How to Fix a Leaky Gut

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You may have heard the term “leaky gut” since its recently become a topic of conversation in the health community. But because it’s a newer concept and it still needs more research, many doctors don’t consider it a true medical diagnosis. So, what exactly is leaky gut?

What Is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut is a condition in which the tiny openings in the gut lining that enable water and nutrients to enter the bloodstream are enlarged — so bacteria, chemicals, and toxins can also leak into it. This increased intestinal permeability can be caused by any number of things, from a poor diet and excess alcohol to toxin exposure and stress.

Signs of a Leaky Gut

 When these toxic substances enter your bloodstream, your immune system attacks them and can cause constant inflammation. Symptoms can include:

  • Bloating
  • Unusual bowel habits
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Skin issues, such as eczema or acne
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Autoimmune disease

How to Fix It

Healing a leaky gut takes time, but with the right diet and lifestyle habits, you can strengthen your intestinal barrier and improve your gut health:

  • Eat gut-friendly foods. Eat organic whole foods that are rich in prebiotic fiber, like fruits, veggies, and whole grains; cut down on red meat and dairy; avoid added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and processed foods. Probiotic foods, such as yogurt and sauerkraut are great, too, for adding good bacteria to your system. 
  • Determine food intolerances. Take a lab food sensitivity test to determine if you’re intolerant to any foods. If you are, eliminate those foods completely until your gut is fully healed. Eventually, you can try reintroducing them — but if you still have a bad reaction, try eliminating them for a longer period of time. 
  • Avoid gluten. Gluten triggers the release of zonulin, a protein that can widen the openings of your gut lining and increase intestinal permeability. But keep in mind — just because something is gluten free doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Always read the labels and choose foods low in sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. 
  • Pass on the extra cocktail. Alcohol can kill the good bacteria in your gut, inhibit digestive enzyme production, and increase inflammation, making your gut lining more permeable. Instead, make a mocktail out of sparkling water, fruit juice, kombucha, or fresh herbs, and serve it in a champagne flute or tall highball glass.
  • Take supplements. Replace digestive vitamins, minerals, and enzymes with gut-healthy supplements like glutamine, antioxidants, omega 3s, amino acids, and zinc. Also, try to limit the use of antibiotics, which can upset your gut. If you are taking them, make sure to add a probiotic supplement. 
  • De-stress. When you’re stressed, your body produces stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, that direct blood flow to your brain, muscles, and limbs instead of your digestive system, causing it to shut down. Try meditation, take a yoga class, listen to relaxing music — anything you enjoy that will help you stay in a positive mindset. 

Be patient with yourself — it takes time to heal a leaky gut. By working with a registered dietitian, you’ll have the knowledge and guidance to help heal your gut most efficiently.  

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