What Leaky Gut Is and Why Should You Care

919 why you should care about leaky gut

If you have been researching how to improve your health, you may have heard of leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability. If that conjures an unpleasant image of your gut contents leaking into the rest of your body — that’s not too far off the mark.

Leaky gut happens when contents from the small intestine spill into the sterile bloodstream through a damaged and “leaky” gut wall. This contamination of the bloodstream by not only partially digested foods but also bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens begins to create a foundation for chronic inflammatory and autoimmune health disorders.

Symptoms and disorders linked to leaky gut include fatigue, depression, brain fog, skin problems, joint pain, chronic pain, autoimmune disease, puffiness, anxiety, poor memory, asthma, food allergies and sensitivities, seasonal allergies, fungal infections, migraines, arthritis, PMS, and many more. Basically, your genetic predispositions will determine how leaky gut manifests for you.

Leaky gut is referred to as intestinal permeability in the scientific research. It means inflammation has caused the inner lining of the small intestine to become damaged and overly porous. This allows overly large compounds into the small intestine. The immune system recognizes these compounds as hostile invaders that don’t belong in the bloodstream and launches an ongoing attack against them, raising inflammation throughout the body. Also, some of these compounds are very toxic (endotoxins) and take up residence throughout the body, triggering inflammation wherever they go.

At the same time, excess intestinal mucous and inflammation from the damage prevents much smaller nutrients from getting into the bloodstream, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies and poor cellular function.

Leaky gut is increasingly being recognized as a common underlying factor in most inflammatory symptoms and disorders.

Medicine finally recognizes leaky gut

Conventional medicine has long ridiculed leaky gut information and protocols as quack science and alternative medicine folklore, but newer research now establishes it as a legitimate mechanism. In fact, pharmaceutical companies are even working on drugs to address leaky gut.

Research has established links between leaky gut and many chronic disorders. It’s good this long-known information is finally being validated in the dominant medical paradigm as the gut is the largest immune organ, powerfully influencing the rest of the body, as well as the brain.

Current studies link intestinal permeability with inflammatory bowel disorders, gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, depression, psoriasis, and other chronic and autoimmune conditions. Given what we know about the connection between gut health and immunity, it’s vital to include a gut repair protocol in overall treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.

How to mend leaky gut

Sometimes, repairing leaky gut can be as simple as removing inflammatory foods from your diet. Other times it’s more complicated. Most importantly, you need to know why you have leaky gut. Either way, however, your diet is foundational.

Many cases of leaky gut stem from a standard US diet of processed foods and excess sugars. Food intolerances also contribute significantly, especially a gluten intolerance. A leaky gut diet, also known as an autoimmune diet, has helped many people repair intestinal permeability. Keeping blood sugar balanced is also vital. If blood sugar that gets too low or too high, this promotes leaky gut. Stabilizing blood sugar requires eating regularly enough to avoid energy crashes. You also need to prevent high blood sugar by avoiding too many sugars and carbohydrates. Regular exercise is also vital to stabilizing blood sugar and promoting a healthy gut.

Also, failure to eat enough fiber and produce leads to leaky gut by creating a very unhealthy gut microbiome, or gut bacteria. Our intestines (and entire body) depend on a healthy and diverse gut microbiome for proper function. A healthy gut microbiome comes from eating at least 25 grams of fiber a day and a wide and rotating variety of plant foods.

Other common things that lead to leaky gut include antibiotics, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, excess alcohol, hypothyroidism, and autoimmunity.

A leaky gut protocol can help you improve your health, relieve symptoms, boost energy, make you happier, and clear your brain fog. Ask my office for advice on improving your well being through a leaky gut diet and protocol.

Why It’s Important to Filter Your Drinking Water

918 filter your tap water

Although tap water is treated to prevent waterborne diseases, you still need to filter your tap water for truly clean water. Treated water protects us from things like Cryptosporidium and Giardia, yet municipal water supplies are loaded with chemicals used for treatment in addition to the hundreds of pollutants that contaminate our water supplies.

The most common chemicals used to treat drinking water are chlorine and chloramine. Chlorine has long been used to treat most water supplies. Chloramine, a combination of chlorine and ammonia, is less commonly used. Unlike chlorine, chloramine stays in the water longer and cannot be removed through boiling, distilling, or letting water sit uncovered.

