What is Leaky Gut & What Causes it?
Have you heard the term leaky gut? Are you wondering what on earth it means?
Well, it actually means pretty much what it sounds like. Kinda gross, huh?
Basically, it’s the root cause of nearly every modern, chronic, inflammatory disease.
The Gut Wall
Just as a medieval city would need a fortified wall to protect its citizens from invaders… your body needs a similar wall to protect you from toxins.
Your digestive tract is a long tube that begins at your mouth and ends… well, at your back side. Anything that goes into this tube is actually OUTSIDE, not inside your body. Funny, huh? I’ve got a little guy who sucks his thumb. Pretty cute, kinda gross… luckily that germ covered thumb, even when it’s inside his mouth, is still outside his body! Phew!
This entire tube is protected by a wall called (in plain English) the “gut lining.” And just like a city wouldn’t expect an unfortified wall to keep out an aggressive enemy, neither does God leave us without soldiers to guard our gut wall. These soldiers are the multitude of beneficial bacteria that populate the gut wall. Their job is to defend the wall against any enemies of state… err.. I mean enemies of health.
These beneficial bacteria guard the gut wall carefully, making sure to only allow safe, fully digested food molecules (nutrients) to be absorbed into the bloodstream, while toxins continue on their way through the tube and back out where they can do no harm to the hard-working, peace-loving citizens inside the wall.
What is Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut (also called “intestinal permeability”) is a term used to describe what happens when the gut lining is compromised or deteriorated, leaving holes or gaps through which undigested food particles, bacteria, fungi, viruses, heavy metals, pesticides and other unwelcome substances begin to leak directly into the BLOODSTREAM, causing all manner of chronic illness.
When the beneficial bacteria that guard our gut wall are destroyed (by several things, which I’ll list for you shortly) the gut wall is left unguarded and vulnerable to opportunistic bacteria. You see, all healthy people have harmful bacteria in their bodies AT ALL TIMES. This is not a problem as long as your beneficial bacteria are strong enough to keep the harmful bacteria under control. We call the harmful bacteria “opportunistic” because they are literally waiting, biding their time, until the beneficial bacteria are down and opportunity arises! When this happens, they multiply and very quickly take over.
These bad guys produce toxins called “endotoxins” which damage healthy cells and literally eat away at the gut wall. Now if your city is under seige and you’ve not only lost your guards, but now have holes in the wall… it’s only a matter of time before the enemy outside the wall becomes the enemy inside the wall. All of those pathogens, viruses, heavy metals, and undigested food particles that should be on their way out of your body, begin to “leak” directly into the bloodstream. This is not good!
The Overactive Immune System
While the beneficial bacteria are like soldiers guarding the wall, your blood also has something like its own military force. The immune cells in your blood are powerful and they are SERIOUS about tracking down and destroying any foreign substances that might be found “inside the walls” of your body.
If your immune system finds undigested bits of dairy or gluten and declares them “enemy of the state,” it will now attack at full force anytime it finds even a hint of these foods in your blood. (Meaning the development of food sensitivities.)
And while your poor, confused immune system is busy fighting like mad to destroy these rogue gluten and dairy molecules, it’s being forced to ignore a whole host of viruses and other pathogens that are also being leaked into the bloodstream, and which totally overwhelm your liver. (Meaning increased illness, recurring infections, and hormone imbalances.)
To make matters worse, this process creates enormous amounts of inflammation, which further deteriorates the gut wall. (Meaning the development of inflammatory conditions such as, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, asthma, etc…)
And as if that weren’t bad enough, if left uncorrected, this zealous immune system may even begin to attack the cells of your own body! (Meaning autoimmune disease.)
Now inflammation isn’t always a bad thing.
It’s your body’s way of protecting you from foreign invaders. Chronic inflammation, however, is the cause of a whole host of modern health conditions: allergies, asthma, eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, thyroid disease, Parkinson’s, anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, and the list goes on and on…
Each person’s body responds uniquely to this invasion. Some people may have inflammation in their joints, while others show inflammation in their skin, but the root cause is the same.
Hippocrates knew this over two thousand years ago…
On top of all of this trouble, the immune system of a person with leaky gut is even further compromised by nutritional deficiencies. The gut wall is lined with enterocyte cells. These cells are covered with tiny, hairlike substance called “villi” that are responsible for absorbing nutrients from the food we eat. Unfortunately, without the help of beneficial bacteria to protect them, these villi are easily damaged and no longer preform this important function, leaving the body further depleted and even more prone to disease.
Did you know that only 10% of the cells in your body are human cells?
It’s true! You are actually 90% microbial and only 10% human! Inside your body there are approximately 100 TRILLION microbes! They live in what is called the “microbiome,” a rainforest-like ecosystem in your digestive tract. Inside this community these microbes have families, build houses, fight wars, eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, get sick and die, have children, communicate with each other. Really, it’s like a miniature planet right inside your body! And we fully depend upon these tiny friends of ours for life and health. In fact, as much as 80% of our immune system resides in this densely populated place. If our microbiome were to be completely sanitized, we could not even survive.
