What is Leaky Gut and Why You Should Care

“Leaky Gut” sounds scary and gross, and it’s not the prettiest thing to picture, but it is very important to understand if you care at all about your health.

In March of 2015 I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. A couple years before that I noticed little changes in my body, bad changes, but I didn’t think much of it. After I got married I noticed huge changes in my body, so I went to several doctors to figure out what was wrong with me. I had stomach pain, weight gain, migraines, neck and back pain, irregular mood swings, joint pain, and many other symptoms, but the doctors didn’t have any “cures” or explanations for what was happening to me. One doctor told me it was a symptom of aging. Another doctor told me I was working out too much and I needed more Gatorade. But I knew it was something different from those two diagnoses. I knew my body, and it wasn’t working like it always had. I took matters into my own hands and began to pinpoint the cause of my pain; I started by keeping a food journal. I jotted down what I ate at each meal, and then if I had any unusual reactions to the food, I wrote those down. I was so confused. I was eating the same “healthy” foods that I had eaten for years, but now everything seemed to bother me. Here is one example of a day’s worth of meals, not including the two whey protein shakes I had daily.

Breakfast: Oatmeal + protein mix + milk.  = I felt tired immediately after my meal, slight bloating.

Lunch: Chicken + rice + veggies + sauce = Stomach bloating, feeling tired, and it seemed like my brain wasn’t working as fast as it normally did.

Dinner: Eggs + sprouted grains tortilla + cheese = Stomach pain.

I did a lot of research, a lot, and I decided to try the Paleo Diet. I didn’t think I would like the Paleo Diet because I am a serious carb person; if I am being honest, I could eat a whole loaf of French bread in one meal – on my cheat day of course. So, I did it. I started the Paleo Diet and I stuck to it for two weeks, but I didn’t see a decrease in any of my symptoms. The next week I was diagnosed with Celiac.

After learning that Celiac is an autoimmune disease, and that once an individual is diagnosed with an autoimmune disease they are 70% more likely to get another autoimmune disease, cancer, and other terrible things. I decided it was time. Time for me to make drastic changes to my diet and lifestyle. In tears, I committed to sticking to an elimination diet for three months- also called an Anti-Inflammatory Diet, Autoimmune Protocol, Autoimmune Paleo, and AIP on various social media sites.

It was hard. I missed my comfort foods. I love nachos, cheese, and milk. It was hard, but I stuck to it, and I began to notice positive changes in my health. These were great, but my two teens and my husband weren’t following the same diet, so meals were challenging and stressful. I was cooking two meals – one for me, one for them, and sometimes I just started crying because my food didn’t look as good as theirs. It was too tempting for me to deviate from my strict diet, so my husband and I decided that it would be best for the family if all of us were on the AIP diet.

Since the day my husband and I decided that our entire family would make the switch to following an autoimmune protocol diet, we agreed that I would need to first explain the importance of this new anti-inflammatory diet to our teenage boys. What I am about to share with you is so easy to understand that even my 6th grader could make sense of it. Of course this situation is much more complex than I am describing it, but when it comes to medical diagnoses and health situations, sometimes I find it easier to understand when they are overly simplified.

Leaky gut

What is Leaky Gut?

In layman’s terms, leaky gut is when your food and other toxins are leaching through your intestinal lining or intestinal wall and going directly into your blood stream. Why is this a problem? Well, in a healthy gut, your food is digested, nutrients are absorbed and all the rest of the toxins are eliminated the way God intended.

When your body is exposed to foods or toxins that are bad for your body, your body’s health defenders, otherwise known as antibodies, go to attack the intruders. Sounds easy enough. But when your body is inundated with intruders and reinforcements don’t come soon enough, the intruders “win” the war in your gut. Bad bacteria increases, good bacteria decreases. When the invaders keep marching forward they start tearing down the wall/lining in your gut. That lining helps keep toxins going through the digestive tract as they are supposed to do. When the lining experiences several attacks by the bad toxins, they start to create holes in your gut lining. These holes create an easy passage for toxins to go directly into your bloodstream. This breach in your gut wall manifests itself throughout your body in various forms; here is a list of my top five symptom categories that may show you have Leaky Gut:

  1. SKIN PROBLEMS: Eczema, rashes, acne, dandruff, herpes outbreaks, etc.
  2. ENERGY LEVELS: Low energy, feeling tired after eating, insomnia, lack of motivation, etc.
  3. PAIN: Neck and back pain, foot pain, knee pain, joint pain, stomach pain, headaches & migraines, etc.
  4. BRAIN & MOOD: “Brain Fog”, difficult to focus or think clearly, increased irritability, anger, anxiety, and depression, etc.
  5. STOMACH & DIGESTIVE ISSUES: Constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, bloating, weight gain, weight loss, nausea, excess weight around your waist, etc.
  6. Allergies: Seasonal allergies, colds, & flu: runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes; food allergies: coughing, throat clearing, itchy throat or ears during or after eating, etc.

Nowadays it seems like everyone has many or all of these symptoms. I remember talking to a few people about my post-meal bloating and everyone said it was normal. It never happened to me before, and now, when I stick to the anti-inflammatory foods that my body likes, I don’t get any bloating. Score!

What are the major “intruders” that cause leaky gut?

Gluten, Dairy, Soy, & Corn

What else impacts leaky gut?

Stress, lack of sleep, bad food, toxins in your water, plastics leaching into your food, chemicals in your cleaning agents, smoking, lack of exercise, eating out, and one that many people don’t know about: Pseudoglutens – sometimes called pseudograins.

Pseudoglutens are foods that do not contain gluten, but your body sees them as gluten. What? Yes. When I first started following the Paleo -or what I thought was the Paleo diet from my initial research on Pinterest (boy was I misled), I didn’t see a change in my health because –unbeknownst to me- my antibodies were still overloaded from all of the inflammatory foods. Even thought I wasn’t eating gluten, my body thought I was eating gluten because, to the antibodies, gluten free grains look a lot like the gluten-filled grains.

I don’t share all of this information to alarm you, worry you, or make you think your body is going downhill, I only share this information to help you recognize warning signs that your body may be giving you. Signs that -if you catch them in time- can help you reverse your symptoms before they lead to an autoimmune disease or something else that is just as serious.

Like me, if your symptoms go untreated and if you continue to eat foods that cause inflammation to your body, you will experience a more severe problem. Many people elect to take blood thinners, pain meds, thyroid pills, ADHD meds to help the symptoms, and they seem to help the symptoms (at least externally). But I am convinced that if you do not get to the root of the problem – the gut health- you will only need to increase your meds and pain pills in the future.

I am currently on a journey to reverse my autoimmune disease – Celiac – through an inflammatory diet, healthy lifestyle, and lots of rest and play, and I would love to hear your success stories along the way.

For a list of my Top 22 EASY Tips for starting your journey on the AIP diet, click here.

For a good read to learn more about Leaky Gut and the Autoimmune Protocol, I highly recommend Dr. Amy Meyer’s book: The Autoimmune Solution.

If you have had success on your autoimmune healing journey, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

**The views and nutritional advice expressed by Lindsey Graves is not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. Purchasing a product, program or wellness coaching does not establish a doctor patient relationship with Lindsey Graves or her staff. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider. We suggest that you continue to work with qualified medical professional as you engage in our material, products and services. No information offered here should be interpreted as a diagnosis of any disease, nor an attempt to treat or prevent or cure any disease or condition. Information and statements regarding products and/or services made available by Lindsey Graves have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Lindsey Graves products and services are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.