By Dr. Haley Lance
Leaky gut – also known as “intestinal permeability” – is a fast becoming a popular buzzword in healthcare circles these days. Yet, while the term is being used with increased regularity, there is still a general misunderstanding about exactly what leaky gut is and what can be done about it.
Leaky gut is not a single disease or syndrome, but rather a means by which a number of different conditions can develop. The small intestine is the body’s largest organ and its lining is the body’s first line of immune defense. When a person’s small intestine is functioning properly, the lining only lets small acceptable nutrients to pass through the intestine and into the bloodstream for use elsewhere in the body.
With leaky gut, the intestinal lining has become damaged and more porous, allowing larger undigested food molecules, as well as waste, yeast and other toxins, to flow freely into the bloodstream. The liver is forced to try and filter out these foreign invaders, but can’t handle the load alone. So, the body begins a full-out immune response. As the foreign invaders get absorbed into the body tissues, inflammation occurs and the system becomes more and more stressed. In some cases, this process can even trigger an autoimmune response, causing the body to begin attacking itself and potentially causing autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Many of the patients I see not only experience gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal bloating, excessive gas and cramps, but they can also exhibit a number of other – seemingly unrelated – symptoms such as fatigue, food sensitivities, joint pain, skin rashes, and even depression. Oftentimes, these patients have been to numerous doctors in an attempt to determine the problem and have received no firm diagnosis from conventional tests. Sometimes, they have been given a diagnosis such as bacteria overgrowth syndrome, systemic candidasis or other yeast syndromes. They might also be suffering from an autoimmune disease or struggling with asthma, allergies, diabetes, internal colitis or chronic fatigue syndrome.
There is much debate over what exactly causes the intestinal lining to become porous in the first place, however, most experts agree that inflammation plays a role. Chronic inflammation from poor diet or the overuse of medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), cytotoxic drugs and certain antibiotics, can break down the intestinal lining over time. Zinc deficiency, yeast overgrowth and excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to leaky gut.
If you think you might be experiencing problems related to your gut health, consider taking the following steps:
(1) Evaluate your diet. Remove all inflammatory foods from the diet, including sugars, refined processed foods, soft drinks, cooking oils high in Omega 6 fatty acids (i.e. vegetable oil, canola oil, etc.) trans fats, dairy, commercially raised and processed meats, alcohol, refined grains, and artificial food additives like MSG.
(2) Chew your food well. Digestion starts with the teeth. If food isn’t broken down into small, easy-to-digest pieces, it will not “move through the pipes” correctly. It’s identical to what happens when we have clogged drains at home.
(3) Go raw. Eat plenty of raw food to help increase enzymes in the stomach, which aid in food digestion. The additional fiber will also help intestinal motility.
(4) Drink water. Most people do not drink nearly enough water. Try to drink at least 2 liters a day away from meal times.
(5) Consider supplementation. There are a variety of digestive enzymes that can be taken at meal times to aid in digestion and reduce common discomforts and digestive complaints.
(6) Take probiotics. Every time an antibiotic is introduced in the body, a probiotic should be taken, as well. The probiotic helps to build up the “good bacteria” that the antibiotic unknowingly kills off. When the good bacteria is not restored, the result can be yeast overgrowth, troublesome digestion, a poorly functioning immune system and leaky gut.
(7) Relax while eating. Most of us eat too quickly and don’t give our mind enough notice to tell our stomachs to start the work of digestion.
(8) Avoid unnecessary medications. Prescription medications, as well as over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen and NSAIDS can irritate intestinal lining and cause unnecessary inflammation, which heightens the risk of increased permeability.
Leaky gut is not something to ignore. It can wreak havoc on your health in both the short and long term. But, the good news is that the gut can be healed over time. If you would like more information on the anti-inflammatory diet, supplements, digestive aids, or how to help heal and recondition the gut, please feel free to contact me at Back to Wellness at 706-557-0211.
Now at Rutledge’s Back to Wellness, Dr. Haley Lance holds an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences from Auburn University and received her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life University in Marietta. Dr. Lance takes an integrative approach to with patients, drawing on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology and nutrition to help bring the body back into balance. A mother herself, Dr. Lance has a special interest in pediatric care, as well as the pre- and post-natal care of women. Back to Wellness is located at 113 Fairplay Street Rutledge, GA 30663 and can be reached at 706-557-0211.