If you suspect that you have leaky gut, or have been diagnosed, I suggest seeking out a functional nutritionist for support in your healing journey. Granted that they are credentialed practitioners, they can likely provide customized meal plans and supplement protocols.

Keeping leaky gut from happening again means making lifestyle changes. You can’t just heal your gut acutely and go back to old habits with the expectation that it was a singular incident. Come November 2018, I will have my CNTP degree complete. When the time comes I plan to support clients with customized programs and support to heal their leaky guts. Leaky gut is a condition I personally deal with and have spent en enormous amount of energy learning about. I find mission in helping others navigate diet and lifestyle choices to heal if not prevent this condition.