Our gut is the foundation of good health: if we have poor gut health then our bodies cannot function properly and disease develops 1. Diseases of the digestive system are a rapidly growing modern day epidemic. In particular, an underlying condition known as leaky gut syndrome is wreaking havoc on countless Americans, many of whom do not realize it is driving their chronic health conditions. Our toxic diet and lifestyle lies at the root of leaky gut, and it’s only recently that conventional medicine has begun to recognize it as a true chronic illness 2. It’s a massive issue, and if you have leaky gut you are not alone. The good news is that leaky gut can heal over time; I’ve observed many clients restore their gut health, and by doing so heal other coexisting ailments. As I always say, to begin recovering your health you must remove the source (R1) of the trouble. In the case of leaky gut, finding and removing the triggers is a key starting point. Once triggers are removed, the body’s God-given ability to self-repair can work its magic.
What is Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut, also called increased intestinal permeability, is a condition that occurs when the tight junctions that make-up the wall of the intestines become inflamed and allow undigested food proteins, bacteria, and toxins to leak across the lining and into the bloodstream. Once this protective barrier is compromised, the immune system reacts and triggers body-wide inflammation. When the condition is severe, everything that a person consumes becomes an irritant and drives persistent, systemic inflammation, which also increases the risk of developing other chronic diseases. Though our guts are designed to have a degree of permeability, when the lining starts to have holes like Swiss cheese, there is a problem. Our body systems are interconnected, and when one is malfunctioning others are too affected. Leaky gut can manifest as many different ailments, making the diagnosis a challenge for health care practitioners. And, unfortunately, most doctors don’t seek the root cause of illness but simply treat the symptoms. Listed below are some conditions associated with leaky gut, but many more will likely be discovered in the future.
Various conditions linked to leaky gut:
- Autoimmune disease 3, 4
- Digestive disorders (IBS, Celiac disease, Crohn’s) and food sensitivities 5, 6, 7, 8
- Skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema 9, 10
- Arthritis 11
- Autism 12
- Depression 13
- Chronic fatigue syndrome 14
- Fibromyalgia 15
- Parkinson’s Disease 16
- Kidney Disease 17
- Obesity 18
- Diabetes 19
Testing options are available using urine, stool analysis, and breath. However, if you have one or more of the conditions listed above, the likelihood is high that your gut is not functioning optimally and is impacting other systems in your body. Now you may be wondering “how did I get leaky gut in the first place?” The causes are numerous and remain debated; however, I believe the following are the biggest contributors.
Though our guts are designed to have a degree of permeability, when the lining starts to have holes like Swiss cheese, there is a problem.
Triggers of leaky gut:
Poor modern diet
1. Grains (especially gluten) and sugar: I have not eaten grains for years for multiple reasons: grains are an anti-nutrient and promote inflammation 20; grains quickly turn into sugar in the body, spike blood glucose, and elevate insulin; and elevated insulin leads to accelerated aging and increased risk of chronic disease. Many other food sources exist that offer superior nutritional benefits such as grass-fed animal protein, cultured, raw dairy, healthy fats, organic and fermented vegetables, soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds, and low-glycemic fruits, all included in my Cellular Healing Diet. There is simply no reason to eat grains for good health, in opposition to the lie we’ve been told for years. Glutinous grains like wheat, barley, and rye, specifically pose a problem. Research by Alessio Fasano, M.D., suggests a link between gluten consumption and increased intestinal permeability 21, and gluten is a concern even for those who do not have Celiac disease 22. My clients with compromised gut health typically need to remove all grains to start healing.
Worse than grains, refined sugar lowers your immunity 23, promotes inflammation 24, irritates your intestinal lining and feeds yeast, candida, and bad bacteria. Since 80% of our immune system lies in the gut, we need to avoid feeding sugar to gut bacteria in order to heal leaky gut and improve any immune-related conditions. Incompletely digested sugars like to hang out in the gut, fermenting and acting as food to bacteria and other microbes which destroy the intestinal wall. What’s more, when you’re eating lots of sugar there’s no room in your diet for healthy foods. You can recognize sugar on food labels as any ingredient that ends in “ose,” such as fructose, glucose, and dextrose. If you have leaky gut, you should remove dietary sugar, including natural sugar like fruits and fruit juices and sweet/starchy vegetables like carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and squash until the condition improves.
2. GMOs: GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, are bad news for your health. GMO consumption increases the risk of multiple chronic diseases and likely triggers leaky gut 25. I discussed the dangers of GMOs with renowned health advocate and GMO expert Jeffery Smith in an interview you can watch here. We discussed how GMOs negatively impact gut health in several ways, based upon the work of senior research scientist at MIT Stephanie Seneff 26. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-up, is the herbicide used on Roundup Ready crops which are genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate. When sprayed on crops and consumed by us, glyphosate kills our beneficial gut bacteria, like bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, and leaves the bad guys, like E. coli, salmonella and botulism, intact. The overgrowth of negative gut bacteria then produces the protein zonulin, which results in the opening of the gaps in the cell walls of the intestines (aka leaky gut).
