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Leaky Gut Syndrome: Symptoms, Facts, Signs, Causes, Probiotics, and Supplements
Leaky gut syndrome is a phenomenon, meaning although it is commonly observed among thousands of people, there is no logical explanation as to why it occurs. In fact, many physicians hold firm on their stance that leaky gut is not a legitimate medical condition. Ask anyone who has experienced leaky gut symptoms, though, and they are sure to attest again and again that it is extremely real and causes very real symptoms.
More than 70% of the adult population in America suffers from one or more gastrointestinal (GI) problems. This statistic alone proves there is a huge cause for concern regarding the digestive health of the country.
Natural health enthusiasts are commonly coming together to find ways to treat leaky gut. Many of them turn to leaky gut-healing probiotics and a non-GMO, gluten-free diet.
Leaky gut impacts a person's health by leading to increased intestinal permeability, meaning bacteria and toxins find a way to leak through the walls of the intestines. As you can imagine, it's never a good thing for these toxins and substances to permeate the body in places where they don't belong.
What Are the Signs That You Have a Leaky Gut?
Whether or not you use probiotics that heal leaky gut, understanding the signs that you have a leaky gut is essential in being able to treat this condition.
The digestive tract in your body is where your food gets broken down. As the food is digested, it releases nutrients, which are absorbed throughout various parts of the body. The digestive system plays a vital role in safeguarding the body from damaging substances, including toxins. It's the good bacteria in your intestines that stand up like soldiers to these leaky toxins, acting as a barrier to control what is allowed to enter your bloodstream.
Once substances leak into the bloodstream, there are no additional barriers to stop these toxins from reaching your organs. Good or bad, these substances that leak into the body should not be there.
Your intestinal wall is made up of what's referred to as tight junctions. The tighter these junctions are, the better because they are essentially tiny gaps through which water and nutrients pass into the bloodstream. They are very good at blocking harmful toxins and bacteria from entering the bloodstream. You can view tight junctions as a filter. Your intestinal permeability is a measurement of how easily substances can pass through the tight junctions.
When a person has leaky gut, these tight junctions aren't so tight anymore. Instead, they become loose, meaning the entire gut is more permeable. As a result, bacteria and toxins start leaking into the bloodstream.
The body's immune system is extraordinary. It will do all that it can to keep the symptoms of leaky gut at bay, but it can only do so much. As leaky gut continues and worsens, inflammation, bloating, fatigue, food allergies and a wide range of digestive issues tend to arise. Leaky gut syndrome can even lead to skin problems, like rashes, acne, and eczema.
One of the biggest issues with treating leaky gut is the debate of whether or not it's a legitimate condition. This is why you must understand the signs of a leaky gut, and then do your best to treat it according to the research you conduct. You'll find a ton of information on the benefits of leaky gut-healing probiotics and following a non-GMO, gluten-free diet.
There is a long list of signs that indicate you may have leaky gut, like poor immune health, abdominal discomfort, fatigue, brain fog, food allergies, and joint pain, to name a few.
What Are the Causes of Leaky Gut?
Because leaky gut is considered a phenomenon, this means there is no medical reasoning behind it. As medical experts continue to perform research on the condition, though, much is being learned, and over the years, we have learned a lot about intestinal permeability.
For instance, we know that zonulin, a protein in the body that is commonly found in wheat and grains, is the only known substance that regulates intestinal permeability. However, when this protein is activated in those who are genetically susceptible, leaky gut syndrome can start to form. The longer the activation takes place, the worse the condition gets.
Normally, zonulin regulates intestinal permeability in a good way, but some research has confirmed that in people who have a sensitivity to gluten, the protein actually increases permeability in the intestines; this is commonly seen among people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease.
We also know excessive sugar intake can negatively impact the intestinal wall because it harms its barrier function. If you believe you suffer from leaky gut syndrome, it's best to follow an organic, non-GMO, gluten-free diet.
Also, keep in mind, when taken over an extended period of time, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have the potential to weaken the walls of the intestines and increase intestinal permeability.
Also noteworthy is that high levels of alcohol intake can lead to leaky gut. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) states, "Alcohol hepatic toxicity in heavy drinkers is associated with high endotoxin blood levels and increased intestinal permeability."
