There is no doubt that what we put into our bodies can affect our health in so many ways. Our digestive tract acts as a barrier to allow the passage of important vitamins and nutrients into the bloodstream in order to maintain health and wellbeing.

Our intestinal tract has a normal amount of required bacteria (the gut flora) that aids in digestion of our food and maintains this normal homeostasis. Sometimes, as a result of poor diet an overgrowth of abnormal bacteria and yeast can develop that changes the permeability of these important nutrients and allows unwanted toxins to “leak” into the body. These substances are then transported through the bloodstream and stimulate the immune system to over-react resulting in an increase in inflammatory responses. This in turn, can contribute to abdominal bloating and cramping, poor absorption of beneficial nutrients, increase food sensitivities and an exacerbation of allergies and skin conditions, such as eczema, as well as achy joints and headaches.

What are the causes of increased intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”?

  • Poor diet
  • Stress
  • Certain medications (ie. antibiotics)
  • Gastrointestinal infections

These typical causes may result in an overgrowth of unwanted bacteria and yeast, thought to contribute to the damage seen in the intestinal permeability.

Can I get tested for “leaky gut”?

Generally speaking, there are no “routine tests” performed to diagnose this syndrome.  It is more a clinical diagnosis based on patients signs and symptoms.

What can I do if I think this may be contributing to my problems?

Simply making changes to one’s diet can reduce inflammation and restore normal gut flora and relieve symptoms associated with leaky gut.

  1. Start by eliminating all refined sugars, limit dairy, gluten and alcohol and get rid of artificial sweeteners.
  2. Begin increasing foods rich in fatty acids and omega 3’s like fish and nuts. Try bringing a handful of raw almonds or walnuts for a mid-day snack. These foods have been found to reduce the number of abnormal yeast in the GI tract that are known to increase gas production and intestinal permeability.
  3. Add Probiotics (healthy bacteria) to your diet such as:
    • Yogurt (Just be aware of the added sugars added to many so called “healthy low fat yogurts”)
    • Kefir
    • Miso and tempeh
    • Dark chocolate
    • Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi

    Just by adding Probiotics to your diet, many people have seen

    • improved digestion
    • healthier skin
    • decreased pain
    • increased energy
    • a stronger immune response with decreased frequency and duration of cold & flu
    • weight loss

    Although there are many helpful Probiotic supplements on the market, and I do find them useful, I always feel that it is better to incorporate healthy habits and obtain as many nutrients through our diet as much as possible.