In a previous article we discussed the importance of digestion as a foundation for health, specifically our metabolism, immune function, hormones, and brain function.
The reason digestion and gut health are so important is because they not only affect these areas of nutrition and health, but they also play a vital role in immunity and preventing inflammation in our cells, organs, and tissues.
Poor nutrition, inflammatory foods, infections, and physical or emotional stress can damage digestive functionleading to nutrient deficiencies, malabsorption, and an inflammatory condition called “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability.
Intestinal permeability means that the cells of the small intestine have been damaged and have pulled apart from each other creating gaps in the tissue, hence the name “leaky gut."
When functioning normally the intestinal lining absorbs nutrients and protects your bloodstream from undigested food particles and pathogens (like bacteria, viruses, and parasites). When leaky gut occurs, the gaps in the tissue allow food particles and pathogens to enter the bloodstream.
Once in the bloodstream, food particles and pathogens trigger immune cells to launch a defensive attack and eliminate the intruders.
An immune response is normally a good thing. Immune cells eliminate intruders which is a normal process. However, when there is a constant source of food particles and pathogens leaking from the small intestine into the bloodstream, the immune system is constantly triggered to react.
This creates chronic inflammation that travels through the bloodstream and can damage the health of organs and tissues in the body.
Symptoms related to intestinal permeability are:
- Brain Fog
- Skin problems such as acne, rosacea, or eczema.Seasonal allergies, environmental allergies, or asthma.
- Digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Food sensitivities and intolerances.
- Mood and brain health problems such as depression, anxiety, ADD or ADHD.
- Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves’ Disease, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or lupus.
Strategies For Healing Leaky Gut & Optimizing Immune Function
- Use food as medicine.
- Avoid antibacterial or antimicrobial soap and cleansers.
- Avoid antibiotics and NSAIDs whenever possible.
- Go to bed and wake at the same time every day.
- Eat or drink probiotic rich fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchee.
- Walk for 20 minutes every day (can be broken up into 2-4 shorter walks).
- Get your hands dirty! Plant a garden or play in the dirt.
Working With A Naturopathic Physician
Our clinic is focused on wellness care (health creation) and the prevention, treatment, and reversal of chronic health problems. Optimizing nutrition, digestion, and immune function is a foundational part of our program. We help patients create individualized nutrition plans, identify food sensitivities, and use natural medicines to heal the gut and re-establish proper immune function.