Three things can help heal the damage of Leaky Gut Syndrome and reduce associated symptoms and stress. These include:
1. Adopting a Leaky Gut Diet
2. Improving Your Digestion
3. Supplementing to Restore Your Intestinal Integrity
Let's look at each below:
1. Adopting a Leaky Gut Diet
Many of the foods and beverages that have become staples in our Western diets are not only missing in healthy nutrients, they irritate and damage the intestinal lining. When over-consumed-- as they all too often are-- this causes the intestinal lining to be hyper-permeable or leaky. Below are some of the foods and beverages that are best avoided (or at least restricted) if you suffer from a leaky gut:
· Refined sugar and products that contain refined sugar. Sugar has been labelled "the White Death" and the average American consumes about 150 pounds of it every year. Not only does excess sugar contribute to obesity, it lowers immunity, irritates the intestinal lining, and stresses the pancreas, liver, and heart. You can identify sugar on food labels by looking for ingredients called sugar, glucose, sucrose, glucose-sucrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), fructose, maltose, or any other ingredient ending in -ose. Watch for food labels that list any of these sugars as one of the first three items and those that contain more than one of these sugars. This indicates a high sugar content. One of the healthiest choices you'll ever make is to reduce refined sugar from your diet or cut it out for good!
· Regular and Diet Soda pop. Soda pop has become the number one beverage of choice in America. One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains over 10 teaspoons of sugar! Diet sodas contain unnatural chemicals that stress our liver and are possible neurotoxins. Most brands of soda pop contain artificial colors, flavors, and caffeine. As well, carbonated beverages such as soda pop contribute to mineral loss and can lead to osteoporosis. Although soda pop is highly addictive (due to the sugar and caffeine content), you won't regret breaking this addiction!
· Refined, "enriched" white flours. To make flour ‘white', wheat kernels undergo a refining processing. During this refining process, the kernel's healthy fiber, wheat germ, and B-vitamins are removed. What is left is only the starchy part of the kernel, which is finely ground and bleached with chemicals. During the ‘enriching' process, a few of the B-vitamins (usually synthetic) are added back to the flour. The end product lacks the ‘goodness of whole wheat' and our body must dip into its nutritional reserves to metabolize it. Our body quickly turns the white flour we eat into glucose (blood sugar) and a regular diet of this stuff contributes to the same health problems as a diet high in sugar. Add white flour to your ‘occasional only' list or, better yet, avoid it altogether.
· Junk food. We all like a tasty snack but have you ever considered why ‘junk food' got its name? The high sugar, fat, and sodium content aside, junk foods contain high amounts of unnatural ‘junk' such as artificial colours, flavors, flavor-enhancers, and texturizers. These unnatural substances are easily recognizable on product labels because most names are so long and difficult to pronounce. An increasing number of people are allergic or sensitive to them. They stress our bodies and are empty of nutrients. The inferior quality fat used in junk food is often hydrogenated, saturated, and heated at dangerously high temperatures. This type of fat contributes to leaky gut syndrome by increasing inflammation in the body and forming free radicals, which can damage the mucosal cells of the intestinal lining.
· Alcohol. Alcohol is an irritant that damages the intestinal lining when it's over-consumed. Alcoholics and binge-drinkers are highly susceptible to leaky gut syndrome. So are people who drink on an empty stomach.
· Caffeine. Caffeine is an addictive stimulant found in coffee, chocolate, cocoa, tea, ‘energy' drinks, and a host of soda pop. Like alcohol, caffeine irritates the gut and dehydrates the body. The problem is not that people enjoy a good cup of coffee in the morning, but that, as with soda pop, it's over-consumed and substituted for water.
· Drugs. Many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs directly or indirectly damage the gut or destroy the gut's healthy bacterial flora. This leads to a bacterial imbalance in the gut and less natural protection for the intestinal lining. These include: antibiotics, Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDS (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, nabumetone), corticosteroids (e.g., Prednisone, hydrocortisone), antacids, anti-chemotherapeutic agents and nicotine.
