(This is Part 2 of a 2 part article. Part 1 appeared in the April 2017 edition of the Healthy Planet magazine.)
In last month’s article, we discussed what leaky gut is and the wide-ranging signs and symptoms that could indicate you have a leaky gut. This month we’re going to explain what causes leaky gut and how to heal it.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
Unfortunately, even with all of the research that has been done on leaky gut, the cause is not entirely known. However, there is a level of consensus that the following are culprits for poking holes in your intestinal lining: food, stress, and pills.
- Diet: The most important foods to remove from your diet if you want to prevent or recover from leaky gut are sugar, gluten, conventional meat and dairy, GMOs, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. Also, eating foods you are sensitive to can lead to leaky gut, which is why it is so important to be tested for both IgG and IgA food sensitivities and to remove the foods you are sensitive to from your diet.
- Chronic Stress: Chronic stress almost always results in a suppressed immune system. A weakened immune system cannot handle doing its normal job and gets overrun with pathogens very quickly. This increases overall gut inflammation leading to increased permeability of the intestinal lining. And this doesn’t just mean psychological or emotional stress. Physical stress, like parasite or bacterial infections, can also wreak havoc on your immune system.
- Medications: Taking prescription medications and even over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) can damage the intestinal lining and lead to increased permeability.
How to Stop Your Guts From Leaking
The good news is that it is possible to heal a leaky gut. In fact, we have helped countless patients heal their leaky gut by using the four-step, 4-R process of (1) Remove; (2) Replace; (3) Repair; and (4) Rebalance.
- REMOVE the offending foods and factors that have been damaging the gut. You may have heard the old adage that “the first law of holes is, if you’re in one, stop digging.” The same principle applies to leaky gut. In other words, if you want to heal a leaky gut, the first thing you must do is remove the things that are poking holes in it. This means being tested for food sensitivities and removing the offending foods from your diet. It also means removing, or at the very least reducing, your use of non-essential medications, like NSAIDs, and your intake of refined sugars, gluten, dairy, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. While this may seem like a drastic step, remember that, except in extreme cases, you won’t have to eliminate these foods forever; you are simply removing them in the short-term to give your body a chance to heal.
- REPLACE the nutrients lost through leaky gut. Leaky gut is known to cause malabsorption and improper digestion, both of which are going to leave you with nutritional deficiencies. While some doctors recommend taking high doses of oral supplements to replace the lost nutrients, that suggestion doesn’t make much sense. Since we already know your gut is irritated and not functioning properly, it is unlikely that you will be able to get the nutrients you need through supplements that have to be processed by your faulty digestive system. The best way to fix nutritional deficiencies caused by a leaky gut is through intravenous (IV) nutrient therapy because it bypasses the gastrointestinal system and delivers the nutrients directly into your bloodstream where they are needed and can be used by your body. I personally believe that the massive popularity of IV nutrient therapy is due in part to the fact that so many people are unknowingly suffering from leaky gut.
- REPAIR the gut with specific foods and supplements. While removing the foods and factors that have been damaging your intestinal lining and giving your body the nutrients it needs will go a long way in healing leaky gut, there are specific foods and supplements that can help the process along. These include colostrum, bone broth, L-glutamine, digestive enzymes, as well as many others. However, the specific foods and supplements needed to heal a leaky gut are unique to each person and what is extremely beneficial to one person can be very damaging to someone else. So I want to caution against experimenting with any of these foods or supplements and encourage anyone who thinks they may be suffering from leaky gut to find a skilled practitioner to determine the precise foods and supplements that will help them heal.
- REBALANCE gut bacteria with probiotics and prebiotics. The last step in the process of healing leaky gut is to re-inoculate the gut with good bacteria. There are two points I want to stress with this last step. The first is that not all probiotics and prebiotics are created equal. I see far too many people who are throwing their money away on probiotics and prebiotics that are too weak to do them any good. The second point is that this is the last step in the process of healing leaky gut because probiotics and prebiotics should not be taken until the first three steps have been completed. If probiotics and prebiotics are taken before the gut has healed you will, at best, be throwing your money away because your gut won’t be functioning well enough for you to process them. At worst, the good bacteria in probiotic or prebiotic could leak through your gut into your bloodstream and be “tagged” by your immune system as a problem, thereby creating a sensitivity.
The important thing to remember about leaky gut is that it CAN be healed. By following the four-step process I’ve outlined above, most people see a significant improvement in just six weeks. So if you think leaky gut could be problem for you or someone you love, take the step to find a skilled practitioner and get some answers. You are always one decision away from a totally different life.
If you would like more information on leaky gut or other conditions, testing, or treatment, please contact us at (314) 293-8123 or visit us at the inhstl.com. Dr. TJ Williams is the Clinic Director for the Institute of Natural Health and the host of the radio program Wellness 101, which provides common-sense, science-based strategies for a healthy life. Wellness 101 airs Sundays at 3:00pm on FM NewsTalk 97.1.