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In recent years, there have been more conversations and awareness around a condition called leaky gut, or dysbiosis. Leaky gut refers to an inflammatory condition where the cells of the gut become permeable, allowing particles to pass through the gut lining into the bloodstream. When foreign particles that have not gone through the proper digestion pathways enter the bloodstream, this can elicit an immune response. Many people experience allergy-like symptoms, psoriasis, brain fog, fatigue, eczema, and altered digestion. To manage and heal a leaky gut, try the following tips:
Take out any foods that can cause an underlying immune or inflammatory response. The best way to start is by eliminating the most common foods that are linked to inflammation – dairy, gluten, and sugar. You can go further by also eliminating nightshades as those can lead to low-grade inflammatory responses in many people. I like to take a food-first approach since it is the most cost-effective and the best way to see how your body will respond. After about eight weeks of “eating clean,” you can begin to reintroduce one food at a time and see how your body responds. It’s best to keep a food journal to track your symptoms.
After taking out the foods that cause issues, load your diet with healthy and healing foods. Eating clean should not feel limited or restricted. Focusing on a variety of vegetables, complex carbs, healthy fats, and high-quality proteins can give your body everything it needs to stay healthy and support digestion. Here are some additional tips:
A functional medicine practitioner or certain primary care physicians can run tests that analyze stool and blood to gain a better insight into how your digestive tract is working. A stool test looks at inflammatory markers, gut diversity, malabsorption, and zonulin levels. High zonulin is often linked with leaky gut. Running blood panels can uncover food allergies or sensitivities that trigger immune or inflammatory responses in the body. Removing these foods will help with alleviating symptoms and healing the gut.
Starting with the basics can help improve the health of the digestive tract. I like to look at supplements as a boost to a healthy diet. They don’t always work well on their own, but when you combine them with a healthy diet, the benefits are enhanced. If you’re interested in adding supplements to your diet, here are a few to look into.
Stress is an area that is often overlooked when making healthy changes. You can have the healthiest diet, but if your stress level is high, your digestion will be impacted negatively. Finding time in your day to disconnect and wind down is one of the best ways to heal your body. “Shutting down” the sympathetic nervous system has a wide array of health benefits and can help ease symptoms of leaky gut.
Leaky gut is becoming more prevalent in our society as access and quality of food change. It’s important to not only take a look at the foods you are eating but to also consider supplements and stress management. Taking the right tests and changing your lifestyle can have a huge impact on leaky gut and the way you feel!
Sarah Greenfield studied nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, got her RD through UCLA and worked as a dietitian with a focus on ICU, trauma, digestive disease and wound care.
She created a nationwide school nutrition program and a nutrition-focused marathon training program for NutriBullet. Having completed several marathons, she got an advanced certification in sports nutrition to further her knowledge on coaching athletes to better health.
She started her own company, Fearless Fig, as a way to connect with people on a deeper level. She works with clients one-on-one, integrating advanced testing to restore digestive health, fuel endurance athletes, and make healthy eating achievable. She has been featured on Men's Health, Self, NBC with Lester Holt, KTLA with Lori Corbin and Dr. Hyman's Blog for her recipes and meal prep tips.