A leaky gut, scientifically known as increased intestinal permeability, arises when the lining of the small intestine becomes excessively porous. Picture a circle around your belly button, and you're in the vicinity of the small intestine's location. If you often experience bloating in this area, you might already be familiar with it. Surprisingly, many of us are living with leaky gut without realising it.

Interestingly, nearly all my clients exhibit signs of leaky gut. How can I assert this before even meeting them? It's simple: any symptom, regardless of its severity, signifies stress on the body and, consequently, the presence of a leaky gut.

A leaky gut disrupts the intestinal lining's normal function, allowing undigested food particles, toxins, and bacteria to enter the bloodstream. These substances can accumulate in vital organs like the heart and brain, triggering inflammation and contributing to health issues. In the United States, doctors are even beginning to predict Alzheimer's and dementia risk based on gut health; they can often predict which patients in their 40s and 50s will end up with these brain conditions later in life. Blood labs for clients often reveal low vitamin levels in those with leaky gut, as proper nutrient absorption becomes compromised.

Several factors contribute to a leaky gut:
  • Poor Diet: Consuming processed foods high in refined sugars and lacking fibre disrupts the gut microbiome's balance and damages the intestinal lining.
  • Digestive Dysfunction: Insufficient stomach acid production hampers signals to the gallbladder and pancreas, hindering proper fat and protein breakdown and contributing to a leaky gut.
  • Inadequate Chewing: Most carbohydrates require saliva in the mouth for initial breakdown. Inadequate chewing prevents this crucial step.
  • Medications: Both prescription and recreational drugs can harm the gut lining, worsening the condition.
  • Imbalanced Gut Microbiome: An overgrowth of harmful microorganisms, including parasites, fungi, candida, or imbalances in commensal bacteria, can increase intestinal permeability.
  • Chronic Stress: Prolonged stress disrupts the gut-brain axis, leading to gut issues. The pH Stress Test is a valuable assessment tool.
  • Toxins: The overall toxic load on our bodies and the liver's ability to detoxify can contribute to a leaky gut.
  • Lack of Sleep: Inadequate sleep (less than 7-9 hours, depending on individual needs) places substantial stress on the body, exacerbating gut problems over time.
The heartening news is that the gut has remarkable regenerative capabilities when provided with the right support:
  • Dietary Changes: A diet rich in whole foods, fibre, prebiotics, and probiotics fosters a healthy gut microbiome and fortifies the intestinal lining.
  • Stress Management: Incorporating stress-reduction techniques like mindfulness, yoga, and meditation restores equilibrium to the gut-brain axis.
  • Supplements: Specific supplements targeting leaky gut, along with bone broth and collagen powder, aid in gut lining repair.
  • Avoiding Triggers: Identifying and avoiding trigger foods, allergens, and medications that worsen gut health is pivotal.
  • Adequate Sleep: Prioritising sound sleep hygiene enhances the body's natural gut repair processes.

By adopting a comprehensive approach, including dietary enhancements, stress management, and lifestyle choices supporting gut healing, we can cultivate a healthier gut, ultimately contributing to better overall well-being. Remember, a healthy gut doesn't just benefit digestion; it's integral to the vitality of our entire body, especially our energy levels and brain health.

I'll end with a final fact: for every one message your brain sends to your gut, your gut sends 6 back to your brain. An inflamed gut leads to an inflamed brain.

Shelley Gawith is a Member of Co.OfWomen and a highly respected Functional Nutritionist