How to Heal a Leaky Gut
If you experience chronic and unexplained digestive issues like gas, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea, it doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Intestinal hyper-permeability, also called leaky gut, is becoming more common due to the combination of chronic stress, poor eating habits and lifestyle, and common associated conditions. If you haven’t heard the term, “leaky gut syndrome,” let’s review what it is, how to find out if you have it, and most importantly, what you can do about it.
What is leaky gut?
There is a single layer of cells along your intestinal lining that are connected by what we call tight junctions. There are small gaps in the tight junctions that allow water and nutrients to pass through into the bloodstream. Poor diet, toxins, chronic stress, and infections for example, can cause damage to the tight junctions, making the gaps larger and allowing the intestinal wall to become more permeable, creating a “leaky gut.” If that happens, then larger particles- toxins, microbes, or undigested food proteins- can get through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream more easily. Your immune system views these larger particles as foreign materials and goes on the attack, creating a cascade of inflammatory or immune reactions and can cause symptoms ranging from digestive issues (bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation) to headaches, joint pain, nutrient deficiencies, brain fog, fatigue, and rashes.
How do you know if you have leaky gut?
Certain medical conditions are associated with increased intestinal hyperpermeability, including PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), type 1 and 2 diabetes, celiac disease, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), and auto-immune diseases. There are also several diet, lifestyle, and digestive imbalances that can increase the likelihood of leaky gut, including;
- Excessive use of NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Poor diet- high intake of added sugars and processed foods
- Excess alcohol intake
- Chronic stress
- Food sensitivities
- SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
- Gastrointestinal infections (bacteria, yeast, or parasites)
The approach I take to assessing if you have leaky gut includes understanding your health history, symptoms, and current diet and lifestyle. I may recommend testing that can help identify both the likelihood and underlying causes of leaky gut including; food sensitivity test, zonulin and comprehensive stool testing, or SIBO testing. Leaky gut is a sign that there is an underlying imbalance that needs to be addressed in order to heal your gut.
What do you do if you have leaky gut?
The cornerstone of addressing leaky gut is to identify and treat the underlying causes as well as any contributing diet and lifestyle factors. In addition, I can help guide you using the 4R approach to heal your gut!
Remove any foods that may be causing damage to the digestive tract. This will be different for each person, but in general, recommendations may include removing processed foods or individual food sensitivities, or even following a specific therapeutic diet.
Replace any nutrients that can help support healthy digestion. Herbs that are digestive bitters or tonics can help stimulate the production of stomach acid, digestive enzymes, or the release of bile in the digestive tract. Herbs like dandelion, goldenseal, burdock, artichoke, and gentian are great for digestion and can be taken before meals to support digestion. In some cases, taking broad spectrum pancreatic enzymes, betaine hydrochloric acid, or bile acids may be the best way to support digestion in the stomach and small intestines while healing your gut.
Repair the damage. Removing food triggers and supporting proper digestion is part of the process. But, specific nutrients like L-glutamine and herbs like slippery elm, marshmallow root, aloe vera, or (deglycyrrhizinated) licorice root can help to heal the lining of your digestive tract.
Restore your microbiome. Your microbiome is the collection of healthy bacteria that live in your digestive track and influence your digestion, absorption, immune system, mood, and hormones. Eating high quality fermented foods or taking a probiotic supplement can help replenish your gut microbes on a regular basis. Supporting your microbiome is an essential way to improve and prevent leaky gut.
If you’ve been struggling with chronic digestive issues, fatigue, brain fog or any other unexplained symptoms, then I am the doctor for you! When it comes to gut issues, the sooner you get them addressed the better and the healthier your will be. Schedule a video appointment with me and I’ll take the time to uncover the root causes of your symptoms and help you heal using individualized natural solutions!
At WellnessScript, we solve health problems others can’t. Our Video appointments are great for everyone as they fit into our crazy and hectic schedules and ensure that you have the time you need to feel heard and get all of your questions answered.
Dr. Julie Briley, Functional & Naturopathic Medicine
About Dr. Julie Briley
As a naturopathic doctor, I am dedicated to helping you reach your health and wellness goals by identifying the underlying causes of your symptoms or conditions. We will work together to find the best approach to support your body’s natural healing process. As an expert in holistic health care, I blend the best of modern science with traditional natural medicine to help you optimize your diet, lifestyle, energy, sleep, mood, digestion, and hormones, so you feel great every day.
Following the naturopathic principle of “doctor as teacher”, I strongly believe that one of the most effective tools I provide is education. Understanding your body’s physiology and natural response when things are out of balance is empowering, and an essential part of reaching optimal health.
My longstanding interest in natural medicine and health education was first sparked when I served as an Environmental Education Specialist for the Peace Corps in Paraguay. That interest deepened when I returned to the U.S. to have my first child and struggled to find a medical provider that could provide compassionate, holistic health care for my family. I believe that everyone should have access to the health care approach they desire, and thus, becoming a naturopathic doctor not only combined my interests and experiences, but has allowed me to help fill a gap in the health care field.
I earned my undergraduate degree in Biology and Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM). In addition to my clinical practice, focused on addressing hormonal imbalances and digestive disorders, I co-founded the Food as Medicine Institute at NUNM, which provides community-based nutrition and cooking education for underserved populations. I also co-authored the book, Food As Medicine Everyday: Reclaim Your Health With Whole Foods, which is a practical nutrition guide to help shift your diet from processed foods to whole foods.
I look forward to hearing your story and getting started on your wellness journey, together.
Functional & Naturopathic Medicine
$200 Initial Consult – 1 hour
Dr. Julie Briley
Follow-up Appointment: $100 for 30 min/$200 for 60 min
Expertise: Food sensitivities, gut health, detoxification, nutrition.
Clinical Experience: 10 years practicing naturopathic and functional medicine, including advanced training in digestive disorders and food as medicine.
Happy & Healthy Patients
I don’t think I’ve ever had better medical care in my life. I have been working with Dr. Julie Briley for about 6 months and she is so patient, thorough, and a critical thinker. To her, I am not just a thyroid issue, but a whole body! Not once did I ever feel like I was being rushed. Dr. Briley took as much time as I needed to answer all of my questions. She is super great at explaining how things work and why she thinks we should do certain treatments.
I have had the privilege of meeting Dr. Julie Briley and now my husband, family and a few friends are seeing her now too. I am finally feeling better and I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was dealing with menopause symptoms and only feeling worse as time went by, but getting no relief from my usual doctor. I brought my recent tests results to Dr. Julie. She looked them over and immediately realized some of the issues I was having and why. She did a full hormone test, full lipid panel, food sensitivity and a test of my neurotransmitters. I feel that she finally has me on the right track. She is personally interested in my well-being and getting me to a happier, healthier place. I’m grateful I found her. As good as mainstream doctors can be, sometimes we must dig deeper to solve health issues. I prefer to do it the healthiest way I can. I don’t believe in taking drugs that cause more harm than good. Taking a holistic approach will yield excellent results.