WTF is Leaky Gut?!

Leaky GutSarah’s Rap: Most people have never heard of Leaky Gut. Among those that have, I’d estimate that at least half think it is a quack diagnosis, including those close to Leaky Gut suffers such as myself. It is difficult to have a condition where you’re met with skepticism rather than support, with accusation rather than help. I can tell you that there are a lot of doctors out there that support this illness and many people that benefit from treatment designed for a Leaky Gut. Even those with diagnoses of IBS, IBD, Autoimmune diseases, Fibromyalgia, Celiac Disease, Thyroid conditions, Autism and more!

The best course of action is to get informed and if you’re suffering, know that you are not alone. The more people learn about the condition and others like it, the better able we will be able to heal, get medical attention and receive the support needed for healing. Even if you don’t think you have any health problems, I hope you still read this as I guarantee you that someone you know does!

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky Gut is a name given to the condition of “intestinal permeability”. This is exactly what it sounds like – the intestinal walls become permeable, meaning they allow undigested proteins, bacteria, waste products and toxins to pass through them into the blood stream, causing the body to attack as if it’s an invading army. This causes the person to develop food intolerances for these substances, which is often of the first things that is diagnosed in Leaky Gut sufferers. However there are many other warning signs, shown below. Many of these are often ignored, blamed on other things . If left untreated, Leaky Gut will worsen and turn into an autoimmune disease, such as Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroid, Diabetes Type 1 and others.

Some believe that Leaky Gut is not a thing, but even if you don’t there is no disputing that the treatments for Leaky Gut make people feel a whole lot healthier. We’re not talking about a bunch of prescription medications – remedies for healing a leaky gut include healthy meats and vegetables, reducing stress, increasing sleep and ensuring you are taking natural vitamins, minerals and supplements for healing. At the end of the day, I think we should all admit that as a society we are unhealthy and that taking simple actions for better health such as eating more vegetables, cutting out processed foods and reducing stress is good for everybody.

Can you tell that I am very passionate about this? I have seen so many cases of people in denial about their own illness or about their loved ones who are suffering, causing them to become even more unhealthy or not supportive of those that need them the most. There are a lot of great resources I recommend below, so if you fall into either of these camps or admit to health problems and looking for answers, please keep reading.

Signs of Leaky Gut

There are many signs of a Leaky Gut, and oftentimes someone might just be exhibiting one of them, but left untreated they can start to snowball. For me, it started with a skin rash as a result of a Candida infection. This moved to acid reflux due to multiple food intolerances after rounds of antibiotics due to a dermatologist that thought my fungal infection was bacterial, and then it spiraled down from there.

The important thing to do is listen to your body. Several of these are actually contributing causes to Leaky Gut, so if you can discover the cause and reverse them you may actually stop your health from getting worse and turn things around quicker.

  • multiple food intolerances
  • food allergies
  • lactose intolerance
  • bloating and gas
  • acid reflux
  • weight gain
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • skin rashes, acne, rosacea, or eczema
  • joint pain
  • depression
  • headaches
  • sensitivity to chemicals and smells
  • blurry vision
  • ADD or ADHD
  • brain fog and difficulty with concentrating
  • an IBS diagnosis
  • malaise
  • adrenal fatigue
  • hormonal imbalances
  • a diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
  • an autoimmune disease
  • candida overgrowth, signs of which include some of the above, plus…
    • skin and nail fungus
    • recurring  yeast infections
    • urinary tract infections
    • irritability
    • mood swings
    • uncontrollable cravings for sugar and carbohydrates
    • itchy skin, particularly around face and ears

As you can see there are a variety of symptoms that one can exhibit when they have Leaky gut. Everyone is different and the signs of illness will be different for different bodies, genes and situations.

Causes of Leaky Gut

stress

There are many contributors that can lead an individual’s intestinal track to become compromised. For me, I feel that it was a combination of stress, lack of sleep, a diet high in sugar and grains and a long track of antibiotics which killed off my good bacteria and caused high levels of Candida albicans to run riot through my body. It is hard to say for sure what caused my condition though, as I had all of the below problems identified once I found medical professionals that actually knew something about my condition.

