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10 Signs That You Could Benefit from the Leaky Gut Diet

By Fitoru | 11 December 2018
lady rubbing belly from leaky gut

Leaky gut syndrome, also called increased intestinal permeability, is a proposed digestive condition that’s garnered quite a lot of attention recently. While high-quality scientific evidence indicates that it is indeed possible for particles to “leak” through the intestinal wall, mainstream medical professionals don’t recognize leaky gut as an official diagnosis.

Here are 10 signs that indicate you could be dealing with a leaky gut, as well as an introduction to the leaky gut diet, a leaky gut food list of potential triggers to be avoided, and a leaky gut diet shopping list loaded with gut-healing foods.

What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Perhaps the most important function your digestive tract serves is to break down and absorb nutrients from food. It’s also integral to protecting your body from potentially dangerous substances. The walls of your intestines work as a gate-keeping system, determining which molecules can enter your bloodstream to be transported to your organs and which should be flushed from your body.

The phrase intestinal permeability refers to how easy it is for molecules to pass through the walls of your intestines. Small gaps in the intestinal walls—called tight junctions—let water and nutrients enter the bloodstream while preventing toxins and damaging particles from doing so.

When your tight junctions become too loose, bacteria, undigested food particles, and toxins can leave the gut and make their way into your bloodstream. Your immune system registers these molecules as “foreign invaders” and attacks. This can result in widespread, chronic inflammation as well as other types of systemic damage, a phenomenon some health professionals believe constitutes a full-blown health condition: leaky gut syndrome.

An article published in Gut, a monthly, peer-reviewed medical journal, evaluated what happens when the structure of tight junctions changes, resulting in abnormal permeability. The authors found a clear connection between increased intestinal barrier permeability and inflammatory diseases like diabetes, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and more.

10 Signs You Have a Leaky Gut Syndrome

If you regularly experience any of the following symptoms, or have been diagnosed with any of these conditions, you may be dealing with leaky gut syndrome.

  1. Ongoing digestive disturbances including gas, bloating, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  2. Seasonal allergies
  3. Asthma
  4. Hormonal imbalances like premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  5. A diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia
  6. Mood imbalances such as depression, anxiety, ADD, or ADHD
  7. Skin issues like acne, rosacea, or eczema
  8. Recurrent yeast infections
  9. Food intolerances or allergies
  10. A diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, celiac disease, or another autoimmune disease

Is Leaky Gut a Cause or a Symptom?

While there’s good evidence to show that increased intestinal permeability is present in individuals with several different kinds of chronic diseases—in particular, autoimmune diseases—it’s not yet clear whether it actually causes those diseases.

At this time, leaky gut syndrome is not an officially recognized medical diagnosis. There is, however, widespread agreement that increased intestinal permeability, sometimes referred to as intestinal hyperpermeability, does coincide with certain chronic diseases. While proponents say it can be the underlying cause of conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and more, sceptics think it may be a case of correlation, not causation.

Because of that uncertainty, some medical professionals, like the authors of this study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology in 2013, believe the focus should be on treating the diseases themselves, not on trying to correct increased permeability. Basically, they see leaky gut as a distraction.

Others believe that leaky gut syndrome contributes to the progression of those diseases, and targeting it directly could be a valuable treatment approach. Some studies have found evidence of increased intestinal permeability prior to the development of celiac disease and diabetes, which supports the theory that it’s a cause, not a symptom.

It also appears that dietary changes can resolve intestinal permeability. A study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences, a high-quality, peer-reviewed journal, found that when individuals with celiac diseased followed a gluten-free diet for at least a year, their intestinal permeability normalized.

In other words, changing your diet can cure leaky gut syndrome.

How to Adopt the Leaky Gut Syndrome Diet

Get Started with This Leaky Gut Food List.

There’s no official leaky gut syndrome diet plan, but health practitioners do tend to agree on certain dietary recommendations for improving your gut health, which in turn resolves leaky gut issues. A 2017 review analyzed current data on the effects of specific foods on your gut, and concluded that there are clear links between what you eat and the state of your health. The first step is to cut out foods likely to aggravate your gut and cause its permeability to decline further.

