Have You Heard Of Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Most of us eat on a regular day-to-day basis, putting food items into our bodies from the morning to the night. Some of us try to be more conscious of what we eat, while many others are not. What we eat passes through our digestive tract, affecting everything that it moves through from start to finish.
The foods we eat travel through our mouths, down our esophagus, past our stomach, and through both our small and large intestine. Having an unhealthy digestive tract/gut might not sound like a horrible thing, but we’ve learned that our gut is linked to many different functions throughout our bodies. One of the main links is the gut-brain axis, which studies have shown how our gut is connected to our mental functions, affecting our immune system response, biochemical reactions, sleep, etc (1).
As our foods move through our digestive tract, they are broken down and their nutrients are absorbed. Those nutrients are absorbed through tight junctions, which are like small gateways from our gut to our bloodstream. Those absorbed nutrients are then distributed accordingly throughout our body. The issue is when our gut isn’t in tip-top shape, it can lead to complications like leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome, also known as increased intestinal permeability (2), suggests that your gut is allowing food particles, toxins, etc. slip into your bloodstream, leading to unhealthy functions throughout the body. Health professionals believe that a handful of sicknesses originate from a leaky gut and view the syndrome as an ‘umbrella term’ (3). These doctors believe that we can start off by diagnosing a leaky gut, yet there specifics towards what is causing your leaky gut.
Foods to Eat and Avoid in a Leaky Gut Diet
While you might need help from a health professional to help pinpoint the origins of your leaky gut problems, that doesn’t mean you have to just sit and wait. Over time, keeping proactive and taking steps towards a healthier gut can help heal a leaky gut. While there are some lifestyle changes that you can make to help heal your gut, here are some foods to both eat and avoid in a leaky gut diet!
The 5 Foods to Eat in a Leaky Gut Diet
Prebiotic + Probiotic foods
Amongst some of the most important foods to consume during a leaky gut diet, or even on a normal basis, are prebiotic and probiotic foods. Our gut contains trillions of tiny bacteria, with the majority of them being good and just some of them bad. Keeping that balance towards good bacteria is the key to maintaining a health gut and a properly functioning body!
Including prebiotic and probiotic foods into your leaky gut diet, or even your day-to-day diet, will help bolster your gut health. Most prebiotic foods consist of healthy fiber, which we’ll get to in just a bit. Some probiotic foods that you can include are kefir, kombucha, kimchi, legumes, sauerkraut, probiotic supplements, etc. Maintaining that healthy gut environment, filled with good bacteria, will not only help heal leaky gut, but can also help prevent it (4, 5, 6, 7).
Bone Broth + Collagen
Throughout the ages, various cultures have embraced the rejuvenating dish known as bone broth. Bone broth is packed with vitamins and minerals that aid in numerous health benefits, including strengthening your gut health. Bone broth, in part, does this through the collagen that it’s naturally filled with. Collagen is is the most abundant protein in our body, a fundamental part of the structure of our skin, joints, hair, connective tissue, including our gut lining.
Both bone broth and collagen have a great many number of health benefits that are associated with one another. Focusing in on our gut health, bone broth has been linked to restoring and strengthening our intestinal lining, which would aid in healing a leaky gut (8, 9). A leaky gut can also potentially mean that you have low amounts of collagen in your system (10), so boosting your intake can help. There are a handful of collagen-promoting foods, including bone broth, as well as collagen proteins and even collagen-packed coffee creamers, that can really boost up your leaky gut diet.
If you’re going to be eating fatty foods, you might as well try to focus on the healthier options. Certain healthy fats are much easier for your gut to deal with, as your digestive tract has an easier time digesting with them as compared to unhealthy fats. Fat sources like nuts, avocados, ghee, etc., are healthy alternatives in a leaky gut diet towards keeping full, while allowing your gut to take it easy. And if you are going to use oils, using olive oil and coconut oil are healthy fat-alternatives to more unhealthy options. In fact, the fats found in coconut oil have been shown to be less detrimental to your gut microbiota, as well as being anti-inflammatory for your gut lining (11, 12). But just like everything in life, keeping moderation with your healthy fat intake is also important.
