This article was written by Linda Stewart
Sorry for the personal question, but learning about this might change your life. Intrigued?
Let’s start with the digestive track, which starts with the food you eat. (This is important – but we’ll come back to that.)
From the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases:
“The digestive system is made up of … the GI tract … and the liver, pancreas and gallbladder. The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. The hollow organs that make up the GI tract are the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus. The liver, pancreas and gallbladder are the solid organs of the digestive system.” niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works
Our teeth chew the food in order for to us get it to our stomach. With a properly functioning digestive system, your stomach will provide enough acid to break down the food, and deliver it on to the small intestines, and on from there until it leaves your body.
An important aspect of the GI tract is bacteria – yes, bacteria. While we are often led to believe that all bacteria is evil, the fact is that good bacteria in our GI tract is essential to good digestion. If the right balance of bacteria is there, food is properly digested, the nutrients delivered into our bloodstream, and the waste eliminated (bowel movement) within 24 hours.
The liver, pancreas and gallbladder are equally important to our digestion. These organs provide acid and digestive juices to help with the process of breaking down the food and extracting the nutrients. However, our bodies are designed to have the combination of good bacteria and the “juices” to process the food we eat.
What happens then when our well-designed system becomes damaged? Initially a person might just experience a brief bout of bloating, diarrhea or constipation, or have a belly ache. Depending on the source of the damage though, the symptoms of a GI tract issue may come quickly or may build slowly over time. When progression is slow, it gives a person time to get used to the “new normal.” A daily bowel movement becomes every other day and on and on until a weekly bowel movement is normal and is difficult to achieve (constipation). When food sits in our digestive tract for an extended period of time on an ongoing basis, it can lead to health issues.
So let’s get back to the leaky gut question. Your gut (GI tract) is so well designed that it knows what to do with the food you eat. Your healthy gut allows nutrients to pass through the lining of the intestinal wall into the bloodstream and keeps larger food particles and toxins in the GI tract for elimination. If the bacteria levels get out of hand, where bad bacteria take over and overwhelm the good bacteria, then your digestion slows and the lining of your intestines can become damaged. Your GI tract may begin to leak the bad stuff.
The leaky gut is easily treatable and does not need to be expensive – but it does require common sense and knowledge. If you look up “leaky gut” on the Internet, the first result you get will usually be an advertisement for a product that will take care of everything. Go past the ads and look at websites that are associated with the US Department of Health and Human Services, your local clinic, or reputable medical organizations like the University of Minnesota or the Mayo Clinic. Good knowledge is valuable – bad information is dangerous.
An example of knowledge that will help without buying a “miracle pill” comes from healthline.com:
The Leaky Gut Diet Plan: What to Eat, What to Avoid – Healthline
To combat leaky gut syndrome, eat foods that promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria, including fruits, cultured dairy products, healthy fats, lean meats and fibrous and fermented vegetables. You can also take probiotic supplements, reduce stress, limit NSAID use, avoid alcohol and get more sleep. June 17, 2018, healthline.com/nutrition/leaky-gut-diet.
I particularly like the full healthline.com article as it provides information that is helpful and provides information regarding the claims and the research around this topic. The author is a registered dietician and recognizes the need for a healthy GI tract. He also points out that the scientific community does not agree if the leaky gut is a result of other health issues or the cause of other health issues.
Author’s experience and opinion: I feel it is always best to have a well-balanced knowledge base to look at, so I always look to multiple websites for information, and I disregard articles written with the intent to sell me an expensive solution.
I started reading Healthy Gut by Vincent Pedre, which introduced me to the topic. I did not finish the book nor have I chosen to perform the cleansing program at this time. This is not a critique or endorsement of the book – just full disclosure.
I have had my share of digestive tract issues from time to time, likely relative to the time of year and what foods I am consuming when I can’t buy from my local farmer’s market. I have purchased a low-cost probiotic supplement at Walmart for $7 for 200 tablets. I take 2 tablets twice a day, which means I will use up my supply in 50 days, translating to about 60 cents per day. I can say that I feel better since starting this. This may be due solely to the probiotic, or to a shifted mindset that I want to feel better and have taken step to get there. I feel comfortable knowing that I am not taking anything dangerous to my health and am not spending a lot of money to give it a try.
As always, if you are experiencing serious health issues such as severe pain, bloody stools, or chronic constipation or diarrhea see your health professional.