Each week, I will share three things on how to heal holistically. Drawing from my 28 years of experience as a practicing Naturopath, as well as what I am currently working on, exploring, and curious about. Make a pot of tea and give yourself the time and care you deserve.
HEALING: Considerations for when you are experiencing XYZ.
REVERENCE: A deep respect & attention to the things that truly impact healing.
EXPLORING: A journey into the deeper work, meeting the parts, wounds, and survival strategies that keep us small, stuck, and suffering with persistent symptoms & feelings.
1. HEALING: Leaky Gut
Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, is a condition where the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged, allowing undigested food particles, toxins, and bacteria to leak into the bloodstream. The cells lining the intestinal wall normally act as a barrier, regulating the passage of nutrients and preventing the entry of harmful substances. When this barrier becomes compromised, it can lead to a range of health problems.
The gut acts as a gateway between the outside world and the inside of our bodies, controlling what enters and what is kept out. When the gut lining becomes compromised, such as in the case of leaky gut, it can lead to systemic issues throughout the body. Here is how:
Increased permeability: In leaky gut syndrome, the tight junctions between the cells lining the intestinal wall become loose, allowing larger particles to pass through the gut lining into the bloodstream. These particles can include undigested food, toxins, and bacteria.
Immune system activation: When these foreign particles enter the bloodstream, the immune system can mount an immune response to fight them off. This leads to inflammation and can result in food sensitivities, autoimmune diseases, and allergies.
Nutrient deficiencies: With a compromised gut lining, the body may not be able to absorb nutrients as effectively (absorbing both undigested and digested food), leading to nutrient deficiencies and associated health problems.
Toxins in the bloodstream: With increased permeability, toxins and harmful bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause damage to organs and tissues throughout the body, leading to a variety of health issues.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut:
- Digestive issues, such as bloating, gas, and diarrhoea
- Fatigue and low energy
- Skin problems, such as acne or eczema
- Joint pain and muscle aches
- Autoimmune conditions
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- Poor immune system function
- Mood swings or depression
Causes of Leaky Gut:
- Intestinal inflammation caused by food sensitivities or allergies to gluten
- Chronic stress
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Use of antibiotics
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Excessive consumption of sugar or refined carbohydrates
- Imbalance of gut microbiota
- Environmental toxins such as glyphosate (weed killer)
- Genetic factors
Addressing the underlying causes and contributing factors with your holistic health practitioner is key. Testing for leaky gut is possible via a Comprehensive Stool Analysis Test. Contact us for an appointment.
2. REVERENCE: Absorption
Absorption of nutrients occurs mainly in the small intestine, which is the longest part of the digestive tract. The small intestine is connected to the stomach at the upper end and to the large intestine at the lower end. The upper part of the small intestine, the duodenum, connects to the stomach through the pyloric sphincter, which controls the flow of partially digested food from the stomach into the small intestine. The lower part of the small intestine, the ileum, connects to the large intestine at the ileocecal valve, which controls the flow of material from the small intestine into the large intestine.
The small intestine is divided into three parts: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum.
The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine and is responsible for receiving partially digested food from the stomach. It is also where bile from the gall bladder and enzymes from the pancreas are released to further break down food. Nutrient absorption begins in the duodenum, where the majority of iron, calcium, and magnesium are absorbed.
The jejunum is the second part of the small intestine and is where most of the nutrient absorption occurs. It has a large surface area due to the presence of villi and microvilli, which increase the absorptive capacity of the intestinal lining. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are broken down and absorbed in the jejunum, along with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, folic acid, and zinc.
The ileum is the last part of the small intestine and is responsible for absorbing bile acids and vitamin B12. It also absorbs any remaining nutrients that were not absorbed in the duodenum and jejunum.
Absorption of nutrients in the small intestine is a complex process that relies on the proper functioning of the upper digestive system, including the stomach, pancreas, and liver.
In the stomach, food is mechanically broken down into smaller pieces and mixed with gastric juices, which contain hydrochloric acid and enzymes that begin the process of protein digestion. The acidic environment of the stomach also helps to kill bacteria and other harmful microorganisms that may be present in the food.
The pancreas produces digestive enzymes, including proteases, lipases, and amylases, which are released into the duodenum of the small intestine. These enzymes help to break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into smaller molecules that can be absorbed by the intestinal lining.
The liver produces bile, which is stored in the gallbladder and released into the small intestine to help emulsify fats and facilitate their absorption. Bile also helps to eliminate waste products from the body, such as excess cholesterol and bilirubin.
If any of these organs or processes are not functioning properly, it can affect the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine.
3. EXPLORING: Toxic Brain
The gut and the brain are connected through a two-way communication system known as the gut-brain axis. As mentioned above, the gut lining is a selective barrier that controls the absorption of nutrients, while also blocking the entry of harmful substances such as toxins, undigested food particles, and bacteria. Increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut can allow toxins and other harmful substances to enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, including the brain.
One proposed mechanism is that the entry of harmful substances into the brain can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other. This disruption can lead to changes in behaviour, mood, and cognitive function.
There is some research to suggest that increased intestinal permeability may contribute to the accumulation of toxic substances in the brain, although more studies are needed to fully understand the mechanisms involved. Here are a few studies that have looked at this topic:
In a study published in the journal Neuroinflammation in 2018, researchers found that a high-fat diet can increase intestinal permeability and lead to the accumulation of LPS in the brain, which can cause cognitive impairment and neuroinflammation in mice. The researchers suggest that the gut-brain axis may play a role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
A study published in the journal Molecular Neurobiology in 2020 looked at the potential link between gut dysbiosis (an imbalance in the gut microbiome) and Alzheimer's disease. The researchers suggest that increased intestinal permeability and the resulting entry of toxins and other harmful substances into the bloodstream may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease.
Another study published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology in 2017 found that gut dysbiosis and increased intestinal permeability can lead to the entry of inflammatory cytokines into the brain, which can contribute to the development of depression.