Leaky gut syndrome is a condition involving damage to the delicate intestinal lining, also known as the mucosa. In a healthy, non-inflamed state, the intestinal mucosa performs two primary functions. First, it facilitates the absorption of nutrients from the intestines into the bloodstream. Second, it acts as a barrier to stop the potentially harmful microbes and compounds from entering your gody.
If your gut mucosa becomes damaged, however, both the absorption and barrier function become compromised, potentially leading to a number of health concerns. These can range from everyday discomfort including bloating, constipation and diarrhea, to more serious immune-mediated diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.
One of the biggest possible sources of damage to your delicate gut lining is your diet. Makes sense, right? Your diet is sending food, beverages and all the molecules and chemicals they contain, right into contact with your intestinal wall!
Here are the 5 most gut-damaging foods to ditch from your diet if you want cure, or prevent, a leaky gut!
Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links. Click here for details.
Leaky Gut Foods to Avoid: What Not to Eat When You Have Leaky Gut
Foods are generally processed with the intention of either extending their shelf-life or altering their taste, texture or appearance. Processing typically involves the use of chemical additives such as preservatives, colorings, artificial sweeteners and bulking agents. While many of these compounds are harmless, there’s research suggesting that some may wreak havoc on the intestinal mucosa and microbiota.
Chemicals added to keep fats from clumping together, known as emulsifiers, have been shown to disrupt the healthy mucus secretions found in our intestines that lubricate and protect the gut. As a result, the intestinal lining may become inflamed, increasing permeability (i.e. leakiness).
Thermal processing of foods, like when meat is cooked and browned, creates advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that can negatively affect the inflammatory response in tissues.
While some countries have banned them, fried foods in America are sometimes fried in oils containing a gut-damaging type of fat called trans fats. Trans fats have been observed to incite an inflammatory response in the intestinal mucosa, which can increase intestinal permeability. Interestingly, saturated fats like trans fats not only affect intestinal tissue, but can also have major impacts on our gut microbiota, also affecting the inflammatory response.
Scientists have observed that mice fed diets high in saturated fats experience a complete shift in the type of bacteria present in their intestines. In a study investigating the microbiome of mice fed a diet high in lard, researchers found that the numbers of proinflammatory sulfidogenic bacteria were significantly higher than in mice fed a low-fat diet. These bacteria are thoughts to increase intestinal inflammation and permeability, but directly altering components of the intestinal barrier. Researchers believe that these results are likely applicable to humans, as well.
Steer clear of dietary trans fats by checking food labels for the terms “partially hydrogenated oils.” When eating out, try opting for grilled or broiled foods, rather than deep-fried foods, in order to reduce your risk of developing leaky gut syndrome.
Read Next: How To Heal Your Leaky Gut Syndrome
The overconsumption of alcohol is unhealthy. We know this. Surprisingly though, alcohol is one of the main culprits when it comes to intestinal inflammation and leaky gut syndrome. The reason for this is two-fold: alcohol consumption alters and disrupts the intestinal microbiota and increases gut permeability. In general, it appears that alcohol consumption encourages the growth of Gram negative bacteria. This type of bacteria plays a role in increasing the levels of two compounds (endotoxin and acetaldehyde). These chemicals cause direct harm to the intestinal mucosa.
Cutting back on beer, wine and spirits could have major benefits for your intestinal health. This may be especially true if you have food sensitivities like the ones we explore below.
Lactose and casein — a carbohydrate and a protein found in cow’s milk — are generally at the root of dairy intolerances. In dairy-intolerant individuals, the consumption of cow’s milk leads to gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, flatulence and diarrhea. Mucosal irritation and inflammation result, posing a risk for the development of leaky gut syndrome. If dairy products like milk, cheese or yogurt don’t sit well with you, give them a miss. Try replacing them with dairy alternatives to lower your risk of developing leaky gut syndrome.
Only a small percentage of the world’s population (about 1%) suffers from celiac disease (CD). Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that leaves the intestinal lining easily damaged by the wheat protein, gluten. However, there is growing evidence to suggest that many more people worldwide suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). This is a milder disorder involving poor gluten digestion.
In gluten-intolerant individuals suffering from either CD or NCGS, as well as people with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, eating gluten-containing foods can cause serious pain and discomfort. Partially digested gluten can harm the intestinal barrier as well as the gut microbiota, resulting in severe mucosal inflammation and leaky gut syndrome. As a result, avoiding wheat products such as bread and pasta may alleviate symptoms associated with leaky gut syndrome in some individuals.
Get this book by Giulia Enders to learn more about the secrets of your gut.
Take Away Message
You can heal an inflamed, leaky gut by making simple changes to your diet. By avoiding gut-damaging foods, you can let your intestinal mucosa heal. The most gut-damaging foods are: processed foods, fried foods, alcohol, milk products and gluten-containing foods.
It’s important to note that reducing intestinal inflammation also has benefits that reach far beyond the digestive system. Making small, manageable changes to your diet and improving gut health can have a lasting impact on your immune system, your heart health and even your emotional well-being.