A visit to your primary care physician can help determine if you have any nutrient deficiencies. Studies show a lack of vitamin A and vitamin D can increase permeability in the intestines, and the same applies to a lack of zinc in the body. The NCBI says, "Apart from vitamin A, also vitamin D seems to play a role for the intestinal barrier. Vitamin D deficiency, a characteristic of IBD [inflammatory bowel disease], is correlated with the severity of disease." Fortunately, nutrient deficiencies are fairly easy to counteract by taking nutritional supplements.
Important to note, however, is that vitamin D is commonly overprescribed. When taking too much vitamin D, your body is at risk for heart issues and other health complications, like stomach pain, bone loss, and elevated blood calcium levels. Any time you take vitamin D supplements, it's imperative to also take a vitamin K2 supplement. This counteracts vitamin D toxicity and helps prevent blood vessel calcification.
Inflammation and stress both significantly impact a person's likelihood of developing leaky gut syndrome. Any time there is systematic inflammation in the body," increased intestinal permeability may develop. The increase in intestinal permeability is most likely caused by inflammation-induced paracellular permeability, rather than ischemia-mediated enterocyte damage."
How Can Someone Heal a Leaky Gut?
Knowing how to heal leaky gut starts with determining whether it's a cause or a symptom. If it's a symptom of a different disease, you will have a difficult time treating it if the underlying disease is not treated. Leaky gut-healing probiotics can easily be incorporated into a treatment plan that targets not only leaky gut but other issues too.
Those who support the legitimacy of leaky gut often recognize it as being an underlying cause for the majority of America's health concerns. Although this theory has yet to be proven, it is eminent that heightened, negative intestinal permeability is accompanied with a variety of chronic diseases, especially those stemming from autoimmune disorders.
Should a Person Change Habits to Heal Leaky Gut?
You may be tempted to simply take probiotics that have been clinically proven to heal leaky gut and be done with it, but long-term, "whole body" leaky gut healing starts with changing your habits and lifestyle. And since no two bodies are exactly the same, one habit change that works for another person may not work for you. This is why it's important to track your habits as you change them.
Thanks to advancements in technology, you can easily track your habits by downloading an app to your phone. If you're an iPhone user, consider downloading the Habit List app. Not only does it help track your habits, but it helps you stick to them better.
It's imperative to understand that changing your habits doesn't have to be a permanent act. You can change a habit, like drinking coffee, and then once your gut returns to good health, you can give coffee a try again and see if it causes leaky gut syndrome to persist. For a lot of people, once they improve gut health, they can once again eat and drink a lot of foods and beverages that they couldn't handle before.
Always keep in mind, though, that your diet should consist of organic foods and beverages.
Ideally, before you hop aboard the habit-changing wagon, you’ll visit a doctor and undergo testing to see if you have any food sensitivities. Pinpointing these sensitivities allows you to determine which habits need to be changed on a permanent basis.
If you’re an athlete, trying to heal a leaky gut can be tricky. There’s a good chance you are already taking certain supplements and probiotics, and you’ll want to make sure any new ones you add to your diet can be added in a safe manner. Our helpful go-to guide is an excellent resource for athletes with leaky gut.
Is It Important to Avoid Gluten to Heal Leaky Gut?
Rye, barley, and wheat are your number one enemies if you're attempting to heal leaky gut. All three of these grains have gluten (not to mention GMOs and likely glyphosate, read more about that here) in them.
Not only is gluten difficult to digest, but it increases zonulin and actually pierces holes in the lining of your gut, which has a surface area of more than 4,000 square feet. As all of this takes place, your tight junctions become loose, allowing massive amounts of toxins and bacteria to enter your bloodstream where they don't belong.
Popular foods to avoid eating when you're trying to heal leaky gut include:
- Any type of GMO food or beverage
- Any food with gluten
Be sure to look for gluten-free (and organic!) versions or your favorite foods at your local market. These days, there are plenty of healthy, gluten-free alternatives for you to try. Avoiding foods that contain gluten may end up being a permanent lifestyle change. For those who are prone to digestive issues, it's usually best to stick to a permanent gluten-free diet.
