As a former competitive athlete, I did my best to eat healthy to support my performance. I made sure to go easy on sweets and processed foods, and tried to stick to whole foods as much as possible. However, I still noticed some unfavorable side effects around eating gluten and dairy. If I ate too much of either, I would suffer from bloating, and fatigue. It was frustrating to not feel and perform at my best. I started to hear more about food intolerance, which got me curious about what was happening internally and the correlation between gut health and overall health.
The science of nutrition clearly wasn’t as simple as we had been told, so in a quest to learn more, I enrolled in a graduate program at Bauman College to become a Certified Nutritionist, which is where I was introduced to the concept of leaky gut syndrome, and learned about its causes and how to heal it with whole foods to feel your absolute best.
You may be surprised to learn that leaky gut could be the root cause for several other health issues, including autoimmune diseases, bloating, foggy head, fatigue, joint pain, weakened immune system, food sensitivities, and more.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
First, let’s dive into what leaky gut syndrome is, and what causes it. In a healthy digestive system, the gut lining is made up of specialized epithelial cells that are held together by tight junctions. These tight junctions act as a barrier in the digestive tract for everything that passes through the gut and are flexible enough to only let essential nutrients pass through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. When the tight junctions are weakened, they break down, allowing other particles to pass into the bloodstream where they don’t belong.
When these small amounts of debris leach out of the gut into the bloodstream, the body reacts by treating the debris like a foreign invasion, causing inflammation. This can cause the body’s immune system to work overtime and become hyperactive, which is what we see in autoimmune disorders where the body attacks healthy tissue. If the gut lining is severely damaged, this cycle can lead to chronic inflammation, which science is finding may be the precursor for many other health problems.
What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?
This weakening and breaking down of the tight junctions can happen for a few reasons. Some people are genetically predisposed to having weaker gut linings, but often environmental and lifestyle choices play an unfavorable role in gut health, including poor diet, stress, toxins in the environment, and too much bad bacteria in the body.
With the way most Americans eat today, poor diet is a leading factor for the phenomenon of leaky gut, but the good news is, food can also help to heal the condition!
Best Foods For Leaky Gut Syndrome
A great way to avoid leaky gut syndrome is to go on a leaky gut diet, but don’t worry, this diet isn’t about deprivation at all. First, avoid certain inflammatory foods like wheat, gluten, dairy, sugar, fried and greasy foods, and processed foods that can exacerbate the condition. Try incorporating more fruits, veggies, gluten-free whole grains, legumes, good quality organic meat, fish, and healthy fats.
The following foods are all-stars when it comes to preventing and healing leaky gut syndrome, and they’re also great for supporting a healthy diet in general, so you have nothing to lose and much to gain by incorporating them into your routine.
Bone broth is especially beneficial for those with weakened digestive systems, and leaky gut in particular, because it is easy to digest and absorb. It contains anti-inflammatory amino acids, glycine and proline to minimize negative inflammatory effects, and is also a fantastic source of collagen and glutamine, which can help seal and rebuild the gut lining. Several practitioners recommend that patients suffering from leaky gut syndrome try a short bone broth fast for a few days to kick-start the healing process. Check with your doctor before embarking on such a plan to make sure you are getting the proper nutrients.
I’m a big fan of fermented foods, which are packed with probiotics (read: good bacteria) to help combat bad bacteria that can run amok with a damaged gut. I love eating kimchi on just about anything. Other options include non-dairy coconut yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.
Coconut products and coconut oil offer a healthy source of fat in the form of medium chain triglycerides that are also anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial in nature to help “reset” the gut, so the healing process can take place. You can add coconut oil to just about anything: use it for cooking, add it to a smoothie, or mix it into your morning coffee. Of course, it is also a saturated fat so you do want to use it in moderation.
How Do I Know if I Have Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky gut is just starting to be recognized by mainstream medicine as a disease that can contribute to many health conditions.
If you tend to have bloating, cramping, body aches, headaches, fatigue, food sensitivities, or even if you’ve been diagnosed with a more serious condition like an autoimmune disease, it’s worth asking your healthcare professional about leaky gut. The tricky thing is, lots of different things can contribute to the above list of symptoms and disorders. Leaky gut is still an area of confusion for many medical professionals, and research is still being done.
If you suspect you may be suffering from the underlying condition of leaky gut, it never hurts to incorporate some of the recommendations in this piece. All can contribute to a healthy lifestyle and may help you avoid further health issues down the road. If your symptoms start to disappear, then great!
More Ways To Heal and Prevent Leaky Gut Syndrome
Have you ever noticed your digestion take a turn for the worst when you’re especially stressed out? Many of us live in a constant state of some kind of stress, which can have a negative effect on the gut. Stress management is such a useful tool for preserving your health (and sanity!).
Adopt an exercise routine, preferably with a mindfulness component, like yoga or tai chi. Try incorporating a meditation practice; just 10 minutes every day can make a big difference, or just get outside for a walk and some fresh air.
Clean Up Your Environment
Environmental toxins are also thought to contribute to gut problems and excess inflammation. Try switching out your cleaning products with non-toxic brands, which are now available in most major grocery stores.
In addition to the probiotic foods mentioned above, it may also help to incorporate a probiotic supplement into your routine to ensure the good bacteria in your gut is winning the fight over the bad. Dr. Oz recommends looking for supplements with 1 billion or more live organisms per day.
We’re All For Gut Health at Nona Lim
You may have noticed that most of our products are both gluten and dairy-free, or maybe they’re so yummy, you didn’t even consider that something could be missing! Well, at least that’s our hope. We work really hard to make sure our soups, bone broths, and noodles first taste delicious, and also make you feel awesome (bonus!). That’s the magic of whole foods and spices; when you stick with quality ingredients, you’re going to get great flavor.
I wanted to show people how easy it can be to enjoy whole foods and feel their best at the same time, but what’s so cool about some of the foods we make, is that they also have the power to heal.
I sip on our Bone Broth Heat & Sip Cups on the regular to keep my gut humming and happy. I try to get them in first thing in the morning in place of a cup of coffee, and since convenience is king, the to-go cups make them great for drinking on the move. The Bone Broth is also great to use as a base for soups and stews.
There are so many ways to support the gut with a healthy lifestyle. Small changes can make a big difference. If you’re feeling overwhelmed when in doubt, go with your gut! Listen to your body, and notice the positive changes that occur with even the smallest lifestyle changes.