Our gut health is pivotal for optimal health and true wellness, as Hippocrates pointed out over 2,500 years ago, that all disease begins in the gut.
So when your gut health is compromised, symptoms like low energy, aches, joint pain, brain fog, food intolerances, allergies, sensitivities, headaches, bloating, weight gain, skin issues or a leaky gut can occur. These symptoms can often lead to more serious health conditions like an autoimmune disease.
What exactly is leaky gut?
Leaky gut is also known as intestinal permeability. Our digestive tract is like a ‘net’, which acts like a barrier to keep bigger particles, bacteria and toxins from entering the blood stream. It also allows specific nutrients to pass through this net, so our bodies can reap the benefit of them.
However when we are stressed, take antibiotics, medications, consume food chemicals and toxins, exposed to environmental toxins it causes this ‘net’ to degrade and become leaky. Undigested food particles, toxins and bacteria then escape into the blood stream. This leads to a heightened state of inflammation, causing an immune reaction, as you can see in the brilliant diagram by Dr. Axe below.
If your ‘leaky gut’ is left untreated, it can lead to more serious health issues like nutrient and mineral deficiencies due to malabsorption issues, autoimmune diseases, migraines, depression, anxiety, IBS, muscle pain, fatigue and more.
The good news is that there are things you can do to successfully heal and repair your gut and work towards re-balancing the microbiome (gut flora). Here are our top 5 tips to help with this.
1. Consume anti-inflammatory foods and remove food stressors
Foods that cause inflammation, affect our gut flora and digestive tract lining leading to leaky gut include: refined and processed sugar, grains and oils, gluten, conventional meat and dairy, unfiltered water, alcohol as well as some medications and antibiotics.
Replace this list of foods with healing and nourishing REAL foods from nature. Grass-fed and/ or organic meats, fresh, seasonal fruit and veggies, seafood, coconut oil, inca inchi oil and turmeric which contains loads of anti-inflammatory properties, herbs, spices, pastured eggs (if tolerated) and filtered water.
2. Fermented foods
Fermented foods are rich in pre-biotics, probiotics and enzymes which help to support the healthy microbes in the digestive tract, crowding out the bad bacteria and yeast strains. Fermented foods are essential in helping to repair a leaky gut, replenishing good bacteria in your gut, improve digestive health and boost your immune system. Add fermented foods such as coconut yoghurt, coconut water kefir, sauerkraut, kim-chi, beet kvass and other fermented vegetables to your daily diet.
3. Quality fats
Quality fats like coconut oil are rich in medium chain fatty acids (MCFA’s) which are easily digested and are sent to the liver for energy production speeding up your metabolism. Because MCFA’s are sent to the liver, no bile or pancreatic enzymes are needed for digestion so it’s great for those with gall bladder issues and diabetes. Additionally coconut oil helps to absorb other minerals, supports immunity, is rich in antioxidants as well as containing anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Other fats like olives, egg yolks, salmon, avocado, ghee, butter, homemade mayonnaise and animal fats are easy on the gut and promote it to heal. You can read more about The Many Benefits of Fats here.
4. Bone broth and gelatin
Both bone broth and gelatin contain proline and glycine, which are amino acids that help heal a damaged gut lining as well as offering anti-inflammatory properties. Bone broth is a great source of bioavailable nutrients in an easy to digest form which helps to improve mineral deficiencies and nutrient absorption. Gelatin and bone broth are also a rich source of collagen which helps to support skin, hair, nail, joint and gut health. Bone broth can be used as the base in curries, spaghetti sauce, soups, and stews. You can cook your vegetables in it or simply drink it plain with lemon, turmeric and seaweed salt. Gelatin can be used to make cheesecakes, panna cotta, custard, jelly, gummies or added to hot drinks like hot chocolate.
If stress is not managed, it weakens the immune system over time which doesn’t allow the body to fight off bad bacteria and viruses which leads to systemic inflammation and leaky gut. When we are stressed we turn down (or off) our body’s healing processes. To reduce stress do something you love, get more fun into your day. You could meditate, sing, dance, hang out with uplifting and positive people, take an art class, go swimming with a friend, go for a long walk in nature, read a book with a cup of tea or have a relaxing Epsom salt bath. You can read more tips on how to manage your stress levels here.
If you feel as though you would like more support and guidance with your own gut health, please seek help from your chosen health practitioner or see one of the Changing Habits Consulting Nutritionists.
Happy changing habits.
Changing Habits Nutritionist
Fasano A. 2011. Zonulin and its regulation of intestinal barrier function: the biological door to inflammation, autoimmunity, and cancer. Physiol Rev. 91(1): Pp.151-75.
Arrieta MC, et al. 2006. Alterations in intestinal permeability. Gut. 55(10): Pp.1512-20.
Hollander D. 1999. Intestinal permeability, leaky gut, and intestinal disorders. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 1 (5):410-6.
Pike, M. G et al; 1998. “Increased Intestinal Permeability in Atopic Eczema”. Journal of Investigative Dermatology 86 (2): Pp.101–104.
Goldin BR. 1998. Health Benefits of Probiotics. The British Journal of Nutrition. 80 (4): Pp.203-207.
Axe J. 7 Signs and Symptoms You Have Leaky Gut. Available: http://draxe.com/7-signs-symptoms-you-have-leaky-gut/
Axe J. Bone Broth Benefits for Digestion, Arthritis and Cellulite. Available: http://draxe.com/the-healing-power-of-bone-broth-for-digestion-arthritis-and-cellulite/
If I made a vege stock could I add gelatin to it? Would it be beneficial?
Yes you could most definitely add the Changing Habits Gelatin Powder to your vege stock, what a great idea 🙂
I have tried and tried to drink bone broth but I gag every time I just can’t do it!! What would you suggest an alternative.
I would recommend to try chicken soup, its kind of like a watered down bone broth. When you make the chicken soup make sure you choose cuts that still have the bones in it and slow cook for 6 or more hours. You can also add in lots of herbs and veggies for extra flavour.
Hi there, My Dr says because I have raised cholesterol levels I need to stop using butter . Im now using olive oil spread . Coconut oil comes in the don’t use list too.What do you suggest to help lower cholesterol levels?
Hi Judy, what a great question. I would highly recommend that you read the following blog I wrote about how butter can actually be good for you, it also includes a link to a report Cyndi wrote on Cholesterol Myths: https://changinghabits.com.au/real-butter-is-good-for-you/