The term “leaky gut” has gained a lot of traction in the last few years and sometimes it can even seem like everyone has a solution. But why is the term around all of sudden and what does it even mean? There’s been a swell of people experiencing digestive discomfort as a result of our increasingly stressful lifestyles and improper diet. Those two factors alone can result in all sorts of digestive discomfort. We’ll take a look at when that discomfort points to leaky gut and what you can do to address it.
What even is a leaky gut?
“Leaky gut” is the trendy way of saying “increased intestinal permeability.” First version makes it easier to talk about, right?
Basically, leaky gut is a condition in which your intestinal walls start to loosen, and bacteria, food particles, chemicals, and other toxins pass through gaps in your intestinal walls into your bloodstream.
If the damage to your intestinal lining is severe enough, you may experience all sorts of seemingly unrelated conditions, like acne, allergies, eczema, brain fog, fatigue, and chronic aches and pains.
Researchers don’t know the exact cause of leaky gut, but studies have revealed some clues that help health professionals treat the condition, or at least the symptoms of it.
Symptoms of leaky gut
Leaky gut syndrome isn’t formally recognized as a medical diagnosis yet, so there’s no hard-and-fast rule book that says you have to exhibit certain symptoms to have the condition. However, that doesn’t make a person’s symptoms invalid.
You might be suffering from leaky gut if you regularly experience:
- Gas, bloating, and cramps
- Unexplained headaches
- Brain fog
- Skin rashes and acne breakouts
- Unexplained joint pain
OK, now that you know what leaky gut is and what kinds of symptoms it causes, here’s how to heal your leaky gut in five simple steps.
1. Cut out toxic processed foods.
Gluten, sugar, dairy, alcohol, eggs, soy, and processed foods all hold the potential to disrupt your gut microbiome and intestinal lining. We aren’t saying you should cut out all of these foods forever (in fact, doing so could actually hurt you more), but you may benefit from a temporary elimination diet.
We recommend beginning an elimination diet with the guidance of a doctor or registered dietitian who will be able to ensure you don’t miss out on any essential nutrients. They’ll also be able to help you properly add foods back into your diet so you can identify triggers.
2. Start eating more gut-healthy foods.
If we listed all the foods you should start eating to heal a leaky gut, this article would be called “20+ steps to fix a leaky gut.” The easy explanation: You can always assume that your diet can use more vegetables, more fermented foods, and more herbs and spices.
Eat plenty of foods with resistant starches, like green-tipped bananas, artichokes, legumes, cooked and cooled potatoes, and gluten-free oats. If you don’t eat them already, add antioxidant-rich fruits like dark cherries, spinach, and blueberries to your diet.
3. Take a digestive enzyme.
You can eat all the probiotic and prebiotic foods you want, but if your body can’t break them down, it’ll all be for naught. Digestive enzymes, like the ones in BIOHM probiotic supplements, help your body break food down into smaller compounds and increase nutrient absorption.
4. Reduce stress.
You already know that chronic stress ravages your body in all sorts of ways. It burns you out, makes you tired, and leaves you with little motivation. Chronic stress also messes with your digestive tract by keeping your cortisol and epinephrine levels elevated. These two stress hormones can damage the lining of your intestines, leading to leaky gut.
Try stress-reducing techniques like meditating, eating mindfully, reading a good book, taking a hot bath, and spending time with good friends.
5. Get more sleep.
We can’t emphasize the importance of sleep enough. Quality sleep could almost be considered a cure-all: Sleep improves your mood, digestion, skin, focus and productivity, athletic performance, and so much more.
Part of leaky gut is inflammation and irritation of the tight junctions in your gut lining. When you sleep, you give your body a chance to heal and recover from any and all injuries, including inflammation in your gut.
Learn more: 5 Ways Your Gut Health Affects Your Sleep
A word from Dr. G
Remember, leaky gut isn’t yet formally recognized as a medical diagnosis, but that doesn’t mean your symptoms are invalid. Talk to your physician about your symptoms if you’re struggling with gut health. We’re all about taking control of your health through positive habits and healthy practices, but getting a professional opinion is worth it when it comes to leaky gut.