Fiber Filled Foods
As we mentioned above, prebiotic fibers are crucial to keeping those healthy probiotic bacterias alive in our gut. More than just the aspect of prebiotic and probiotic, fiber filled foods keep our digestive tract operating at normal function. That includes keeping the foods in our digestive tract moving down and helping our body empty what needs to be emptied (13). A few different fibrous foods to include in your leaky gut diet are bananas, chicory root, chia seeds, jicama, jerusalem artichokes, etc. For example, chicory root has been added into healthy food alternatives, like nutritious ice creams and coffee creamers, as a prebiotic fiber booster! Studies have linked fiber filled foods to improved gut health, healing IBS, stabilized gut microbiomes, etc. (14, 15).
Fruits are a great source of nutrients, ranging from vitamins to gut-friendly fiber. Fruits can help maintain a balance gut microbiome, which is essential for healthy gut, as well as key to healing a leaky gut. Fruits like apples, blueberries, kiwis, pears, etc., are filled with nutrients that help with balancing the gut bacterium, having anti-inflammatory effects, and removing toxins from the gut (16, 17). Other fruits, like bananas and raspberries, are great sources of soluble fiber, which keep the gut clean and functioning smoothly (18). As part of any nutritious diet, fruits are a much-needed piece of the puzzle in a leaky gut diet.
The 5 Foods to Avoid in a Leaky Gut Diet
Sugar + Artificial Sweeteners
We all have heard our dentists tell us about limiting our sugar intake and it’s not just to protect our teeth. The modified sugars that we consume, as well as the “healthier” options, can be quite damaging to our gut bacteria. A lifestyle that consists of a lot of sugar has been studied to have significant negative effects on gut function and bowel movements (19). Artificial sweeteners, like sucralose and aspartame, aren’t any better, as they have also been linked to killing off many of the good bacterias that reside in our gut (20, 21). As further studies have shown the damaging effects of sugars onto our gut (22, 23), try to keep them out of a leaky gut diet.
Typically found in painkillers like Advil and Alive, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDs) wreck havoc on your gut health. Although these drugs might seem like a temporary relief, consistent use of NSAIDs can lead to increased intestinal permeability, ultimately a leaky gut (24, 25). These NSAIDs eventually cause tears and ulcers in the gut, damaging an already leaky gut. Try to find other medical alternatives to NSAIDs, like Tylenol or more natural products.
While a glass of red wine might help lower rates of heart disease, that doesn’t mean that it’s alright to drink, drink, drink! The way alcohol interacts with our gut causes an imbalance in the gut microbiome, which can ultimately lead to a leaky gut (26). Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to increased intestinal permeability through damage to the tight junctions, allowing more toxins to leak through to your bloodstream (27). Try to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume to healthy levels in order to reap the benefits of a leaky gut diet!
While junk foods might be cheaper, you don’t want to be cheap on your body, and that includes all of those unhealthy fats. All those fast food french fries and pastries made from harmful cooking oils can damage our gut health. These unhealthy fats lead to inflammation of our intestinal lining and, over time, can lead to damages to our gut lining (28, 29). As mentioned above, eating healthier fats in a leaky gut diet is a far better option for your body than these unhealthy fats!
While some of the foods mentioned above might seem more obvious than not, other foods might be harder to identify as bad for your leaky gut diet. Following a low-FODMAP diet can be helpful in healing a leaky gut by staying away from certain food types. Low-FODMAP diets consist of low amounts of Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols (thus, low-FODMAP). This means that you should stay away from high-fructose corn syrups, lactose, sweeteners, wheat-sourced carbs, certain fruits and vegetables, etc. Low-FODMAPS diets can help treat IBS, as well as help heal a leaky gut, crucial to a leaky gut diet.