- What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
- Common Symptoms of a Leaky Gut
- Treatment and Improving a Leaky Gut
- The Bottom Line
Leaky gut syndrome is a gastrointestinal condition that can contribute to a number of health issues such as allergies, autoimmune disorders, fatigue, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, food intolerances, bloating, gas and much more. This increased permeability of the intestines isn’t quite understood fully by the medical world, doctors believe that as much as eighty percent of people in the U.S. have some degree of leaky gut issues.
Unfortunately, a lot of symptoms associated with a leaky gut can be caused by other health problems. This makes it often difficult to pinpoint a leaky gut. The potential diagnosis often comes after many other possibilities have been ruled out. I want to talk to you a bit more about what leaky gut syndrome is and what causes it. Then, we’ll talk about some of the different tests (there are a few ways to test your gut health) that you can use to determine if you have a GI issue such as this so you can make appropriate changes to your diet and lifestyle.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky gut syndrome is based on intestinal permeability. The human gut is permeable to a certain extent. There is a mucous lining in our intestines that will absorb water and other nutrients that come from the food that we eat. Some people have increased permeability, which allows more substances through the lining into our bloodstream. These larger molecules can promote a level of toxicity in the body that isn’t healthy. It’s also important that your gut can function as a barrier to bacteria and infection from an immune perspective. The toxins that are absorbed into the body because of increased permeability can lead to an inflammatory or allergic response.
Common Symptoms of a Leaky Gut
A leaky gut can cause both gastrointestinal and systemic reactions. Symptoms can come and go over the course of many years or even a lifetime. Other factors may contribute to the prevalence of symptoms, including stress, diet, infection and exposure to toxins. Common symptoms include:
- An allergic response or autoimmune response in the form of asthma, rashes and swelling
- Joint and muscle pain, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue
- Acne, psoriasis and eczema
- Frequent infections
- Anxiety, irritability and memory issues
- GI issues like bloating, pain, diarrhea and constipation
Main Causes and Risk Factors
Leaky gut syndrome is caused to some degree by increased intestinal permeability. The actual level of permeability will vary from person to person, but some form of abnormal intestinal absorption is involved. Our gut needs to allow nutrients to pass through by way of capillaries. A proper lining of the GI tract should be made up of tight junctions. When these junctions become enlarged, we’re going to see a change in function. Junctions can be affected by bacterial overgrowth, or the lack of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
An inflammatory response can be triggered by an increase in intestinal permeability. Bacteria and toxins can quickly rush into the bloodstream. This can be caused by infection, bowel disease, the use of certain medications, stress, alcohol consumption and nutritional deficiencies.
How Do You Fix a Leaky Gut?
Fixing a leaking gut requires an understanding of what’s causing the issue in the first place. If you’ve been recently diagnosed with IBS, celiac disease or an autoimmune disorder, your doctor may provide you with treatment options that can benefit your condition as well as your leaky gut. Following a healthy diet, exercising and living a clean lifestyle can also help to heal the gut and maintain proper gut function. If you’re sensitive to certain foods or have food allergies, it’s important that you stay away from those triggers.
Probiotics can help to restore beneficial bacteria in the gut. They can also help to rid your gut of unhealthy bacteria that can damage your gut and cause problems. Reduce your consumption of fats and refined sugars. They promote growth of unhealthy bacteria and can cause inflammation.
How Long Does It Take to Heal?
The amount of time that it takes to heal your leaky gut will be affected by how permeable your gut is, how much inflammation is present, etc. As long as you stop eating the foods that trigger a response and follow a gut-healthy protocol, you can often see a dramatic difference in as little as four weeks. For some people, six months is a more appropriate time frame.
Treatment and Improving a Leaky Gut
If you are concerned that you might have symptoms of a leaky gut, it’s important that you try to address this issue before you experience worsening symptoms or damage to your GI tract. There are a lot of different ways that you can treat a leaky gut and improve your overall gut health.
Avoid Trigger Foods
Stay away from anything that you know triggers feelings of bloat, gas, pain and inflammation. If you notice that your eczema flares up after certain foods; this is the time to stay away from those things. You’re damaging your intestinal lining when you continue to consume these foods.
Keeping up with an exercise routine will keep your gut health in check. This helps to maintain regular bowel movements, decreases inflammation and boosts digestion. Strive for thirty minutes of physical activity each day at minimum. This is one of the most important things you can do to restore healthy gut flora.
Our GI system relies on proper hydration in order to keep things moving. You should be drinking at least eight glasses of water each day, if not more. Increase your intake if it’s hot outside, you have been exercising or you’re sick.
At-Home Gut Health Tests for Leaky Gut
There are a number of gut health test kits that you can order at home that will provide you with an accurate look at your current gut health. They provide information on the number of good bacteria in your gut, the number of bad bacteria present, potential foods that may trigger an inflammatory response, etc. Here are some of the most popular gut health test kits on the market.