What Kind of Things Destroy Beneficial Bacteria?
anti – prefix / an tahy / meaning opposed to, or fighting against
bios – noun / bi – os / Greek word meaning physical life
The word antibiotic literally means opposed to or fighting against life. Of course, doctors usually prescribe antibiotics to kill the harmful bacteria that cause infection in the human body, but unfortunately antibiotics are not that intelligent. They can’t differentiate between bacteria that is harmful and bacteria that is necessary for human health. They are simply anti-life. They kill ALL the bacteria that they come into contact with.
That Amazon rainforest of bacteria I mentioned earlier? The one you can’t survive without? When you take an antibiotic, it is equivalent to clear cutting that rainforest. Will life begin to grow again at some point? Yes. Would it help to assist the process by planting some of the most important plants? Yes. Will the rainforest ever be the same ecosystem it once was? No. Some species will be lost forever. Some unwanted species will undoubtedly move in and spread. While all is not completely lost, neither will it ever be the same.
Praise the Lord that we have antibiotics to rescue us when our lives are threatened by severe infection! But prescription antibiotics (designed and manufactured by man) are an extreme and usually unnecessary response to minor illness. This is especially true considering that natural/botanical alternatives (designed and manufactured by God) ARE able to discern friend from foe, killing the enemy only and leaving your microbiome in tact.
Other Sources of Antibiotics
Most animals raised conventionally for food are fed antibiotic feed. For that reason, conventional animal products (meat, eggs, dairy) will have a negative effect on your gut bacteria. Conventional farmers also sometimes spray antibiotics on fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes to control disease.
AND: Don’t forget your antibacterial soaps and sanitizers. ~ Even the FDA is considering a ban on the main antibacterial ingredient (Triclosan) found in hand soap, sanitizers, and TOOTHPASTES!!
WHAT!?!! Toothpaste? No way!
I wish I were kidding.
If you’re still using antibacterial products – STOP IT! Don’t wait for the FDA to take it off the shelves 33 years too late. Get these out of your house as quickly as you possibly can!
Most modern medications have a negative effect on beneficial gut bacteria. This is especially true of steroid medications, birth control pills, and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen, Asprin, and Naproxen (Aleve). These medications not only suppress the immune system, but degrade the fragile gut lining and cause overgrowth of unfriendly bacteria such as Campylobacter and fungi like Candida.
A diet high in sugar and other processed foods make opportunistic bacteria and fungi REALLY happy and STRONG! All bacteria will eat sugar, but pathogenic bacteria LOVE sugar and have a hard time surviving without it. Beneficial bacteria, however, thrive best on the high quality fiber found in fruit and vegetables. Are you surprised?
It should come at no surprise that chlorine (like antibiotic medications) is not able to differentiate between the harmful bacteria in the water which it is meant to kill and the beneficial bacteria in your body which you need to survive. Chlorine will sanitize everything it touches, whether you want it to or not. We’re not even going to discuss the damaging effects of flouride… For now, one word ~ neurotoxin!
You probably don’t need me to tell you that stress is a killer. We all know it.
Glyphosate is a pesticide routinely used in our food supply and used in excessive amounts on GMO food . It has numerous, terrifying effects on the human body, not the least of which is that it suppresses the growth of beneficial bacteria while encouraging the growth of pathogenic bacteria in the human body.
If you weren’t already feeling anxious and depressed from your poor gut health, you probably are after reading a list like this, no?
But take heart!
These symptoms are often reversible! You may not have any idea how good you could feel… when the brain fog lifts, and your anxiety decreases… when you can get through your day without extreme fatigue.
It seems to be a common thought that feeling badly is “just the way it is”. It’s “normal” and therefore there’s nothing to be done about it. That is a lie! There is so much that you can do. Simply by making simple lifestyle changes. One at a time. Bit by bit. You can say goodbye to living your life in an exhausted, frustrated haze.
Really! I’ve done it! And let me tell you, I didn’t make these lifestyle changes because I’m super disciplined. Bahahaha… Is my husband reading this?
No. I made them and I’ve kept to them because nothing in the whole world feels as good as feeling happy, strong, and capable instead of depressed, overwhelmed, and fatigued! It’s not a hard choice once you feel the difference.
Friends, did you realize that it is possible to opt-out of chronic illness? It’s not just “the way it has to be”.
Your body may be damaged. Your body may be confused. But your body has the God-given capacity to quickly right itself if you’ll only give it the chance:
Stop the flow of toxins.
Reset your immune system.
And then go live your life!
Need some help getting started?
Here are a few more posts that might be helpful to you:
- Ways to both prevent illness and support your body in times of illness using safe, natural alternatives to harsh and damaging pharmaceutical drugs.
- How a traditional foods diet can keep your gut bacteria strong and healthy, while significantly weakening the harmful bacteria in your gut.
- Which foods, herbs, supplements, and essential oils are most soothing and restorative for leaky gut.
Read here to find out how we healed our leaky gut and reversed our 30+ food sensitivities.
For more information about leaky gut, this book is super helpful!
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And as always friends, please remember that I’ve got kids sledding down the stairs on Costco boxes as I write to you…
So, if you think I’ve forgotten something important, have any questions or comments, or simply a bit of encouragement to share, please use the comments below, send me an email, or find us on facebook.
I’d love to hear from you.