The lining of your gut acts as a gateway for nutrients, foreign compounds, and other substances passing through your digestion system. In a healthy digestive system, the nutrients from the food you eat should be digested and absorbed. Some of these nutrients will pass through the gut lining and into the bloodstream, as they should. Anything that isn’t digested, absorbed and used by the body, should move through the digestive tract and come out the other end.

A healthy gut will also perform another key function, protecting your body from exposure to substances that could be harmful if they are allowed to enter the bloodstream. This doesn’t always work as it should.

When the intestinal barrier fails, the junctions that hold the gut lining together break down, leading to the disruption of a complex network that should selectively allow nutrients to pass in and out of the circulatory system.

Unfortunately, this is becoming more of an issue for many people. This is why maintaining the integrity of your gut is so crucial. How do these compounds start escaping the gut? The cause of gut permeability most often begins with inflammation of the gut lining.

In this article, you’ll learn about the causes and symptoms of gut permeability and four ways to start healing your gut.

Causes of Inflammation and Gut Permeability:

  • Stress [1]
  • Medication
  • Alcohol
  • NSAIDS [2,3]
  • Birth control pills and prescription corticosteroids [4, 1]
  • Recurrent antibiotic exposure [5]
  • High-sugar, high-starch diet
  • Gluten and casein sensitivities
  • Toxin and chemical exposure, including tobacco smoke
  • Exposure to inflammatory foods including grains, legumes, dairy, soy, sugar, artificial sweeteners, carrageenan, other additives to processed foods
  • Low hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach
  • Exposure to environmental toxins including pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, fluoride, mercury and EMFs

Symptoms of Leaky Gut:

You don’t have to have symptoms emerging from your gut, such as bloating, gas, and constipation, to have leaky gut. In fact, this condition manifests itself in a multitude of ways throughout the body. These can include:

  • Food allergies and sensitivities
  • Eczema
  • Hives
  • Asthma
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Autoimmune conditions [6]
  • Bloating, gas, constipation
  • Chronic pain
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Headaches, brain fog, irritability
  • Mental illness, including depression

Okay, so all of that may sound like “gloom and doom,” but there are many ways to start healing and repairing an inflamed or leaky gut. If you are worried you might have gut inflammation or permeability, try some (or all) of the following:

Avocados contain vitamin E, a gut-healing nutrient.

4 Ways to Heal Your Gut

1) Give Your Gut the Right Support

Digestive enzymes: Your body produces enzymes that are required for the proper breakdown of food. When your gut lining becomes compromised, these enzymes often stop working properly. Adding digestive enzymes in supplement form can help increase vitamin absorption and improve digestion.

Betaine HCl This comes as a surprise to many of my clients, but most people are very low in hydrochloric acid. Without proper amounts of HCl, food doesn’t get properly digested and can even start to rot in the stomach. This process causes fermentation that can lead to reflux symptoms, gas and bloating. It can then trickle down to the digestive tract where it can cause additional inflammation in the small intestine, erode the microvilli, and ultimately contribute to a leaky gut.[7] Sadly, you see many people with leaky gut turn to antacids for symptom relief. Antacids will further decrease HCl levels, hindering digestion of proteins and absorption of vitamins, including vitamin B12, a nutrient key to proper detox and mood regulation.

That being said, look for Betaine HCl:. It can improve digestion and your body’s absorption of nutrients.[8]

Vitamin E: Vitamin e is an important antioxidant necessary for overall cell health. It supports the immune system and is an important nutrient for healing a leaky gut. Avocados are a great source of vitamin E. So are nuts and seeds.

Zinc: Zinc plays a major role in the repair of intestinal damage. It’s is also important because it supports immune function and the healing mechanisms of the gut. The best food sources of zinc are oysters, dark chocolate, grass-fed beef, pastured lamb, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.[9] Zinc is less bioavailable in plant sources than animal sources due to the plant’s phytic acid content.

Anti-inflammatories: Omega 3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) and quercetin are both effective at reducing inflammation. Fatty fish and sardines are excellent sources of DHA and EPA. So is grass-fed meat. I also supplement with omega-3s in the form of krill oil.

Quercetin is a natural antihistamine. High histamine levels can cause increased inflammation. The good news is dietary quercetin is highly bioavailable. You can find it in leafy green vegetables, green tea, apples, red grapes and raspberries.

L-glutamine: This non-essential amino acid that is critical to cellular health, muscle growth and protein syntheses.[9] It is the preferred fuel of small intestinal calls. L-glutamine also contributes to rapid replication of healthy cells that line the small intestine, and studies suggest that it can increase the number of cells in small intestine, increase the amount of villi on those cells, and increase the height of those villi.[10] It may also be protective against damage from NSAIDS.[11]

Animal proteins contain l-glutamine, but you can also take it in powder form. Since it’s a precursor to the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, you may not want to take large amounts in the evening or late at night.

Bone broth can help heal your gut

2) Add in Gut-Healing Foods

Bone broth: You may have seen the recent post on the many benefits of collagen due to its proline and glycine content. Bone broth is an excellent source of these two amino acids. Glycine can promote a healthy gut and reduce inflammation.[12, 13] It’s also anti-inflammatory and cell-protective.[14, 15, 16] So drink more bone broth for gut-healing glycine and loads of minerals. You can also use hydrolyzed collagen protein from grass-fed cows, mixed into your coffee or smoothie.

