What is Leaky Gut and its Role in Digestion


Leaky Gut is a common term to describe the malabsorption of nutrients in the small intestine.

Basically, food allergens, medications, stress, alcohol may compromise the gut lining, creating a perfect environment for, other wise prohibited, larger protein molecules into the body, which put the immune system on high alert and nutrients not being optimally absorbed. And this is what leads to leaky gut in many people.

The digestive system works hard by transforming the foods we eat into nutrients that fuel our bodies that allow us to function every day. Each school health presentation I give, I always talk about  the digestive system first. If foods are not digesting well then how can one function well?

A brief journey through the digestive system

  1. It all begins in the nose with the smell of foods. Delicious scents initiate an alert to the digestive system that food maybe on its way.  Once food enters the mouth, chewing creates saliva – the first step in the breakdown of food – and helps further break down food into smaller softer pieces (bolus) to make for easier swallowing.  Chewing is important!
  2. Saliva and chewing signals the stomach to release hydrochloric acid (HCL) and gastric juices.
  3. Once the bolus arrives in the stomach, the gastric juices and HCL will break down food further. Side note: The HCL will help out the immune system by killing any foreign bugs so they will not enter the body.
  4. Next the bolus journeys into the  small intestine.  Here, with the help of the pancreatic enzymes, the bolus breaks down into nutrients.
  5. The small intestinal walls have tiny holes in them that will allow for the absorption of the nutrients. However, stress, antibiotic use and poor eating habits can lead to these holes becoming larger thus allowing much bigger protein particles to be absorbed into the bloodstream. This is referred to as leaky gut and may create numerous problems in the body.
  6. The leftover bolus or waste that the body does not want will travel to the large intestine where excess water will be reabsorbed into the body, leaving a more solid waste that can be “pooped” out.
  7. If leaky gut is occurring in one’s body, the body’s immune system will begin attacking these larger particles thinking it is harmful. This can be one reason for food allergies.

That’s a very quick tutorial! Human Body Detective’s first case, The Lucky Escape talks all about this!

Some ways to help out your digestive system

  • Drink warm lemon water 15 minutes before each meal
  • Eat a colorful plate
  • Chew your foods thoroughly
  • Enjoy your meal & take your time eating

If you have digestive problems

  • Do the above
  • Commit to 1 week of daily castor oil packs
  • Consider taking probiotics for 1 month
  • Drink herbal teas; peppermint and licorice (licorice will raise your blood pressure so best to consult with your doctor beforehand)

If you still are having problems, consult your doctor. There are many lab tests that can be done – celiac disease to food allergies.


dr. heather

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