What Is “Leaky Gut”?
You may have heard the term ‘Leaky gut’, but what does it actually mean? Is it really a thing?
Yes it is! Leaky gut is the term used to describe the increased permeability of the gut wall, or ‘intestinal hyperpermeability'.
One of the most important functions of our gut is its essential role as a barrier to the environment. However, certain factors can disrupt these tight junctions, such as infections and inflammation, as well as foods, such as those containing gluten.
How do you know if you have leaky gut? Without testing (a functional medicine doctor or nutritional therapist can recommend the right test), it is difficult to know for sure, but there are certain symptoms and conditions that are associated with it. The functioning of this barrier involves regulating our metabolism, immunity, digestion, absorption, nervous and endocrine function. Disturbance to this barrier has been linked to many health conditions, such as allergies and autoimmunity (e.g. coeliac disease), to name a few. You may also suffer with diarrhoea or constipation, frequent headaches, food intolerances, skin rashes or other skin-related problems, recurrent infections or problems with memory and concentration.
Even if you are not sure if you have it or not, supporting a healthy gut lining and preventing leaky gut can only but benefit your health! So what can you do?
Start With Your Diet
The food we consume comes into direct contact with the cells lining our digestive tract, therefore, quality is everything. For a sensitive or inflamed digestive tract, certain foods can be further irritating, such as gluten, dairy and chilli. In these circumstances, focusing on easily digestible, soothing foods, like soups, bone broths, and smoothies, can be beneficial.
Include Gut-Healing Nutrients In Your Daily Regime
If the lining of the digestive tract is damaged, the body will require an increased supply of nutrients that aid repair, as well as the building blocks for connective tissue.
- Glutamine: Can protect against inflammation, improve intestinal barrier function and help to reduce intestinal permeability.
- Collagen: The gut wall contains collagen fibres that strengthen the whole structure.
- Nucleotides: These organic compounds form the building blocks of DNA, which is essential for cell division and repair.
- Zinc: Encourages healing and reduces gut inflammation. Zinc has also been shown to reduce gut permeability via actively having a positive effect on tight junctions.
- N-Acetyl Glucosamine (N.A.G): promotes growth and intestinal repair.
Our gut bacteria attach to the mucus layer of the intestinal barrier, working to support gut integrity. In fact, alterations to our gut microflora can actually cause leaky gut. Therefore, probiotic supplementation or increasing the intake of probiotic foods can be beneficial and has been linked to a reduction in intestinal inflammation and permeability risk, especially during endurance training.
These are just a few of the key steps that can be considered when trying to tackle intestinal hyperpermeability. Our gut health is so important and linked to many other body systems, therefore keeping it healthy and functioning properly is integral for ensuring and maintaining our overall health.