Way back when I was at University, I had a good friend who suffered from Diabetes. As a result she battled a seemingly relentless onslaught of health complications, and even started to lose her eyesight. She seemed to suffer continuously with one thing and another as autoimmunity took its toll. One evening we went for dinner and she took her time pouring over the menu. It was a burger bar, and as a strict vegetarian her options were scant. She then informed me it was getting harder to make food choices because she was suffering from a leaky gut. I had to ask her to repeat herself in case I had misheard. It sounded awfully like she said her gut was leaking. It came again ‘I have a leaky gut’ I laughed nervously, whilst also trying not to gag. I was too afraid to look at the floor in case it was forming some kind of puddle at her feet. Had she taken the appropriate measures to be out in public? Was she wearing some kind of Elastoplast to contain it? Needless to say I was sufficiently put off my dinner.
Several years later as my own health began to suffer, I made the grim realisation that I too had a leaky gut. As unappealing as this sounds, if you suffer from any form of inflammatory condition, multiple food sensitivities or autoimmune disease, then this may well apply to you too.
What exactly is Leaky Gut?
Hippocrates (not to be confused with that old guy in Bill and Ted) was spot on when he claimed ‘all disease begins in the gut’, and it’s only taken us 2000 years to realise he was right.
Numerous studies are now pinpointing the gut as being at the core of many chronic health conditions. Therefore maintaining and supporting optimum gut health really could be the answer to eliminating many of our modern diseases and autoimmune conditions.
Our gut is a long tube of twists and turns that runs from our mouth to our bowels, absorbing nutrients, digesting food and expelling waste. The walls of this tube form an impermeable barrier. The purpose of this intestinal wall barrier is to prevent toxins and undigested food particles entering in to our blood stream where they are not welcome.
In the case of leaky gut these protective barriers are tearing, breaking down and becoming permeable. As a result, undigested material and other foreign substances are passing through the intestine wall and ending up in the bloodstream and all hell is breaking loose. Systemic inflammation occurs as a result of these rogue intruders and the immune system launches an all out assault. It is this process that can then trigger the development of autoimmune disease.
What causes a Leaky gut?
Well at the risk of boring you and sounding repetitive, it’s the usual offenders.
Pulses and legumes
Conventional dairy products
Gut flora imbalance
Zonulin - Now this guy has a lot to answer for. This is not the name of a muscle bound Greek god, but a protein that contributes to leaky gut and the breakdown of the intestinal walls. The protein gliadin that is found in gluten containing grains increases the levels of zonulin in the body, initiating an attack on your digestive barrier, and fueling the autoimmune response.
What are the symptoms?
Food sensitivities and intolerance's
Inflammatory bowel conditions
Mal-absorption of vital nutrients
Eczema and psoriasis
How can I heal Leaky gut?
Depending on how compromised your digestion is there are various approaches you can adopt to assist in healing your digestion. This requires a holistic approach to tackle all contributing factors. Very often just adapting your diet will not be enough.
Obviously the first line of defense would be to remove all gut irritants from your diet. If you follow a Paleo diet you will have removed the main offenders already. However if you still feel you are not making progress, and your symptoms have not improved you may wish to consider adopting the AIP diet - at least while you heal.
This is so important but can be oh so very hard. Try to make time for yourself everyday to switch off, meditate, exercise and just breathe. If your head is spinning and you're breathing fire, you'll only halt your healing progress.
There are a few supplements that can support a digestion in distress and form an important foundation to any gut healing protocol.
L – glutamine - This is an essential amino acid with anti-inflammatory properties that works to repair and rebuild the intestinal walls.
Probiotics – to re-balance gut flora. These can come in supplement form, or if you tolerate them they are found naturally in fermented foods. Be cautious if you have FODMAP or Histamine intolerance.
Digestive enzymes – to support digestion and the assimilation of nutrients in a compromised digestive system.
The overall aim here is to remove the irritants, repair the gut lining, replace any deficiencies and re-balance the gut flora. By managing your diet and lifestyle factors you can eliminate the stress on your body and help to reduce the chronic levels of inflammation and put your autoimmune symptoms into remission. If possible, find a natural health specialist or nutritionist to guide you through the process. No gut plasters are required, just a little TLC. Its probably not a discussion for the dinner table though.
DISCLAIMER: The information on this blog is purely based on my own thoughts, views and opinions. I am telling these stories to share my experiences with you. The information does not constitute medical advice of any kind and is not intended to substitute the advice of a medical professional. You should consult with a registered GP for guidance on any health related issues and not make any medical decisions based on the information contained within this site. I have no medical training, I am quite simply a coeliac with a story to share.
This blog tells an ongoing story about me and my journey back to health and happiness. A boho soul always looking for my next European adventure. I am a Coeliac, Yogi, paleo advocate, dreamer, Bon jovi connoisseur, sun worshipper, snuggly jumper wearer and wife to my lovely Paulie.