Both chlorine and chloramine are effective in killing disease-causing organisms, however they are somewhat toxic themselves. Chloramine corrodes pipes, increasing the exposure to lead in older homes. Water that is treated with chloramine should also not be used in fish tanks, hydroponics, home brewing, or for dialysis.

Toxic pollutants in our water supplies

Although chlorine and chloramine prevent water-borne diseases, they unfortunately create carcinogenic compounds by reacting with organic particles ordinarily found in water.

The byproducts they create in this process are more toxic than the chlorine or chloramine alone. Research shows these compounds cause cancer in lab animals, produce inflammatory free radicals, irritate the skin and mucus membranes, impact the nervous system, and are linked to birth defects. Some researchers believe these byproducts are also associated with thousands of cases of bladder cancer each year.

Chlorine, chloramine, and the toxic byproducts they trigger are only part of the picture — our water supplies are contaminated by an estimated more than 100,000 industrial chemicals and heavy metals. These toxins come from car exhaust, pollution, farming, and industrial waste.

Treated drinking water has also been found to contain almost 40 different pharmaceutical drugs. There is no regulation on pharmaceutical drugs in drinking water and experts warn they could accumulate in people’s bodies, potentially interact with medicine people are taking, or contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Water bottles also contain contaminated water

Many people think drinking bottled water is the safe solution but bottled water is contaminated too. It also leeches harmful BPA chemicals from plastic bottles and sends them straight into your system. BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to multiple health disorders. Plastic water bottles also create serious pollution, particularly of our oceans.

Use a filter for healthier water

Filtering your water with a quality water filter can help reduce your exposure to industrial chemicals, their toxic byproducts, and pharmaceuticals. Invest in a heavy-duty carbon filter, one that will remove particles 0.8 microns or under. Check if your water has chloramine, and if so, look for filters designed to remove it as it is harder to remove.

Also, consider filtering water coming from your bath faucet and shower head. Your skin is very permeable and also absorbs toxic chemicals. Whole-house filters are a good option for this. People who filter their shower water often report improved skin and hair condition.

Do You Have Autoimmunity or Brain Inflammation and Suffer from Exercise Intolerance?

917 exercise intolerance

If there were just one magic bullet to feel and function better, it would probably be exercise. Countless studies show the numerous benefits of exercise. Our bodies and brain were designed for constant physical activity and perform at their best when we provide that. Exercise releases chemicals that boost your overall energy and dampen inflammation.

But what to do if exercise actually makes you feel worse? Some people battling autoimmunity or brain inflammation suffer from exercise intolerance and see their symptoms worsen after physical activity.

Many autoimmune and brain inflammation patients see multiple doctors before receiving a diagnosis. Most of these doctors will tell a severely compromised patient they just need to exercise more. This advice can actually worsen a patient’s symptoms until they start bringing their inflammation under control.

What is exercise intolerance?

In the conventional medical model, exercise intolerance is most often associated with heart disease, particularly from the heart not filling adequately with blood. As a result, insufficent blood is pumped out to the rest of the body.

However, in functional medicine we frequently see exercise intolerance in people struggling with autoimmunity and brain inflammation.

It’s normal to feel sore or tired after a tough workout, but people who suffer from exercise intolerance experience more severe and unusual pain, fatigue, a flare up of their autoimmune symptoms, nausea, vomiting, or other negative effects that go beyond normal muscle tiredness. Some “crash” for a day or more with flu-like symptoms, feeling unable to get out of bed or function normally.

Exercise intolerance can be very emotionally distressing for people who care about their health and are working to improve it. Afterall, we are constantly bombarded with images of uber athletes and messaging about intense workouts.

What causes exercise intolerance?

When exercise intolerance is related to autoimmunity or brain inflammation, exercise intolerance is a result of compromised mitochondria.

Mitochondria are known as the “energy factories” insde each cell, as their role is to take nutrients and oxygen and turn that into energy.

Unfortunately, mitochondria are also very sensitive to inflammation and will under function when the body is struggling with intense inflammation. This means the cells don’t function well, the brain under functions, and you generally feel crappy and fatigued.

How to exercise if you have exercise intolerance?

One of the most common mistakes people make is to push themselves too hard and over exercise. Over training spikes inflammation and can make an autoimmune or brain inflammation condition worse.

Also, when you have an inflammatory condition, you must realize your immune system is never at a constant. Stress, viruses, diet, and myriad other factors keep our immune systems in a constant state of fluctuation.

