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May 20, 2016
By A. Weinberg, Contributing Columnist
Is your gut gurgling? More importantly, is it leaking? How do you know
if it's leaking, and how in the world can you stop it?
Leaky gut is a strange thing. Normally, your digestive tract is like a kind
of filter. It allows certain substances to pass through, the little benign
ones, and to the other bigger, more harmful ones, it proclaims “You
shall not pass!” Leaky gut occurs when this stern guardian is removed,
and you develop holes that do permit the more toxic things to enter,
such as bad bacteria, undigested food particles, and gluten. This can
cause a host of problems, including immune reaction, digestive
problems, weight gain, depression, and fatigue, amongst others.
The main causes of leaky gut syndrome include a poor diet, bacterial
imbalance, or chronic stress. However, there are other minor factors in
day-to-day living that can contribute. Learn how to avoid and repair a
1. Eliminate Gluten
There's a good possibility that if you have a chronic leaky gut, you may
be gluten intolerant. Consuming gluten is one of the top causes of leaky
Here's how it works: One of the main functions of the cells that line
your intestinal walls are to regulate intestinal permeability. In those
who are gluten-intolerant, gluten causes the cells to release zonulin, a
protein that breaks apart connections holding the intestines together.
Once those connections are broken, leaky gut syndrome occurs,
allowing undigested food particles, toxins, and antibodies to escape
through the intestines.
A 2015 study examined the effects of gluten with a leaky gut
syndrome, and found some evidence that suggested that it could even
cause psychosis and/or depression. E. Lionetti from the University of
Catania in Italy, claimed that, “ a leaky gut allows some gluten peptides
to cross the intestinal membrane and the blood brain barrier, affecting
the endogenous opiate system and neurotransmission, and gluten
peptides may set up an innate immune response in the brain similar to
that described in the gut mucosa, causing exposure from neuronal cells
of a transglutaminase primarily expressed in the brain.”
In other words, the physical can be quite emotional in this case, as well.
To find out if gluten is the cause of your gut discomfort, cut it out of
your diet for 30 days. If things improve, it's likely the cause. If they
stay the same or get worse, look for another cause.
2. Cut Down on Alcohol
That delicious bottle of wine could be the culprit. Oh no! Not
necessarily, but if you are experiencing leaky gut syndrome, pay
attention to your alcohol consumption.
In 2015, X. Quin and researchers from the Rutgers New Jersey Medical
School in Newark, New Jersey, aimed to find out if alcohol had an acute
effect on gut barrier function.
They took a gut sac model of rats, and administered different
concentrations of alcohol to it (0, 5, 10, 20, and 40%). It turned out
that the alcohol caused dose-dependant and time-dependant increases
in gut permeability.
Significant changes were even observed five minutes afterwards,
looking at the gut model treated with 10% alcohol. If you drink heavily,
and have been consuming alcohol for several years, your belly may
have developed some leaks. Oops.
3. Don't O.D. on the NSAIDS
The what? Non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory drugs. A very common one
So, if your natural instinct upon getting a headache or experiencing
pain is reaching for the medicine cabinet, your gut might complain.
A 1998 study from G. Thigthorsson at the King's College School of
Medicine in London examined the frequency in which non-steroidal anti-
inflammatory drugs increase intestinal permeability and cause
A total of 68 patients receiving six different NSAIDs for over six months
underwent combined absorption permeability tests at three different
test dose osmolarities (iso, hypo, and hyperosmolar). In the hypo and
hyperosmolar test, the intestinal permeability was shown to be quite
And while it may decrease inflammation in general, with long-term use,
it was also shown to increase it in your gut. So, be careful to just take
painkillers when absolutely necessary. Don't make them a daily part of
4. Consume Glutamin, Cucurmin, and other Delicious Foods
Gut disturbances have been connected to many different factors,
including lipid or protein glycation when processing modern food
(which, in and of itself is processed).
In a 2010 report, J.R. Rapin from the University of Burgundy in Dijon,
France writes that leaky gut syndrome is improved by the dietary
additions of either glutamine or curcumin.
These both inhibit inflammation and the oxidative stress linked to tight
junction opening. Other dietary compounds are also emerging, that
have potential to reduce a leaky gut.
According to clinical nutritionist Dr. Josh Axe, other good substances to
try for gut repair and maintenance include: digestive enzymes, licorice
root, quercetin, raw cultured dairy (including one of my personal
favorites, kefir), fermented vegetables, coconut products, and sprouted
seeds (chia, hemp, flax).
5. Avoid Saponins
These guys will punch lots of holes in your gut. They are found in
quinoa, amongst other foods. They put little holes in the small intestine,
so too many of them can lead to the development of leaky gut
syndrome or the exacerbation of an already leaky gut.
According to a 2002 report, “Trends in Crops and New Uses” from the
ASHS Press in Alexandria, VA, by J.B. Solíz Guerrero, saponins are also
In other words, not only do they leave holes in your intestine, they
actually don't let the good nutrients, the very ones you may be
consuming to reduce leaky gut, into your body. Look at what you're
eating, and make sure it isn't rich in saponins.
6. Take Probiotics
Another dietary supplement you can take are called probiotics.
According to Salminen Isolauri from the Nutrition, Allergy, Mucosal
Immunology and Intestinal Microbiota Research group, the immune
regulation in the gut requires healthy gut microbiota.
Leaky gut is often caused by inflammation and the improper functioning
of the mucous layer that protects cells from damage.
Probiotics serve to reduce these factors: alleviate intestinal
inflammation, normalize gut mucosal dysfunction, and regulate
A 2006 article from the journal “From applied letters in microbiology”
by J.S. White and his colleagues Hoper, Parks, and Clements conducted
a study about biliary dysfunction and its connection with developing a
The results found that probiotic bacteria prevented the development of
intestinal hyperpermeability, in cases of biliary dysfunction.
One good source of some probiotics is yogurt, preferably plain and
7. Use the Holistic Approach
There is a four step program that many doctors, including Doctor Axe,
use to treat leaky gut syndrome.
Step 1: Remove any foods or factors that could damage your gut. See
any of the ones listed in this article, or sugar, grains, conventional meat
and dairy, and GMO foods.
Step 2: Replace them with healing foods. These are different for each
person, but veggies are usually a safe bet. Consult your nutritionist.
Step 3: Repair with specific supplements. This will also vary, depending
on your gut.
Step 4: Rebalance with Probiotics.
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