A leaky gut diet that actually helps
You have tried all types of diets and consulted several doctors, but no one could offer a solution to your problems? You suffer from gas, bloating, irregular bowels and you hold on to several pounds you can´t easily shed?
Often times the discomfort is already going on for several years. There is no clear beginning point when it all started. But you realize it got worse over the last years. Until the point, you can´t handle the symptoms anymore. You leave every doctor´s appointment empty handed.
With no diagnosis and no medicine to work you wonder if it´s only in your head and just in your imagination.
If you can relate to some of these symptoms you are not alone. A lot of people suffer from digestive problems but are afraid to talk about it. Continue reading to finally say “Goodbye leaky gut!”
What is the difference between a healthy gut and a leaky gut?
Let´s talk about digestion.
Digestion already begins in your mouth when you chew your food. To be more exact, carbohydrate digestion starts in your mouth. The chewing breaks down carbs and makes them accessible for salvia. Salvia contains enzymes which help break down starches into sugars.
The better you chew your food the less work has your gut to do.
A healthy gut has 5 key roles:
1. Digestion of food
2. Absorption of nutrients
3. Maintenance of an immune barrier
4. Symbiotic relationship with bacteria
Our bacterial colonies change and are influenced by lifestyle, the food we eat, and the exposure we have to antibiotics. All of that results in how our body feels, how the immune systems works and how well we digest foods.
Food is information
It is important to pay attention to what you are eating when you want to find the cause for your gut problems. The food you put in your mouth carries vital information. The nutrients are responsible for biochemical reactions. They start at a cellular level and are responsible for how you feel in general.
The food you eat will, in fact, turn on or off good or bad genes.
After a visit to your favorite fast food restaurant, the hamburgers, cupcakes, and sugary beverages will cause inflammation in your gut.
As opposed to a healthy fresh cooked meal rich in vegetables and good protein sources. The nutrients from that meal will turn on antiinflammatory gene pathways.
So, only you are in control what gets into your mouth and what reaches your gut. You are in control of your health.
What is a leaky gut?
Bad lifestyle choices, unhealthy food, no movement and the exposure to toxins can result in a leaky gut. This situation exposes your body to partially digested protein molecules from food. The immune system attacks these molecules because it does not recognize them. As a result, you can develop food sensitivities. They can become the triggers for irritable bowel syndrome and autoimmune disease.
When we talk about leaky gut it´s not a diagnosis for one symptom. Leaky gut is more like a description for several conditions. The connection between the cells that line the inside of the intestines become loose. Now it´s possible for larger molecules (partially digested food pieces for example) to slide through the gut wall.
What causes a leaky gut?
There is not one single condition which for sure causes a leaky gut. There are several conditions that can add up and lead to a leaky gut:
- bad food choices
- antibiotics (they can harm the gut flora)
- low stomach acid
- pesticides, environmental toxins
The immune system is always “scanning” the gut border for anything that doesn´t belong there. All invasions and foreign objects will be attacked. And that is also the case for large protein molecules in a leaky gut from incompletely digested foods.
Symptoms that can occur often include:
- fatigue (due to nutrition deficiency)
In the following chapter, I will give you a guideline what a leaky gut diet can look like and might actually calm some of your symptoms down. Including gut healing foods and foods to avoid if you have a leaky gut.
Don´t be scared by the list. It does not mean you have to cut out all of these foods for the rest of your life starting right now! Start with picking out 3 ideas and pay attention if you see any changes in your symptoms. And then slowly work through rest of the list and observe if you get any changes.
The sacrifices are not all permanent. Once your gut is back on a healthy level you can carefully include foods like eggs back into your diet.
Best leaky gut diet!
1. Sugar is the devil
I´m talking about refined cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup or any other sweetening derivates. You might have experienced the infamous sugar high. That is not just a myth. When you eat a lot of sugar you will feel your heartbeat rushing and an increased blood pressure. Insulin comes for help to stabilize blood sugar levels. When the sugar high is over and the blood sugar drops your mood changes. It tends to a depressive mood or even angry mood.
We tend to overeat on sugary foods. We then feel so full of the sugar-dense foods that there is no desire to eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods. A healthy leaky gut diet should be loaded with vital nutrients to give you the best health possible.
Cane sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Fructose can only be metabolized in the liver. The liver will be overwhelmed with too much fructose and will store the excess fructose as fat. Fructose does not turn off the hunger hormone (ghrelin). This is why it is so easy to overeat on sugary foods. You don´t stop because your hunger is not satisfied.
2. Ditch gluten
For many people, gluten is a tough thing to avoid. That means no pasta, bread and anything made with flour. Gluten is a protein found mostly in wheat (and bulgur, couscous, oats, …). It acts like a glue keeping all the different components together (read more about why a gluten-free diet can also have some negative effects on your health). It also gives bread the fluffiness and chewiness.
Gluten can cause problems for many people but not everyone is sensitive to it. For those who can´t handle gluten, it will cause inflammation in their body.
The symptoms of inflammation can include:
- skin rashes
- weight loss
- inability to focus
- weight gain
The results of removing gluten from your diet will show slowly. There might not be an instant change. You have to give it at least 2-4 weeks to show noticeable changes in your symptoms.
Gluten is not only in processed food it can also be in makeup, shampoos or conditioners. It is added to conditioners for volume purposes. While you massage your hair with the product your body absorbs the gluten your scalp.
When products are labeled as gluten-free that doesn´t necessarily mean they are healthy. Read the nutrition label carefully. Gluten-free products are usually overloaded with refined carbs.
