Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more clients with suspected gut hyperpermeability (aka “leaky gut”).
“Leaky gut” is a pretty trendy topic these days.
A quick google search brings up over 4 million hits on the topic!
Some people like to discount any trendy nutrition topic as a “fad”, much like they did for gluten sensitivity a few years ago. But I believe that where there’s smoke there’s fire, and searching for leaky gut IS so popular because it actually IS affecting a lot of people!
Let’s face it, our guts are a mess these days.
With the onslaught of antibiotics, low-fiber refined foods, preservatives & food additives, medications, stress, and low self-care lifestyles, we’ve got a recipe for disaster.
As we learn more and more about our microbiome (the bacteria that live in our gut), we’ve come to understand how our diet, medications, and lifestyle can affect the number and proportions of the bacteria in our gut. For a full recap of what factors affect your microbiome, and how to keep yours healthy, check out this article.
I’m not going into a full-fledged discussion of leaky gut in this article, but I’ll give you a short recap:
- Basically, in a healthy digestive system, you chew your food & swallow it, and it enters the stomach where it is mashed into liquidy paste by your stomach muscles and hydrochloric acid.
- Then, your stomach slowly releases small boluses of liquid food (known as chyme), into your small intestine. The small intestine is where your food is further broken down into its smallest components and then absorbed across the cells of the small intestine and into the bloodstream.
- In a healthy small intestine, the cells that make up the lining of the intestine (called enterocytes), are tightly packed next to each other. There isn’t any room for anything to squeeze through the cracks. In order for food to be absorbed, it has to go through the enterocytes first. This allows the small intestine to control what gets absorbed, and make sure it’s mostly absorbing completely digested food particles.
- In contrast, in a person with leaky gut, the enterocytes are NOT squeezed tightly together. Instead, they have gaps in-between them, and undigested food particles can “leak” through these cracks directly into your bloodstream.
- When this happens, your immune system freaks out and detects the food particles as invaders. It launches a full blown attack on these “unfriendly” food particles, causing inflammatory symptoms in the body (ouch!).
Leaky gut can be caused by many things, but it’s especially common when people have SIBO- small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. In SIBO, healthy gut bacteria that are normally supposed to be in your colon, have made their way backward up the digestive tract and colonized the small intestine. That’s bad news bears!
SIBO kicks off a whole host of digestive issues, especially extreme bloating after meals, and begins a cascade of inflammation that can lead to leaky gut.
Once leaky gut is in play, people feel even WORSE because their immune system then starts reacting to almost everything they eat!
For many people, eradicating the SIBO with antibiotics & then reinoculating with probiotics is the best way to “reset” the gut & start w. a clean slate. Then, once the trigger causing the leaky gut is removed, you can start healing the gut tissue.
There are lots of things you can do to “heal your gut”, including taking supplements like l-glutamine, zinc carnosine, phosphatidylcholine, and butyrate, and eating foods rich in collagen, like bone broth.
Bone broth is basically just regular broth that is simmered for an extra long time.
Like, at least 8 hours, and ideally a full 24. The easiest way to do this, by far, is with the crockpot. Just throw everything in there, set it, and forget it. No need to worry about keeping a burner on overnight, just leave the thing plugged in and enjoy how awesome your house smells.
There are a few tricks to delicious tasting bone broth:
- Roast those bones!! Skipping this step is a recipe for mild, “off” tasting broth. Roasting the bones brings out a delicious depth of flavor you can’t get any other way. The easiest way to do this is to just use a roasted chicken carcass. Enjoy all the meat and skin for dinner, then put the remaining skeleton into the crockpot & simmer overnight. You’ll wake up the next day with some delicious nourishing broth to sip on.
- Add a splash of vinegar. Upping the acidity levels in the broth can help leach more of the minerals out of the bones and into the broth for your enjoyment.
- Use aromatics. You can totally make a plain bone broth without any vegetables or herbs, but the results are a little one-note. Of course, if you are currently suffering from food sensitivities, plain might be the best way to go, but if you’re just making broth to enjoy as a warming and nutritious beverage, by all means, flavor it up! I usually use the traditional broth seasonings: onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, salt, and pepper, but you can totally get creative here.
- Go low and slow. Simmering your broth on too high of heat can denature some of the collagen proteins and make it less likely to gel when cooled. The better philosophy is to cook it low and slow for a long time to get the highest quality broth.
The end product is a savory warming beverage you can enjoy as a coffee or tea substitute.
It’s like drinking a mug of warm chicken soup without any of the chunky pieces!
By simmering the broth for hours and hours, you basically break down the bone and cartilage so that the minerals and proteins are now in the broth. No joke, the bones should be soft enough to crumble between your fingers by the end of the cooking time.
Bone broth gives you a nice serving of all the bone minerals, like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, fluoride, sodium, and potassium, and some unique proteins from the cartilage, like chondroitin, keratin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid. While there haven’t been any actual research studies on the health benefits of bone broth, it’s such a traditionally nourishing food (we’ve been making broth/soup for thousands of years), that I don’t see anything wrong with trying it out and seeing how you feel! I personally believe it’s a delicious and nutritious beverage option that can be a great addition to your diet.
- 1 leftover roasted chicken carcass
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 organic yellow onion, halved, peels left on
- 2 carrots, cut into thirds
- 2 stalks celery, cut into thirds
- 2 dried bay leaves
- Generous sprinkle of black peppercorns
- Generous sprinkle of rock salt
- Water to cover
Place the roasted chicken carcass in the body of a large electric slow cooker. Add the apple cider vinegar, onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. Pour water over the top to cover the chicken.
Cover with the lid and cook on low for 24 hours, or until the bones of the chicken crumble when pressed between your fingers. When it’s done cooking, ladle the broth through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer to remove the solids. Let cool slightly, then store in lidded mason jars in the fridge for up to 3 days. Enjoy as a warming beverage in the morning instead of coffee, or as an afternoon pick me up.