Leaky gut gets the blame for almost every stomach-related issue, and even for pain and anxiety. However, the subject remains one of the most mysterious health conditions when it comes to proper diagnosis and treatment. One of the reasons for this mystery is that the gut is one of the most comprehensive and complex human body systems. It’s often referred to as the gastrointestinal tract, digestive tract, or digestive system. It comprises a group of organs that includes the small intestines, colon, rectum, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, oesophagus, and mouth.
As medical science research continues to progress, we continue to find new ways in which the gut can influence other parts of the body, including the heart, and keeping our brains young. When it comes to leaky gut, although medical science has revealed a lot about this condition, there is still a lot that is unknown in terms of how the disease affects your health.
What is ‘leaky gut’?
For the leaky gut condition to be understood, the disease should be analysed from the cellular level. The lining of the human body’s intestine is filled with millions of cells. These cells connect to create a tight barrier that functions as a security system in charge of what the body absorbs into its bloodstream and what it keeps out.
Unfortunately, when this barrier becomes compromised due to an unhealthy gut, the lining becomes weak, and ‘holes’ begin to develop in the wall created by the connected cells. Because of this, the barrier is left porous, making it possible for different kinds of bacteria and toxins to find their way into the bloodstream and the human body.
This situation can lead to inflammation in the gut and the entire body, which will cause a domino of different diseases throughout other parts of the body. Some of the health problems caused by a weakened lining include joint pain, headaches, fatigue, food sensitivity, inflammatory bowel disease, cramps, gas, bloating, to mention a few.
So, how do the ‘holes’ form in the lining? Poor diet and a person’s genetics are two of the leading causes of the holes. Some people may develop a weak barrier or lining from eating a lot of unhealthy or unbalanced diets. Consuming food that is low in fiber and high in saturated fats and sugar may weaken the gut lining.
On the other hand, some people may have soft linings from birth. Apart from poor diets and genes, age is also another factor. As the body gets older, cells get damaged more quickly, and unfortunately, heal very slowly. In some cases, these cells do not heal at all or die out, making the gut more vulnerable.
Leaky Gut Symptoms
A person’s leaky gut condition may either be mild or severe, depending on what symptoms they are experiencing. Some of the common leaky gut symptoms are:
- Digestive issues: If you experience diarrhea, bloating, gas, and other forms of digestive problems, it could be a sign of a leaky gut. These can either be mild or severe.
- Hormonal imbalance: Because the gut plays a crucial role in regulating the body’s estrogen level, hormonal balance can be disrupted when the gut microbes are not functioning correctly. This situation can contribute to more severe conditions like endometriosis and PCOS.
- Autoimmune diseases: Another severe symptom of leaky gut are autoimmune disorders. Such disorders can occur once the body’s natural immune system or response is compromised, causing it to fight against itself.
- Skin conditions: Skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and acne can be triggered and exacerbated by inflammation in the digestive tract due to a leaky gut. That means that the gut may also play a role in the appearance of the skin.
- Joint pain: Joint pain can be mild or severe, depending on the inflammation’s extent in the gut. When your gut is inflamed, it can lead to an immune reaction that quickly extends to other parts of the body, including the joints. This can lead to joint pain. Besides joint pains, you may also experience abdominal pains and even bloody stools when the condition becomes very severe.
- Food sensitivities or allergies: Food allergies and intolerance like bloating due to milk consumption can mess up with the gut bacteria. Therefore, if you notice that your stomach feels bloated or different after taking in gluten or milk, you should have yourself tested for food allergies.
How to heal leaky gut syndrome
Before the process of healing the gut can begin, the problem must be recognized. To know the exact cause of your condition, your doctor may have to conduct an adequate diagnosis. Share your symptoms with your doctor. Once the necessary information has been analysed, you can start the healing process.
There is no direct form of treatment, as different approaches can be tried to provide a cure. Most health experts offer a combination of proper diet and medication to provide a holistic approach when it comes to how to quickly heal leaky gut syndrome.
Here are some of the ways or techniques used to cure or treat leaky gut:
Identify the foods you should eat:
As mentioned, foods that are low in fiber can lead to this condition. This offers you the opportunity to fix a leaky gut naturally. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that you consume a lot of food high in fiber to heal the leaky gut. It is also advisable to eat many fruits and vegetables to boost or support your immune system. Foods that are rich in probiotics and prebiotics are also essential. But if you do not have access to such foods, you can replace them with probiotic supplements.
You should also include a lot of fish, meat, eggs, and yogurt in your diet and eat a lot of healthy fats as well. This is because a form of short-chain fatty acid called n-butyrate plays an important role in feeding the cells that line the gut. This way, it helps to provide the weak cells in the gut linings with the necessary nutrients and helps them heal faster.
