You may have heard that the first place to start when healing from a chronic disease is to treat the digestive tract, or gut. There are a number of reasons why this is a good place to start in many situations, and one of them is the leaky gut.
Leaky gut makes absorption of vitamins and nutrients difficult
Leaky gut occurs when the junctions between cells in the small intestine break down, and allow larger food particles, toxic molecules, and bacteria into the bloodstream. This increases the immune and inflammatory response, which can impact a tremendous number of illnesses, such as autoimmune disease, skin issues, mood disorders, allergies, and digestive symptoms. A leaky gut also makes absorption of vitamins and nutrients more difficult.
A reason why leaky gut might be so common
A reason why leaky gut might be so common is the amount of sugar and refined grains that we tend to eat. These things are very inflammatory to the digestive tract, and over time work to break down these cellular junctions.
Good news for the gut
The good news is that leaky gut is fairly simple to repair. The first step, and the most important, is eliminating sugar and refined grains from the diet. In order to give the gut time to heal, these non-nutritious and inflammatory foods need to be removed. The second step is to figure out if there are any food allergies or sensitivities that you have, or have developed, because of the leaky gut (the immune system can become triggered by food particles that have gotten past the intestinal barrier, causing immune reactions to certain foods – these are often able to reverse after the gut is healed). Removing foods that are causing an immune reaction is also very important.
Supplements that help
There are a couple of supplements that can be beneficial to help heal leaky gut. Your naturopath may recommend one, or more of them.
Probiotics help reintroduce more “good” bacteria into the intestine. These bacteria are incredibly important to maintaining nerve and digestive function, balancing mood (energy), as well as working hand in hand with the immune system. Over years and years of chronic inflammation in the digestive tract, the numbers of good bacteria diminish and are replaced by more gas forming strains, as well as fungus, like candida. A probiotic is often recommended in order to re-balance the gut flora.
Leaky gut limits the amount of food that is actually getting broken down and absorbed. A digestive enzyme may be used in order to help break this food down. They are often taken with food to help with the digestion of food with each meal. This will help prevent some of the undigested food from getting into the bloodstream.
Glutamine is perhaps the most important supplement for helping the gut. This amino acid serves as a primary food source for the cells of the intestines, and will help them repair the junctions between them quicker.
Licorice root or Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice
Licorice helps keep the mucous lining of the gut intact. This protects the intestines from their own acids and helps keep things from inflaming the gut wall. Licorice also helps lower the effects of stress hormone (cortisol).
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice is often preferred because the glycyrrhizin, a constituent in licorice, has been shown to raise blood pressure and cause edema – this makes it safer in pregnancy as well.
Collagen can be taken in broth form or in a powder. It is crucial to the repair of soft tissue, like the intestines. It also can help improve digestion. Bone broths are often used as anti-inflammatory foods during a gut healing protocol because of their richness in collagen as well as other vitamins and minerals.
Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review that has been in print since 2005 and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit and The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10 week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia through naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. Follow Razi on Facebook at Razi Berry and join us at Love is Medicine to explore the convergence of love and health.