Somebody asked me this week how do I tell if I have got leaky gut? Leaky gut is such a common thing for women so I thought it would be a really good topic to cover. I will go through some background, talk to you about the symptoms and then explain how I would address healing it and hopefully you will take something from this to apply to your own healing.
What is the gut?
So the gut is just another term for our digestive system. The digestive system starts at the mouth and travels through the whole body. The aim of the gut is to digest our food and break it down into nutrients that we can absorb into the body. Most of this nutrient absorption takes place in the small intestine and the small intestine has a wall which we will call the barrier. This wall is a permeable wall, which means it lets nutrients through into the bloodstream but keeps toxins and waste products in the small intestine to continue to travel through the digestive system so that we can then excrete it. This barrier is absolutely critical to our health and wellbeing and if it gets damaged that’s where problems occur.
Leaky gut is really really common and it is often misdiagnosed or takes ages to diagnose because a lot of the symptoms are quite similar to food intolerances. It happens when the important barrier in the intestine gets damaged. What happens is things other than nutrients start to travel through the barrier into the bloodstream because it has been damaged and the little permeable holes that the nutrients get through get bigger.
Once the intestine wall has been damaged, toxins and larger molecules that wouldn’t normally go into the bloodstream end up going into the bloodstream and this triggers an immune response from your body. Your body thinks it needs to attack what is going on. So this is where your body then starts to attack the lining of the gut and causes more damage. It is a vicious circle essentially and eventually the barrier in the intestine becomes less effective and you are less able to then absorb the nutrients you need as well. So there is lots going on here and it is a massive vicious cycle.
So how do you know if you have got leaky gut?
There are so many symptoms that could indicate you have got leaky gut and the reason it is missed a lot is because these are really common symptoms that people experience with lots of conditions and experience all the time. As mentioned earlier some of the symptoms are similar to food intolerances so this would be digestive issues where you get bloating, painful stomach, diarrhoea, cramping -the symptoms that you might think you have eaten something that you are intolerant to perhaps.
There can also be skins symptoms, so these are things like psoriasis and eczema. Candida overgrowth and hormonal imbalances like PMS are also symptoms of leaky gut. Now we might think PMS is normal but actually it is not. We are not meant to have PMS, it indicates there is an hormonal imbalance in your body that needs to be addressed.
So you might have brain fog, that sort of feeling like you really need caffeine or sugar to actually be alert and be what you would class as being normal for the day. You might have fatigue and body aches as well and also unexplained weight gain.
So many women just can’t understand why they are gaining weight, they think they are eating well, they are exercising but it is like their body is against them and gaining weight when they are trying to lose it. Another common symptom is developing food intolerances or allergies that you didn’t have before.
You don’t have to have an autoimmune condition to actually have leaky gut, but research shows every auto-immune condition tested shows that people with an autoimmune condition have leaky gut present. What research has confirmed is that leaky gut comes before you develop the autoimmune condition.
Once you get the autoimmune disease the vicious cycle continues because when you have an autoimmune disease your body attacks the lining of the gut (as well as the area of your body that is affected by the autoimmune disease). You need to break this cycle in order to heal.
To break the cycle most people are trying to treat the autoimmune condition or the symptoms. You can’t treat the symptoms and expect to heal completely, you might see a little improvement but you are not likely to see a long term improvement or the symptoms will return. You need to treat the root cause, which is actually the leaky gut.
You are more likely to see significant lasting health improvements by doing so. By healing the gut you are going to see reduced inflammation through the body, reduced pain, stress levels are going to massively reduce, and also weight loss will become much easier once your body is in a better place, your body is also going to start to absorb nutrients better.
How would you actually heal then?
Research has actually shown that it takes an average of 5 years and 6 different doctors for a woman to get a diagnosis on leaky gut or autoimmune disease. The sad thing is women are often treated as hypochondriacs during that time until they are actually given a diagnosis.
I tell my clients ‘don’t wait for a diagnosis’. Don’t wait for a doctor to tell you that you have got a condition or you have got a leaky gut, actually just take steps to improve it now for yourself. Don’t wait around because there are really simple things you can do to improve your health, to heal leaky gut and to reduce the symptoms of your autoimmune conditions.
I intertwine four important factors into my programmes and my coaching and these important factors are key to the recovery of the body.
- Thought patterns
This the most significant area and there is a four step process in regards to food for healing your gut.
It starts with the “Four R’”s
Remove- replace- restore- repair
Remove: You need to remove any foods from your diet that are potentially allergens and causing inflammation in your body. The most common ones are alcohol, caffeine, dairy, gluten, refined sugars and also wheat and yeast. You might have had an intolerance test in the past if you have anything that has come up on there that you are intolerant to it is also a good idea to remove that from your diet. Myself and my clients have had great success with hair sample intolerance tests.
Replace: Then you need to replace it with something more nourishing. Replace the things you have removed with good nutrition. This means eating lots of unprocessed foods, things like meat, veg, nuts, fruits, salads, what I tend to say is anything that roams or grows is ideal, anything natural.
Restore: Restore the healthy bacteria in the gut. You would do this by taking a course of probiotics to help restore the good bacteria in the gut and to get it working optimally again.
Repair: To repair the lining of the gut you need essential nutrients for this to happen: glutamine and zinc.
You need to try and improve your duration and quality of sleep because sleep is when the body heals, restores and repairs itself. To do this I always recommend a magnesium supplement to all my clients. Magnesium is an amazing supplement it is responsible for over 300 processes in the body, one of those processes is reducing stress and improving your quality of sleep. So even if you don’t get to sleep for longer your quality of sleep will improve and the healing benefits you will experience during sleep will also improve as a result.
You want to look at reducing stress in your life because stress leads to inflammation and if you have already got a leaky gut or autoimmune condition your body is already highly inflamed. During the dietary changes that we have already talked about removing the foods that you are intolerant to is going to reduce the amount of stress in your body. Cutting out caffeine which naturally increases the stress hormone in your body is going to have a positive effect on your stress levels. But also scheduling in stress reduction into your life. Not enough women take enough time for that. We live highly stressed lifestyles in this day and age and women do not dedicate enough time to themselves and to actually looking after their health and reducing the stress levels they are experiencing. So even if you can just schedule half an hour a week or one hour a week it is going to have a significant impact on your health in the long run.
As we know the body and mind are highly interconnected, your thoughts can actually impact on your health. For example, one one hand you may be trying to make healthy changes like the ones I have recommended here, yet on the other you are having negative thoughts about yourself and your health and believing that you are never going to be able to heal or change. This confliction in your beliefs is going to lead to sabotage behaviour.Examples of this would be eating all the things you shouldn’t eat, you do the things you shouldn’t do or not taking your medication or supplements. Your thoughts are affecting your behaviour and rapidly impacting your health. You need to rewire these negative thought patterns for lasting transformation and healing. By instilling new positive self beliefs, working on self love and being kinder to yourself and your body you will see huge shifts in the healing process.
If you want some more help around healing your gut, reducing inflammation, losing excess weight and significantly improving symptoms of autoimmune disease in just 25 days, check out my Transform25 programme HERE.
Love Natasha x