Grass-fed Butter: Were you expecting to see butter on this list? Butter is a great source of the antioxidant, vitamin E, and butyric acid. Butyric acid (butyrate) is a nonessential short-chain fatty acid. It can act on the large intestine in the same manner that glutamine acts on the small intestine. Studies show it can improve intestinal function and integrity, with direct anti-inflammatory effects.[17, 18]

Some research suggests that butyrate might be a link between fiber and colorectal cancer as butyrate has anti-cancer properties.[19] The body can convert some dietary fibers into butyrate. Depending on what type of bacteria is present in the large intestine, will determine the rate at which fiber converts to butyrate (vs. some other short-chain fatty acid). Even though your body has a means of producing butyrate on its own, modern-day diets don’t allow us to produce enough, so many people are low in butyrate. That’s where butter comes in.

Make sure your butter is grass-fed though. The nutrient profile of grass-fed butter is far superior to other butter.[20]

Slippery elm: Slippery elm has a fun name. It’s also a herb that also helps soothe inflamed tissues. This is particularly useful to an irritated digestive tract. You can take slippery elm in leaf powder form, mixed with water.

Chamomile: This herb has calming effects that can help reduce stress (a leading cause of leaky gut) and promote better sleep. It is antimicrobial, promotes healthy digestion, and is also used to fight inflammation.[21]

Avoid sugar and carbs to help heal a leaky gut.

3) Limit Exposure to Inflammatory Foods and Compounds:

Limit your gut’s exposure to harmful, inflammatory foods and irritants. These include:

Grains and grain-containing foods: Grains are essentially sugar, in another form, as they convert to glucose when broken down during digestion. They can spike your insulin levels and are high in anti-nutrients, lectins. Lectins inhibit your body from using insulin properly, which can lead to intestinal wall damage. Even if you’re not gluten intolerant, grains can still result in a leaky gut. They have a protein called gliadin, a component of gluten. This protein can increase levels of zonulin, a protein that moderates the openings between the gut lining and bloodstream.[21b] High levels of zonulin can make these openings too large and can, therefore, lead to leaky gut.[22] And even if you’re eating gluten-free grains, these grains can still lead to gut permeability.[22b]

Sugars: Sugars feed harmful bacteria and yeast, that can contribute to gut and systemic inflammation. Not only that, but sugar-sweetened foods can lead to overconsumption. This promotes inflammation caused by leptin and insulin resistance.

Refined processed oils, corn-based products, and soy: These products are often genetically modified and can lead to inflammation and gut dysbiosis.

Artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes: These include Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharin and other potentially harmful additives. These artificial sweeteners alter gut bacteria and lead to gut dysbiosis.[23]

Dairy: Eliminate dairy for 3-4 weeks. Many people aren’t aware of their have lactose or casein sensitivities. If you decide to add it back into your diet, go for dairy from 100% grass-fed, raw milk products.

Beans/legumes: Legumes contain short-chain carbohydrates, galactans, that aren’t always properly absorbed in the small intestine. These can act as food for harmful bacteria in the intestines. When these bacteria digest galactans, it causes fermentation. This fermentation can lead to the gas and bloating and inflammation that’s commonly associated with consuming beans.

Processed meats that contain gluten, soy or sweeteners.

Reduce your stress to help heal a leaky gut.

4) Reduce Your Stress

Exposure to stress can change the gut microbiome lead to increased gut permeability.[24, 25] It can also weaken the immune system and result in chronic health issues.[26, 27] Stress management is at the core of healing and recovery. If you’re feeling a little tightly wound or anxious, try some of these stress-relieving techniques:

  • Breathing exercises (box breathing and 4-7-8 breathing are both my go-to for immediate stress relief)
  • Meditation
  • Go for a walk
  • Spend time in nature
  • Spend time with friends and family

 

Pin and read later:

The best ways to heal your gut.


References:

[1] Lipski, E. (2000). Digestive Wellness (Updated 2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Keats

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17612044

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12086291

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10599363

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12904098

[6] http://www.direct-ms.org/pdf/LeakyGutMS/Fasano%20intestinal%20barrier%20autoimmunity.pdf

[7] Gedgaudas, N. (2009). Primal Body – Primal Mind. Portland, OR: Primal Body – Primal

Mind Publishing.

[8] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16216219

[9] Murray, M. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.

[10] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1328345

[11] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15564804

[12] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2852991/

[13] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10825688

[14] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2852991/

[15] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12589194

[16] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21628872

[17] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22731715

[18] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10940278/

[19] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3070119/

[20] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846864/

[21] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283/

[21b] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12524403/

[22] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2886850/)

[22b] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705319/

[23] http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/artificial-sweeteners-may-change-our-gut-bacteria-in-dangerous-ways/

[24] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604320/#B291

[25] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12388189/)

[26] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24478730/

[27] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22314561


Important Notes:

I am not a doctor, and I don’t claim to be one. I can’t prevent, treat, cure or diagnose illness or disease. The information presented on this website is not intended as specific medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical treatment or diagnosis. I make a small commission from the product links above, although the price of the products stays the same for you, whether or not you purchase through my affiliate links. You can purchase these products directly from the sites if you don’t wish to use my affiliate links.

Sign up!

Get the latest recipes, articles, offers and announcements sent straight to your inbox.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Sign up!

Sign up for my newsletter and receive 10% off your first 30-day Personalized Meal Plan.

I'll also send you latest recipes, articles, offers and announcements sent straight to your inbox (but don't worry, not too often!).

You have Successfully Subscribed!