Ombre (formally known as Thryve) is a gut health test company that provides you with accurate information regarding the types of bacteria that are in your gut using a small stool sample that you send back to the company using the provided products. It takes about three weeks to get your results, and they are compiled using a series of algorithms that analyze your microbiome. Your test results will be used to make recommendations on the types of probiotics and prebiotics that you should be taking to improve your gut health as well foods you should avoid. Ombre sells supplements that you can have shipped to your home.
Viome offers a health intelligence gut test that provides you with information on your current gut health, immune system food and nutrient recommendations, supplement recommendations and much more. Test results take about two to three weeks to come in once you’ve sent your stool sample and blood sample to Viome.
Flore has been around since 2016, providing the opportunity to test your gut microbiome from the comfort of your home. Their genome sequencing process can spot approximately 23,000 microbes and pathogens. Flore will provide you with your results as well as recommendations for probiotics that can help boost your gut health. Flore has an easy-to-use app that outlines your five gut health scores.
Probiotics and Gut Health Supplements
Many gut health test kit companies offer supplements from their brand that coincide with your test results. However, you might be looking for a different kind of product or something that doesn’t require you to use a gut health test kit. Here are some top of the line gut health supplement brands.
This three-in-one product from Ritual contains probiotics, prebiotics and a postbiotic to improve your microbiome and gut health. The goal is to get rid of the unwanted bad bacteria and boost your healthy bacteria so you feel better overall and your body functions better. Ritual Synbiotic+ can also repair and maintain your gut lining.
Primal Gut Restore
Primal’s Gut Restore supports overall optimal gut health while increasing the function of your immune system. You can also see an improvement in your energy levels with regular use. Contains prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics. CoreBiome Tributyrin is included as well to strengthen your gut barrier.
ONNIT Total Gut Health
OMNIT Total Gut Health supplement provides you with a comprehensive selection of enzymes, prebiotics, probiotics and betaine HCl. These ingredients help to support a healthy microbiome, boost your immune function, assist with properly breaking down food into macronutrients and repair the lining of your gut.
Diet and Nutrition
Diet and nutrition are a big part of maintaining a healthy gut and fixing a leaky gut. While there are specific diet plans out there that market themselves as being beneficial for leaky gut issues, it’s important that you learn about what you should and should not be eating. The following gut health superfoods are incredibly beneficial for your gut, especially if you’re experiencing increased permeability.
Pack in the vegetables as they provide a lot of fiber and can keep your digestive system moving. They also contain nutrients that decrease inflammation. Include vegetables in your diet such as spinach, mushrooms, carrots, kale, cabbage and broccoli.
In addition to taking a probiotic supplement, you can get probiotics from the food that you eat. Fermented foods are very beneficial, such as sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and kimchi.
Healthy fruits provide you with hydration, nutrients and a sweet treat when you’re trying to stay away from refined sugars. Healthy options include bananas, raspberries, limes, lemons, papaya and kiwi.
Stay away from gluten-based grains as they can cause a great deal of inflammation in the gut, even if you don’t have celiac disease. Alternatives include rice, oats, buckwheat and amaranth.
Pay close attention to where your fats are coming from. While fats are necessary for the body, you should be consuming healthy fats from things like avocados and olive oil.
Healthy protein sources that are easy to digest include fish like salmon, tuna and herring. Eggs are a healthy source of protein. Meat products include chicken, lamb, turkey and beef. Make sure you’re choosing lean cuts.
The Bottom Line
Our gut health doesn’t just affect how our stomach feels and our bowel movements. Our gut health is directly related to things like our immune system, our mood, energy levels and overall health. If you suspect that you have a leaky gut or a different gut health issue that’s affecting how you feel each day, it’s important that you take the necessary steps towards figuring out what’s going on. This can be a tricky situation since there is so much going on inside of our gut, but there are plenty of products and tests that you can use to get control of your gut health.
Tips for Success from the RD
While there’s no definitive test that your doctor can order which will diagnose a leaky gut, there are some signs and symptoms to take into account if you suspect something is going on regarding the permeability of your gut.
Watch for Food Sensitivities
If you continue to eat the foods that your body doesn’t tolerate well, this can lead to worsening leaky gut symptoms and even autoimmune issues. If you know there are foods that you are sensitive or allergic to; stay far away from them. You can utilize an elimination diet to figure out what your triggers are.
Rule Out Other Issues
We discussed some information regarding health issues and conditions that can cause a leaky gut or mimic a leaky gut. It’s important that you work with your doctor to rule out these other issues to allow for proper treatment. Your doctor can recommend specific tests that can help determine what is causing your symptoms.