Your body is exposed to potentially harmful substances in the gastrointestinal tract every day. Under normal conditions, a healthy intestinal barrier prevents toxic elements from entering the bloodstream. However, factors such as stress, an unhealthy diet, excessive alcohol, or antibiotics can cause increased intestinal permeability or, in other words, ‘leaky gut’. ‘Leaky gut’ is often associated with IBS and reducing intestinal permeability could be an effective way to relieve IBS symptoms.
‘Leaky gut’ is caused by several factors. The most prominent is diet, specifically, the Western diet which is usually high in sugars, refined carbs, and low in fiber. Excessive intake of antibiotics could be another potential ‘culprit’ since it changes the composition of the gut microbiome. Learn more about antibiotics and IBS on our website. In some individuals, genetics or stress may also play a role.
Tips to treat ‘leaky gut’
Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria that we need for proper digestion. They are found both in foods and as supplements, with the most common foods being yogurt and kefir. Probiotics help regulate bowel movements and modulate intestinal permeability. They also show anti-inflammatory properties and assist the body in eliminating harmful bacteria, fungi, or some viruses. All these combined create a potentially effective relief for both IBS and ‘leaky gut’ symptoms. The only problem is that it is not clear which strain of probiotics is the most beneficial. Read the following article to learn more about the effects of probiotics.
Dietary fiber is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to regulate intestinal permeability. ‘Leaky gut’ and IBS are often associated with increased inflammation of the intestines. This is what causes abdominal pain. Not eating enough fiber can compromise intestinal barrier function by increasing its permeability. Fiber also supports the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. It is mainly found in lentils, beans, oats, bananas, etc. It is important to implement fiber into the diet gradually. High amounts of fiber may worsen IBS symptoms if you are not used to eating it.
FODMAP is a collective term that consists of fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. A diet low in FODMAPs is now often recommended to alleviate IBS symptoms. Malabsorption of FODMAPs results in their delivery to the large intestine where the microorganisms ferment these. This is what produces excessive gas and leads to the worsening of IBS symptoms. Although it is often recommended to avoid FODMAP consumption, one should keep in mind that they could also be beneficial. Some of its benefits include improved calcium absorption and the growth of ‘good’ gut bacteria. Therefore, it is recommended to try an elimination diet and see if FODMAPs trigger your symptoms.
Polyphenols are organic compounds naturally found in many plants (fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, chocolate, etc.). They are thought to have several health benefits. They strengthen the intestinal barrier and reduce its permeability. At the same time, they have antioxidant effects. This means they help eliminate harmful reactive oxygen species that could be the potential cause of ‘leaky gut’. Make sure to implement more plant types into your diet.
Mushrooms are a great source of vitamin D and prebiotics. Recent studies also showed that mushrooms modulate gut microbiota by stimulating the production of catecholamines (hormones) and the anti-inflammatory response. To promote a balanced and healthy gut microbiota, it is recommended to give mushrooms a try. They provide several health benefits including the reduction leaky gut-related symptoms.
Recent studies suggest that medical herbs alleviate leaky gut-related diseases in animal studies and clinical trials. These herbs include ginger, peppermint, aloe vera, or liquorice. They may modulate gut microbiota and play a role in the regulation of intestinal permeability. Its exact mechanisms are still unclear. Herbal medicine can be administered as tea, in the form of capsules, or essential oils. Keep in mind that they might not be an effective treatment for everyone.
There are several ways to treat ‘leaky gut’. Most effective treatments come from making healthy changes in your diet. Other tips would include regular movement and stress relievers such as meditation or therapy. It should be emphasised that seeing a difference will take some time. So do not give up and try what works for you and what doesn’t.
Aleman, R. S., Moncada, M., & Aryana, K. J. (2023). Leaky Gut and the Ingredients That Help Treat It: A Review. Molecules, 28(2), 619. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules28020619