What Next for A Leaky Gut?
“All disease begins in the gut.”
This statement by Hippocrates was initially dismissed but is getting more traction as research confirms Hippocrates’ statement. Optimal health cannot be achieved without a healthy gut. The gut hosts bacteria, fungi, and other organisms (gut microbiome) that play critical roles in digestion, protecting the intestinal walls and immunity functions. It also houses two thirds of your immune system, the majority of neurotransmitter production, influences metabolism, contributes to energy homeostasis, and so much more. But What happens when this is affected?
Imbalances in the gut microbiome can trigger the body’s immune response resulting in gut inflammation and increased permeability. The permeability of the intestinal epithelial lining allows the passage of toxins, antigens, and bacteria in the lumen to enter the bloodstream creating a leaky gut. Though the leaky gut may not be a diagnostical condition, it can lead to multiple diseases including autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease, Type 1 Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, alopecia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis. Asthma, obesity, acne, depression, and food allergies can arise from a leaky gut.
A proper diet and a functional digestive system are among the major pillars of health. However, a leaky gut results in damaged intestinal cells that fail to produce enzymes needed for proper digestion. As a result, the body cannot absorb essential nutrients which can lead to hormonal imbalance and a weakened immune system. Diet (such as consuming highly refined carbohydrates and contaminated foods), medication (such as antibiotics, steroids and over the counter pain relievers), alcohol intake, stress, poor sleep, gluten and gliadin foods (protein in wheat, barley, and rye) are predisposing factors of a leaky gut.
Awareness of the signs of a leaky gut is important as it can help one withdraw foods irritating the gut. Among the signs include:
- Depression, anxiety, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Nutritional deficiencies of Zinc, Copper, Calcium, and Manganese
- Chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas or bloating
- Headaches, brain fog, and memory loss
- Cravings for sugar and carbohydrates
- Autoimmune diseases
- Poor immune system
- Skin rashes
- Excessive fatigue
Dietary factors can reverse intestinal permeability. Following a gut-healthy diet that limits gluten, casein, processed foods, and foods high in fats and sugar as well as including probiotics and fermented foods, fruits, and vegetables to increase the daily fiber content are recommended. In the case of lectins (protein in legumes and grains), soaking, sprouting and boiling before cooking is encouraged to reduce the lectin activity. Additionally, cardio exercise, getting adequate sleep and proper stress management can help heal a leaky gut.
The gastrointestinal system is complex but taking good care of it shouldn’t be. Identify which food works for you and eliminate those that do not. If you are looking for a range of gluten-free flours for your cooking, Terere Afya (amaranth grain), Uji Afya (red sorghum), and Wimbi Afya (finger millet) are flours you can incorporate in your diet.