Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is a condition where the tight junctions in your intestines begin to loosen. When this occurs, undigested food particles, toxins, and bacteria can enter the bloodstream. Leaky gut has been associated with an increased risk of a variety of autoimmune diseases, including celiac disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. The leaky gut diet is designed to improve digestive health and reduce systemic inflammation.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Leaky gut causes a variety of vague symptoms, which can also occur with several other health conditions. Common symptoms include-
- Food Allergies
- Digestive Problems
- Skin Issues
- Mood Issues
- Neurological Problems
- Nutritional Deficiencies
Causes of Leaky Gut
There are numerous factors that can impact your gut health. These factors decrease digestion, increase systemic inflammation and alter the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.
- Artificial food additives
- Changes in your microbiome due to an extended illness or antibiotic usage
- Excess alcohol consumption
- Excess exercise
- Excess sugar
- High fat diet
- Low dietary fiber
- Low vitamin D levels
- Medications, including proton pump inhibitors and NSAIDs
- Processed foods
Leaky Gut Diet Options
Inflammation causes the digestive lining to become more permeable; therefore, it is important to look into decreasing systemic inflammation. Reducing inflammation is accomplished by establishing a proper diet, getting a full night’s rest, and creating an appropriate exercise regime. Reducing stress levels and improving overall mental health can also help reduce inflammation. Finally, your functional medicine practitioner will help guide you how your dietary choices impact gut health. Below are some diets that can help heal your digestive tract.
Autoimmune Protocol Diet
This diet focuses on decreasing systemic inflammation, which is the cause of numerous autoimmune diseases. The Autoimmune Protocol Diet (AIP) is designed to calm the immune system and repair leaky gut. Nutrient dense foods enhance the good bacteria in the digestive tract. This diet eliminates food additives, gluten, grains, dairy products, legumes, oils, sugar, nightshade vegetables, and sweeteners.
Low FODMAP Diet
FODMAP is a collection of carbohydrates that causes excess gas and other digestive problems. FODMAPs is an acronym for the naturally fermentable carbohydrate sources such as Fructose, Olgiosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. It can be difficult to find low FODMAP foods, which is why it is best to work with a healthcare practitioner. A low FODMAP diet helps improve gut health by helping the beneficial bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract to thrive and multiply.
Gluten Free Diet
Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in a variety of grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten has been linked to leaky gut in individuals suffering from celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Gluten is also a highly inflammatory food and when consumed it causes inflammation throughout the body, including at the tight junctions. Following a gluten free diet can decrease systemic inflammation and help improve leaky gut syndrome.
Ketogenic diet, also known as Keto, is a popular diet used to help individuals lose weight; however, it can also be used to help heal the digestive tract, improve the bacteria in the gut, and enhance an individual’s overall health and well-being. The keto diet involves eating minimal carbohydrates, limiting the amount of protein, and increasing the amount of high-quality fats in the diet. The diet works by burning excess fat in the body for energy while suppressing hunger.
Specific Carbohydrate Diet
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) was developed approximately 100 years to help relieve celiac disease. Today, this diet is used to ease a number of conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome. The specific carbohydrate diet is not a low carb diet; instead, it focuses on choosing simple carbs that are easily digested. This diet eliminates dairy products, sugars, and all grains. Studies have shown that diet plays a role in the inflammatory process. The SCD diet has been shown to reduce inflammation and help healing as well as restore the tight junctions in the intestines.
The elemental diet uses predigested foods to ease the strain on the digestive tract. This diet is often used under a healthcare provider’s direction and the supplement is available in both powder and liquid forms that can be mixed with water. The elemental diet can be given through a feeding tube or consumed. The elemental diet has been shown to improve digestion and help heal the digestive tract.
Whole 30 Diet
The Whole 30 diet is a healthy eating program designed to heal your gastrointestinal tract while improving your overall health. This program eliminates a variety of foods, including additives, alcohol, dairy, grains, legumes, and sugar for thirty days. After the initial thirty days, you begin to add foods one at a time to see how you feel after consuming the food item. The diet’s goal is to remove problematic foods and eat a diet filled with nutrient dense foods and unprocessed foods. The reintroduction period helps you determine any food sensitivities that may be causing inflammation and leaky gut.
Treatment for Leaky Gut
Leaky gut occurs when the tight junctions become inflamed, leading to systemic inflammation and health imbalances. The good news is that the digestive lining has a fast turnover rate and wants to heal itself. We just need to give it the proper tools for healing to happen. Eating a diet that helps reduce inflammation and is easy on digestion can help initiate the healing process.
Our functional medicine practitioners and nutritionists help evaluate the root cause of your leaky gut and digestive disorders. This includes discussing your diet and lifestyle choices to ensure a proper diagnosis. We will work with you to create a customized leaky gut diet and lifestyle modification plan to promote healing and improved digestion.
Leaky gut diets increase nutrient dense foods and lower consumption of common triggers like sugar, grains, alcohol, and dairy products. It is important to select a diet that best suits your individual needs. None of these diets are recommended for long term, however it is recommended not to start a strict diet during vacation or busy work period. In addition to eating a diet designed to heal your leaky gut, it is important to reduce stress, get adequate sleep, exercise for 30 mins each day, and limit alcohol consumption. Weight loss is a positive side effect of these leaky gut diets.