Can Intermittent Fasting Heal Leaky Gut?
The problem with leaky gut is that toxins from the foods and drinks you consume go through the intestinal wall and enter into your bloodstream. Intermittent fasting supports healthy gut function, and is part of a healthy plan to heal the gut, and treat it well, long-term.
You may not like the thought of fasting, and it is in no way meant to be a permanent fix -- you can't just quit eating and drinking altogether -- but fasting for 48 to 72 hours is an excellent way to give your gut a fresh restart. Instead of "starving" - think of it as "healing." Fasting can help to reset your gut the same way "resetting" your smartphone or computer can help it run better.
Intermittent fasting ensures that your gut runs free from food-based toxins and bad bacteria, and allows any inflammation that may be present to subside. When you do a bone broth fast, for example, your gut is nourished and coated in proline, collagen, and glycine. This mixture mends damaged cells on your intestinal lining and improves the functioning of tight junctions.
As with any type of fast, though, it's always best to speak with your doctor before you begin, especially if you have had issues with fasting in the past.
Can a Person Heal Leaky Gut With a Probiotic Supplement?
Plain and simple, your gut needs probiotics. We've said again and again how it's important to keep bad bacteria from entering into the bloodstream, but it's just as important to let good bacteria through. In order to do this, your gut needs good bacteria, thus being the reason you need probiotics.
Leaky gut-healing probiotic supplements are essential to good gut health because they fight off bad bacteria as well as yeast overgrowth. As they fight off all the bad stuff, allowing the good bacteria to thrive, your gut flora then starts to regain a healthy balance.
As you continue to use probiotics that heal leaky gut on a regular basis, you're helping your gut maintain a healthy ratio of bacteria. All of this translates into your gut being able to function properly and it mitigates instances of leaky gut. And to top it off, since your gut flora will be healthy, this will improve your digestion. For best health, probiotics for leaky gut should always be paired with a gluten-free, organic, non-GMO diet.
Taking leaky gut-healing probiotics is a habit you will want to maintain, once you start to see improvements in your gut health. Including them on a regular basis is pertinent to maintaining healthy microbiome functionality.
Your microbiome is like the bouncer at a nightclub. He controls who gets in and he has the authority to throw someone out. One of your microbiome’s most important responsibilities is to open and close your tight junctions. You, of course, want them to stay as tight as possible.
As ingested particles make their way into the intestines, the microbiome screens them and gives them a yay or a nay as to whether they can pass. This intestinal bodyguard is not only highly intelligent but incredibly sensitive too. Your microbiome is very good at maintaining harmony among bad and good bacteria, but when it bacteria levels become off balance, pathogenic microorganisms start to take over it. They start producing Lipopolysaccharide, which cues the tight junctions to open up. This can lead to leaky gut syndrome.
80%+ of your body's immune system is controlled by your microbiome, and 70% to 80% of the body's immune tissue is found directly in the digestive tract. These two facts highlight the importance of maintaining healthy levels of bacteria. Probiotics for leaky gut expedite the healing process when bacteria levels are out of whack.
When shopping for leaky gut-healing probiotics, choose formulations that contain a strain called Bacillus Indicus HU36. This spore probiotic bacteria strain is supported by scientific evidence confirming many gut healing benefits. Not only does it heal leaky gut, but it also speeds up the healing process by targeting the problem at the source.
This scientific evidence confirming the Bacillus Indicus HU36 strain heals leaky gut steams from a clinical study that involved giving subjects a probiotic mixture of Bacillus subtilis HU58®, Bacillus indicus HU36®, Bacillus licheniformis, and Bacillus Clausii SC, and Bacillus coagulans SC208. Other subjects were given a placebo. After only 30 days, subjects taking the probiotic mixture experienced a 60% improvement in leaky gut when compared to those who took the placebo.
Can a Person Heal Leaky Gut With Supplements?
Probiotics for leaky gut are fundamental to good gut health, but other supplements can definitely be of benefit as well. Those with leaky gut often display signs of zinc deficiency. Sufficient zinc intake can resolve permeability issues and improve leaky gut symptoms, especially in patients who suffer from Chron's disease.