Also, when you consume a lot of soluble fibers, fruits, and vegetables, you will help support the gut bacteria responsible for producing n-butyrate. Other sources of healthy fat include clarified butter and coconut oil- which contains medium-chain fatty acids essential for keeping a healthy gut.
Identify the foods you should avoid:
While you take the time to consume the right kind of food, it is equally important to avoid eating certain foods to improve your gut health. Some foods come with higher possibilities of causing inflammation in the body. Such foods can also negatively affect healthy bacteria while promoting the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria responsible for many chronic health conditions.
In order to ensure that this does not happen, it is vital to avoid consuming excess junk food, foods containing artificial sweeteners, refined oils, sugary beverages, processed food, and alcohol. All these foods can harm healthy gut bacteria and compromise the gut’s protective lining. It is also vital to stay away from wheat-based products like wheat flour, cereals, pasta, and bread, which can also trigger symptoms of an unhealthy gut. Also avoid eating foods such as oats, triticale, seitan, bulgur, rye, and barley frequently. Eating a lot of grain foods that contain gluten is very problematic as well.
In addition to that, it is best also to stay away from processed foods, processed meat, baked foods, and snacks. Processed meat foods include hot dogs, bacon, deli meats, and cold cuts. Baked goods include pizza, pastries, pies, cookies, muffins, and cakes. Snack foods to stay away from consist of the following; pretzels, popcorn, muesli bars, and crackers. Sauces like salad dressings, teriyaki, soy, and hoisin sauce ideally have to be avoided as well.
Create a diet you can follow:
You should create a healthy diet based on the recommended foods while staying away from the kinds of foods you need to avoid. Start by creating a healthy menu with the sole purpose of improving your digestive health. Your diet should focus on incorporating the kinds of food that support the growth of healthy gut bacteria while getting rid of foods that are notorious for triggering uncomfortable digestive symptoms.
A healthy gut diet should be rich in vegetables, fruits, and lean protein, as they are a great source of healthy gut bacteria. It is also essential to ensure that your diet is always gluten-free while adjusting or making modifications to accommodate particular food allergies, special dietary needs, and other underlying conditions. Some of the changes you make to your diet may only be temporary, aimed at addressing increased nutritional needs, for example, during pregnancy or allowing your body to heal after a surgery or illness.
However, if you need to make drastic long-term changes to your diet, it is important to first speak with your doctor or nutritionist. Doing this will help ensure that your diet does not end up depriving your body of certain essential nutrients it needs. Your leaky gut diet can be very nutritious and satisfying as long as it is not too restrictive. If you end up cutting out entire food groups from your diet, you may find your body deficient in essential nutrients as well as motivation.
Have the right combinations of medicines:
In addition to your healthy diet, you should have the right combination of medication and supplements. Various anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and supplements like probiotics, calcium, vitamin D, and iron may help with leaky gut.
It would help if you also had a healthy combination of zinc, l-glutamine, collagen peptides, and probiotics. Zinc is an important element in the metabolism processes, and it is known mainly for its ability to boost and support the immune system. It plays a role in modifying the tight junctions of the linings in the intestine and helping to limit gut permeability.
L-glutamine is an essential amino acid, which also helps repair the intestinal lining in the digestive tract. It can be taken orally as a supplement in small doses to help intestinal permeability, especially after a strenuous exercise. Collagen peptides are available in almost every tissue in the body in the form of protein. They also play an important role in the health of the gut, as they can prevent further breakdown of the intestinal lining. Collagen peptides also have anti-inflammatory properties needed in the gut.
We have already mentioned the importance of probiotics. They are well-known for their therapeutic use when it comes to the treatment and management of gastrointestinal issues. Probiotics help improve the gut’s microbiome, which can positively affect the entire digestive system.
How long does it take to heal a leaky gut?
It can take as little as four weeks to as many as six months to fully heal the gut. Curing this condition takes quite some time, as leaky gut does not develop overnight. The severity of a leaky gut can be determined by the kind of symptoms a person may be experiencing. These symptoms appear in different levels of severity ranging from mild to very severe.
Leaky gut condition shares so many symptoms with other health conditions. Indeed, many health experts are convinced that leaky gut syndrome can cause all other health issues. Not only has the condition attracted a lot of controversy among the health experts, but it has also become one which is difficult for doctors to identify.
When to see a doctor?
It is always important to visit your doctor anytime you notice a change in your digestive system after consuming fatty and gluten-based foods. Most people ignore such mild symptoms, as they mostly disappear within hours or a couple of days. However, it is essential to immediately contact your doctor, even when experiencing mild symptoms, especially when those symptoms keep recurring. However, as we have already mentioned, symptoms can also become very severe.
Therefore, when you start experiencing signs like bloody stools or abdominal pains that last for several days, then you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will conduct the necessary examinations to confirm your condition before starting the appropriate treatment.