When you hear the term “leaky gut,” some pretty awful pictures may spring to mind.
But it’s important to understand what leaky gut really is, and how you can keep it from making you sick.
Most doctors are less than well-informed about this syndrome that affects as many as one-third of all adults in the U.S. Most will tell you that it’s just a digestive issue associated with mild pain.
But the truth is that a leaky gut is like an “open door” through which harmful microbes and toxins enter your bloodstream, causing all sorts of diseases, including celiac disease, allergies, asthma, multiple sclerosis and a host of autoimmune diseases.
Research published in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology in June of 2021, suggests that leaky gut can even exacerbate the severity of a COVID-19 infection by enabling the virus easy access to internal organs through a weakened digestive tract.
The “open door” that provides easy entry is the result of intestinal permeability — loose junctures or gaps in the lining of the intestines. Experts aren’t sure why it develops, but it may have something to do with aging epithelial cells (cells that line the intestine) that aren’t able to repair themselves so well.
But other causes associated with leaky gut include food allergies and intolerances and unhealthy diets–all of which could damage the intestinal lining.
Regardless of the reason, it’s important to plug those leaks — and a new study has shed light on how to do just that…
Polyphenols alter metabolism, protect the gut
A polyphenol-rich diet improves intestinal permeability in older people, according to a European study published in September in the journal Clinical Nutrition.
Spanish and Italian researchers, all of whom specialize in nutritional science, carried out a study where people aged 60 and older ate a polyphenol-rich diet for eight weeks.
Polyphenols are natural antioxidants. They are found in a variety of foods and work in our gut to increase helpful bacteria, reduce harmful bacteria, and prevent the inflammation that’s behind heart disease and other chronic conditions.
The results of the study showed that including up to three daily portions of apple, cocoa, dark chocolate, green tea, cranberries, oranges or pomegranate juice, improved intestinal permeability by making specific changes in the intestinal microbiota.
When fecal and plasma samples were analyzed, there was a correlation between the foods eaten and an increase in the products of cell metabolism that improved the health of the gut, and a decrease in those that caused intestinal permeability.
“For instance, theobromine and methylxanthine — derived from cocoa and green tea — are positively correlated with butyrate-producing bacteria (a fatty acid in the intestinal flora), and inversely with zonulin, a protein related to the intestinal permeability,” note the authors.
Healthier food for a healthier gut
This study proves that changes in diet can be a solid strategy for preventing leaky gut, and therefore can help prevent many of the chronic diseases associated with aging.
“A higher intake of fruits, vegetables and foods such as those described in this paper provide fiber and polyphenols that could help counterbalance the damaging of permeability due to aging,” notes Cristina Andrés-Lacueva, lead author of the study.
But be picky about the fruits and vegetables you choose, because trading one disease for another just doesn’t make sense.
For example, artificial estrogens (xenoestrogen) caused by many toxins, including pesticides, have an impact on your body’s hormones (remember, insulin is a hormone), and causes a range of troublesome and potentially life-altering symptoms in both men and women.
That’s why, if at all possible, it’s best to purchase organic fruits and vegetables, which are grown without the pesticides that cause everything from fertility issues to obesity to cancer.
Finally, buying fruits and vegetables in season makes it more likely you’re getting fresh produce that hasn’t been stored for months. Check with your local farmer’s market or agricultural organization to find out what’s in season in your part of the country.
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