In case of a leaky gut, the intestinal wall has become permeable, so that undesirable substances are able to penetrate the intestinal wall. The result is that undigested food elements, harmful substances, various types of bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses can easily get through the wall and into the blood. This causes all kinds of problems.
The small intestine has folds, called intestinal villi, which look like fingers. When these intestinal villi are inflamed, they eventually break down and holes are created in the intestinal wall and in the intestinal villi. Thus, undigested nutrients leak through these holes into the body. The immune system sees these substances as threatening and starts creating antibodies. This causes severe immunological responses.
A leaky gut is usually caused by irritation and inflammation of the intestinal mucosa and can have several causes:
- Wrong diet, that contains too much sugar, flavor enhancers and refined products.
- Lectins from grains, legumes, soy products and peanuts.
- Anti-inflammatories, antibiotics.
- Fungi and/or parasites in the intestine.
- Poor liver function, causing toxins to be created, that cannot properly be processed by the intestines.
The symptoms of a leaky gut come from an excess of toxins that have ended up in the blood and cause trouble throughout the entire body.
Examples of signs and symptoms are:
- Rash, eczema, hives.
- Poor memory, problems concentrating.
- Depression, mood swings.
- Abdominal problems (bloating), diarrhea.
- Overall malaise, fatigue.
A diagnosis is difficult to make, since a leaky gut can only be demonstrated by means of biopsy. In the biopsy of a piece of intestine, holes can be seen under the microscope. Since such examinations are expensive, this is only done when there is a medical need for it. There must be evidence that there is a serious condition. Often, however, the symptoms are vague, such as abdominal pain and nausea, so there is no medical necessity. Nutrition appears to play a significant and important role in this condition. An investigation into food intolerances and allergies can be a start to deal with the diet and see whether that results in a change in symptoms.
Healing a leaky gut has two important pillars. First of all, it is necessary to follow a diet, additionally there are some supplements that can help to heal the intestinal wall.
The diet associated with a leaky gut is quite strict. It is not allowed to eat sugars and grains. So no bread, crackers and pasta anymore and nothing that contains sugar. Fruits are allowed to a limited extent, but preferably no fruits with lots of fruit sugars in it. Acidic fruits, such as berries, are allowed. There is a diet, focused on the recovery of the intestines, the GAPS diet. This diet is without carbohydrates. Not everyone is (immediately) able to function entirely without any carbohydrates. Often, it’s wise to eat some carbohydrates, for example in the form of rice, buckwheat or quinoa. Quinoa, buckwheat and almond flour are also good ingredients for baking bread.
Supplements that can help to recover the intestines are: L-glutamine (precursor of glutathione), probiotics, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin D and gelatin.
Don’t expect that diet and supplements will work very quickly. Recovery of the intestines takes time, especially if a person has been suffering from a leaky gut for a long time.
The intestinal wall cells recover, depending on the damage, in three to seven days. However, the effects of a leaky gut will take longer. If a leaky gut is not recognized and treated in time, this can have serious consequences and lead to chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, allergic responses, irritable bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, chronic skin disorders and autoimmune diseases.
- Remove alcohol and coffee from the diet, then a change will occur immediately.
- Other culprits are foods that are full of preservatives, additives and other human-made ingredients. Most of these products should be avoided.
- Prevent further irritation to the intestinal wall. Try to avoid gluten. Gluten contain proteins that cause holes in the intestinal wall cells. Try to switch to cereals, such as buckwheat, quinoa, rice or millet.