Leaky gut is not currently an official medical diagnosis (studies are being conducted but not fast and conclusive enough) and thus, it is not yet taught in medical schools. This creates some controversy and debate among health professionals and confusion for the general public. “We don’t know a lot but we know that it exists,” says Linda A. Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist, and director of the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center.
Symptoms attributed to leaky gut include bloating, gas, cramping, and other bowel complaints, food sensitivities and other auto-immune reactions, skin conditions, thyroid and adrenal problems, mood and focus issues, and joint aches and pains. Isn’t that quite a broad array of symptoms? Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, was serious when he said, “all disease begins in the gut.”
Leaky gut refers to a condition where the lining of the gastrointestinal tract becomes more permeable, that is to say, more spacious between the cells such that undigested macromolecules can slip through and into the bloodstream. The result is immune stress, as the body tries to deal with these miss-placed and undigested molecules. Examples of the most common of these wayward molecules are foods such as grain gluten particles and milk casein.
It is thought that this hyperpermeability happens when we: do not produce the enzymes necessary to break down the molecules; eat too much too fast, especially when under stress; and/or, consume foods that are not intended for our bodies to handle. When food particles do not get digested they irritate and inflame the intestinal lining. The damage to the tissue is like stretching or fraying a nylon or net stocking.
We deal with suspected leaky gut syndrome in our office with the three R’s:
Remove, Replace, and Re-establish. All are safe and non-invasive but do require some changes in the diet if you have been eating the typical modern North American fare.
Remove the triggers like grains and refined sugars. Grains are the seeds for the next generation of plants. According to a growing number of experts, including Dr. Loren Cordain, a professor at Colorado State University and an expert on Paleolithic lifestyles, humans are not designed to eat grains, and doing so may actually be damaging to your gut. Grains have inhibitory enzymes to keep them from being digested until they are replanted in the ground. So, if you have pain or inflammation of the lining of your GI tract, it might be a good idea to rest it awhile and try no grains.
Replace nutrients lost. Nutrient replacement requires both minerals and digestive enzymes. Bone broth provides minerals. Plant foods give us enzymes. Some people need a little more support and should see a professional for the correct mineral and enzyme supplements needed.
Re-establish the gut flora balance with probiotic foods. Some examples are kefirs, which are higher in probiotics than yogurt; cultured vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi, which are also high in enzymes; kombucha; kvass; Natto; and high-quality yogurt.
With proper diet and nutrition, leaky gut symptoms are preventable and resolvable.
Cathy Lidster, Health Educator/Nutrition/Allergy Practitioner, offers free seminars monthly (see ad for schedule). For more information, she can be contacted at: 250-819-9041, www.cathylidster.com, or [email protected]