Without even knowing it, you might have a digestion problem. Especially here in America where foods for healthy gut are scant, food quality is low, and there is hardly any nutrition and fiber— yet tons of processing and dangerous sugars— in the average diet, there are certain digestive issues that make no sign or sound, and one of these is leaky gut. Most people have no idea why a leaky gut is dangerous….or even what it is to begin with.
Unfortunately, leaky gut is not something likely to be picked up on or tested for by your doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional. Unless your doctor is a naturopath, practices complementary or integrative medicine, or is ahead of the curve in the field of conventional medicine in some other way, a leaky gut could slip by unnoticed…until it turns into something worse (which is possible!)
Why is a leaky gut so dangerous? Read to learn more about it, and how to equip yourself with the best remedies and foods for healthy gut— the single most powerful thing you can do to combat it.
What’s leaky gut?
Leaky gut (or leaky gut syndrome) isn’t exactly recognized as an official condition or illness. More so, it is a description of a bodily state or symptom that could eventually lead to other more official diseases— not unlike “high blood sugar,” “low metabolism,” and the like.
What most people don’t know is that our gut (mainly, the intestines and colon) is supposed to be somewhat “permeable.” Meaning: things can go inside and outside of the intestinal walls into other parts of the body, and specifically the bloodstream. This is, after all, how we absorb some of our most important nutrients!
But if we’re not taking care of our gut health (which is definitely the case if your diet is low in fiber, probiotics, and plant nutrition but high in animal products, saturated fats, processed foods, and sugar), this permeability could become much too lax, and literally “leaky”. This is due to inflammation, or even fissures or holes in the walls of the small or large intestines, digestive tissues becoming “saggy” in tone or structure, or all the above.
While the “good stuff” (important nutrients) are good to “leak” into the blood stream, what happens with leaky gut is that some bad stuff— which is supposed to be processed and filtered out by the liver and kidneys— also slips into the bloodstream before it can be expelled as harmful waste. This includes allergens, parasites, toxins, even partially undigested food in some cases! I’m sure you can imagine how bad this is for health right off the bat. What’s worse, this could be silently happening to you right now…and you don’t even know.
Signs, symptoms, and causes of a leaky gut
Indigestion, heartburn, constipation, hemorrhoids, acid reflux, throat burn, chronic inflammation…these are only some of the issues that a leaky gut could bring up. But that’s nowhere near the full list of possible complaints that could be a sign of a leaky gut, which also include:
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Constipation with gas
- Joint pain
- Eczema or rashes
- Cognitive and focus issues
- …and more
For some people, chronic constipation can be one of the biggest complaints of leaky gut syndrome. Eating an anti constipation diet (rich in fiber) may help avoid the constipation foods cause, and that might also have some connection to leaky gut. What exactly leads to a leaky gut, though? Professionals (including Harvard Medical School) think there are more than a few factors— and it’s not just the foods we eat. Non-food causes of leaky gut:
- Poor microbiome (less gut bacteria)
That said, diet is probably the biggest factor of all, along with other substances we might consume. And while some foods aren’t exactly causes, they can make leaky gut a whole lot worse…especially foods which cause indigestion. Foods and substances that could cause leaky gut:
- Wheat and gluten
- Processed foods
- Refined oils
- Cured meats
- Dairy products (except probiotic-rich yogurt or kefir)
- Sugar alternatives (save Stevia)
- Processed sauces (e.g. commercial salad dressings)
- Soda pop
- …and more
Which foods cause indigestion? (These make leaky gut worse):
- Nightshades (esp. tomatoes and peppers)
- Citrus fruits
- Spicy foods (garlic, onions, hot peppers, hot sauces, etc.)
- Alcohol (esp. red wine)
- Mint (especially peppermint)
- Fried foods
- …and more
Can leaky gut lead to other conditions?
This is the biggest problem of all when it comes to leaky gut, or leaky gut syndrome. It’s not an official condition or illness that can be easily or commonly diagnosed. And it can happen very silently… save a few very disconnected and random symptoms that are difficult to determine the cause or pattern of. Because of this, leaky gut may play a role in some other difficult to diagnose diseases. Experts theorize that leaky gut could even be the cause of some illnesses! Conditions that are associated with, or maybe even caused by, a leaky gut include:
- Acne (some types)
- Arthritis (osteo- and rheumatoid)
- Autoimmune diseases (such as MS, lupus, etc.)
- Celiac disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic migraines
- Crohn’s disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD/IBS)
- Thyroid problems
- …and more
The gut to brain connection should absolutely be mentioned here in relation to leaky gut. Though it may seem unconnected, there is a direct correlation between an unhealthy gut and mental health states like anxiety, depression, and stress— which some gut-healing remedies can help heal, too.
Foods for healthy gut
Do the symptoms, signs, and conditions above make you wonder if you have a leaky gut? If you deal with some of the above issues, it’s very possible— and it may be a real challenge to have it addressed or diagnosed by a doctor right away, which makes it a very health-endangering issue. Something that anyone can do is take an inventory of their diet and eat more foods for healthy gut function.
You don’t need a doctor to help you do that…and it certainly doesn’t hurt, and there’s no risk! (Even if it turns out you don’t have leaky gut, these foods are still good for just about anyone regardless.) Foods for healthy gut (and to combat leaky gut):
- Cruciferous/Brassica vegetables
- Lion’s mane
- Live-fermented pickles
- Probiotic-rich yogurt or quinoa
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Sweet potatoes
Functional nutrition and herbs for leaky gut syndrome
Herbs and healing spices can add some extra benefits for those with a leaky gut or leaky gut symptoms. Getting a daily dose of these can be just like vitamins for the body— only in this case, they work like a digestive tonic for gut health. Functional nutrition and herbs for leaky gut:
- Adaptogenic mushrooms
- Black pepper
- Chaga mushroom
- Chicory root
- Lemon balm
- Vitamin B12
An amazing herbal remedy for leaky gut that deserves a highlight is lemon balm. Few people know what lemon balm is good for— as it turns out, lemon balm is a powerful leaky gut and indigestion home remedy that can also help with gut pain, spasm, gas, and even relieving leaky gut-related mild depression, anxiety, or stress.
More people might have issues with leaky gut than they think! It’s certainly not something to be overlooked.
Especially if you deal with leaky gut-related symptoms or mysterious health issues, it may be time to take care of your gut with digestion-boosting foods, herbs, remedies, and probiotics— including lemon balm and many others.
Let us know of any suggestions you have or things you may have done to improve your overall gut wellness. COMMENT below. We would love to hear from you!