Leaky gut syndrome, or increased intestinal permeability, is a condition in which the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract becomes more permeable than normal.
Increased permeability allows larger particles like toxins, undigested food, and bacteria to enter the bloodstream. When large particles enter the bloodstream, they cause widespread inflammation and infection throughout the body. It may even trigger autoimmune disorders and inflammatory bowel diseases.
At Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine in Boulder, Colorado, our holistic treatments address the underlying causes of the leaky gut and promote gut healing and overall health. Keep reading to learn how to heal leaky gut using the functional medicine 5 R Protocol.
Leaky Gut Symptoms
Inflammation is your immune system’s response to harmful pathogens. In most cases, inflammation is a helpful immune response that quickly eradicates viruses, bacteria, and other invaders that might cause your body harm.
But widespread inflammation from leaky gut causes a variety of symptoms. Some are related to the gut and digestion, while others are the result of chronic inflammation.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut include:
How to Heal Leaky Gut Naturally
At Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine in Boulder, Colorado, we start with a stool test using the GI Effects or GI Map and a test for Zonulin to determine if leaky gut is contributing to your overall health issues. If a leaky gut is the cause of your symptoms, we start to implement the five R’s of functional medicine gut healing.
The 5 R Protocol to heal leaky gut naturally not only helps with leaky gut symptoms, it promotes better overall health.
1. Remove: Identifying and Removing Triggers
Bacterial dysbiosis, parasitic infections, and fungal overgrowth trigger the immune system in your gut and can lead to leaky gut. The stool test at Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine will help your provider determine the best herbal and medical protocols to remove the infective agents and get you on the way to better gut health.
Additionally, both true food allergies and food sensitivities can contribute to leaky gut as well by activating the gut’s immune system.
True food allergies are IgE mediated and may result in itchy throat, lip and throat swelling, hives, and anaphylaxis.
On the other hand, food sensitivities are IgG mediated and can result in delayed immune system reactions that happen as much as three days after you eat food.
Because your symptoms can show up hours or even days later, it can make understanding what foods are triggering IgG-mediated reactions harder to identify without testing. At Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine, we use food sensitivity testing or an elimination diet to identify triggering foods.
Once you know your triggers, you remove those foods from your diet for a period of time and allow your gut time to heal. Your provider will also suggest a whole food-based diet to get your gut back on track.
2. Replace: Adding in Missing Digestive Enzymes, HCl and Bile Support
Leaky gut disrupts the digestive system on many different levels.
High levels of inflammation break down the protective mucus lining in your intestines, which leads to irritation in the gut lining. When the digestive system is under stress, your body will struggle to process food and absorb nutrients, which can lead to low energy and other symptoms.
Certain proteins can trigger an immune response in the gut or at the blood level. This leads to inflammation and perpetuates symptoms of leaky gut. Digestive enzymes, stomach acid, and bile are often low in patients with leaky gut syndrome.
Many patients benefit from replacing digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile support. All of which help support healthy digestion while your gut heals.
3. Reinoculate: Reset the Microbiome
Your gut contains over 100 trillion microbial cells, including a combination of good and bad bacteria. Each type of good bacteria influences a different system in the body, some aid in digestion while others support the immune system.
A diverse microbiome is essential to a healthy body and mind. To restore and reset your gut, you need to reset the microbiome by reinoculating the gut with healthy bacteria.
Probiotics for Leaky Gut
High-dose probiotics are helpful in some cases to restore gut health. For patients who need a gentle approach to gut restoration, spore-based probiotics choreograph a healthy gut microbiome without triggering the immune system.
Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine recommends Megaspore Probiotic and saccharomyces boulardii to help reset the gut microbiome while you heal leaky gut.
4. Repair the Lining with Gut-Healing Nutrients and Supplements
In the previous sections, we examine how probiotics support a healthy microbiome and digestive enzymes promote smooth digestion. Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine also recommends prebiotics, collagen, and a few other nutrients and supplements to restore the intestinal lining as you heal from leaky gut.
Curcumin and Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and promote tissue repair. DGL, aloe, marshmallow root, l-glutamine, zinc carnosine, vitamins D and A, and colostrum can help with symptoms and recovery. Humic and fulvic acids may also be used to help restore your gut and improve cell-to-cell communication for a healthy immune system.
Rebalance: Stress Reduction and Lifestyle Changes
Your gut health influences your mental health, and vice versa. Stress, anxiety and depression both have a significant impact on gut health and leaky gut syndrome. They increase gut permeability, disrupt digestion, and increase inflammation.
Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine recommends an approach that emphasizes stress reduction strategies to help your body heal from leaky gut. Mindfulness, meditation, chanting and yoga are known to reduce inflammation and turn on the parasympathetic nervous system. Your parasympathetic nervous system is the “rest and digest” system which promotes healthy digestion and gut healing.
Your lifestyle greatly influences the health of your gut. Regular sleep and exercise are essential to a healthy body and mind. You might also consider how you can reduce environmental toxins and support detoxification.
How Long Does it Take to Heal Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut doesn’t appear overnight. Irritation in your intestines is the result of months or years of inflammation and damage. So, healing from a leaky gut takes some time.
On average, it takes patients between 6 and 12 months to heal a leaky gut, but most experience symptom relief much sooner than that!
Work with Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine
You can heal your gut and reduce inflammation with the 5 R Protocol at Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine. This step-by-step process helps provide relief from leaky gut with a holistic whole-body approach.
Boulder Holistic’s comprehensive approach will also address the underlying causes of leaky gut. A multidisciplinary approach that incorporates conventional and holistic treatments is often necessary to heal from leaky gut. Always work with a healthcare provider to identify and treat the underlying conditions that lead to leaky gut.
Ready to heal your Leaky Gut? Contact Boulder Holistic to schedule your first appointment today!