Gut health has been heavy on my mind lately. I feel like I have been in a lifelong struggle to keep my stomach happy and in turn the rest of my body working properly. I have struggled over the years with ulcers and in turn ulcerative colitis, including a flare up at the end of last year, an h. pylori diagnosis, and more bouts with heartburn than I care to even think about. I have tried over-the-counter medication, prescription medication, changing my diet, countless natural remedies, basically the works to try to get my gut right and more importantly keep it right.
It occurred to me though, that while I have put a lot of time and effort into trying to cure my gut woes, I haven’t spent much time thinking about and researching why it may be unhappy and/or unbalanced in the first place. After all, it would make sense to understand the problem before trying to find the solution, right? So I dove in and started reading everything I could recently about the reasons behind poor gut health, how to improve it and what even is this thing called Leaky Gut Syndrome I keep hearing about in the process of all my research.
I found out first of all that Leaky Gut is more common than I could have even imagined so I figured I would share some of my findings with you all just in case you might also be suffering from some of the same symptoms I have been struggling with over the years. So let’s start with a little overview about what Leaky Gut even is….
Facts about the “Syndrome”…
I put the term “Syndrome” in quotes because the first thing I learned is that “Leaky Gut” isn’t truly a recognized syndrome after at all. It is more of a term that describes a group of symptoms that need further investigation by your doctor. With Leaky Gut, there does seem to be something going on in our GI tracts but there is still so much unknown about the way our stomachs work it isn’t yet possible to label it as one particular thing.
What is known about this condition, which is also known as Intestinal Permeability, is that it occurs when the lining in our guts becomes damaged and can’t properly act as the barrier we need them to be anymore. In a normal gut, the intestinal wall is lined and then covered with a net that has small holes in it designed to act as a filter to keep out larger, potentially damaging substances from entering the rest of bodies. With a leaky gut, essentially those small holes in the net become larger and thus allow those substances such as large food particles, harmful bacteria, and even toxins though into our bloodstream to be circulated throughout our bodies.
As you can imagine, this is when things can start to go badly with our health. What in particular can signal your gut might be leaking? Keep reading to find out….
Symptoms of Leakey Gut:
Symptoms of Leaky Gut are far-ranging and can affect a lot more than just our stomachs. Symptoms include:
- Body Aches and Pains
- Diarrhea and/or Constipation
- Food Sensitivities & Intolerances
- Seasonal Allergies/Sinus Problems
- Hormone Imbalances
- Joint Pain
- Mental Health Issues
What causes Leaky Gut?
One of the main culprits that seems to be behind this condition is bacteria, or more specifically an imbalance of bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract. The official term for an imbalance of bacteria in the gut is dysbiosis. The imbalance occurs between the helpful and harmful bacteria that live in all our GI tracts and an imbalance in these bacteria can lead to all the symptoms I mentioned above. The imbalance can be caused by taking antibiotics, changing your diet, a disruption to your sleeping patterns, infection, and even exercise.
In addition to dysbiosis, Leaky Gut is also thought to be triggered by two other main reasons: a poor diet and prolonged stress. No surprise there, right? I feel like a poor diet and being under constant stress are reasons that so many things go wrong with our bodies and our guts are definitely not immune to a lack of proper nutrition and letting stress get the best of us.
We will look at the food connection in a second but as far as stress goes the main way our guts are affected by being under too much stress for too long is that stress weakens our immune systems and in turn our ability to get rid of the harmful bacterial that lives within us. When we can’t get rid of the bad bacteria, inflammation begins to occur. This inflammation can then in turn damage our intestinal walls making those small holes that act as filters become larger holes and much less effective in the filtering process.
Food that help and hurt our guts:
Like I mentioned above, a poor diet is another main contributor to an unhappy and poorly functioning gut and there are several foods, in particular, that may lead to or worsen this condition. Some of the major ones are:
- Gluten-Rich Grains
- Processed and/or Fast Food
- Dairy Products
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Fried Foods
- Red Meat
- Sugary Soft Drinks
- Refined Oils
Just like the foods above can cause damage to our guts, there are happily foods that can help protect and heal our guts as well. Some of those foods include:
- Fruits & Vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, carrots, spinach, potatoes, squash, bananas, grapes, coconut, pineapple, oranges, and strawberries
- Seeds such as Chia & Flax
- Almonds & Peanuts
- Fatty Fish like Salmon and Mackerel
- Gluten-Free Grains
While Leaky Gut can definitely wreak havoc on our bellies and lives in general, the good news is it is treatable and can even be improved upon. A great place to start if you suspect leaky gut may be causing you issues (aside from of course consulting your physician) is to take a look at your diet and overall stress levels. Also being aware of the effects of certain medications you might be on and exploring if there is a possibility you might be fighting an underlying infection is a good idea as well.
I have already started making adjustments to my own diet and trying to incorporate more meditation and relaxation exercises into my daily routine to help make my gut happier. I will keep you posted as to my progress and would love to hear any experiences you have had with either a happy or unhappy gut!
Here’s to a happier and healthier 2022!!!