10 Foods to Avoid

Certain foods are known to trigger early symptoms of intestinal permeability, and eliminating them from your diet is central to the leaky gut diet plan. Here are 10 types of food to stay away from:

  1. Wheat-based products: It’s best to either cut out bread, pasta, and anything else made using wheat flour. If you really miss these comfort foods, you may be able to tolerate gluten-free versions.
  2. Gluten-containing grains: This category includes barley, rye, bulgur, triticale, couscous, and some varieties of oats.
  3. Dairy products: Bid adieu to milk, cheese, and ice cream. You may be able to tolerate yogurt, and kefir tends to be safe even for individuals with serious lactose intolerance.
  4. Refined oils: If you use canola, sunflower, soybean, safflower, or other refined oils, you’ll want to seek out less-processed replacements.
  5. Artificial sweeteners: Steer clear of anything that contains aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, and other laboratory-concocted sweeteners.
  6. Processed meats: No more cold cuts, deli meats, bacon, or hot dogs. And vegans and vegetarians must also relinquish seitan (made using vital wheat gluten).
  7. Baked goods: Again, if it’s made from wheat flour, it’s out. Think cakes, muffins, cookies, pies, pastries, pizza, and so on.
  8. Certain snack foods: These may contain gluten and other irritants. Look out for crackers, potato chips, granola bars, pretzels, sugary cereals, candy bars, many fast food menu items, and some brands of premade and microwave popcorn.
  9. Some condiments: Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and hoisin sauce will almost certainly include gluten. Read condiment labels closely!
  10. Specific beverages: Namely, alcohol, soda, and other sugary drinks.

10 Foods to Embrace

Once you’ve cut out foods known to erode your digestive health, it’s time to start rebuilding your gut. Adding plenty of probiotic foods that will encourage the growth of beneficial gut bacteria is a great way to restore the integrity of your intestinal walls. Here are 10 wonderful, gut-healing foods to add to your leaky gut diet shopping list.

  1. Fermented foods: Load up on probiotic-rich foods like miso, kimchi, tempeh, and even good old sauerkraut (as long as it’s unpasteurized).
  2. Cultured dairy products: These are also good sources of probiotics. Look for kefir, yogurt that contains live active cultures, and traditional buttermilk.
  3. Vegetables: Pretty much anything in this category will provide health-promoting nutrients that can benefit your gut health. From cruciferous veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage to dark and leafy greens like arugula, kale, and spinach to zucchini and other squash to root vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes—you get the idea.
  4. Fruits: Again, there are tons of great options in this category. Berries, bananas, citrus fruits, and tropical fruits like coconut, passionfruit, and papaya can all help to rebalance your gut.
  5. Nuts: Raw nuts make a great snack option, and nut milks can be great replacements for verboten dairy products. Plus, who doesn’t love a reason to eat more nut butter?
  6. Healthy cooking fats: You’ll want to add avocado oil, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil to your cupboard, if they’re not already there.
  7. Healing beverages: Bone broth and kombucha have been shown to have impressive benefits for gut health. Many teas also fall into this category.
  8. Seeds: Working nutrient-rich seeds like chia, flax, and hemp into your diet can supercharge your health-seeking efforts.
  9. Gluten-free grains: From familiar options like gluten-free oats and brown and white rice  to more niche choices like amaranth, buckwheat, sorghum, and teff, you’ll want to explore the options in this category, especially if you like to bake.
  10. Fish: Load up on salmon, herring, tuna, and other fish with particularly high concentrations of omega-3.

When Dr. Amy Myers, a leader in the world of functional medicine and New York Times best-selling author of The Autoimmune Solution and The Thyroid Connection, works with patients with leaky gut syndrome, she uses a combination of an elimination diet that removes potentially toxic and inflammatory foods and what she calls the 4R program.

Dr. Myer’s 4R Program.

  • Remove: The goal here, according to Myers, is to “remove the bad.” That means anything that negatively affects the environment of the GI tract—not only foods, but also any possible underlying intestinal infections.
  • Replace: This is all about adding back in the elements you need for healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients, like digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile acids.
  • Reinoculate: Now it’s time to turn your attention to the beneficial bacteria living in your digestive tract, and to strive to create a flourishing community of good, health-promoting bacteria.

Do you know the signs of leaky gut syndrome? Learn what to watch out for and how to heal a damaged gut.

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