Note: Many people self-medicate and over-use drugs without seeking the advice of a medical doctor or pharmacist. Also, as our medical system becomes increasingly specialized, people are often under the care of more than one doctor, each of whom may be prescribing drugs. To avoid drug-drug interactions and drug over-lap, it is important to ensure that your primary (or ‘family") doctor know exactly what medications you are taking. It is also a good idea to get all your prescription medications filled at one pharmacy. Your medical data will be kept in one file and the pharmacist should be able to identify potential drug-drug interactions or problems. If you have questions about the drugs you currently take and their side effects, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
While we don't recommend that you stop any medical treatment without the consent of your medical doctor, you can certainly replace eating refined and processed foods with whole, natural foods and you can replace drinking alcohol, soda pop, and caffeine with pure, filtered water and herbal teas, especially while you are healing your gut or are prone to intestinal irritation. If you smoke cigarettes, QUIT!
2. Improving Your Digestion
What to START Doing:
- Start taking SMALLER BITES and CHEW YOUR FOOD WELL:
- This stimulates the production of your own digestive enzymes and gastric juices and will ensure that food is broken down adequately
- Start taking a high quality DIGESTIVE ENZYME
- This helps break down food into their smallest molecules so that they will not create an immune response when they enter the bloodstream
- However, avoid digestive enzymes that contain proteases if you suffer from a pancreatic disorder and avoid enzyme formulas that contain HCI or hydrochloric acid if you suffer from ulcers.
- Start including quality soluble and insoluble FIBRE into your diet
- Fibre ensures that bulk is formed in the colon and toxic wastes are absorbed and gently eliminated
- Include in your diet whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables
- However, you may want to avoid wheat bran which can be very irritating to some people. A gentler choice is oat bran.
- Start taking high quality PROBIOTICS
- Many people with leaky gut syndrome have a bacterial imbalance-- they have too much of the ‘unfriendly' bacteria (e.g., candida) and not enough of the ‘friendly' bacteria (the intestinal flora)
- When the ‘unfriendly' bacteria in the intestines ‘feed' on undigested food particles, they produce wastes and toxins that contribute to leaky gut syndrome and which cause allergic responses in some people
What to STOP Doing:
- Stop DRINKING LARGE AMOUNTS of cold liquids with meals, including water, juice, and milk
- This dilutes gastric juices, immobilizes enzymes and prolongs digestion, providing food for intestinal bacteria
- Small amounts (1/2 cup or so) of water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice could enhance digestion, especially for people who produce too little stomach acid, or who are eating a high-protein meal
- Stop OVEREATING
- This prolongs digestion, stresses the liver, and provides food for intestinal bacteria
- Stop eating while feeling STRESSED
3. Supplementing to Restore Intestinal Integrity
In addition to avoiding or restricting irritating substances and improving your digestion, many people find it beneficial to begin a supplement program, particularly people:
- whose leaky gut symptoms are severe (experienced daily or several times weekly)
- whose drug therapy includes any of the drugs mentioned above
- whose diet is highly refined (lots of sugar and white flour)
- who eat junk food daily
- who drink soda pop and caffeine daily
- who regularly drink alcohol on an empty stomach
- who abuse alcohol
- who smoke cigarettes daily
- who feel considerable stress
Nutrients that may be especially helpful include:
- products containing the amino acid L-GLUTAMINE. L-Glutamine is found in abundance in the intestinal tract and promotes intestinal healing. L-Glutamine can also be helpful in reducing carbohydrate cravings (e.g., to sugar and alcohol).
- products containing SLIPPER ELM, MARSHMALLOW ROOT, CITRUS BIOFLAVANOIDS. These nutrients help heal the intestinal lining and reduce inflammation. Also beneficial is pure aloe vera juice.
- high quality OMEGA 3 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS such as those found in cold water fish (e.g., mackerel, sardines, wild salmon, cod liver oil). These help to promote intestinal healing, support the immune system, and also help to reduce inflammation
- MULTI-VITAMIN-MINERAL FORMULA. Many people with leaky gut syndrome become deficient in some basic vitamins and minerals because foods are not properly digested. A multi-vitamin-mineral formula can help restore nutrient balance and provide the vitamins and minerals the body needs to build healthy mucosal linings and gastric juices. A liquid formula is better absorbed than a tablet formula.
Want to learn more about Leaky Gut Syndrome? Click on the links below.
- To learn how IBS and IBD are connected to leaky gut syndrome, click here.
- To access government and other health resources, click here.
Want to learn more about the safe, all-natural supplements offered on this site? Click here.