3. Avoid dairy
In milk, you´ll find 2 proteins: casein and whey. If you drink pasteurized milk the situation is even worse. The pasteurization process eliminates enzymes that help baby cows to digest the two proteins.
Another common problem with dairy can be lactose. Lactose is milk sugar and a lot of people are missing the enzyme (lactase) to break it down. As a result, you can suffer from diarrhea, gas or bloating.
If you want to be successful with the leaky gut diet try to use alternatives such as unsweetened almond, cashew or hemp milk.
4. Exclude eggs
Eggs are another thing you should try to avoid for a time and see if you realize any changes in your body. It´s not rare that you can develop a sensitivity to eggs over the years.
Compounds of egg yolk can lead to inflammation. While we need inflammation to protect us against infections or for injured areas in the body, too much inflammation has negative effects. (get more details on “How to avoid inflammation“)
When you eat eggs from factory farming you typically consume what the chicken was fed. A diet based on soy and corn. We literally put these food allergens directly into our body.
The better solution for a leaky gut diet is eating eggs from cage-free chickens. The eggs tend to be higher in omega 3 fats.
5. Banish soy
Today you can find soy in so many foods and in less obvious products such as protein bars, supplements, cheese, ice cream and even chocolate. Soy has developed into one of the top food allergens people can have.
Soy disrupts the absorption of some key minerals. Mainly calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, selenium, zinc. Soy can have a negative effect on bone density because it interferes with calcium and magnesium (key minerals for strong, healthy bone structure).
Another side effect to consider can be the influence on your thyroid. The reduced amount of selenium can impact the transformation from T4 into the active form of T3. The thyroid hormone T4 needs selenium to convert into the active T3 hormone.
If you wonder why not all Asian people suffer from thyroid problems, it´s because of soy in a fermented form as in miso, tofu and soy sauce has fewer effects.
6. Cut the corn
Unless you haven´t done it already, check the food labels. Corn is everywhere. It is hard to avoid these days. The food industry adds it in forms of cornstarch, corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, and high fructose corn syrup.
If it is not listed on the label that doesn´t mean your food is free of it. Let´s talk about chickens again. If you eat chicken that was corn fed you consume the corn too.
The goal is to improve your digestive health and do your best to follow a leaky gut diet that actually helps. It benefits your leaky diet when you know where your food comes from. If you buy at your local farmer´s market you will get all the nutrition information you need.
Fruits are always linked to sugar because of their fructose components. But do you actually know, that corn is high in sugar too? It is a high glycemic food and it will give you the same sugar spikes like your favorite sweet treats.
Corn has the same harmful effects on your body like sugar itself. It impacts hormones, can cause insulin resistance plus it can lead to weight gain.
7. Beans beans …
“Beans beans the musical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot!”
Legumes and beans, in general, are high in lectins (as gluten, soy, corn). That leads to the same health problems like inflammation and weight gain. And of course, they are known for causing gas. Some people are more affected by that than others. Legumes contain a type of sugar, that our digestive system can´t break down. We don´t have the enzyme to metabolize it but the gut bacteria can break it down. When gut bacteria break it down methane gas is a by-product.
To reduce the gas from beans, try this:
- Chew your food carefully. As I said before, the digestive process already starts in your mouth.
- Don´t mix beans with other protein sources in the same meal.
- Don´t mix potatoes and beans. Potatoes can interfere with the digestion of beans.
- Add some fennel or ginger to your beans. They help to make your food more digestible.
8. No peanuts
As tough as it may be, but peanuts are among the highly allergenic foods. The allergic reactions are often caused by peanut proteins. It´s not uncommon that peanuts are contaminated with a fungus-produced toxin.
Here´s some bad news for your peanut butter jelly sandwich. Peanut butter is often overloaded with sugar and sodium for flavor purposes. An over consumption will end in insulin resistance and water retention in your body.
Your waistline will be affected too. Peanuts are mostly saturated fats. But not the good healthy omega 3 fats, which are found for example in walnuts or almonds.
The healthier alternative to peanut butter is, for example, almond butter. It is rich in heart-protective omega 3 fatty acids.
9. Take digestive enzyme supplements
The digestive supplements support the breakdown of proteins, fats, and carbs. If your food is broken down in its components you stop reacting to it with allergies and other intolerances.
Partially digested proteins enter through the leaky gut and cause all the health problems we are talking about here. The digestive supplements can help to break down these protein chunks which are already in the circulation.
10. Eat fiber-rich foods
How can fiber actually help with a leaky gut diet? Fiber attracts water and forms a gel-like texture that helps to feel full for longer. This slows down the digestion process and emptying of your stomach.
Fiber has also a positive effect on your insulin level. It also slows down the rate at which the sugars that are broken down from carbs enter the bloodstream.
Because the fiber is indigestible and does not solve in water it passes through your gut mainly intact. That helps to add bulk to the stool and prevent constipation.
When you increase your fiber intake for a successful leaky gut diet make sure to drink more water than usual. Otherwise, the lack of water will lead to constipation because the stool becomes too thick to move.
Add it gradually to your diet so your body can get used to the fiber-rich meals.
Best fiber dense foods are:
- wheat bran
- dark, leafy greens
- whole grains
The recommended daily intake of fiber should be 30 gr. With all the processed foods which are on many plates, the daily intake is for a lot of people only at around 15 gr. per day.
Make sure to eat fresh and colorful fruits and vegetable every day. Then you don´t have to worry about fiber intake at all.
If you want to know more about “How to fix your weight with fiber” head over and get the details on what fiber can do for your weight loss goals.