  • Inflammation
  • Chronic stress
  • An inflammatory diet, high in sugars, gluten, seed oils, chemicals and processed foods
  • Ignoring food allergies or intolerances
  • Antibiotics
  • NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug), such as ibuprofen and aspirin
  • Yeast overgrowth (i.e. Candida albicans)
  • Bacteria overgrowth (i.e. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, a.k.a. SIBO)
  • Parasitic infections
  • Metal toxicity
  • Genetics
  • Gut dysbiosis (microbial imbalance)

 

What can you do if you think you have Leaky Gut?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, here are some suggestions to help get educated about the causes and cures, as well as your own specific condition

  • Seek help from a medical professional that understands Leaky Gut. Look for help from these a doc in these areas. In fact, I’d recommend going to one in each category to get multiple opinions and approaches:
    • functional medicine
    • naturophathic medicine
    • nutrition/autonomic/muscle response testing
  • Get a check-up at a gastroenterologist. NOTE: This is in addition to the docs above who will be able to take a holistic approach to healing. I personally did not find a GI doc helpful other than to rule out certain issues with a colonoscopy, but it is good to do that
  • Ask for tests to check for:
    • Intestinal Permeability (lactulose/mannitol)
    • SIBO
    • Food sensitivities and allergies
    • Adrenal fatigue
    • Bacterial, parasitic and fungal infections
    • Heavy metals
    • Hormonal imbalances
    • Organic acids and neurotransmitter levels/pre-cursors
    • Vitamin and mineral levels
    • Thyroid function and thyroid antibodies
    • Genetic markers for MTHFR
  • Read these core books:
  • If you have any mental symptoms, such as trouble concentrating, depression, anxiety or memory loss, read the above “core” books as well as…
  • If you are experiencing thyroid imbalances or Hashimoto’s disease, read the above “core” books as well as…

Tips for Healing a Leaky Gut

In addition to learning as much as you can and finding healthcare professionals that can help, here are some additional tips from my own experience that can help you to heal:

  • Build a support network – join the private Leaky Gut/Candida Facebook group, talk to your family and educate them on what you’re dealing with and how they can help, join up with friends with similar issues
  • Find a therapist – it can be immensely helpful to talk to a counselor as you deal with stress related to dietary changes, symptoms from your illness and feelings of anxiety, depression and/or isolation
  • Cut out processed sugar, alcohol, dairy, corn, soy and gluten
  • Listen to your body – do certain foods bother you more then others? If so, cut them out!
  • Start a journal of what you eat, symptoms and exercise
  • Eat more non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables
  • Ensure the meats you eat are high quality – preferably wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef and organic poultry
  • Space meals apart – recommend 4 hours between each meal and 12+ hours overnight
  • Don’t over-exercise, as it can cause more harm than good – aim for 30-60 minutes of light to moderate exercise such as walking, Pilates, swimming and yoga.yoga2
  • Sweat! Hot Epsom salt baths, sauna and hot yoga are all good to do 2x per week
  • Hydrate – drink 8-10 glasses of of water/day
  • Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep per night
  • Ensure your bowels are moving – get help from your doctors on natural ways to help you stay regular. For me, this means taking magnesium and psyllium husks daily. This will help to get the toxins out rather than keeping them in!
  • Look for ways to reduce stress – say “no” more often to make more time for self care, get massages, cut back at work, accept that we are not superhumans and that we cannot do it everything. address toxic relationships and more!
  • Start daily meditation and/or progressive relaxation techniques
  • Ensure you’re taking quality vitamins, minerals and Omega-3s
  • Take an L-glutamine supplement
  • Research these diets and decide if one is right for you:
    • Paleo
    • Autoimmune Paleo
    • Whole30
    • Mediterranean
    • GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome)
    • SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet)

Additional Resources

There are many great online resources as well. Here are a few of my favorites:

Know You Are Not Alone

Our hope when we started this blog was that by sharing our stories and experiences we could help others who are suffering to better understand the causes, learn ways to heal and help to provide support through recipes, conversation and related book recommendations. Melissa and I are here to support you. We’d love to hear from you and help in any way we can. If you want to share your story in a guest post, please contact us.

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