By Carla Oates
Also known as intestinal permeability—leaky gut syndrome is a condition which is closely linked to a number of skin and health issues.
But what causes leaky gut? Well, when the typically tight junctions in our delicate gut lining become loose or are damaged, bacterial-derived lipopolysaccharides (LPS), a type of endotoxin, among other compounds, such as proteins, food antigens (or undigested food particles) are able to pass through the gut wall, and ‘leak’ into the bloodstream. These harmful substances circulating subsequently triggers an immune response from our body—and low-grade inflammation. And, it’s this inflammatory response that is often responsible for the myriad of skin and digestive issues, autoimmune diseases and health conditions that stem from leaky gut. By contrast, in a healthy gut, the epithelial cells in our digestive tract remain tight, only allowing vital nutrients to pass through the mucosal wall in order to be absorbed and assimilated by the body.
Given that over 70 percent of our immune system is located in our gut—if you suspect you may be experiencing symptoms of leaky gut, it’s essential to garner a diagnosis and learn how to heal leaky gut as soon as possible in order to remain healthy, well and vital. If left to worsen, the underlying inflammation caused can contribute to other health problems and ongoing chronic inflammation.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
While the causes of leaky gut can be complex—and vary in nature due to an individual’s genetics and unique microbiome and balance of gut microbiota—common triggers include poor diet, excess stress, some medications (such as NSAIDs) and antibiotics, excess alcohol, parasites and/or yeast overgrowth—which can all damage the intestinal barrier.
Common Symptoms Of Leaky Gut
As with its causes, symptoms of leaky gut can be complex, many and varied. It can also be tricky to get a proper diagnosis for leaky gut as its risk factors and symptoms can mimic other gastrointestinal and medical conditions (such as IBD or colitis) and can also vary in severity.
However, some of the most common symptoms include:
- Heartburn, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhoea
- Food allergies and/or food sensitivities or intolerances
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Skin manifestations such as rashes, acne, psoriasis or eczema
- Joint pain and/or fibromyalgia
- Lethargy and/or chronic fatigue syndrome
- Brain fog and/or headaches
- Mood imbalances
- Weakened immune system
- Some autoimmune disorders such as lupus, Hashimotos, Crohn's disease or rheumatoid arthritis
- Systemic inflammation
How To Heal Leaky Gut
As triggers and underlying causes for leaky gut—as well as how it manifests itself—can vary so greatly from individual to individual, there is unfortunately no standardised treatment plan that works for everyone and this is why one of the most searched for phrases when it comes to leaky gut is: how long to heal leaky gut. For serious gut health issues, it’s always a good idea to consult with a skilled naturopath, gut health specialist or integrative healthcare practitioner who can help to manage your symptoms.
But, if you’re keen to help heal your gut at home—and better read the signs leaky gut is healing—here are six simple ways to kickstart the process…
Remove Inflammatory Foods From Your Diet
The first step to healing your gut is to remove all inflammatory and potentially damaging foods from your diet so as not to irritate your gastrointestinal tract. In the case of leaky gut, some of the most common culprits include gluten, sugar, processed foods, alcohol and dairy—which can all damage the intestinal lining. Gluten is particularly damaging for those with celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), while substances like sugar can also contribute to inflammation, dysbiosis and leaky gut.
Research shows that chronic stress is directly linked to increased intestinal permeability—damaging the delicate gut lining and contributing to local and systemic inflammation. Reducing stress is therefore essential in order to allow the gut to rest and repair. Practices such as meditation, for example, have been linked to improved gut health and microbial composition, while exercise can also positively impact the diversity of our gut microbes and increase the production of anti-inflammatory, protective short-chain fatty acids.
Boost Collagen Intake
As one of the most integral building blocks in our body, collagen is not only essential for plump, glowing skin—but also a healthy, robust gut lining as it contains the amino acids (such as l-glutamine) required to repair and restore it. In fact, studies show that collagen peptides actually strengthen the delicate gut barrier, reducing its permeability. Upping your intake of collagen-rich foods such as gelatin, bone broth, homemade chicken soup, eggs and poultry is therefore beneficial—as is adding a high-quality collagen supplement such as The Beauty Chef’s DEEP COLLAGEN, to your daily routine. DEEP COLLAGEN also contains digestive enzymes which further supports digestive health and enhances absorption.
Probiotics help to boost levels of healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome—which in turn, supports overall gut function and health. Probiotics are also proven to improve gut barrier function, prevent disruption to the intestinal wall and also protect the gut from pathogens. Adding fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and culture yoghurts and cheeses, as well as The Beauty Chef inner beauty products, to your diet is a simple way to ensure you’re consuming more protective probiotic bacteria. Plus, microbial diversity is the key to a healthy gut and probiotics is one simple way to support and diversify the bacteria in your belly!
Eat More Fibre-Rich Plants
While you certainly don’t have to ditch meat or animal products entirely—filling up your plant with anti-inflammatory, fibre-rich plants can help to repair and bolster your delicate gut lining—and is the first step in how to heal leaky gut naturally. This is because plant foods contain an abundance of prebiotic dietary fibre which feed the beneficial gut bacteria in your belly—producing anti-inflammatory short-chain fatty acids in the process. These compounds are essential for good gut health—but are also vital for our immune, metabolic and brain health, too.
When looking to soothe and repair the delicate gut lining, it’s essential to focus on healing supplements that contain ingredients proven for their gut health benefits. Therefore, the best supplements for leaky gut are those that contain anti-inflammatory ingredients and nutrients such as turmeric, slippery elm, licorice and milk thistle which have all been used traditionally in treatments for leaky gut (as well as other inflammatory bowel diseases). The Beauty Chef’s GUT PRIMER™, for example, has been specifically formulated to holistically support gut health and immunity by promoting an improved digestive system.
Signs Leaky Gut Is Healing
The good news is, with a little love and care, you can heal from leaky gut and go on to enjoy your life—free from gastrointestinal distress! While the signs your leaky gut is healing will depend on your initial symptoms, if you find your bowel movements have regulated, you no longer experience constant bouts of constipation and/or diarrhoea, your skin is healthy and glowing and you feel full of energy—it’s a good sign your leaky gut is repairing. As always, if you’re concerned about your leaky gut returning or how to manage it in an ongoing capacity—always speak with your trusted healthcare practitioner who can provide long-term tips and guidance to ensure you continue to feel healthy, well and vital.