Leaky gut, or intestinal hyperpermeability of the gastrointestinal (GI) lining which otherwise separates waste in the bowels from the bloodstream. When the GI lining becomes more porous than normal, it results in large spaces between the cells (“tight junctions”) of the gut wall. When these spaces open, materials like bacteria, fungi, parasites, undigested food particles, and other elements can pass through the gut wall and enter the bloodstream. If these foreign substances reach the bloodstream, and the resulting healthy immune reaction is ongoing, an individual may become more susceptible to a host of unpleasant outcomes.
Research shows an individual’s diet may be one of the factors that contributes to the concern, and so, dietary changes are an integral part of an overall health strategy to address leaky gut.
Several foods and food components have been linked to leaky gut; these foods include:
- Lectins: Lectins are sugar-binding proteins found in wheat, rice, spelt, soy and other foods. They help promote the immune function, cell growth, and body fat regulation. At the same time, lectins signal the body to empty the GI contents, which may result in cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting. Thus, foods that contain lectins may be okay at times, but they should be consumed in moderation.
- Gluten: Gluten refers to proteins found in breads, pasta, cereals, and grains such as barley and oatmeal. It helps hold foods together. However, research shows gluten impacts the production of zonulin, a protein that helps separate tight junctions in the digestive tract. As such, people with leaky gut concerns may want to remove gluten-containing foods from their diet.
- Phytic acid: Whole grains contain a fiber-rich outer bran layer coated in phytic acid, which may be tough for some people to digest.
The Importance of Digestive Health
Your digestive system starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. If you were to stretch out the average human digestive system, it would be about 30-feet long. Everything that you eat and drink travels through that pathway, and in that process, food is broken down into its component parts. In a healthy digestive system, all the vitamins, minerals, and macro- and micronutrients from food are absorbed, while any waste products and toxins are expelled from the body as waste.
Your digestive system plays a variety of important roles in your general health, with the number one role being the way in which your body obtains nutrients and fuel (energy). A problematic digestive system may hinder the absorption of nutrients, resulting in deficiencies, which in the long-term, contribute to health issues.
A healthy digestive system also acts as a barrier against potential illness. When you ingest potentially harmful microbes, your digestive system has mechanisms in place to ensure that they don’t hurt you. The digestive acids in your stomach, for instance, are highly corrosive and effectively neutralize most all invasive bacteria.
Your gut, which mainly comprises the intestines, is home to a complex system. This gut microbiome is so complex that some experts have begun to refer to it as an organ in itself. The gut microbiome has been studied for its numerous roles in your overall health, which may include:
- Helping with the absorption of nutrients
- Synthesizing certain essential vitamins
- Being a major component of the immune system
Some studies even suggest an intrinsic, bidirectional connection between your gut and your central nervous system known as the gut-brain axis. This connection may explain an association between dysbiosis (imbalanced gut bacteria) and certain mood issues.
How Exercise Can Help Digestion
Regular exercise can play a critical role in aiding your digestion and helping food travel properly through your digestive system. In a small study, healthy volunteers who participated in a jogging or cycling regimen showed an increased gut transit time of up to 30 percent compared to control groups. Another study found that an exercise routine comprising 30 minutes of brisk walking and a daily 11-minute home workout significantly relieved symptoms of occasional constipation.
Exercise may also have anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies found that regular physical exercise released biologically active cytokines that exerted anti-inflammatory effects while inhibiting pro-inflammatory mediators.
Physical activity is also one of the best ways to manage stress. Stress has a huge negative impact on your digestive health, from increasing intestinal permeability to altering gastrointestinal motility.
Exercises for Better Digestive Health
Whether it’s swimming, biking, or jogging, any aerobic exercise performed for 30 minutes can get your heart pumping and your blood circulating, at the same time stimulating your gut and digestive system. If you are relegated to your home, consider skipping rope, which acts as an intense, full-body aerobic exercise. Just 10 minutes of skipping rope per day can be a boon for your digestive system.
Certain yoga poses can help to stretch and strengthen your stomach muscles, helping your digestive system in the process. Yoga also has the benefit of reducing stress and increasing mindfulness. Some easy yoga poses to try:
- Start on the floor on your hands and knees. Your knees should be directly under your hips, and your hands should be slightly ahead of your shoulders.
- Exhale and lift your knees from the floor. You should be on your toes and balls of your feet.
- Lengthen your tailbone and gradually push your thighs back, pressing through your heels and the palms of your hands. Keep your knees straight without locking them.
- Firm your outer arms and press your fingers into the floor, drawing your shoulder blades toward your tailbone.
- Rotate your arms so that your elbow creases face your thumbs.
- Pull your chest toward your thighs while continuing to press the floor away from you. Lengthen and relax your spine.
- Engage your quads and rotate your thighs inward.
- Line up your ears with your upper arms. Relax your head without letting it hang freely.
- Hold for up to three minutes.
- Starting on your hands and knees, keep your big toes touching while widening your knees. Rest your bottom on your heels.
- Sit up straight lengthening your spine through to the top of your head.
- As you exhale, bow your body forward. Your chest should be between or on top of your thighs. Allow your forehead to touch the floor.
- Extend and lengthen your arms, palms down. Slightly apply pressure with your hands to maintain contact between your heels and your bottom. Lengthen from your hips to your fingertips.
- Broaden your upper back while relaxing your lower back. Release any tension in your arms, shoulders, and neck.
- Hold for at least one minute.
- Start flat on your back, palms flat on the floor.
- Inhale and lift your feet off the floor until your legs are at a 90-degree angle. You should be using your core, not your leg muscles.
- Lift your hips and lower back off the floor, using your hands for support.
- Continue to lift, using your hips as the hinge, until your feet rest above your head.
- Press your toes into the floor while also pressing into your heels. Push your tailbone up while pulling your inner thigh into your pelvis.
- Make space between your chest and chin.
- To release safely, keep your hands on your lower back and hinge at your hips until your feet are high above your hips, creating a 90-degree angle. Slowly roll back down.
Crunches, Sit-ups, Planks
Any workout that utilizes your abs and core can support your intestines and foster good digestion. There are numerous variations on crunches and sit-ups to work out all the muscles in your core. Although performing crunches and sit-ups too often may harm your lower back, consider changing things up with planks.
As you can see, it doesn’t take much time or equipment to exercise your digestive system. Some simple core exercises and a 30-minute brisk walk are all you need. Along with these exercises, consider taking a gastrointestinal support supplement to help maintain a healthy gut and digestion.
Dietary changes and exercise may help support your digestive health. Gut research has shown some positive results when participants supplement their daily diet with powdered bovine colostrum product. For scientific evidence about bovine colostrum’s positive effect on the gut, Dr. Raymond Playford is one of the pioneers in this field.
Because colostrum’s growth factors help repair the GI lining, and we demonstrated the effect of gut health on a healthy immune system, it follows that colostrum can play an important role in promoting immune health when combined with proper nutrition and a healthy, active lifestyle.