Leaky gut is at the center of so many of our modern health problems from constipation and bloating, to vitamin deficiencies, to depression and anxiety, to autoimmune disorders.
Leaky gut, or increased intestinal permeability, is a condition where toxins, microorganisms, and small food particles, get through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream where they don’t belong. This causes our immune system to respond with inflammation and varied unpleasant symptoms.
If you want a more detailed breakdown about what leaky gut is, what causes it, what the symptoms are, and what happens as a result of having leaky gut over a period of time – then check out my previous article.
This article will be focused on ways to heal leaky gut.
There is a 5-step plan based on functional medicine’s holistic approach. Here are the 5 Rs to heal leaky gut:
The first step in healing from leaky gut syndrome is to immediately stop the damage that’s being done by removing certain offending foods from your diet.
The most obvious of these are sugar, vegetable oils, gluten, dairy, processed food, and GMOs. These are the base of the Standard American Diet (SAD) and the cause of an epidemic of digestive issues, obesity, heart conditions, and various diseases and disorders including mental illness.
You can go on what’s called an elimination diet to remove these toxic foods from your menu. This is a temporary diet and should not be done long-term or without guidelines. You need to make sure you’re getting enough calories and healthy fats so your body will have all the nutrition it needs as it does its healing work.
An elimination diet would include nutrient-dense foods that most people don’t have any issues digesting and where all the nutrients come in their most bioavailable form. This is because you’re removing so much from the diet you need to make sure you’re meeting your nutritional and calorie requirements to function and heal.
The most ideal foods that meet this standard are red meats and quality animal fats. Make that the base of your diet. The full diet would depend on your own unique condition and your food sensitivities.
It’s a good idea to work with a doctor who practices functional medicine or a practitioner who is versed in holistic nutrition to get a full assessment of your health. If this isn’t possible you should still get a food sensitivities test done. There are some tests that you can order online.
I have an article that goes into a bit more detail about what an elimination diet entails.
Think about all that’s been thrown at your gut: environmental toxins, numerous medications, pathogens, stress, alcohol, heavy metals, processed food, overeating, pesticides, and all of your unhealthy food choices throughout your whole life.
Your gut has been through a lot!
After taking out all the junk from the diet, your gut needs to start on the repairs.
One way you can do this is through intermittent fasting. All this means is only eating in an 8-hour window through the day and then fasting the remaining 16 hours. For instance, I usually don’t have breakfast until 10 am and my last meal is over at 6 pm. Then I don’t eat again until breakfast the next morning at 10 am.
This allows your digestive tract a break from digestion so that it can get to work repairing all the damage.
On top of that, I’d recommend taking a coating agent to help calm and soothe the irritated gut lining. Herbal demulcents such as marshmallow root, aloe, licorice root, and slippery elm work well for that.
“A significant body of evidence indicates that glutamine preserves the gut barrier function and prevents permeability to toxins and pathogens under various conditions of gastrointestinal mucosal injury. Glutamine is considered the most important nutrient for healing of ‘leaky gut syndrome…” You can check out the article in PubMed here.
I like adding Leaky Gut Revive powder to my morning smoothie because it contains glutamine as well as herbal demulcents. Perfect for repairing the gut!
Many times the root of problems with leaky gut is due to low stomach acid, a pH imbalance in the stomach acid, or insufficient digestive enzymes.
Stomach acid breaks down your food and also kills any potential pathogenic bacteria, viruses, or parasites that may enter the digestive tract. If you have low stomach acid levels or the pH of your stomach juices isn’t acidic enough, all kinds of bacteria that don’t belong can end up in your small intestine.
Taking a hydrochloric acid supplement before eating your meals can help ensure that food is being digested so that the nutrition can be absorbed and used. It also kills pathogens before they enter the intestines.
You can also take digestive enzymes if your pancreas isn’t producing enough to handle your food. Everything you eat needs to be broken down into the smallest possible particles so that your small intestines can do their job of extracting all the nutrients and energy that your body needs to function and heal itself.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to repopulate your gut with a diverse community of healthy bacteria.
This doesn’t mean you start popping probiotics left and right. Of course, taking a good probiotic that makes it past your now replenished and balanced stomach acid is very important. Just follow the directions on the bottle.
What’s even more important is eating a healthy diet with a variety of different foods. Fiber is not fully digested by our bodies but it is the perfect food for our microbiome. You can take all the probiotics you want, but if you’re not eating a healthy diet (that includes protein, healthy saturated fats, and carbs) the bacteria you need will not stick around.
Stress played an important role in making you unwell, so to maintain health and balance you can take steps to restore your bodymindspirit.
Here at Guts Need Love, we look at the whole picture. Everything is connected. And that isn’t just some fluffy idea. It’s based on reality.
Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression put your body in a state of constant immune response and inflammation. There is a physical reaction. It weakens your immune system so that it’s less capable of fighting off infections. It causes the release of different hormones like cortisol, which is important to help keep you alert in risky or dangerous situations, but you don’t really want it pumping through you all day.
Don’t let anyone tell you the effects are all in your head. These are real material consequences and we should be taking them more seriously.
So if we can use tools such as meditation, breathwork, journaling, exercise, or just being in nature to manage our stress levels, we must.
I think a lot of people skip this step because it seems unnecessary or they think they don’t have enough time. But if you have enough time to eat, or to work to pay for the supplements you’re taking to heal yourself, then you have 10 minutes to check in with yourself.
It’s just about your priorities and self-care should be at the top of your list.
These are the 5 ways to heal leaky gut. Taken together, this plan will help you address any gut issues you may be having.
It took a bit of time for us to get ourselves into this mess and it will take some time to heal. But I was shocked at how quickly I began to see improvements in my skin, digestion, and mood once I started following these guidelines.
I will create another post that will go into deeper detail about my elimination diet, supplements, and the results I’ve been seeing very soon. So stay close!
If you would like further guidance and want to take part in a program to heal leaky gut rather than going off on your own I really recommend Dr. Amy Myers’ Leaky Gut Breakthrough Program. It contains eBooks, menus, recipes, supplements, protein powders, probiotics, and a support group. I’ll review that program in a future article.
Let me know what your diet looks like now and if you’ve ever tried an elimination diet. I’m curious to know what works (and what doesn’t work) for other people!