Leaky Gut Protocol: Going Beyond Gluten-Free to Heal Yourself
Leaky Gut Syndrome is a condition that causes numerous health issues such as colitis and irritable bowel syndrome, and has been flagged as a contributing factor for autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, coeliac disease, and thyroid issues such as Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease. If you are suffering from any number of conditions due to chronic inflammation, digestion problems, or hormone imbalances, it’s possible that a leaky gut is at the root of the problem and repairing the damage may be the answer to improving your health. However, in order to follow the recommended protocol for healing your gut, you need to understand what causes it and how making the appropriate changes to your lifestyle will help you heal.
What Causes a Leaky Gut and What are the Health Repercussions?
Our gut is supposed to be somewhat permeable as this is how we absorb nutrients from the food we digest. The protein zonulin found in our small intestine is responsible for regulating the tight junctions in the intestinal lining and when it opens it up too much, it allows food particles to enter the bloodstream. This triggers the immune system to attack the foreign matter and stresses the body, causing chronic inflammation. The immune system memorizes the protein sequence of these foreign particles so that it can retaliate more quickly in the future. Unfortunately, the protein sequence of certain particles, such as that of gliadin, a component of the protein gluten, closely resembles some of the body’s own proteins and enzymes. The immune system can become confused and attack its own tissues which is the beginning of autoimmune disease. It also leads to secondary conditions such as hormone imbalances, skin rashes such as eczema, chronic fatigue, and a host of other health problems that can all be traced back to a leaky gut.
So what causes the zonulin in your gut to become overactive? It’s difficult to pinpoint a single cause, but it’s generally accepted that diets high in gluten are a leading cause. Other culprits in an unhealthy gut may be acidic foods like sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and even dairy, all of which create an ideal environment for “bad bacteria” to flourish in the intestines and create an abundance of unhealthy flora that cause digestive issues and candida (yeast) overgrowth. Medications such as antibiotics, NSAIDS, and birth control pills can all kill off the “good bacteria” that help to digest food and leave room for the bad microbes to thrive. An unhealthy lifestyle replete with processed and sugary foods, too much coffee or beer, and overuse of medications due to illness is therefore the perfect recipe for a leaky gut.
What is the Protocol for Healing a Leaky Gut?
In order to heal your gut, you may need to make several major lifestyle changes, the most important of which is your diet. Eliminating all wheat products and gluten-containing foods is key in helping the gut to heal since it is a major irritant to the digestive tract for those with leaky gut syndrome. Many people have gluten sensitivities and do not even realize it, but upon eliminating it from their diet, they find that it lessens the symptoms of other health problems. While gluten has been making headlines as the number one cause of a leaky gut, it is far from the only contributing factor. Other dietary offenders are acidic foods like sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and even dairy. Since a leaky gut causes the malabsorption of nutrients, it makes it even more important to replace processed, acidic foods with healthier ones that provide the nutrients your body needs to repair itself.
A diet designed to heal your gut should consist primarily of whole foods, with an emphasis on lean protein like chicken or fish; healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds and coconut oil; and plenty of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. Even gluten-free grains such as rice and spelt should be limited as many of them contain lectin which is thought to be a contributing cause in leaky gut syndrome.
Keeping the diet low-glycaemic and eating plenty of alkalizing foods like dark leafy greens can help to ease inflammation and offset the damage caused by long-term overgrowth of bad gut bacteria and yeast. Eating a mineral-rich diet can help your body to counteract the effects of leaky gut so supplementing your diet with something like bone broth is beneficial as it contains minerals as well as collagen to aid in tissue repair. Including a probiotic supplement or adding probiotic foods such sauerkraut or kefir to the diet can also be helpful in establishing colonies of healthy gut bacteria. Herbs such as ginger, peppermint, oregano, and slippery elm can help adjust the levels of microbes in your intestines and improve your digestion.
Beyond dietary protocol, it’s also necessary to practice self-care in the form of regular exercise and stress relief. This can take many forms and can be as simple as taking a brisk walk and then spending a few minutes doing a quiet or reflective activity such as meditation or journaling. Exercise triggers a host of chemical reactions in your body that help to boost energy levels and improve mood. Conscious relaxation, on the other hand, helps you to focus and reduces stress hormone levels in the body. If you are interested in learning more about how healing your gut can help you manage hormone imbalances and improve your overall health, contact Dr. Allie today.