What is a leaky gut?
Your gut helps your body absorb fluids and nutrients, digests your food, and houses billions of friendly gut microbes.
It's also selective to what it allows past its barrier. Your intestinal tract purposefully keeps some things from being absorbed, so they pass right on through to the other end to be eliminated as waste. You don't want to absorb many harmful microbes or toxins into your body, right?
Once the essential nutrients are absorbed by the cells of the gut lining, they are carried by the blood and lymph to your liver, and then around to the rest of your body; this is so that all your cells, all the way to your toenails, get the nutrition they need to be healthy and grow.
The gut can become leaky if the cells of the gut lining get damaged, or if the bonds that hold the cells together get damaged. Leaky gut can be caused or worsened by a number of diet and lifestyle factors. Dietary factors like too much sugar or alcohol or even eating things that you're intolerant to can all contribute to leaky gut.
Lifestyle factors like stress, lack of sleep, infections, and some pills can also be culprits in this area. Sometimes, if the balance of gut microbes inside the gut is thrown off, this can also contribute to a leaky gut.
Any contributing factors that alter the balance in your gut may cause our gut to become "permeable" or leak. At this point incompletely digested nutrients, microbes (infectious or friendly), toxins, or waste products can more easily get into our bodies.
What are the symptoms of a leaky gut?
Because the first place affected is the gut, there are a number of symptoms right there. Things such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea. Compromised absorption can lead to lack of essential vitamins and minerals for the optimal health of every cell in your body.
Some of the symptoms can also occur on the skin. Acne, dry skin, itchiness, rashes, eczema, even rosacea and psoriasis can be linked to leaky gut.
In addition, some neurological symptoms are also linked with leaky gut. For example, brain fog, fatigue, headaches, inability to sleep, and general moodiness can also be related.
Finally, a number of chronic inflammatory diseases are thought to be linked with a leaky gut condition. Things like Crohn's, colitis, celiac disease, IBS, and MS.
What to eat for leaky gut
Incorporating a gut-soothing diet means cutting out inflammatory foods such as grains, legumes, and dairy. Add to that list, food additives, alcohol, and refined sugars.
In their place, add in more green leafy and cruciferous veggies, cooked and raw. These are full of nutrients and contain fibre to help feed your friendly gut microbes. You also want to add more sources of vitamin D which can come from fish and egg yolks, and also from the sun. Eat more probiotic foods like sauerkraut, yogurt (dairy-free if you are sensitive to milk), and kombucha (fermented tea). Make sure you're getting enough essential omega-3 fats found in seafood and seaweed. Finally, make sure you're getting some coconut oil and meat stock. Coconut oil has special fats called MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), and meat stock has essential nutrients for patching up the tiny holes in the gut lining.
Every 2-3 weeks, I cook a large batch of chicken stock from a whole chicken. I serve it with the cooked chicken meat and vegetables the day of and I still have enough leftovers remaining for the next day and to store away in the freezer. I use 1L mason jars for freezing the stock which is later used as a base for preparing various soups.
Cooking the stock is fairly simple:
1. Place the whole chicken in a large pot, fill it up with water and add salt for flavouring.
2. Once it starts boiling, simmer for approximately 2 hours.
3. While it simmers, add some vegetables in the pot. My favourites are carrots, celery, onion, garlic, kohlrabi, parsley. I even add a few mushrooms into the boiling stock.
4. When it is done, pour the stock through a sieve and store it in the refrigerator or freezer.
5. The meat can be served in the warm stock, or on its own along some cooked vegetables, topped on salads or sandwiches.
In my family, we all love chicken stock as it is not only healthy but delicious as well! My favourite way of "eating" the stock is actually DRINKING a cup of the hot liquid on its own (no meat, no veggies), especially on cold winter days as we will soon have in Ontario.