best diet for leaky gut
Do you know what leaky gut is or why some people experience it? Did you know that what you eat can contribute to leaky gut? Therefore, making changes in your diet can lessen your risk of having leaky gut. Perhaps, more specifically, you are someone that is experiencing leaky gut and wonder how the ketogenic (often referred to as “keto”) diet might compare to other diets in easing the troubles of it. In this article we will learn about what leaky gut is and what causes it. Then we will explore how you can manage it, and how to choose the best diet for leaky gut.
what is leaky gut?
Background – Gastrointestinal Tract
The gastrointestinal tract is often referred to as the “gut”.” The gastrointestinal (GI) tract consists of the mouth, the esophagus, the stomach and the intestines. When people think of the “gut” the stomach and intestines are likely what comes to mind. The gastrointestinal tract is the largest immune system organ. This might seem confusing to you as most people do not think of their immune system when they think of the body’s digestive system. How is this possible? This space (the GI tract) is where the bacteria in your body and your immune system connect. It is incredibly complex and a very specialized system in the human body. As we look further into leaky gut, you will see just why this is.
In helping you explore this connection and the best diet for leaky gut you need to understand how the intestines work in the body. They are part of the digestive system which is responsible for breaking down the food you eat, absorbing nutrients and water to provide nourishment, and removing waste products from the body. The barrier between the gut and the rest of the body is the intestines. In the intestines, we find a lining that is made up of small gaps or tight junctions to allow food and nutrients to move into the bloodstream. This lining covers over 4,000 square feet of surface area within your body.
What happens when those gaps get larger or loosen? This is a sign of an unhealthy gut and when leaky gut occurs. Your body is then considered to have increased intestinal permeability. According to Harvard Health Publishing, intestinal permeability can be a factor in many gastrointestinal conditions including celiac disease, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Why is this? As these gaps grow, substances can leak into the blood stream causing problems throughout the body. These are often substances that should not be in the blood stream such as toxins, bacteria and larger food particles. In an individual without leaky gut, these things would move through the intestines and be processed or excreted. This process is much like how a filter works, it is designed to only let certain things pass through. The smaller the wholes are in the filter, the less passes through. As the holes in the filter get larger, more things pass through them. In the case of leaky gut, these larger things then pass into the bloodstream and can maneuver their way to every part of your body. When this happens in the body, inflammation is just one issue that is likely to occur.
Other problems vary but some that are common with leaky gut include: food sensitivities, skin conditions, autoimmune diseases, migraines, autism, chronic fatigue and brain fog. Symptoms of leaky gut include: aches, pains, cramps, gas, migraines and bloating are some of the symptoms of leaky gut. As you can see, these symptoms can be related to many health ailments. Medical tests are not always able to decipher whether leaky gut is the culprit or not. Inconclusive tests can leave one undiagnosed, untreated and uncomfortable. Should you experience any of these symptoms, remember that the cause could be your intestines. You will want to make sure you talk about this possibility with your doctor.
It is not entirely clear what causes leaky gut. There is a protein responsible for tight junctions called zonulin. Studies show that increased intestinal permeability and loose junctions could be caused by higher levels of zonulin. Too much zonulin can have negative effects on the body. If this excess protein is then released within the intestines, the junctions open slightly which then allows larger particles to move through the wall of the intestines.
What causes the protein to release in the intestines? First, studies have been done that show that gluten can not only increase production but also activate zonulin and therefore increase permeability of the intestines. People with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease are more likely to have zonulin released by having gluten in their bodies. Second, certain bacteria have the capability to activate zonulin and cause a similar effect. These unhealthy bacteria can be encouraged by diets that include processed foods and contain artificial sweeteners. You will want to avoid both things to aid your body in growing healthy gut bacteria. Having healthy gut bacteria, which of course means less unhealthy bacteria, will reduce the chances of the zonulin increasing your intestinal permeability. Unhealthy gut bacteria can also increase inflammation in your body which already occurs if things are moving across the intestinal walls that shouldn’t be. While medical professionals have not been able to identify any exact cause for leaky gut, there is research that lists these things as contributing factors:
- Unhealthy diet
- Poor gut flora
- Zinc deficiency
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
There is a lot of research being done to pinpoint exact causes of leaky gut but for now, it is important to be aware of what can contribute to it and be proactive if you are having problems. Remember that what you eat nourishes all the cells and organs in your body and can play a part in the possibility of experiencing leaky gut. With this plethora of information, you might be asking yourself, what is the best diet for leaky gut? What things should I eat? Or perhaps, more importantly, what should I avoid eating?
