Much has been said online lately concerning “leaky gut,” a condition scientists refer to as increased intestinal permeability. The walls of our intestines are supposed to be somewhat permeable by design. In a healthy system, the two layers that line our intestines (a mucus layer and a cell barrier) work together to absorb the nutrients from the food we eat, and send the non-nutrient content on its way.
It is suggested that for those with increased intestinal permeability, some of the non-nutrient content is able to slip through the cracks, so to speak, allowing irritants like bacteria and fungus to seep into the bloodstream and wreak havoc on our health. Some researchers even suspect this may play a role in several auto-immune disorders such as diabetes, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.
But how does can we prevent “leaky gut” from occurring in the first place? That is the million dollar question! Doctors and scientists are just beginning to study this phenomenon, but common sense suggests that being nice to our digestive systems is probably a pretty good place to start. :-)
Here are a few simple ways to promote a healthy digestive system.
Eat Whole Foods
Increase your consumption of whole foods that won’t further aggravate an inflamed digestive tract. These foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, and healthy fats. And of course, make sure to stay properly hydrated by drinking 2 liters of water every day.
Stop Eating The Bad Stuff
Eliminate foods from your diet which are known to contribute to the irritation and inflammation of the gut, including alcohol, foods with added sugar, highly spicy foods, and acidic drinks like soda and coffee.
Eliminate Potential Allergens & Irritants on a Trial Basis
Once you’ve cut the bad stuff out of your diet and introduced the good stuff, you can do a few “trial eliminations” of different kinds of foods to determine if you may be sensitive or allergic to common food allergens, like dairy, gluten, and soy.
Pick one potential allergen to eliminate, and abstain from eating that food for a period of at least 2 weeks. After the 2 weeks are up, introduce that food back into your diet, and pay close attention to how your body feels in the following days or weeks. If digestive distress returns, you may want to lay off that food for a couple of months while your gut heals. You may even want to consider eliminating that particular food from your diet for good. Just pay attention to what your body is telling you!
Get Up And Move
Studies have shown that individuals who are physically fit and exercise regularly have a much more diverse array of bacteria in their guts. This bacterial diversity contributes to lower levels of inflammation, the regulation of hormone production, and improved stress responses. In short, getting regular exercise is an easy way to boost gut health.
As with most health issues, stress can exacerbate symptoms of leaky gut and make things worse. It’s easier said than done, but eliminating sources of stress in your life can go a long way towards improving your overall physical health. Make sure you’re getting an adequate amount of sleep each night, and get help with your workload at home or work if you’re in over your head. Meditation can also be an incredibly effective way to manage stress.
Go Colonial With “Switchel”
A drink called switchel became commonplace during the American colonial period. Farm hands would drink switchel to stay healthy and hydrated during the long, hot days spent in the field harvesting crops.
There are several variations of the recipe, but the drink is based on 3 main ingredients: fresh ginger, apple cider vinegar, and a natural sweetener like maple syrup or molasses.
Far from being considered an irrelevant trend of the past, switchel is currently experiencing a revival. Many producers and consumers of the drink today tout its digestive benefits. And it makes sense, because ginger has been used for centuries to treat digestive distress. Additionally, apple cider vinegar contains probiotics that can help promote a healthy gut.
Read More: Everything You Need To Know About Probiotics
Aside from its possible health benefits, many people drink switchel just because they find it tasty and refreshing! Give it a try by making your own switchel at home.
- 4 tsp raw, organic apple cider vinegar
- 4 Tbsp pure maple syrup
- 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 4 cups water OR seltzer water
Combine the vinegar, maple syrup, grated ginger, and water in a large jar and stir to combine. Refrigerate the mixture for 12-24 hours before consuming. Drink a cup each day as a health tonic, or consume after workouts to help rehydrate.