Leaky gut syndrome is a serious condition where tiny gaps develop between enterocytes or the cells that make up the lining in your intestinal wall. These gaps allow substances such as food molecules, bacteria, and metabolic waste to escape into your bloodstream. Due to this, your body can experience inflammation.
Leaky gut syndrome is often associated with inflammatory bowel disorders such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, or Celiac disease. According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, “people can have different degrees of intestinal permeability leading to a wide variety of health symptoms.” This can be greatly influenced by the foods you eat.
The Truth About Grains
New studies have shown that grains have a negative effect on your health, contrary to what is promoted in the United States. Experts including Dr. Loren Cordain, an expert on Paleolithic lifestyles, states that humans are not built to eat grains because it can damage their gut.
Dr. Cordain further explains:
“There’s no human requirement for grains. That’s the problem with the USDA recommendations. They think we’re hardwired as a species to eat grains. You can get by just fine and meet every single nutrient requirement that humans have without eating grains. And grains are absolutely poor sources of vitamins and minerals compared to fruits and vegetables and meat and fish.” (link)
A number of scientific evidences prove that grains, as well as legumes, actually contain anti-nutrients that may increase intestinal permeability. Two of the most known anti-nutrients are:
This is the substance that gives wheat bread its doughy textures. It is considered as the most damaging anti-nutrient because it can increase the production of zonulin, an intestinal protein. In effect, gaps between your enterocytes are opened up, making substances that should be confined in your GI tract leak out into the bloodstream.
Found mostly in their seed form, lectins are mechanisms that plants use to defend themselves. When consumed, lectins may induce digestive problems as well as other health risks. Foods that are rich in lectins are grains, beans, dairy products, and nightshade plants like potatoes, tomatoes, and chili peppers.
Bread wheat or Triticum aestivum contains a resilient and problematic type of lectin called wheat germ aggluthinin (WGA). This specific type of lectin, according to studies, has the potential to contribute to a wide range of health effects, including damage to your gastrointestinal tract. WGA can:
- Stimulate the synthesis of cytokines or pro-inflammatory chemical messengers in intestinal and immune cells. This has been shown to play a causative role in chronic thin gut inflammation.
- Disrupt endocrine function and contribute to weight gain, insulin resistance, and leptin resistance.
- Have potent, disruptive, and toxic effects on your brain, nerves, blood vessels, and immune system.
- Adversely affect your gastrointestinal function by causing increased shedding of the intestinal brush border membrane, reducing the surface area and accelerating cell loss.
Traditional ways of addressing many anti-nutrients are sprouting, fermenting, and cooking. However, it may not work on lectins, especially on WGA, which are designed to withstand degradation through a wide range of pH and temperatures.
A Substance as Dangerous as Grains
One of the most popular sources of grains is cereal, which is currently promoted as “health food.” Not only does it contain abundant amounts of grain, but it also contains excessive quantities of sugar – another ingredient that contributes to poor health.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), children’s cereal brands have more sugar than snack cakes or cookies. (link) Like grains, sugar can upset the balance inside your gastrointestinal tract. This can further lead to damage to your intestinal lining and cause leaky gut syndrome. Make sure you switch from cereals to a healthy alternative.
Solutions for Better Gut Health
In order to avoid leaky gut as well as other digestive disorders, Dr. Mercola says that it is very important to watch what you eat. Eliminate sugars and grains from your diet and include foods that uphold the balance of organisms in your gut. Dr. Mercola recommends adding more fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and kvass to your meals.
Make sure that the fermented foods you consume are not pasteurized. Pasteurization is the process where naturally occurring healthy bacteria are killed together with pathogens. Once your gut flora maintains an optimal balance, leaky gut as well as other digestive problems will no longer be a problem.
Apart from eating more fermented foods, adhering to a Paleo diet may be effective for better digestive health. People from the Paleolithic period primarily ate vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, and meat. Nowadays, these staple foods have been replaced by unhealthy choices like refined sugar, cereals, breads, potatoes, and pasteurized milk products.
A diet filled with such unhealthy choices, according to Dr. Mercola, is the main cause of leaky gut syndrome. By simply returning to the Paleo diet, your health can improve. Add more unprocessed foods such as vegetables (excluding corn and potatoes) and free-range organic meats like grass-fed beef.
For more information on the leaky gut syndrome, read “Is a Leaky Gut Causing You to Pack on the Pounds?”