Leaky gut syndrome is about as controversial as it is unpleasant. If you suffer bloating, gut discomfort or cramps, gas, food sensitivity and fatigue, then an alternative medical practitioner may diagnose you with leaky gut syndrome. Your doctor, however, will likely disagree.
“From an MD’s standpoint, it’s a very gray area,” said gastroenterologist Dr. Donald Kirby. “Physicians don’t know enough about the gut, which is our biggest immune system organ,” he said.
Does leaky gut exist?
Officially, leaky gut syndrome doesn’t exist at all. The closest comparable condition recognized in medical literature is intestinal permeability, which is usually associated with known health problems like diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and some cancers. Hence, most doctors will treat leaky gut as more of a symptom than a cause. On the other hand, some alternative practitioners will disagree and argue leaky gut syndrome is a health issue in its own right.
Generally, treatment focuses on improving diet, while nutritional supplements and herbal remedies might also be prescribed. For some patients, these alternative options might provide some relief where conventional medicine fails. It’s worth noting there is no clear scientific evidence these treatments can help, and in some cases may even exacerbate an underlying health problem.
Whichever way you lean in this controversy, if you suffer serious recurrent symptoms you need to seek out professional medical care. Some known conditions associated with leaky gut syndrome are potentially life-threatening and need to be taken seriously. In these cases, there is no substitute for good care.
On the other hand, there are plenty of people who swear by alternative approaches to leaky gut syndrome. So if you do seek out alternative care, then these are the foods you’ll be advised are among the best — and worst — for your condition.
The best foods for a leaky gut
1. Bone broth
Odds are the first thing you’ll be told to eat for leaky gut syndrome is bone broth. According to alternative health providers, bone broth is rich in collagen, gelatin and glutamine. These are believed to improve gut health, while healing damage to lining. Check out our recipe for bone broth here.
2. Kimchi and sauerkraut
Leaky gut syndrome is often associated with the build-up of harmful bacteria, yeast or even parasites. Hence, part of the solution prescribes by alternative therapists will often be to consume probiotics. Along with supplements, you might also be advised to consume fermented foods like kimchi and unpasteurized sauerkraut. In fact, any non-dairy, gluten-free fermented product is likely to be a good fit.
3. Fatty fish
Fish and fish oil are supposedly quite good for reducing the symptoms of a leaky gut. Anything that’s high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as cod or salmon, are recommended. Moreover, these fish also contain vitamin D. There’s good evidence to suggest many people who suffer gut problems have vitamin D deficiencies, though it’s unclear whether there is a direct link.
The worst foods for a leaky gut
Sweet, delicious sugar is terrible for the friendly, good bacteria that help keep your gut healthy. Whether you see a conventional or alternative medical professional, you’ll be told the same thing: if you have gut problems, then start by kicking sugar. While you’re at it, you should cut artificial sweeteners out of your diet too, because they’re just as bad.
Whether you’re talking to a conventional or alternative medical professional, you’re going to be told the same thing: alcohol is bad. It’s bad for leaky gut syndrome, and it’s bad for pretty much any condition with similar symptoms. In fact, even if you don’t have any serious health problems, alcohol is still terrible for your gut. Alcohol consumption is linked to stomach ulcers, acid reflux and cancer, not to mention general digestive issues.
3. Wheat and gluten
Most alternative health professionals will point to gluten as the biggest cause of symptoms of leaky gut syndrome. The general theory is that gluten is difficult to digest, and increases the hormone zonulin. This may make the gut more permeable, allowing toxins to pass through the gut lining and into the bloodstream. Hence, patients are usually advised to avoid foods containing wheat/gluten, such as bread, cereals, most baked goods, pasta and beer.
A word about anti-inflammatory drugs…
Not so much a food, but anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen are known to cause gut irritation. So if you suspect you have leaky gut syndrome, you should steer clear of these wherever possible.
Do you have leaky gut syndrome? What foods do you find help, or exacerbate, your condition? Share your story in the comments below.
— Ryan Mallett-Outtrim