Did you ever think that your body’s gut health might be just as important as your brain health or your heart health?
Zonulin is a protein that alters the permeability of tight junctions in the digestive tract between cells. It serves as the “gatekeepers” of the gut lining–which determine what particles can pass into your bloodstream, and should only allow fully digested nutrients in. During normal digestion, these tight junctions in the lining stay closed, to ensure that molecules are only absorbed when appropriate for nutrient absorption. So, what happens when the integrity of the lining is compromised due to inflammation that can stem from stress, diet, antibiotics, strenuous exercise and bacterial/viral infections?
The lining becomes more permeable beyond what it should be, the tight junctions open–allowing toxins, bacteria, incompletely digested proteins, and waste into the bloodstream, and you now have a leaky gut. Once within the bloodstream, the toxins let in by a leaky gut flow through the body, and trigger an autoimmune reaction as the body overreacts to the invaders. Each time the body is exposed to an external invader, the immune system memorizes its structure, so that it can create a future defense to that specific pathogen. However, the immune system’s recognition system is not always accurate, and can often be fooled into attacking similar looking molecules that are actually the body’s own tissue, causing autoimmune disease. For example, the immune system can begin to attack the body’s thyroid tissue, which over time can lead to hashimoto’s disease.
Although a common problem, leaky gut is serious as it can trigger, contribute to, and worsen chronic diseases including autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, brain fog, depression, thyroid problems, hormonal problems, skin problems, and even asthma. After learning that approximately 70% of the immune system is located in the gut, the illnesses listed above caused by a leaky gut were no longer a surprise to me. In fact, leaky gut is now being recognized as the missing piece in many autoimmune diseases.
So, what can you do if you think you have leaky gut? Each person is different, but the few major changes I’ve incorporated into my lifestyle include eliminating gluten and dairy from my diet, introducing several gut-healing supplements, and consuming bone broth, apple cider vinegar and fermented foods when I can.
Some of the top supplements I recommend in healing a leaky gut include a high quality probiotic, L-glutamine, DGL (licorice root), slippery elm, collagen powder, and magnesium. I have also started drinking bone broth, as it has been shown to reduce inflammation and contains collagen, which helps to nourish the intestinal lining. Last but not least, I stopped consuming anything with gluten after learning of my body’s gluten sensitivity (which means that every time I consume gluten, my body produces more zonulin which then creates permeability) and chose to eliminate dairy because it contains a pro-inflammatory fatty acid, which can aggravate the GI tract.
I encourage you to learn more about your microbiome health, as it is oftentimes is the hidden source of chronic illness. Perhaps this is the missing piece that will enable you to take control of your health. Don’t just suppress your symptoms, find the root cause and cure it. Learn about how the gut connects to the brain here.