Zinc stimulates mucosal secretion in the body, which is vital to protecting the lining of your gut. In addition to supplements, you can boost zinc intake by eating red meat, oysters, and pumpkin seeds. Be careful to not increase zinc levels too much because this can be harmful to your immune system.
Your leaky gut meal plan should incorporate licorice root, which is an adaptogenic herb that is well known for strengthening the lining of your digestive system. It also helps neutralize low stomach acid problems by stimulating acid production. Leaky gut syndrome worsens when your stomach doesn't have enough acid. If you are experiencing inflammatory symptoms due to leaky gut, licorice root can be of the utmost help thanks to its anti-inflammatory effect.
What Does the Ultimate Leaky Gut Diet Look Like?
Leaky gut is a direct result of what you eat and what you don't eat. If you have developed leaky gut syndrome, it is imperative to create a healthy diet, and more importantly, stick to it. As your gut health improves, you can tweak your diet to see which foods and beverages upset your gut health and which ones don't.
Foods to avoid include:
Sauces, like most restaurant salad dressings (many contain gluten)
Snack foods, like popcorn, crackers, etc.
Artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame
Beverages, like alcohol, soda pop, and sugary drinks
- Non-organic foods or those made using Genetic Engineering processes
Foods to include in your leaky gut-healing diet are:
Meats and eggs coming from cage-free, organic, grass-fed animals
Cultured dairy products
Healthy fats, like organic coconut oil and avocado
Herbs and spices
Organic fruits & vegetables
Roots and tubers, like yams, turnips, and potatoes
Sprouted seeds, like sunflower seeds
Fermented vegetables, like kimchi and miso
Gluten-free grains, like brown rice and gluten-free oats
Beverages, like kombucha and bone broth
Your diet is going to be the primary contributor to poor or good gut health. Selecting foods that are organic, natural, cage free, grain fed, antibiotic and steroid free, to name a few, will help get you on the right track to good gut health.
Here's what we know to be absolutely true about leaky gut:
Leaky gut symptoms impact millions of people each year.
Leaky gut healing starts with following a healthy diet.
Leaky gut-healing probiotics can reduce symptoms and improve gut health.
40% of people with asthma suffer from elevated zonulin levels, which results in the loosening of tight junctions in the gut.
There is no known cause for IBD, but evidence shows increased intestinal permeability, which is directly related to leaky gut, is associated with IBD.
25% of people who suffer from multiple sclerosis have intestinal permeability issues.
Patients with autism have high levels of intestinal permeability, as well as their families.
Intestinal permeability is recognized by medical professionals, while leaky gut is not, yet the two coincide with one another so much that they can basically be viewed as the same thing.
Evidence is emerging that highlights how the American diet is contributing to leaky gut and other GI problems. Again and again, we are seeing Americans turn to diets that are high in sugar and low in fiber, which is a detrimental combination when trying to heal leaky gut. Sticking to a diet that consists of non-GMO, gluten-free, organic foods is an excellent way to eliminate leaky gut symptoms.
Not only is leaky gut directly tied to negative intestinal permeability, but some studies are discovering the condition is associated with other autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis. There's also a concern that it's linked to allergies and asthma. According to Dr. Kelly Brogan, depression starts in the gut and is a symptom of chronic inflammation. More clinical studies are needed to confirm the legitimacy leaky guts tie to mental illnesses.
Those displaying signs of genetic predisposition to leaky gut are more susceptible to developing autoimmune disease due to increased intestinal permeability issues. This means if your mom or dad has leaky gut syndrome, you have a higher likelihood of developing an immune disorder. But you can't blame it all on your parents. Your lifestyle, environment, food choices, medications and more all significantly impact your gut health, particularly when it comes to inflammation.
Living a lifestyle that alleviates leaky gut syndrome and symptoms doesn't mean you have to wake up tomorrow and change all of your habits. Simple changes, like taking leaky gut-healing probiotics, eating organic, eating more fruits and veggies, and choosing gluten-free foods over wheat-based products, are an effective way to begin healing leaky gut.
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