What is Leaky Gut?
Only a one cell layer thick lining made up of tight cells to create the gut wall separates what is in the gut from the body. These tight cells are what protects us from toxins or large particles that don’t belong in our body. Dysbiosis of the gut microbiome can cause inflammation. This makes the gut cells become wider causing the “tight junctions” between the cells in the lining to loosen up. This creates gaps between the cells and which allows substances to leak through the gut wall into the bloodstream.
The gut connection is from the mouth to the anus and is considered to be an area outside of the body. This is our safety net to allow the symbiosis of digestion to deal with what we ingest and break down, filter out the good and the bad. In a healthy gut, the good gets passed through the permeable wall, whilst the bad gets passed through to our waste – faeces, poop!
When we have a dysbiosis (imbalance) of microbiome in the gut, the overpopulated, unwanted species can secrete substances which actually widen the gap in the cell wall which accelerates this “inflam-aging” of more, larger particles getting into our circulation creating an immune system reaction and creating all kinds of “Diss – Ease” in the body.
This whole process of leaking toxins into the system, activates the immune response which in turn leads to systemic inflammation. Systemic inflammation can lead to an immunological “insult” and causing joint pain or headaches even fatty liver disease. This long term inflammation process eventually leads to the chronic diseases we see today.
We are now exposed and ingesting chemicals and pharmaceuticals that the body doesn’t recognise. Not only does this confuse the immune system, it exacerbates the inflammatory response. Time and time again we are releasing histamines and eventually this can lead to food intolerances for example gluten.
Leaky Gut and Mental Health
A number of compounds like endotoxin “Lipopolysaccharide” (LPS), thought to be one of the strongest promoters of inflammation in the body, is made within the gut lining and is produced by about 50% of the bacteria that exist there. LPS can leak from the gut lining and enter the brain via the circulatory system and interfere with Serotonin an Dopamine binding, effectively blocking the receptors that make you feel happy. Therefore our gut becomes toxogenic to the brain.
Our immune system is constantly assessing what is a danger and what isn’t. So when these compounds cross into the systemic circulation it activates the immune system. It activates cytokines which is a chemical message system by which the immune system communicates around the body. These cytokines can cross the blood brain barrier and can be sent to various areas of the body, for example, in the lungs which causes asthma. If cytokines are released to the brain it can trigger various problems with cognitive functions resulting in a variety of mental health issues.
Research is still ongoing about how to resolve leaky gut, but we as individuals can make a big difference just by changing our diet and lifestyle. Stress can be a big factor because it is believed that cortisol increases permeability of the gut, releasing more endotoxins and repeating the cycle.
Healing a Leaky Gut
How can you help to heal a Leaky Gut? It is possible over time and given the right environment, to heal a gut permeability. Here are 5 simple things you can do to start the process of healing.
– Remove toxic food from your diet. Processed food, chemicals including Alcohol!
– Repair – Nutrients like Aloe or marshmallow root to help calm, soothe and nourish the gut.
– Replace – Some people may need digestive enzymes to help heal.
– Repopulate – Probiotics which encourage good microbiome
– Restore the Spirit – Stress control
Once you start increasing the diversity of microbiome and restoring Keystone microbes will start the healing process of sealing a leaky gut. The mechanisms that exist to help heal a cut for example do not exist in the gut and so we rely on the microbes to repair our gut lining.
What’s great about all of this is that it’s never too late to make the corrections. One of the things about microbes is that they are very resilient and given the right environment they will flourish. We can reverse damage.
- Reduce your exposure to chemicals in the home, cosmetics and food. Eat organically and use natural essential oils for scents.
- Increase your intake of natural dietary fiber which exists in roots and cruciferous vegetables. Seeds and nuts which contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Microbes evolved to consume fiber.
- Fasting can help your microbiome. Add around 12-14 hours of fasting each day. We need periods of rest.
- Introduce fermented foods to our diet.
- Reduce stress and try to get outdoors into nature for at least 30 minutes a day
We need to stop being over hygienic. We need to be exposed to all different kinds of microbes every day. Stop over cleaning using anti bacterial products with chemicals.
The intestine uses glutamine, an amino acid as its main source of energy, maintenance and repair. Large intestine uses short chain fatty acid Butyric acid
There are plenty of natural herbs that have been traditionally used to heal the gut.
- Inner gel of the aloe plant
- deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) – plant (a root) – incredibly healing to the gut lining. A substantial amount of a substance called glycyrrhizin is removed. This makes DGL safer for long-term use and has less interactions with medical conditions or medications than licorice extract. Pure licorice can cause electrolyte imbalance if used excessively.
Healing a leaky gut needs a comprehensive strategy. The right diet, stress reduction and some supplements including L-glutamine and butyrate. Your daily life must change. Your relationship with food, what and how you eat and mindset – yoga, meditation and exercise.
In healing your gut, you will automatically find it will reduce the overall symptoms of your mental and other health problems. Ultimately we need to look at everything full circle. We came from organic and we need to move back to organic. Our soil health needs to be revised so we can make our soil healthy which makes our food healthy which ultimately makes us healthy.