In the modern world, we often do not think of our gut when we experience skin issues, energy slumps or low mood - but we should do!
The gut is the gateway to great health - it is integral to our vitality, energy and happiness. And leaky gut is one of the main reasons we experience all sorts of health concerns, from bloating and digestive discomfort to brain fog, autoimmunity and skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis.
“The gut is the gateway to great health - it is integral to our vitality, energy and happiness.”
What is leaky gut?
Leaky gut is exactly what it sounds like. It is experienced when the epithelial cell junctions in the gut become loose, or in other words, there are gaps in the gut lining that create ‘leaking’.
“Leaky gut is when there are gaps in the gut lining that create ‘leaking’.
These gaps in the gut lining then result in half-digested foods and larger proteins making their way out of the small intestine and into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the immune system tags these foods as invaders, resulting in an immune and inflammatory response. This is often experienced as bloating, although can show itself in the body in many ways such as skin issues, low energy and low mood as mentioned earlier.
“Gaps in the gut lining then result in half-digested foods and larger proteins making their way out of the small intestine and into the bloodstream.”
How does the gut lining become leaky?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye and it is what gives bread its stretch. When you consume gluten, it signals the production of a protein called zonulin, which doesn’t naturally occur in humans otherwise.
“Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.”
Zonulin is currently the only known regulator of the tight junctions between the cell walls of the gut lining. The wall of your gut lining is meant to serve as a barrier between you and the outside world. However, zonulin can loosen these tight junctions, allowing undigested food particles and other inflammatory particles to pass into the bloodstream. If you are susceptible to zonulin, this can also lead to an autoimmune response.
So what about dairy?
Chances are if you have a problem with gluten, there are other foods such as dairy, that could be bothering you as well.
Dairy is another food that contains a very reactive and inflammatory protein. In particular, skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis tend to be a sign of a dairy intolerance.
“Dairy is another food that contains a very reactive and inflammatory protein.”
In the modern world, the dairy that we are exposed to has been homogenised and pasteurised which changes the biochemical structure of the dairy. Or in other words, the dairy we are drinking now has been processed to the point where it is completely different from the original product.
7 ways you can nurture a leaky gut
1. Avoid gluten and dairy
As you might have guessed, a great place to start when it comes to nurturing great gut health is avoiding gluten and dairy.
“A great place to start when it comes to nurturing great gut health is avoiding gluten and dairy.”
People who experience leaky gut may notice their bloating reduce just days after removing gluten from their diet. For others, they may not notice a difference until they add gluten back into their diet a few weeks later. Ideally, you should remove gluten for a full 3 weeks before reintroducing it. Over this time, monitor your gut symptoms, as well as your energy levels and how you feel emotionally. Observe whether you feel better, and if you do, then I’d recommend keeping gluten out of your diet long term.
If you notice a difference with gluten, but you still experience some gut issues (in particular skin issues) you may also notice a positive difference by taking dairy out of your diet. Try it and take note on how you feel.
2. Avoid other inflammatory foods
When someone has inflammation in the gut, it can also be in response to excess sugar, food allergies or gut dysbiosis. Avoiding coffee, alcohol, refined sugars, processed foods and foods high in trans-fats may support the healing of your gut lining.
3. Try Bone Broth
Bone broth contains healing compounds such as glutamine, collagen, proline, glycine and gelatine. These are essential amino acids and trace minerals that help seal and heal the gut lining. This is because they're easily absorbed, allowing them to provide your gut cells with the direct building blocks needed to rebuild and regenerate. Try this nourishing bone broth soup recipe.
“Bone broth contains essential amino acids and trace minerals that help seal the gut lining.”
4. Destress and Relax
Stress is commonly associated with inflammation and can increase leakiness in the gut. This is because large amounts of ongoing stress can negatively impact your gut flora. To maintain good gut health, aim to manage stress levels from all aspects of your life. Some tips we recommend to bring more calm into your life include; going for a walk in nature, breathing exercises or practicing restorative yoga.
There are a couple of other nutrients that are essential for nurturing a leaky gut:
5. Vitamin D
The fat-soluble vitamin is found in oily fish like sardines, cod liver oil, lard, pork fat, salmon and mushrooms for a non-animal active form Vitamin D2.
6. Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are key when it comes to fighting inflammation.
Foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids are eggs, nuts, raw milk (if tolerated), leafy green vegetables and oily fish.
Zinc allows the stomach to produce stomach acid, which helps us to break down foods for absorption and at the same time has the ability to strengthen the gut lining.
Oysters are the number one source of zinc. You can also find zinc in raw milk, lamb, maple syrup, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and beef.