One health problem that is becoming increasingly common is “leaky gut”. This is a condition of the large and small intestines in which the walls of these internal organ becomes increasingly inflamed and swollen until the intestinal walls become hyper-permeable, allowing larger-than-usual particles to pass into the outer layers of the gut and even out of the intestines entirely. The particles that pass through the hyper-permeable intestinal walls include microorganisms, partially digested food, and toxins, such as those found in some chemical drugs, preservatives, tobacco, alcohol, and more. Although many allopathic physicians have not heard of leaky gut, even physicians at Johns Hopkins University write about it, are unsure about how to treat it, since there have not been many scientific studies of this condition.
Symptoms of this condition include abdominal bloating, chronic constipation or diarrhea, gas, abdominal pain, fatigue, body aches, food sensitivities or allergies, headaches, sinus congestion, seasonal allergies, asthma, PMS, and more. Some holistic pharmacists and physicians link leaky gut to autoimmune illnesses, such as lupus, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease (a severe allergy to gluten).
Causes of leaky gut most likely include the standard American diet, which is full of processed foods, high in sugar and inflammatory fats and low in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Also causative are poor lifestyle habits, such as insufficient sleep, little or no exercise, sitting for long hours before blue screens, and insufficient water consumption. Other causes may include tobacco and alcohol consumption, some prescription medications, including antibiotics, environmental pollution, and intestinal infections due to yeast, bacteria and other microorganisms. The strongest factor of all often appears to be mental and emotional stress.
Leaky gut is a complex problem. Several different approaches are usually needed to resolve this issue. Probiotic foods, such as raw sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, yoghurt, kefir, apple cider vinegar and high quality probiotic supplements all can be helpful in normalizing the body’s microbiome – the balance of micro-organisms living in the body, especially in the intestines. Prebiotics, such as asparagus, jicama, beets, okra, leafy greens, and sources of fiber such as psyllium seed husks and sprouted seeds and legumes can all help provide an environment in which “friendly bacteria” can thrive. Healthy lifestyle changes, such as getting enough sleep, stopping alcohol consumption, and learning to relax in stressful situations also are often necessary for a resolution of this problem. Many people find foods such as high quality home made bone broth and baked organic apples helpful. Processed foods must be eliminated from the diet until the problem is resolved. Since the gut is inflamed and compromised, it is also vital to remove all foods to which the person is sensitive or allergic. In most cases, all dairy, gluten and GMO foods must be eliminated from the diet for an extended period of time. Sometimes soy and corn will need to go, as well as fried foods and any natural or artificial sweeteners.
Fortunately, after several months or years of this treatment, people are usually able to include some of these foods into their diets again, but not always. Depending on how long the condition has persisted and how much damage has been done to the body, a person may need to permanently eliminate some of these foods from their diet in order to remain healthy. Often acupuncture helps leaky gut resolve more quickly, as long as people also observe appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes.
This week’s offer: contact me for some great recipes for bone broth and green smoothies. I also can give you suggestions about a detoxification program and for fiber supplements.