09 Apr How to prevent Leaky Gut Syndrome
by Ashleigh Feltham, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist
Your intestinal barrier is complex, comprising biological, physical and chemical components. These components play important roles, such as ensuring any potential pathogens remain outside the gut wall while at the same time allowing through essential particles, like nutrients. Your intestinal barrier also helps to remove waste products and keep the necessary fluids and electrolytes within your gut cell wall.
The term ‘leaky gut syndrome’ may lead you to think that all movement in and out of the gut cell wall is unhealthy. But the term ‘leaky gut’ refers to the imbalance of the gut cell wall’s normal function. A leaky gut allows pathogens in, reduces nutrient absorption, promotes electrolyte and fluid imbalance, and reduces the ability to remove waste products.
Chronic inflammation and disease as well as an imbalanced diet can cause leaky gut syndrome, which is considered a symptom rather than a condition. For example, it is commonly seen in people who have IBS, irritable bowel disease, celiac disease, type two diabetes, autism, Parkinson’s disease and chronic inflammatory diseases.
Diet influences the permeability and function of your intestine barrier. A typical Western Diet, which is low in dietary fibre, high in refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, is linked to leaky gut syndrome.
A healthy gut system includes a unique gut microbiome. Your gut microbiome is made up of different types and amounts of microbes. These microbes play a variety of roles to help your body to function optimally.
Plant-based foods are good sources of prebiotic fibre, polyphenols and other components. A diet rich in plant-based foods promotes a healthy balance in your gut microbiome. However, a diet with too much refined, processed foods, unhealthy fats and animal proteins, and with an inadequate amount of fibre, could lead to an imbalance of microbe varieties, and can ultimately cause ill health. The types of microbes that live in the gut change along with your diet, and they will send out either healthy or unhealthy signals, which influence the health and function of every part of your body.
It has been shown that dietary fibre has a positive impact on your intestinal permeability. Dietary fibre feeds the health-promoting microbes in your gut. When these bacteria consume this dietary fibre, they produce compounds such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) including butyrate. Butyrate is one key SCFA seen to help maintain healthy intestinal barrier function.
An adult needs between 25g and 38g of dietary fibre every day. This can be met by including a variety of plant foods in your meals and snacks. This includes beans and legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains, fruit and vegetables. To ensure you are adequately feeding all the different types of health-enhancing microbes, aim to include 30 different plant foods in your meals each week.
The idea of achieving an intake of 25-30g of dietary fibre may seem overwhelming, but the good news is that the South Australian Gourmet Food Company has created a delicious fruit custard range with added fibre. Choose from Apple, Banana or Strawberry, knowing that they contain 11g of dietary fibre per serve. You can find them in the long-life section of Woolworths supermarkets.
Take home message:
Your intestine permeability influences your overall health and wellness. By ensuring your diet meets the needs of your gut microbiome, you may help to reduce your risk of leaky gut syndrome and ill health.
Binienda, A., Twardowska, A., Makaro, A., & Salaga, M. (2020). Dietary Carbohydrates and Lipids in the Pathogenesis of Leaky Gut Syndrome: An Overview. International journal of molecular sciences, 21(21), 8368.