Could Leaky Gut be Causing Your Tummy Troubles?

Four Things You Can Do Right Now to Help

Bloating. Gas. Cramps. Food allergies or food sensitivities? If you are experiencing some or all of these symptoms, leaky gut could be the culprit … or not. Since doctors don’t recognize “leaky gut” as an actual medical condition, it may be difficult to determine for sure. 

What IS leaky gut?

Your intestines have a lining that keeps any “bad stuff” you may have ingested from entering your bloodstream. When that lining is working as it should, nutrients and water can pass through but not anything potentially dangerous or toxic. When the intestinal lining is compromised, substances can easily pass through into our bloodstream. The term for that is “high intestinal permeability” – aka leaky gut. People with celiac disease or Crohn’s disease often experience leaky gut, but it can happen without these diagnoses as well.

Why is leaky gut a problem?

We want toxins and other harmful substances that could threaten to our bodies to move on out where they can’t do any damage. We do not want them to be absorbed into our bloodstream. Leaky guts can cause inflammation throughout our body, can spur an immune response, which can then lead to symptoms like bloating, cramps, IBS, even health problems like chronic fatigue and migraines!

What causes leaky gut?

Scientific evidence doesn’t agree entirely. Many assert that gluten is a culprit, but some suggest gluten is only a problem if you are already predisposed to gluten intolerance. Others point to pollutants like mercury or food additives. Too much sugar or salt may be to blame, as may be antibiotics, NSAIDs like ibuprofen, the list goes on.

I *think* I may have leaky gut, what should I do?

There’s so much ambiguity among the medical profession about leaky gut, it may be difficult to know if you have it and what is causing. Very frustrating! But, a few easy habits may help heal your leaky gut, and certainly can’t hurt. 

1. First and foremost, improve your overall digestive tract health. This is important at all ages, but essential for those of us Greater than 50! A key to great gut health is to create a digestive “habitat” (or biome) that includes a robust balance of healthy bacteria (probiotics) and the goodies those healthy bacteria eat (prebiotics). You can find probiotics and prebiotics readily in your diet. Probiotic-rich foods include kombucha, pickled veggies, sauerkraut, and tempeh. Prebiotic-rich foods include bananas, garlic, chickpeas, apples, onions, and leeks. But, some days, it’s easy to consume a good balance of these nutrients, other days, not so much. With a blend of 100% plant-based prebiotic fibers, Perennial Daily Gut & Brain is a creamy, delicious, not to mention, super-convenient way to feed the good bacteria in your gut and promote the overall health of your GI.

Prebiotics are critical for avoiding leaky gut and getting a concentrated form of them in a nutrition drink like Perennial is key, as a banana alone won’t fix this alone. For example, the Chicory Root Inulin and FOS fiber in Perennial contain Beta-frutans which have been shown to reduce “leaky gut” in literature and positively impact the intestinal immune system in experimental models and healthy humans.

The key is to strengthen the gut lining by producing a stronger mucus layer (aka ‘mucin’). Certain prebiotics, such as those in Perennial’s Daily Gut and Brain nutrition drink are key as they attract bacteria such as Akkermancia Muciniphila, which thrives on the mucus layer of your gut lining. In healthy individuals, this healthy bacteria is high in abundance and accounts for up to 4% of your intestinal barrier. The presence is associated with health, but in certain diseased states, like IBS or leaky gut (and even obesity), A. Muciniphila is less abundant.

The relationship between you and the healthy bacteria A. muciniphila residing in your gut is symbiotic. This is because by A. muciniphila eating the mucins in your gut barrier, they encourage cells to make more, which not only strengthens it, but also helps to modulate the immune system. They also release short-chain fatty acids like acetate, which are really good for your health (SCFA are considered the ‘holy grail’ of health by some doctors). For example, acetate is used by other beneficial bacteria like Firmicutes to make butyrate, a vital energy source for the cells lining your gut. 

2. Monitor the effect of gluten on your body. One way to find out if gluten sensitivity is leading to leaky gut is to eliminate it for a while and see if you feel any better. For one week, eliminate products containing gluten and swap them for naturally gluten-free grains include buckwheat, amaranth rice, cornmeal/grits. Notice any of your symptoms improving or even disappearing? If so, eating gluten-free may be a lifestyle change you want to adopt.

Exercise is another powerful way to bolster your gut health. So, instead of grabbing the remote control and getting cozy for a night of binge-watching TV after you finish a meal, instead, move around a bit. No, we’re not suggesting Cross-Fit the minute you take your last bite or running a marathon! Just a short walk around the block. Start a load of laundry. A little bit of post-meal mobility can help your digestion and your digestive system.

4. You saw this one coming didn’t you? Reduce stress. If only it were that easy, right? But, yes, stress causes many maladies, including, possibly leaky gut. Start small. A meditation app. Talking to a friend who lifts your spirits. Mindful breathing. All steps in the right direction.

While leaky gut is still a bit of an enigma, the result of a highly permeable intestinal lining can be uncomfortable and even debilitating. An accurate diagnosis may not be possible, but small changes to our diet and daily practices may help us feel a whole lot better. Give it a try!