Today, we’re going to talk about a huge topic. Digestion and absorption of your food is the foundation for the health of your whole body. It gives you all the blocking blocks for making your hormones and balancing your hormones.
If you are growing a garden, you want to give each plant the right soil with all the right nutrients it needs. If you don’t, the garden could wilt and die.
If you have leaky gut, you can experience digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and heartburn. However, leaky gut also causes inflammation in the rest of your body. It impacts the whole body. Some of the symptoms of leaky gut aren’t directly related to your digestive system and include:
- Headaches and migraines
- Joint pain
- Skin rashes like eczema, psoriasis, hives
- Getting sick often due to weakened immune system
- Allergies and sinus issues
- Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis
- Mood disorders like depression and anxiety
- Acceleration of neurological conditions like dementia
What is leaky gut?
As Dr. Toni likes to point out, leaky gut doesn’t sound very scientific. Actually, leaky gut is increased intestinal permeability. Your gut is like a big tube that travels between your mouth and anus. You have a layer of cells that separates your inside world from the outside world. The cells should be held tightly together so that only the things we need get through into your bloodstream.
When the cell layer becomes compromised, the junction that tightly connects the layer of cells together can become loose. This damage allows food particles through the cell layer into your circulation and your immune system sees these food particles as a threat like a virus or bacteria. Then, your immune system starts to mount a response against these food particles that it normally wouldn’t react to and builds antibodies. The antibodies can create inflammatory complexes with the food particle trigger and can travel throughout your bloodstream and be deposited in the brain, joints and other areas of your body.
Leaky gut can be linked to a leaky blood brain barrier. Leaky brain can contribute to various symptoms like:
- Brain fog
- Lack of concentration and focus
- Behavioural issues
You might experience food sensitivities differently at different points in your life. With the immune system and hormonal changes during pregnancy, Dr. Toni found that she could tolerate eating more wheat, dairy and yeast while pregnant and breastfeeding. The further Dr. Toni gets away from being pregnant and breastfeeding, the more she can’t tolerate those foods.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may be able to better tolerate foods that you react to otherwise. Your immune system shifts to react less, which helps your kids be less likely to develop food allergies. Recent research suggests that women should not avoid high allergy foods like peanuts, nuts, wheat and dairy while pregnant and breastfeeding, in order to prevent allergies in their kids..
What is your microbiome?
You have 10X more microbial cells than actual cells in your body. You have more bacteria in you than is actually you! We have evolved as human beings to depend on the bacteria along our digestive tract. Your beneficial bacteria plays a number of different roles in your body.
Benefits of your gut microbiome include:
- production of short chain fatty acids like butyrate, which is important for maintaining a healthy blood brain barrier
- production and absorption of nutrients like vitamin B12 along your intestines
- proper function of the patches of immune system tissue along your digestive tract
- balancing your immune system to prevent allergies and autoimmunity
You were originally exposed to your microbiome at birth. How and where you were born and fed as babies affected the colonization and growth of the bacteria along your digestive tract. Babies born vaginally are exposed to the bacteria from their mom along the birth canal, while babies born via C-section don’t have that same exposure. Breast milk provides the food for beneficial bacteria, also called prebiotics. While not exactly the same as what is found in breast milk, similar prebiotics and probiotics are being added to infant formula.
If you were born via C-section or not breastfed as a baby like Dr. Lisa, all is not lost. However, you may need to take some extra probiotic supplements or focus on prebiotic foods to support your microbiome for optimal health.
What causes leaky gut?
You may have higher susceptibility to developing leaky gut if you:
- Were born via C-section
- Were exclusively formula fed as a baby
- Have a history of multiple rounds of antibiotics
- Previously or currently take other medications, like NSAIDs, acid inhibitors, birth control pill
- Have food sensitivities like gluten or high intake of sugar and processed foods
- Experience high levels of stress, including relationship conflicts
- Have overgrowth of yeast or bacteria in the intestinal tract like SIBO
What is the connection between your gut and your brain?
There is a lot of research currently looking at the brain-gut axis. Our neurotransmitters that impact our behaviour and mood are mostly produced in the gut. This includes serotonin, most widely known for its association with feeling happy.
Your gut and brain talk to each other. The vagus nerve is a link between the brain and your digestive function. If it’s not working properly, your digestive motility doesn’t work properly. This impacts how your food moves through your digestive system.
If you’re stressed out or rushing around, your nervous system is in the sympathetic mode, also known as fight or flight. In this state, digestion is not a priority. The proper digestive juices, like stomach acid and your digestive enzymes, are not flowing to break down food. This reduces how well you can absorb the nutrients you need that act as the building blocks for ideal hormone health.
How can you measure your gut health?
There are some specialized laboratories in Canada and the United States that provide comprehensive assessment of your gut health that aren’t available from the conventional medical system.
Lab tests can include:
- Food sensitivity testing
- Lactulose breath test
- Comprehensive stool analysis
How do you know what lab tests are needed?
Seeing a naturopathic doctor is helpful to get guidance and figure out what is right for you.
What can you do about leaky gut?
In addition to supporting your digestion, leaky gut can be treated and prevented with some of the following tips:
- Avoid antibacterial products, especially those with triclosan
- Enjoy fermented foods and probiotic supplements
- Get more gut supporting nutrients like NAG from bone broth
- Avoid food sensitivities
- Support proper digestion with apple cider vinegar or bitters
- Consider gut healing supplements like L-glutamine, slippery elm
Today’s Mama Must Have:
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