What is Leaky Gut Syndrome, Really?.
Living Healthy: Gut Health
Many people are just starting to realize that their gut health is crucial to their overall health. A wide variety of medical conditions and diseases are the result of an unhealthy gut. There are 2 things to consider in gut health. One is the health of the intestinal friendly bacteria and the other is the intestinal lining or barrier. The friendly bacteria in our guts promote normal intestinal function, protect against infection by controlling unfriendly organisms such as bad bacteria, fungus, viruses and yeast, play a critical role in regulation of metabolism and are a major part of the immune system. The intestinal lining is set up to let substances that feed the body through into the bloodstream and filter out substances like poorly digested food particles, large protein molecules, microbes, waste, toxins, antigens and pathogens from getting into the bloodstream. When the intestinal lining lets these type of substances into the bloodstream, which in turn carries it to body organs, many types of medical conditions, symptoms and autoimmune diseases can result.
One protein that has been recognized by research that particularly causes the intestinal lining to be more permeable is zonulin. People with autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease have been found to have high levels of zonulin and that it leads to leaky gut syndrome. Eating grains with gluten such as wheat that have the protein gliadin increases the body's production of zonulin, so if you suffer from leaky gut syndrome this is an important area to address in making dietary changes.
Living Healthy: Dietary Changes
That brings us to the first natural solution when dealing with leaky gut syndrome – changes to the diet. Sorry, but there is no getting away from that you will have to make changes to the types of foods you eat. To start your road to healthy living with leaky gut syndrome you have to repopulate your friendly intestinal bacteria and strengthen your intestinal lining so that it is able to do its filtering job. Besides cutting out wheat and other grains with gluten from your diet, you also need to cut out all sugars, processed foods, dairy, alcohol, caffeine and refined carbohydrate foods. It is best to eat only organic foods to avoid pesticides and GMOs that do not help the healing process. Foods high in fiber and essential fatty acids are important to add to your diet to deal with inflammation, clearing out bad bacteria and fungi, and promote intestinal healing. This would include fatty fish, bluegreen algae, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and nuts. Basically you want to change your diet so that you are not eating processed foods, any kind of sugar, or simple carbs that break down into sugars and replace them with complex carbohydrates, nutrient rich, fiber rich and whole natural foods. Be sure to drink lots of pure water too to help flush out toxins.
Living Healthy: Lifestyle Changes
There are quite a few things that we know contribute to destroying our friendly bacteria in the intestines. Besides the ones related to diet, these can include drugs such as antibiotics and NSAIDs, chronic stress, radiation, environmental toxins and chlorinated water. Being aware of these and making changes to avoid them can help keep the friendly bacteria we already have thriving.
When dealing with leaky gut syndrome it is extra important to find a way to deal with stress. 95% of visits to the doctor in the U.S. are from stress related conditions. Vitamins and minerals considered to be stress relievers include magnesium, B vitamins, especially B-12, coenzyme Q10, and chlorophyll. Your body uses these up quicker when under stress. So just when you need them the most to help you battle stress, you have a lack of them. There is no one way to relieve stress, so do some experimenting with various techniques to find what works for you. Some people find meditation, yoga or breathing techniques helpful while others find sports, exercise, or hobbies to work better for their stress relief. It is also important to get enough sleep when dealing with stress and leaky gut syndrome. Research shows that people who don't have enough sleep tend to stress and worry more than people who do get enough sleep. For some tips on other ways to deal with stress, see our article 5-Minute Methods to De-Stress Your Way to a Healthy Lifestyle.
Living Healthy: Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes
Probiotics are of course the friendly bacteria in the intestine and vital in protecting the digestive system from unfriendly bacteria, yeast and fungi. We quite often do not have enough of the good bacteria to fight off the bad. This is why supplementing the diet with high quality probiotics such as acidophilus and bifidus are so important to gut health and healthy living with leaky gut syndrome. Digestive enzymes are another important component. They aid digestion by helping to break foods down which makes them easier for the body to absorb the nutrients it needs to function properly. A simple and convenient way to get the essential fatty acids and nutrition from bluegreen algae, probiotics acidophilus and bifidus, and digestive enzymes is with convenient daily packets containing all these. These help eliminate the "I don't have time" excuse. Just grab a packet on your way out the door and take it with you to eat in the car or at the office.
Living Healthy: Herbs and Supplements
Since leaky gut syndrome causes the body to be fighting against extra inflammation, give it some support with this supplement that combines phycocyanin (the unique blue pigment from bluegreen algae), Ecklonia cava (Seanol®, a marine algae), standardized turmeric, bromelain, and bluegreen algae.
You may also need to supplement your diet with extra nutrients such as vitamins A, B, C and E, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium and conenzyme Q10. Leaky gut syndrome tends to leave the body short on these by interfering with the body absorbing them. Colostrum can also be used to help repair the gut lining and decrease inflammation.
Herbs that have been found helpful in dealing with damage from leaky gut syndrome include marshmallow root, slippery elm, licorice root, goldenseal, fennel seed, ginger root, Echinacea, garlic, grapefruit seed extract, and black walnut. Caprylic acid or octanoic acid which is a fatty acid in coconut oil can be useful for its antiviral and antifungal properties. DGL or Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice, is an herb that has long been used to treat digestive conditions and is made by removing glycyrrhizin from whole licorice. L-Glutamine, an amino acid, has been found particularly useful in repairing damage to the intestinal lining and decreasing cravings for sugar.
Living with leaky gut syndrome can be painful and interfere enormously with leading a normal and enjoyable life. If you live with it then you know what I am talking about. There's no time like the present to get serious about improving your life and taking control of your leaky gut syndrome symptoms. Hopefully you have some ideas now of things to do and can get started healing your gut and be on your way to living healthy.
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