Leaky Gut Treatment
Hallandale Beach Functional Medicine
You may have heard about the topic of “Leaky Gut” in the media recently. The gut is heavily involved in our health and wellbeing. In this article we will discuss what it means to have a “leaky gut”, what causes a compromised intestinal barrier, why is it important, and what can we do to fix it. Let us begin by discussing the function of the digestive system.
Digestion is the complex process of breaking food down into very small particles. Digestion begins in the mouth through mastication and enzymatic breakdown of foods with the help of our salivary enzymes. This process continues in the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines. The liver, gallbladder, and pancreas also play an important role in digestion by providing digestive juices for a further breakdown of food. Absorption is the process of taking the broken-down food and absorbing its nutrients into your body.
A biochemistry professor of mine once referred to humans as “walking donuts from mouth to anus”. What exactly does that mean? When speaking about the gut, it means our intestinal lining is separating the inside of our bodies from the outside environment in our gut. In other words, everything inside of the gut is technically outside of the body. The contents of our gut must cross the intestinal barrier to move inside our bodies.
The single-cell layer of the intestinal wall acts as a barrier, controlling what enters the bloodstream to be transported to your organs. Between each intestinal cell are small gaps called tight junctions that allow the absorption of water, vitamins, minerals, and the breakdown of foods. Vital nutrients pass through while blocking the passage of harmful substances. The absorption process is facilitated by finger-like projections on the surface of the intestinal cells called villi. Intestinal villi grab micronutrients from our food floating in your gut and push them toward channels and transporters who’s job is to carry nourishment to all the cells in your body.
Intestinal permeability refers to how easily substances pass through the intestinal wall. A leaky gut, also known as intestinal hyperpermeability, is a digestive condition in which bacteria and toxins are able to “leak” through the intestinal wall. When the tight junctions of intestinal walls become “leaky”, the gut becomes more permeable, which may allow bacteria, partially digested food into the blood, and molecules intended for excretion via the stool to pass from the gut into the bloodstream.
When the gut is “leaky” and bacteria and toxins enter the bloodstream, it can cause widespread inflammation and possibly trigger a reaction from the immune system. A compromised gut lining can increase your risk of developing chronic inflammation throughout the body, autoimmune diseases 1, food sensitivities, skin problems, brain fog, and gas and bloating. A compromised gut function can also increase susceptibility to bacterial, parasitic or fungal infections like Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Candida Overgrowth.
Leaky gut can be caused by various factors:
- Consumption of highly refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods
- Low consumption of fermentable fibers
- Exposure to environmental toxins such as BPA, mercury, pesticides
- Dysbiosis due to chronic gut infections, antibiotic, and birth control use 2
- Chronic stress (emotional or physical stress)
What can you do to improve your gut function?
Eat a nutrient-dense whole foods diet that contains plenty of dietary fiber to support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. It is also important to stay well hydrated when consuming more fiber. 3. Removing highly processed foods and refined carbohydrates to avoid disruption of the microbiome and the intestinal wall. Exercise can help enrich the number of beneficial microbes and increasing microbial diversity in the gut 4. Physical activity can also help improve bowel function and alleviate constipation. Not to mention exercise can decrease stress which is important for bowel regularity.
As a functional medicine physician, I take a foundational approach to tackling “leaky gut”. Foundational blood work and comprehensive stool analysis can identify the bacterial imbalances, evaluate the function of our digestive and absorption processes, and our immune system function to ensure we get to the root cause of your condition. At Miami Spine + Performance we focus on the 4 “Rs” of leaky gut repair.
1. REMOVE: Our goal is to remove the foods, the bugs (bacteria, fungus, parasites), and the toxins that could be associated with your leaky gut
2. RESTORE: Adding light supplementation to support optimal digestion and nutrient absorption. We also focus on increasing your nutrient status through dietary changes
3. REINOCULATE: Replenish the beneficial bacteria in your gut with the help of probiotic supplements to balance your gut flora, protect your intestinal wall lining, and your immune system
4. REPAIR: Repair the tight junctions in the gut lining with the use of supplementation and dietary strategies shown to decrease inflammation and restore bacterial balance.
If you want to explore your gut health and address the root cause of your symptoms please give us a call. We offer complementary Functional Medicine consultations to answer any questions you may have prior to starting your journey towards better health.