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4 Habits That Can Cause Leaky Gut

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

Why is a Healthy Gut Lining So Important?

A leaky gut does not happen overnight. As someone who has struggled with gut problems and skin issues, I’m on a mission to shed light on some habits and lifestyles that lead to compromised digestion over time. The health of your intestinal lining is a fundamental aspect of gut health.

Especially because it plays a role in our overall health. I mean a troubled gut can lead to other complications such as my own which was severe acne.

Trillions of tiny organisms, cells, and mucus collectively act as gatekeepers to the rest of your body and carry out tasks to help keep the lining of your intestines in tip-top condition. Increased intestinal permeability, also referred to as a leaky gut syndrome, is an intestinal condition characterized by changes to the intestinal epithelial cells.

Maintaining a healthy gut lining requires a holistic approach and it can start with learning to pinpoint the symptoms of leaky gut, and discovering which dietary and lifestyle factors may be contributing to intestinal permeability.

Your gut lining itself covers a surface area of 4,000 square feet! When it works effectively, it allows vital nutrients and substances to pass through it to reach the parts of your body which require them most. However, when the tight junctions between cells loosen, much larger molecules, such as undigested food particles, toxins, and bacterial fragments pass through these junctions and enter your bloodstream.

Symptoms and conditions you might experience with a damaged intestinal lining

When intestinal permeability increases and there is a less stable barrier between the contents of your intestine and your bloodstream, inflammation occurs and changes in the gut flora trigger some unwelcoming symptoms. These include:

  1. Excessive fatigue

  2. Constipation, bloating or diarrhea

  3. Headaches, brain fog, memory loss

  4. Skin issues like acne, eczema, rosacea or rashes

  5. Joint pain and inflammation, arthritis

  6. Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease or Crohn’s

  7. Depression, anxiety, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

  8. Nutritional deficiencies

  9. Poor immune system

  10. Cravings for sugar or carbs

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Now since the “Leaky Gut” is NOT a root cause it’s important to ask: Why did the Leaky Gut happen?

Lifestyle and Habits that affect your Gut Health

The gut microbes are directly linked to your lifestyle and daily habits. The quality and quantity of sleep, stress levels or alcohol consumption are all associated with changes in the gut microbiome. Here are everyday factors that can affect and compromise your digestive system:

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1. Stress

Dealing with chronic stress without a coping mechanism in place to eliminate stressors, leads to imbalances in the gut. When you are experiencing stress of any kind, physical, emotional, or mental, your adrenal glands respond by creating a flood of stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones immediately put the body in a state of fight or flight meaning all systems will be focusing on short-term survival.

If the stressful situation persists, your gut’s ecology will no longer be in a state of homeostasis (balance) which results in harmless gut microbes becoming pathogenic in response to the constant release of stress hormones, often mutating in the process, contributing to leaky gut and infections.

It is highly recommended to reduce your stress as much as you can and find tools to manage the stress you cannot remove completely. Moderate exercises such as brisk walking, weight lifting, power yoga, or cycling can be an effective stress outlet. It’s also important to pay attention to your food when eating and to chew your food thoroughly to support proper digestive function.

2. Sleep

Lack of sleep hygiene with a consistent sleep-wake schedule or not being able to sleep for 7-9 hours per night increases stress response and affects your gut health. Ensure you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night on a consistent basis.

Fun fact: There’s 400x more melatonin made in the gut than the brain!

3. Approach to Pain and Use of Painkillers

Over-the-counter painkillers are frequently used as a first choice. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen increase intestinal permeability by compromising the lining structurally and widening the tight junctions in your gut cell wall. This band-aid treatment approach only addresses the symptoms, without getting to the root cause of pain and can lead to further health issues in the long run.

4. Alcohol

Consuming too much alcohol leads to intestinal inflammation, including altering intestinal microbiota composition and function, increasing the permeability of the intestinal lining, and affecting intestinal immune homeostasis and nutrient absorption. Keep alcohol consumption to occasions only, no more than 1-2 per week.

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Daily Routines contribute to uncomfortable symptoms

These factors are some of the many important lifestyle contributors to intestinal permeability. Whether you are trying to get to the root cause of your skin issues like rosacea or you know you are deficient in many nutrients despite eating a clean diet and due to malabsorption, make sure you look into your stress management techniques, sleep hygiene, your intake of pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol.

To learn more about Holistic Strategies to Heal the Intestinal Lining, check out this post.

What to do next…

Any questions? Leave me a comment below.

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