In addition, there is a type of corn known as BT corn. BT corn contains BT toxin, wherein a gene is inserted into the plant so the plant itself produces the toxin. The genetic modification of a plant that produces its own toxin was promoted by Monsanto as a type of corn that would need little to no pesticide. A study in cellular research in 2012 showed that this same gene placed in corn shares its genetic material with our gut bacteria, and noted our own gut bacteria are now producing this chemical. Our guts have, in essence, become pesticide producing factories. BT corn has also been shown to produce holes directly in our intestines. If your corn is not organic it is probably genetically modified and very likely BT corn.
Furthermore, GMOs impair digestion by decreasing digestive enzymes 27, damage the intestinal wall (refer to image of GMO pig intestines below) 28, and may contribute to gluten sensitivity 29. I believe GMOs are one of the greatest threats to humankind. Avoid them as much as possible by choosing organic foods, and steering clear of gluten and the foods most likely to be genetically modified, including soy (and soybean oil), corn (and canola oil), sugar from sugar beets, zucchini, yellow squash, Hawaiian papaya, and alfalfa.
3. Toxins: Ubiquitous environmental toxins are wreaking major damage on our gut health 30. Heavy metals like mercury and lead, mold, toxic body care and cleaning products, and pollutants in the air and water all impact our bodies to varying degrees. My own personal experience healing from mercury poisoning, caused by my amalgam fillings, led me to seek the truth and share information with others who are needlessly suffering. Our world is full of toxins everywhere we look…So why isn’t everyone sick?It appears that some people’s bodies are better equipped to remove toxins than others, depending on factors like genetics and gut ecology. For example, a study by Cornell researchers 31 noted that the extent to which environmental pollutants cause damage to our bodies is largely dependent upon the microorganisms already living in our guts. Our gut microbes play an important role in managing stressors on our bodies, like environmental toxins, and how these toxins are metabolized appears to hinge upon our gut ecology. Perhaps one day scientist will discover the bacteria responsible for allowing some of us to process toxins better than others. In the meantime, reducing your toxic load by choosing non-toxic body care and home products, drinking clean water, and eating an organic diet will go a long way towards improving your gut health and will support detoxification on a daily basis.
Avoiding or limiting grains and sugars, GMOs, and toxins will aid in gut healing. I also suggest regulating the intake of legumes, conventional dairy, nuts and seeds (consume only soaked and sprouted with caution) because these foods can be difficult to digest when the gut is compromised. Keeping a food journal is helpful during the healing process to track potential food sensitivities. Symptoms can occur hours or even days post-consumption, so staying tuned in to your body is key.
Other factors that may be impacting gut health:
- Chronic Stress 32
- Overuse of Antibiotics and NSAIDs (Non Antibiotic Steroid Drugs) like Advil, Motrin, Aleve 33
- Excess Alcohol 34
Once leaky gut triggers are removed, the body’s God given ability to self-repair can work its magic.
Addressing Leaky Gut:
The only way to begin healing leaky gut is to remove the offending sources. Once you’ve removed the triggers, incorporate foods and lifestyle changes necessary for the gut to self-repair. Remember that healing takes time, involves many factors, and is a unique process for each individual. After working with thousands of clients, these are some techniques and foods I’ve found support the process.
- There is truly no faster way to downregulate inflammation and jumpstart healing than fasting. Fasting works wonders for many health conditions, but is especially restorative for a leaky gut because it provides a break from digesting food, allowing time to “heal and seal” the lining. I’ve observed fasts heal serious gut conditions time and time again. It’s an ancient tool that is underused for healing modern disease.
- We achieve good gut health when we provide our guts with a wide variety of unique—and undiscovered–bacteria that cannot be exclusively found in a probiotic pill or powder. Through the fermentation process, bacteria already in vegetables and dairy products are brought to life. Choose fermented grass-fed dairy to increase the benefits; grass-fed dairy has more good bacteria than conventional dairy because the soil and grass consumed by the cows contains unique bacteria. To repair a leaky gut it takes trillions, not billions, of good bacteria ingested repeatedly; the best probiotics on the market only contain billions per serving.
True Cellular Detox
- I always say, you must fix the cell to get well, and it’s true for healing every health condition, including leaky gut. With each client, I use my 5R’s of True Cellular Healing as a guide to support their healing and detoxification from the cellular level. I often begin protocols with the Intracellular Detox System (IDS), which contains two supplements called Gcel and BIND. Gcel raises intracellular glutathione, is 5000 times stronger than Vitamin C, and remains the ultimate cellular detoxification antioxidant. BIND contains a specialized form of activated charcoal and powerful humates, along with key botanicals, that effectively attaches to toxins and removes them from the body, preventing re-intoxication. The unique system has changed the fundamental understanding of a true detox and has impacted many lives, including my own.
I always say you must fix the cell to get well, and it’s true for healing every health condition, including leaky gut.
Identify food intolerance
- As noted, keeping a food journal can be very helpful for isolating food sensitivities. You can also try an elimination diet. To do this you must avoid common food allergens for one month and reintroduce each food one at a time. Top food allergens include (but are not limited to) gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, and nuts. During the elimination phase, drink lots of water and eat only organic grass-fed protein, wild-caught fish, healthy fats like coconut oil (link to Skinny) and raw olive oil, and organic vegetables. When re-introducing foods, carefully observe if any symptoms occur within a day or two of ingestion; if no reaction, proceed to re-incorporating the next food. This method can be challenging and time consuming, but remains the best way to detect food intolerances.
- You will not heal leaky gut, or any condition for that matter, if you CHOOSE to be constantly stressed. My favorite way to manage stress is through exercise. I especially enjoy going on long bike rides through the beautiful mountains in Utah, where I live. Spending time in nature is healing to the mind, body and soul. I also suggest daily prayer or meditation, time with loved ones, laughter, volunteering for a cause you believe in, listening to peaceful music, cooking a healthy meal, and practicing gratitude. One of my favorite bible verses comes to mind here:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Play in the dirt
- Our germ-fearing, overly-sanitized world has had major negative consequences on our immunity and gut health. The reduced exposure to dirt and bacteria may be under-stimulating our immune system, which in turn causes it to malfunction by overreacting to nonthreatening antigens. Don’t fear a little dirt; it’s fundamental to good health, especially in childhood 35. Gardening is an excellent way to get your hands dirty, and if you’re growing your own food, all the better.
If you’re still not getting better:
- If you’ve been suffering from chronic gut issues, and nothing seems to be working, look into the exciting research surrounding Fecal Microbiota Transplant. As the name suggests, FMT is literally a fecal transplant and involves transferring stool bacteria from a healthy donor to a client to help repopulate the client’s unhealthy gut with the right balance of bacteria. FMT is increasing in popularity, since it has been shown as a safe and very effective treatment for recurrent infections, like Clostridium difficile 36. Researchers in one study 37 noted a 92 percent cure rate of recurrent C. difficile. FMT works because we can only obtain certain bacteria from other humans, and can benefit many different conditions, especially those which are immune-related. It’s low-cost, low-risk, and has given many people their life back after years of suffering.
To get your gut on track for the long run, eliminate carbohydrates and sugars (plus any known allergens), and eat quality protein, organic vegetables, and plenty of good fat, following core principles of my Cellular Healing Diet. Also remember to chew food thoroughly and avoid excessive portions, which overwhelm the digestive system. Consuming the following foods on a regular basis will also speed healing.
Gut healing foods:
- Bone broth (from grass-fed animal bones)
- Cultured whey water
- Amasai yogurt
- Grass-fed butter, ghee, or butter oil
- Fermented cod liver oil
- Naturally fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles (without sugar)
- Prebiotic foods 38(promote the growth of good gut bacteria) like dandelion greens, chicory root, jicama, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onion, and leeks.
In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, include any of the following physician grade supplements to assist healing.
Making changes can be difficult, but this determines who gets well and who does not.
High-quality supplements for gut healing:
- Provides specific botanical and nutritional ingredients shown to decrease intestinal permeability.
- It’s important to diversify the bacteria being deposited into the gut. For this reason, cyclically rotating different probiotics supplies a variety of bacteria for rebalancing.
- A living, herbal dietary supplement that contains powerful organic acids which set up the proper internal environment for the growth of good bacteria.
- An essential amino acid that coats the walls of your cells and is helpful for healing the intestinal lining.
- A unique blend of insoluble and soluble fibers, plus the power of herbs, whole food organic sprouts, and probiotics which support healthy colon and bowel function and proper elimination.
- An important mineral for growth and wound healing, it promotes restoration of your intestinal lining and immune system. A deficiency can lead to increased lining permeability.
- Formulated for gluten and dairy sensitive individuals, it contains a concentration of enzymes and herbs designed to support the digestion of gliadin (gluten) and casein (milk protein).
- A comprehensive package that includes all the supplements you need to address leaky gut symptoms from the cellular level.
You will not successfully heal any chronic condition if your gut is not functioning properly. But we cannot heal our guts; we can only make diet and lifestyle changes and let the body’s God-given wisdom do the rest. Patience is a key factor in the healing process. But by taking measures to remove the offending sources of leaky gut, consuming healing foods, fasting, detoxing and taking high-quality supplements, your gut will heal itself and other chronic conditions will improve as well. Making changes can be difficult, but this determines who gets well and who does not. We are at the tip of the iceberg in understanding the impact of gut health on our overall well-being, and as time goes on I believe science will reveal new links between an unhealthy, leaky gut and chronic disease.