Leaky Gut (Nutrition, Vitamins and Supplements)

Leaky Gut (Nutrition, Vitamins and Supplements)
(Last Updated On: May 18, 2020)
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A leaky gut. For a long time, this was something that was not considered a real thing by the medical community. And nowadays still a lot of doctors and specialists don’t use it to treat gut complaints. Luckily the knowledge about leaky gut is steadily growing, and it is becoming more and more known what to do about it. 

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What Is Leaky Gut?

If you have a leaky gut, that means that your intestinal lining is damaged, and is letting through more than was initially intended.
Your intestinal lining is the barrier that is keeping the outside world (meaning everything that you’ve eaten and bacteria, toxins, etc. that is in your intestines) separate from your inside world (your blood, heart, organs). This is one of the most important parts of your immune system.

Usually, your intestine is very selective in what it lets pass. You could imagine it as a large wall, with thousands of guarded little doors. These doors will only open, once something safe (e.g. nutrients, vitamins, and minerals)  wants to enter. 
If something unsafe (e.g. too large food particles, bacteria, parasites, fungi) wants to enter, the guards will keep the doors shut. 
The wall consists of your intestinal cells and the doors are your ‘tight junctions’.

With a leaky gut, this is where the problem lies. A leaky gut has some of those doors ajar (your tight junctions aren’t that tight anymore…), anyone and everything can enter. With all the unsafe substances getting in your bloodstream, your immune system and liver are working overtime to defend and detoxify you. And your hormones can go haywire. And that’s where your symptoms start.

Leaky Gut SOHF
Image of a leaky gut from SOHF

Because your immune system is responding, it could take up to three days for your symptoms to show. Which makes it harder to pinpoint your trigger foods.

Symptoms Of A Leaky Gut

A leaky gut is often hard to recognize since the symptoms can be very unspecific. The symptoms that are often heard are:
– Food intolerances
– Stomach aches
– Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation or diarrhea
– Chronic tiredness
– Disturbed liver function
– Skin reactions such as eczema, hives
– Autoimmune reactions or reduced immune system
– Joint pains
Gluten intolerance and celiac disease

Causes Of A Leaky Gut

With a leaky gut, it usually is a combination of prolonged exposure to several triggers that damage your gut. A leaky gut does not develop overnight.
Common triggers of a leaky gut are:

Leaky Gut
A dietary pattern high in sugar, refined flour, unhealthy fats and little fiber
Digestive problems
Deficit of stomach acid
A deficit of digestive enzymes
Inadequate liver function
Chronic infections or inflammation (even low-grade inflammation)
Too little healthy gut bacteria
Bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
Food allergies or intolerances
Alcohol use
Use of certain medications
Anti-inflammatory drugs use
Antibiotics use
Use of gastric acid inhibitors
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies (like zinc, vitamin D and A)
Amino-acids and fatty acid deficiencies
Chronic stress

Diagnosis Of A Leaky Gut

With a leaky gut, there are blood tests you can do to support your diagnosis.
Your blood values will not always be off though, but it’s good to check anyway. Most of the times it will just be trial and error to see how you respond to an intervention. 
Often your inflammatory value CRP will be higher than usual and you could have deficiencies of vitamin B12, D, and zinc, magnesium and iron.

If those lab tests show differences from the normal values, and you have symptoms that indicate a leaky gut, you could certainly try the leaky gut protocol to see how you feel.

Do you think you have leaky gut, and would you like guidance from a specialized dietitian? Then schedule an online consultation at my online dietician’s practice Darm diëtist, and I will help you with all your questions!

Treatment Of A Leaky Gut 

The treatment of a leaky gut consists of advice regarding nutrition, lifestyle, and supplements. It is advised to follow the treatment for at least 2 months, before expanding your diet again.

If you have a leaky gut, it is good to listen to your body, reduce stress and take some time for yourself. Only when your body is not stressed, it can repair itself.
Also, it is well-advised to get enough physical activity. Physical activity actually promotes the growth of your own healthy gut bacteria and improves the overall health of your body. Aim for the type of physical activity that does not cause massive strain on your body, but go for the relaxing type like hiking, cycling, yoga, swimming or roller-skating.

Nutrition To Treat Leaky Gut

The diet for leaky gut is quite strict for at least 2 months. After that, you can try and add products back to your diet.
Digestion of your food starts in your mouth, so make sure you chew your food properly (aim for 20-25x per bite) and sit down during your meals. 
Your body works on a circadian rhythm, make sure you have a rhythm in your daily meal plan and time your meals. Aim for small meals with 3-4 hours in between your eating moments. Don’t drink with your meals but do drink enough water between your meals.

Food choices you make should be based on the following principles for at least 2 months:

Eat as natural as possible
Drink plenty of fresh water
Drink green tea or matcha
Consume enzyme-rich foods to aid your digestion, like pineapple, papaya, mango, kiwi, avocado
Make sure to eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Choose all the colors of the rainbow (for antioxidants) and make sure to add fermented veggies
Eat healthy fats such as grass-fed butter, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, fatty fish (wild-caught), eggs
Add (fresh) herbs and spices to your meals. Think of ginger, turmeric, basil and mint (can also use as herbal tea)
Eat gluten-free grains such as oats and buckwheat
Use probiotic rich foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha or water kefir. Or use a probiotic supplement
Use supplements to aid digestion and relief your gut (see list below)
If you’re eating meat, make sure it biologic and preferably poultry or game
Try making bone broth, this contains gelatin which aids the repair of your gut lining
Refined sugar
Red meat
Linolic acid (an omega-6)
Large quantities of fat
Processed foods
Food Leaky Gut

Supplements and vitamins To Treat Leaky Gut

There are several supplements and vitamins that can aid in curing the leaky gut. These supplements will help your body digest food, heal the gut lining and support your gut bacteria to create a healthy environment in your intestines.

Recommended supplements:

DPP-IV enzymes. (For example Enzymedica)
Help break down exorfines (from gluten) and aid digestion.
Digestive Enzymes. (For example OrganiZymes)
Recovers digestion and prevents further inflammation
L-Glutamine. (For example Natural Factors L-Glutamine)
Repairs the intestinal mucosa, reduces oxidative stress and inflammation that is linked to tight junction opening
Prebiotics (Link to article).
Helps repair gut microbiota by providing a food source.
(for my article on probiotics, click here)
Supports your own healthy gut bacteria
Turmeric. (For example Renew Actives)
Reduces oxidative stress and inflammation that is linked to tight junction opening
Vitamin D. (For example NatureWise)
Aids the immune system and a deficit promotes IBS
Omega-3. (For example Carlson)
Reduces inflammation.

The effect of an intervention can be noticed quite fast since your intestinal cells are renewed every 3-4 days. Nonetheless, you should adjust your diet for a longer period of time to also calm down your immune system and regulate your hormones.

Hopefully, this article will help you fix your leaky gut. What worked for you? Let me know!

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