People with autoimmunity or brain inflammation must always tweak and adjust their activity level to not overburden their immune system or neurological health.

If you are used to working out a certain level and then suddenly notice your workout make you feel worse, it could be an outside factor flaring up inflammation. So you need to dial it down or even take some time off. Listen to your body.

For instance, someone who does high-intensity interval (HIIT) and weight traning four or five days a week suddenly feels fatigued and lethargic the day after each class. They may need to reduce the duration, the intensity, or the frequency of those workouts, or substitue in something that doesn’t push their inflammation over the edge, like a brisk walk.

Forget about cultural messaging around fitness

Managing autoimmunity and brain inflammation is highly individulaized; no two people will have the same protocol. You must always be tuned in to what your body says. This can be difficult in our hyped-out fitness culture.

After all, for some autoimmune or brain inflammaton folks, the mildest workouts can be triggering. The goal is to find what works for you and makes you feel good. When we stimulate blood flow through movement, it sends more oxygenation to our bodies and brains and triggers the relase of beneficial chemicals. If it feels good, it’s lowering inflammation and helping you manage your autoimmunity and brain inflammation.

Autoimmune appropriate exercises for building exercise tolerance could be walks, light weight training, gentle yoga or stretching routines, water aerobics — explore and find what works for you. You are the ultimate expert on what’s right for your body. As you start to feel better you will naturally feel inclined to take on more.

Start low and slow so that you are able to stay consistent and keep it up on a daily basis. Once you have established that, then gradually increase intensity and duration.

Ask my office for more advice on managing autoimmunity or brain inflammation.

How You Were Born Could Shape the Rest of Your Life

916 microbiome and birth

Whether you’re fat or thin, anxious or relaxed, sickly or resilient — this could all stem from the way you were born thanks to the effects of bacteria in our first few seconds of life. Babies born via c-section are shown to have less desirable gut bacteria, or a gut microbiome, compared to babies born vaginally, who have healthier microbiome “signatures.”

Results from the largest study of the newborn microbiome were recently published. The study found that newborns delivered via c-section lack the healthy gut bacteria found in vaginally delivered babies. Their guts also contain strains of harmful microbes — Enterococcus and Klebsiella — commonly found in hospitals.

In fact, the lead researcher said the levels of harmful hospital bacteria in the c-section newborns was “shocking.” These babies were also deficient in the healthy bacteria that made up most of the guts of the vaginally born babies.

The difference was so profound that he said he can tell you how the baby was born simply by analyzing the bacteria in their stool.

C-section babies missing strain vital for health, weight management, and immune resilience

After several months the gut microbiomes between the two set of infants became more similar with one striking difference — the c-section babies had significantly lower levels of Bacteroides, a strain vital to human health.

Bacteroides are a key strain when it comes to health challenges modern societies face. A number of studies have shown Bacteroides levels are lower in people with obesity. Studies in both mice and humans show that when gut bacteria from thin subjects are transplanted into the colons of obese subjects, most subjects lose weight.

Bacteroides has also been linked with preventing anxiety, and boosting and regulating immunity to prevent inflammatory disorders. This may explain why people who were born via c-section are at increased risk for obesity and asthma.

The study is part of a larger Baby Biome study that is following thousands of newborns through childhood.

Why method of birth affects the gut microbiome

Research suggests that the vaginal canal imparts beneficial bacteria to the infant during birth, while c-section babies are deprived of that and instead immediately exposed to the bacteria of the hospital and the people attending the birth. Studies are underway in which babies born via c-section are swabbed with the mother’s vaginal microbes.

Other factors to consider beyond birth

It may not just be the birth that determines a c-section baby’s poorer microbiome status. Women who undergo c-sections also receive antibiotics, which may transfer to the newborn through the placenta and later through breast milk. These babies also tend to stay in the hospital longer and thus are exposed to more hospital bacteria.

How to develop healthy gut bacteria

Developing good gut bacteria is not neccesarily as simple as taking probiotics. You may also be overrun with detrimental bacteria that need to be “weeded.”

Perhaps most important is whether your diet supports a healthy gut microbiome.

What the gut microbiome needs most is an ample supply of vegetables and fruits on a regular basis in a wide, ever changing variety. Eating a diverse and abundanat array of plant foods will help create a diverse and abundant gut microbiome.

Ask my office for more advice on how we can help you improve your gut microbiome and overall health.