best diet for leaky gut
It is difficult to say that there is one “best diet for leaky gut.” What we can say is that you should focus on overall body health and the risk for leaky gut will decrease. Based on research, the best diet for leaky gut should avoid gluten and improve your healthy gut bacteria. You should eliminate foods that are highly processed and those that contain artificial ingredients. A diet that focuses on natural ingredients and whole foods is best to create a balanced environment within your body where leaky gut is not likely to occur. According to Harvard Health Publishing, eating an unprocessed diet and removing foods known to trigger inflammation may help strengthen the gut lining and balance the gut flora.
There are many foods that cause and/or increase inflammation in the body. We strongly recommend that they are avoided to improve symptoms of leaky gut. Because leaky gut can directly cause inflammation of the body, it is suggested to minimize other instigators of it. Some common foods cause inflammation and we recommend minimizing them in your diet not only to avoid inflammation but also to promote healthy gut bacteria growth.
Ketogenic Diet and Leaky Gut
The ketogenic diet has proven to be beneficial for those suffering a multitude of physical ailments – leaky gut being one. This is mainly because many of the foods that are culprits in causing the disorder are eliminated on the keto diet. Instead of carbs and sugars, the keto diet is one where you consume high fat, moderate protein, and low carb.
Because of how the keto diet works, many foods that cause inflammation will be removed. It is common to experience a decrease in inflammation which promotes a healthy intestinal tract. The following foods are recommended to improve your gut health and are suggested foods when following a ketogenic diet: avocado, coconut oil, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, salmon, herring, mackerel, trout, broccoli, arugula, Swiss chard, kale, eggplant, zucchini, spinach, kimchi, sauerkraut, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, eggs, chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, teas, bone broth, kombucha, water, pecans, macadamia nuts, walnuts.
Remember that inflammation and a healthy gut are connected. Like the foods that cause inflammation, there are also foods that can hinder the growth of healthy bacteria in your body. These foods include: grains with gluten, wheat based products, baked goods, artificial sweeteners, and junk food. Again, due to the nature of the keto diet, many of these foods will be removed or dramatically cut. This encourages healthy bacteria growth in your intestines, reducing your risk of leaky gut.
Bone broth can aid in your gut health. This is because it is very healing to the body. It contains collagen which lowers inflammation and provides nourishment to the intestines. It is also easy to digest so any damage to the gut has some time to repair itself. Bone broth comes from animal bones and the connective tissue. The most popular animal bones to use are chicken, turkey, beef and pig. It is simmered with an acid (i.e. lemon juice or vinegar) which breaks down the connective tissue and collagen so it can be used in your body. The results can be used in sauces, soups, or you can even drink it all on its own. We’ve included a recipe here for you to try!
bone broth recipe
In a large crockpot, put the bones on the bottom and add the rest of the ingredients on top. Cover with the 12 cups of water, and simmer on low for 24 – 48 hours (the longer the better in our opinion!).
Serving size: Makes 12 servings.
Tips: We usually start a second batch right away with the same bones and then freeze it in individual portion sizes for later use!
Macros (per serving): 103 calories, 6.4 grams fat, 3 grams net carbohydrates, 7.5 grams protein.
Our focus with this article is to provide you with information to help you make an educated decision regarding your health journey. Your decision regarding your nutrition is one that should be made based on your health history, health goals and in consultation with your doctor. Focusing on good health habits and understanding your diet will improve your overall well-being. Our goal here is to address the best diet for leaky gut so that you can make a well-informed decision regarding your health. In knowing how to encourage a healthy environment in your body, you can take steps to avoid the most common issues people face with gut health.