What IS Leaky Gut?
Grains are consumed at rapidly growing rates throughout the world. We are now discovering that with increased consumption comes increased consequence. Today’s hot topic discussion is all about the link between grains and leaky gut syndrome. What is leaky gut? Leaky gut is a condition that develops when there are gaps between the enterocytes (cells) that make up the membranes living in your intestine wall. These holes allow undigested food, bacteria and metabolic waste to leak out of the digestive tract and into your bloodstream. The steady flow of toxic substances essentially “leaking out” into your blood can cause significant inflammation. Leaky gut itself can be linked to inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis or Celiac Disease. You don’t need to have an official diagnosis to suffer from leaky gut, it is an insidious condition that can affect anyone.
Why are Grains So Bad?
The fact of the matter is that you’ve been tricked. You’ve been tricked into believing that humans have been biologically hardwired to eat grains. In the range of our evolutionary growth, eating grains hasn’t been something we’ve been doing for a long time. We certainly do not need to be stuffing ourselves with bread, high-fructose corn syrup, and oats. Why? Grains contain lectins. Lectins are a specific type of protein that the plant uses as a defence mechanism. How does that work? If you ingest the seed, you feel sick as the lectin resists breakdown. No, eating a leptin seed will not kill you immediately (thank GOODNESS), but if you consistently eat lectins the cumulative effect over time find you feeling very sick.
We cannot break down these lectins because we lack the digestive enzymes. That means that these lectins remain largely in tact as they flow through the digestive system and can cause us much irritation and pain. They trick the enterocytes into thinking they are simple sugars, which then allows them to be easily passed to the outside of the cell. When leaving the cell, lectins can cause damage that can cause the cell to be rendered totally ineffective at doing it’s job.
Once in circulation outside of the cell, the lectins can activate the cytokines (chemical messengers that tell the white blood cells when to attack). The byproduct can be that the enterocytes are killed by the body’s own immune cells, leading to numerous microscopic holes that can create leaky gut.
The best known example is gluten, which is especially insidious. Parts of gluten resemble proteins in the human body, making it very tricky for the body to decipher. Gluten also weakens the connection between enterocytes, creating a space between the cells where gut contents can leak through.
Scary Stuff! What Can I Do About It?
If you suspect you have leaky gut, there are plenty of steps you can take to help fix the problem. Stop eating grains entirely, or make sure that the grains you use are sprouted and fermented. This step will reduce lectins, making these foods easier to digest. Avoiding GMO foods is important here as well as these foods often contain high lectin levels as they have been specifically formulated to ward off bugs. Get plenty of sleep, plenty of play and incorporate more of a balanced approach towards life. Incorporate plenty of probiotic-rich foods like kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut and soothing, anti-inflammatory elements like bone-broth to your daily food routine. You can also book in and see me, as I help you meander all of the information out there, and get you feeling your best with restorative whole-food options.
As your Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant at Naturmend, I am committed to creating healthy communities. I believe in honouring the unique biochemical individuality of each person who walks through my door and in the amazing benefits of a whole food diet. A healthy body and balanced mind are the cornerstones of a happy existence.