|General outline – See The Paleo Approach for details.
Though a normal individual with no present health complications is able to continually repair these re-occurring insults to their gut lining, this does not happen in a compromised system, of which could stem from an unknown infection, microbial imbalance, genes susceptible to a given health problem, or simply too much of the same, harmful dietary and lifestyle factors mentioned above. When this happens, contents present in the gut, whether beneficial or harmful, leak into the immune system through the holes where enterocyte cells would otherwise be. It is important to note that while harmful food choices make up a large portion of the diet aspects that undermine our gut, medications, NSAIDS (ibuprofen, aleve, etc..), and antibiotics can contribute to the formation of a leaky gut as well. Aside from enterocyte cell death, the gut can become leaky when the tight junctions that hold it together, become dysfunction and left open. This can happen when zonulin (the modulator of the opening and closing of cells in the GI barrier), becomes over-active, leaving the junctions wide open, when normally, they should be closed tightly, only allowing certain nutrients to be absorbed into the body. Zonulin can become dysfunctional for a few reasons, the primary contributor being the indigestible proteins found in wheat products. Alcohol consumption is also a key factor in damaging tight junctions, as it literally unravels what would otherwise be a “tight junction” between enterocyte cells. When this happens, the result is similar to that of when zonulin becomes over-active, leaving the doors wide open for foreign particles to distribute into the immune system. Whether through cell death, tight junction dysfunction, or the harmful diet and lifestyle that come a long with these factors, having a leaky gut has been shown to be not only present in all individuals with health conditions, but also the precursor to developing one. Because of this, it is important for those not only with a chronic illness, but healthy individuals as well, to protect their GI tract from many of the harmful diet and lifestyle factors that have become so common in today’s modern world.
Just as the formation of microscopic holes in one’s GI tract, healing from a leaky gut certainly does not happen over night. It can take many months of persistent changes in one’s diet and lifestyle, to fully fix the damage that has been done. However, just as hippocrates said, all disease begins in the gut, and as Dr. Sarah Ballantyne mentions in her book, it is pretty much impossible to have an autoimmune disease without already having a leaky gut, therefore proving the only way to find true health is to begin with the GI tract. For those with an autoimmune condition, or any other inflammatory health condition, following the autoimmune-approach outlined in The Paleo Approach, can have you well on your way to restoring the integrity of the gut, no matter how minor or severe your condition may be.
As for myself, leaky gut has certainly been something that I have struggle even before I hit my brick wall with Chronic Lyme Disease. It was in the months before my body completely collapsed that I began having mysterious GI issues, therefore leading me to take gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and sugar out of my diet in hopes to relieve symptoms. Though this helped, it didn’t get rid of all of my symptoms, which is due to the fact that there was still an underlying cause for my weakened body (i.e untreated Lyme). That being said, when my immune system finally gave up fighting Lyme, and the effects that it caused/was causing in 2011, my gut only got worse from there. Ever since then, I have been persistently trying to do everything that I can to heal what we now know to be “leaky gut,” and though it can seem completely hopeless at times, I do believe someday, somehow, my gut will be restored. Last year, I found myself following Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s protocol, of which has helped tremendously in minimizing inflammatory symptoms, and overall trying to fix my leak gut. I also take many of the supplements mentioned earlier in today’s post, however, my body tends to have an aversion to gelatin and bone broth, no matter what way that I take it. Not only has the development of a leaky gut caused severe, re-occurring infections, allergies, and additional, inflammatory symptoms in my journey with Chronic Lyme Disease, it has simultaneously become one of the biggest road blocks in my healing to this date. Therefore, I cannot stress how important gut health truly is, not just for those who are already sick, but for those who are healthy and looking to maintain their present state of well being. In the end, the information presented in today’s post is just the beginning of all that goes into getting, and then healing a leaky gut, and if you are interested in further information, make sure to check out The Paleo Approach, and The Paleo Approach Cookbook by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne.