I am talking about leaky gut which is also known as intestinal permeability. This is so important for you to reclaim your health to understand what leaky gut is, what causes it and how to heal it because the implications of leaky gut are vast. They are responsible for the majority of our health concerns. Seriously, everything begins in the gut. That is why I call myself the gutsy gynecologist because most likely your gynecological condition, hormone imbalance, any of that stuff. It’s probably all stemming from your gut. This includes ovarian cysts, endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain, recurrent vaginal infections, and even pain with intercourse. All of this is so often related to what’s going on with your gut.
What is Leaky Gut?
Our intestines have one layer of endothelial cells that keep the food that we’re digesting in and allow nutrients to pass into the bloodstream. In between those cells, we have little gap junctions, they look like tollbooths. They open they let well digested proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals into the bloodstream to be carried throughout the body. They prevent bad things from going into the bloodstream like undigested proteins, pesticides, foreign stuff like mercury, all of that. Things expand/weaken those gap junctions. This allows things to get into your bloodstream that shouldn’t. That’s what’s called leaky gut. This happens at a microscopic level.
Why Can’t My Doctor Find That with a Colonoscopy or Endoscopy?
If you go to your gastroenterologist and they do a colonoscopy or endoscopy, they are looking at physical things that they can see with their eyes. They can tell you if there is an ulcer, diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, etc. Leaky gut can’t be seen with the eye. It’s microscopic at the cellular level. Even if they do biopsies from your colonoscopy, they can see if you have celiac disease. They do that by looking at the villi that come off of the epithelial cells that I mentioned earlier.
The villi are these tiny like finger-like projections that come off of these epithelial cells. They grasp nutrients and other things that they want to absorb. Those villi are super important to absorb your vitamins and minerals, amino acids, fats, and all of the good things that you are digesting. In celiac disease, the autoimmune process that attacks gluten destroys those villi. The finger-like villi are gone. The cell has difficulty absorbing things. They can take a biopsy during a colonoscopy for the pathologist to look under their microscope to see if those villi are still there. That’s how they diagnose whether or not you have celiac disease with that biopsy. Even with that, they can’t necessarily see if your gap junctions are destroyed, because they are physically destroying them when they take the biopsy and it’s a metabolic process that is dynamic, those gates open and close. So it’s not possible to see it when you are looking at a biopsy.
When those gap junctions get broken, they’re not opening and closing properly throughout the day. When they break, they release a protein called Zonulin. That Zonulin level can get elevated, and you can measure that in the stool. That’s a really strong indicator of having an active case of leaky gut. The cool thing is the endothelial cells that line the intestines can regrow (or regenerate), every day or two. Even if you have an insult, (say you take antibiotics for a week) your gut lining can heal from that. Our bodies have this amazing ability to regenerate and maintain homeostasis. You can heal from leaky gut and not have any long-term issues.
Leaky Gut Can be Caused by Many Things
The problem is that it’s not just antibiotics that kill those gap junctions. There are lots of things that harm them and cause leaky gut. Here are a few of them.
Things that harm gap junctions
Dysbiosis (a bacterial imbalance in the gut.)
A Poor diet made of sprouted grains, sugar, genetically-modified foods, and dairy products.
Prolonged exposure to stress
Toxin overload from too much exposure to chemicals. (pesticides, chemicals in food, mold, mercury, etc.)
Medications (birth control pills, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, etc.)
Watch the full video episode here.
Birth control pills are a major one for women. The longer you’re on it, the more catastrophic the leaky gut situation can be. Other medications that cause these gaps to weaken are any kind of synthetic hormones and antibiotics. Toxins are another big cause of leaky gut. We are all exposed to a huge amount of chemicals on a daily basis such as pesticides in our food, (which is rampant), plastics in our food, chemicals that are added to our foods, additives, artificial colors, etc. Those can all break the gap junctions.
A huge one for women is chronic cortisol production. Many people are familiar with chronic stress causing things like stomach ulcers. Conventional medicine has even admitted that. Things that are seemingly mild such as overexercising, not fixing a miserable relationship, job stress, etc. all of that chronic cortisol exposure causes leaky gut.
Why Is This a Problem?
When this goes on for a while, things get into your bloodstream that shouldn’t. 70% of your immune system is lining your gut. It’s not in your lymph nodes and other parts of your body. The majority of your immune system is in your gut lining as a frontline defense to protect you. That immune system is going to start attacking everything that it sees that it’s never seen before or shouldn’t be there. It quickly assesses items to decide…
Are you foreign? Or are you safe?
Do we know you or not.
If all of a sudden it’s seeing broccoli in an undigested form that it’s never seen before. It will start attacking it and creating antibodies to that food. It’s seeing enemies that it shouldn’t be seeing. Once your immune system creates an antibody against something, every time it sees it after that, it starts an inflammatory process to attack and destroy. This can cause you to develop all kinds of issues. If your immune system is constantly having to attack and destroy things that are coming into its bloodstream that shouldn’t be there in the first place. Leaky gut often leads to food sensitivities, systemic inflammation, joint pain, headache, skin rashes, and fatigue because it stresses out your mitochondria ATP production. The worst part is that it can activate bad genes.
Our genes contain all of the potential information for our body to function. However, it gets expressed according to how it’s activated. Just because you have bad genes, like I have a bad gene, for Hashimotos, thyroid disease, I have a bad gene for Reynouds, I have a bad gene for celiac, (things like that). They’re not necessarily activated or turned on and expressed until they have certain triggers. What we understand now is that leaky gut is a necessary component of activating autoimmune processes. You can have the gene for lupus, but if you don’t have leaky gut, and certain bacteria and certain triggers, you probably won’t activate those genes. They won’t be expressed so you won’t develop lupus. It’s really important to realize that so much of the diseases that we end up focusing on are preventable and reversible by getting control of what’s going on in our gut.
Instead of Focusing on Healing a Particular Disease, Focus on Healing Your Gut
I would love for you guys to really focus on having a healthy gut because a healthy gut begets healthy hormones and your entire health. The microbiome in your gut is running the show. There are trillions of bacteria, yeast, fungi, parasites, and they’re all supposed to live in harmony. Nobody is supposed to be a dictator. We’re not supposed to have one bacteria or one yeast overrunning the others and running the show. They’re supposed to be balanced in harmony with certain species at certain levels. It’s supposed to be a community that’s keeping us balanced. When that community is in balance, your gut lining can be healed. Here’s a really cool thing. There are bacteria such as akkermansia, and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii bacterium, that produces a mucosal barrier over the epithelial lining of our cells in our intestines. They actually act like a barrier to prevent that bad stuff from getting through the cells in our intestines. It acts as a backup in case you do break those gap junctions and end with leaky gut. If you have a nice mucosal barrier of good bacteria, often that stuff doesn’t get into your bloodstream. That’s why being on probiotics can be so beneficial for preventing a lot of diseases.
Probiotics Are Critical for Good Gut Health
Things as simple as that, like having the right bacteria living in your gut can keep your gut healthy. It’s really important to know that you might need a probiotic because some of us were not born with the best microbiome. Especially if you were born by C-section or you were born prematurely. Normally, when we are born, we go through the vaginal canal or mother’s vagina, and we pick up the lactobacillus and the vaginal bacteria. That starts to colonize inside of our GI tract. It sets the stage for good beneficial bacteria to be produced. Breastfeeding helps colonize our gut. Then as you grow and start eating foods, fiber, and different prebiotics feed those good bacteria and nourish us. From the very beginning, it matters what kind of gut health you have. That sets the stage for either health or disease. A lot of us have struggled with gut dysbiosis and leaky gut on and off our entire lives.
I know I have because I had a lot of emotional stress as a child, and that produced cortisol all the time. That destroyed my gap junctions and killed off my good gut bacteria. I lived on junk food. My gut has always been a struggle because of all that. The amazing thing is that you are able to turn it around. It’s a beautiful thing how much the gut can regenerate. Don’t ever feel like you can’t heal leaky gut, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, or celiac. You totally can. It’s about removing the triggers that are making irritating your gut and supporting your gut health.
Things To Do To Heal Your Gut
Get control of your stress
Remove gluten and other triggers
Take a probiotic
Drink bone broth
Eat fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, etc.
Switch up your workouts between cardio, strength, and restorative things like yoga, pilates, and stretching.
Supplement with things like licorice, L-glutamine, marshmallow…
The biggest things to do are get your stress under control so you’re not pumping out cortisol all the time. You want to think about triggers. Gluten is a very, very common trigger because it’s the protein in wheat. Wheat has been genetically modified over this past century, so much that our body doesn’t even recognize it anymore. Our immune system is constantly attacking when we eat gluten. Gluten stands for glue. It’s what makes bread chewy. So sometimes getting rid of gluten is necessary.
So get rid of the sugar out of your diet. Not only will it do so much for your weight, your hormone balance, and your sleep but it will literally be part of healing your gut and getting rid of systemic inflammation, which leads to diabetes and heart disease, and all of those associated things.
Eat foods that are fermented that nourish the good bacteria in your guts like kimchi and kombucha. Anything pickled or fermented like sauerkraut or miso is great for your gut health.
Another amazing product to heal leaky gut is bone broth because it has collagen in it. My favorite bone broth is by my girlfriend Dr. KellyAnn Petrucci. Bone broth is super, super good for your gut. So I love it so much.
Decrease your stress. If you are doing a ton of cardio, switch up your workouts a little bit. Try to do more restorative stuff like yoga, pilates, stretching, weightlifting, because when you’re doing high-intensity cardio, you’re pumping out cortisol, which is destroying that gut lining again. So just keep that in mind.
Then add in supplementation. I love doing certain supplements to heal an active leaky gut, like L glutamine, zinc carnosine, marshmallow, slippery elm, aloe vera, Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL), pectin, quercetin, cat’s claw. There are so many good herbs and supplements that will heal your gut lining and help to heal gut junctions.
I’ve been seeing a ton of IgA levels that are low since Covid started. That’s your frontline immune system. The pandemic has just added so much stress to already taxed immune systems. Our IgA levels are depleted. Our IgA system is a branch of the immune system that lines everything from the outside world to the inside. It lines the skin, the mucosal skin, respiratory tract or lungs, it lines our entire GI system or stomach or intestines, vagina. That is your first line defense from anything coming from the outside world into your body. IgA is what’s in colostrum, that first day or two of breast milk that’s so important for brand new babies to get into their system, all those immunoglobulins are what your immune system needs to fight the fight. I find supporting with immunoglobulin replacement, to be super beneficial.
Leaky Gut Can Contribute to Other Deficiencies
When your gut is leaky, you’re not absorbing things appropriately that you need to absorb like vitamin A, vitamin D, amino acids, (which make your neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA, and dopamine all those important things from for mental health.
If you already have an autoimmune condition, you are likely to have leaky gut. Here are the symptoms of leaky gut…
brain fog (not being able to remember stuff)
To Wrap it Up
Leaky gut is a very common underlying condition that triggers autoimmune conditions like Hashimotos. The junctions in the gut are weakened and things get into your blood system that your immune system views as enemies. It causes your immune system to be overactive and get wiped out. It’s working overtime to the point where there’s nothing left.
If you think you have leaky gut, it’s really important to start assessing your situation. Take care of your gut. Find out what to kill off, what to support, what to replace, and go from there because your gut is the basis of all of your health. I hope you enjoyed this episode because it’s important for every single human being to understand this concept because this is the future of medicine. Health begins in the gut. If you can understand that and always focus on keeping your gut health intact, you are going to have an amazing, vibrant, fabulous life.
If you want more information check out the rest of the articles in my blog. You can work with me one on one to come up with a plan to heal your gut based on your gut test results. Be proactive and focus on that gut health.