Leaky Gut - What is it and why it is a problem

What is Leaky Gut?

Your gut is an incredible part of your body. It allows nutrients to be absorbed into your bloodstream, which provides energy to power all your body’s functions. To allow these nutrients into your bloodstream, your gut cells walls have tiny openings that allow them to pass through.

When your gut is leaky it means that these tiny openings have got bigger through damage and invaders including toxins and undigested food particles that were never meant to pass through your intestinal wall get into your bloodstream. Your immune system then responds by going into overdrive to fend off these invaders. Because the invaders may resemble your own cells, your immune system can become confused and, in a case of mistaken identity, attack even the healthy tissues in your body. This is called molecular mimicry.

This molecular mimicry is thought to be one of the main causes of autoimmunity and other serious health issues. Leaky gut symptoms include digestive issues, brain fog, skin issues, and seasonal allergies, among others.

There are some main culprits that can lead to leaky gut. Infections, such as SIBO and Candida overgrowth, can cause damage to your gut cell walls. Chronic stress and environmental toxins can also play a role. However, the biggest culprit in leaky gut is what we eat, particularly what I call the inflammatory and toxic foods.

Inflammatory Foods

Some people may consider at least some of these foods healthy. However, grains, and nightshades, as well as a few other foods can be problematic fro some people and should be avoided or minimised, depending on how you tolerate them. The two inflammatory foods you could try to avoid are gluten and dairy. 

    • Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in certain grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. When you eat gluten, it travels to your small intestine where it triggers the release of zonulin. Zonulin is a chemical that signals the tight junctions of your intestinal wall to open up, causing leaky gut.

    • Dairy can cause inflammation in a huge percentage of the population, either due to lactose intolerance or casein and whey sensitivities. And I can often see this when I do DNA tests with clients. Not to mention, due to modern farming practices, dairy products are typically full of hormones and antibiotics.

      • If you have removed the above from your diet and still have symptoms, you may be experiencing a food sensitivity, or IgG reaction. This is very different than an allergy, which causes an IgE reaction in your body, a much more severe response. Your medical professional can diagnose an allergy (although you likely already know about it!) The best way to discover your personal food sensitivities, which may include eggs and citrus, is to complete an elimination diet or do a food intolerance test.

Toxic foods are unhealthy for all bodies. They lead to aches and pains, inflammation, and leaky gut, among other issues. Remove them from your diet permanently if you can or at the very least, minimise their consumption as much as possible. I recommend removing toxic foods for 30 to 60 days. But don’t worry! Afterwards, you’ll likely be able to enjoy sugar, alcohol, and caffeine in moderation.

  • Sugar

  • Alcohol, essentially liquid sugar with the added whammy of impacting your judgement

  • Caffeine

  • GMOs

  • Artificial sweeteners

  • Additives, preservatives, and dyes

  • High fructose corn syrup

  • Trans or hydrogenated fats

  • All processed food, junk food, and fast foods packed with chemicals

  • Packaged gluten-free or dairy-free foods that may have added sugars

4 Steps to Repair Your Leaky Gut

Your best action is to follow the 4R approach that I use successfully with clients in my clinic. A functional medicine approach like this will help us understand the root cause of your problems.

Pippa Campbell