Written by Alison Bell
Gut health is something that has been respected in Eastern cultures and medicine for all time. According to Eastern beliefs, it is the house of the spirit and soul. It appears that Western medicine is now catching up with gut health becoming the answer for patients presenting with a list of digestive system disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), coeliac disease, heartburn, constipation, diarrhoea, allergies, food intolerances, boating, gut dysbiosis, autoimmune disorders and the like. Many of these issues can be brought back to gut permeability.
So what is this gut permeability, known more commonly as leaky gut? The gut lining is naturally a permeable structure allowing you to absorb nutrients. According to the leaky gut hypothesis, the tight junctions being opened up causes your bowel lining to become “leaky”. This allows nasty toxins and undigested food particles to pass through from your gut into your blood stream wreaking havoc on your immune system.
At this point the immune system jumps to attention and attacks the invaders. This response is what practitioners who support the gut permeability hypothesis believe is causing symptoms that have previously been given different diagnosis. This immune response can be seen most clearly with those suffering from coeliac disease. Foods containing gluten can cause cells in the gut to release zonulin, a protein that forces tight junctions in the intestinal lining to separate, allowing the "leak" from the bowel lining to the bloodstream.
Experts are not in agreement over the leaky gut hypothesis as there is little clinical data on humans to support it. But the evidence is growing to the point where it is believed that our stomach bacteria and its ability to permeate the gut lining is affecting our health. This combined with growing evidence to show the gut microbiome and the gastrointestinal barrier impact our gut health will change the way of medical diagnosis and treatments in the near future.
So, how can you avoid a leaky gut?
1. Revisit Diet
Are you consuming any foods that your body may be perceiving as a toxin? One common food that causes immune response is gluten. Perhaps try living a gluten free life for one month, and see if you can feel the difference. Increase fermented foods and bone broth to aid gut health. Bone broth is filled with nutrients which aid digestion, and the collagen will help "patch up" any "holes" in the gut lining.
2. Remove Genetically Modified Foods
Many GM crops, including corn, were engineered to produce their own insecticide, to kill insects by destroying the lining of their digestive tracts. That insecticide has been proven to also damage human intestines, causing gut permeability.
3. Manage Stress
Our modern fast paced lifestyle is also a major contributor to a leaky gut. Under stress, the body kicks into fight or flight mode. Try to find time in the day to meditate, do some restorative yoga, tai chi or qi gong. Swap out the weights and cardio in the gym for an outdoor activity that is purely done for fun! We want to encourage playful exercise paired with rest and digest!
4. Introduce Probiotics
Once the toxic inflammation has been identified and removed, it's time to introduce more of the good guys.. the friendly bacteria. The easiest way to do this is through probiotics. As the bad bacteria die off, there needs to be a constant supply of good bacteria to replace it. This will help nutrients be absorbed and keep the bad guys in check.
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