An estimated 60-70 million Americans are affected by a digestive condition, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). One of the most prevalent digestive disorders, and not a disease, is a condition called “leaky gut.” Also known as intestinal permeability, leaky gut can have a direct impact on your overall health.
Leaky gut has been linked to a myriad of health issues ranging from general intestinal symptoms such as occasional constipation, gas and bloating to more symptoms related to mood.
Many likely culprits of leaky gut can be linked to an unhealthy diet, stress and environmental toxins. As the medical community continues to learn more about leaky gut, it becomes more apparent that millions of Americans might be suffering from this condition. You might be asking yourself: how do I know if I have leaky gut?
In this article, we will cover:
- What is leaky gut?
- Signs and symptoms of leaky gut
- How to repair leaky gut
What is Leaky Gut?
The intestinal lining of our stomach plays an important role in our digestive system. In fact, it acts as a guardian to keep bad bacteria and undigested foods from slipping through the tissues or junctions in our gut, under the intestinal lining and into our bloodstream. When these gut junctions become loose due to stress, diet or many other environmental factors, it can lead to what is called, leaky gut. Medical professionals commonly refer to this condition as increased, or abnormal “intestinal permeability.”
If leaky gut persists, it can also prevent our bodies from absorbing the needed nutrients that we get from the foods we eat. In fact, ongoing studies are finding that our gut health is directly connected to our brain and mood.
Signs and Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Many of the signs of leaky gut are so ambiguous that they can be easily overlooked or blamed on other digestive and dietary issues. So it’s worth considering your own symptoms and exploring if leaky gut might be the cause.
Here are four signs that your digestive issues could be linked to leaky gut:
1. Sensitivity to foods
Food allergies are on the rise among Americans. Some of the most common foods associated with allergies include gluten, corn, soy, eggs, peanuts (legumes) and vegetables such as bell peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. There could be many causes for a food allergy or intolerance, but it’s worth considering leaky gut, which has also been linked to food allergies.
2. Inability to Absorb Nutrients
When our bodies are not able to properly absorb nutrients from foods, the digestive enzymes in our stomachs are depleted as well. Since leaky gut is directly related to the intestinal lining in our stomachs, which allows absorption of foods and nutrients, it would make sense that leaky gut could be the cause.
3. Changes in mood
Recent research from John Hopkins has pointed to a strong correlation between the health of our gut and our brain. This gut-brain axis is also connected to our mood and emotions. Recent studies suggest that close to 90% of the body’s serotonin (a chemical mood stabilizer) is made in our digestive system.
While more research is needed, there is enough evidence to suggest that mood may be linked to a leaky gut.
4. Inability to lose weight
If you’ve been struggling to lose those extra pounds, it could be related to the health of your gut. Some studies have suggested that the inability to absorb nutrients from your diet could hamper your metabolism and any efforts to shed additional pounds.
How to Repair Leaky Gut
If these signs sound familiar, then you might be suffering from leaky gut. The good news is that there are some ways to help heal your gut.
Probiotics and prebiotics
The bacteria in our stomach play an integral role in the health of our gut. This good gut bacteria known as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium help aid in digestion among other benefits. Whenever that gut balance is thrown off probiotics and prebiotics can help replenish these bacteria by promoting the growth of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
Probiotics are made by isolating live microorganisms and adding them to a food or supplement. Prebiotics are similar, but you consume them as a food source that can be processed through your digestive system. Prebiotics can be found naturally in foods such as apples, asparagus, leeks and garlic
Bovine colostrum supplements
Colostrum is the premilk released by female mammals before breastmilk production begins following the birth of their offspring. Colostrum contains the necessary nutrients for the first few days of life. One of the more popular forms of colostrum used today is cow, or bovine, colostrum supplements.
Bovine colostrum is collected from a mother cow after her calf has received all the colostrum it needs. The rest is set aside by dairy farmers. Then it is dried and made into a pill supplement that is safe for human consumption, according to strict FDA guidelines.
Bovine colostrum contains unique components such as growth factors, which can promote cell repair and growth, as well as proteins and nutrients. Some studies have shown that these bioactive components can help strengthen the gut lining and tighten junctions while improving symptoms of leaky gut.
If you find you are suffering from digestive issues, it might be worth investigating the possibility of leaky gut as the cause. Regardless, maintaining proper gut health should be top priority to living the healthiest life possible.