Leaky Gut And The Immune System
The term “leaky gut” and its impact on our immunity has gained a lot of attention in recent years. Also known as “high intestinal permeability,” a leaky gut occurs when the intestinal lining allows larger substances such as partially digested food, proteins, and toxins to pass into the bloodstream. Healthy intestines are naturally permeable and allow water and fully digested micro-nutrients from food to be absorbed into the bloodstream through small gaps. Certain conditions cause these otherwise tight junctions to loosen.
So what exactly are the conditions that cause the intestinal lining to become too permeable? An abundance of inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, sugar, and alcohol, certain medications, chronic stress, and the make-up of our micro-biome may all have an impact on the state of our intestines.
The immune system is triggered when these large particles make their way through the gut lining and into the bloodstream because our body sees them as foreign invaders. The immune system gets to work attacking the invaders and creating antibodies to recognize them should they invade again. This can lead to both local and systemic inflammation, which can show itself in a variety of symptoms such as food sensitivities, allergies, and even auto-immune disease when the body attacks its own healthy tissues.
There are a few steps to take to support healthy gut permeability:
First, remove trigger foods from your diet.
Common allergen foods such as cow's milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fish, soy and wheat can be eliminated and eventually reintroduced to see if they are triggering leaky gut symptoms. Unlike food intolerance's, food allergies are caused by the immune system reacting to proteins in food and seeing them as harmful. By removing these foods, this can reduce inflammation in the intestinal lining and provide your body time to regenerate the intestinal lining so that food particles are unable to pass through.
Add digestive enzymes to ensure optimal digestion of foods.
Partially digested food particles may escape the gut lining, so supporting healthy digestion can be a good preventative measure. Digestive enzymes are supportive supplements, they are substances that break down bigger molecules into smaller molecules through chemical reactions. By breaking down particles this allows them to be properly digested. When food particles are too large they are difficult to digest and can pass through the gut lining, where the immune system reacts to it as a foreign invader.
Consume fermented foods and/or probiotic supplements.
A healthy micro-biome is the best way to protect the lining of the intestine, as beneficial bacteria enhance the production of tight junction proteins. Fermented foods like sauerkrat, kimchi, kefir and yogurt are created through the fermentation process. This process utilizes beneficial bacteria that then creates probiotic colonies in the food. These beneficial bacteria can support a healthy microbiome and further contribute to enhancing the immune system.
Add nutrients that help build the gut lining such as collagen, L-glutamine, or a plant-based protein powder.
Ensuring your body has the building blocks it needs for a healthy intestinal tract is always wise. L-glutamine is an amino acid that plays an important role in gut health. It has the ability to maintain integrity of the intestines and encourage regeneration of the digestive tract.