What is the Gut Barrier
The gut barrier is a functional unit, organized as a multi-layer system (Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015). To truly understand the importance of your gut barrier, we must understand what the gut barrier actually does!
- The first function of the gut barrier is to digest, break down, and absorb anything you put in your gut.
- Secondly, it protects against harmful bacteria, viruses, food antigens, and pathogens (Gastroenterology Research and Practice, 2022).
When it comes to our bodies and the parts we wanna take care of, does your gut barrier come to mind? Most people think of taking care of their bodies as external care like working out or skincare. Most people don’t even know what the gut barrier is and how it impacts your health! Research has shown that it may be the most important barrier we have for our immune system, overall health and wellness (Gastroenterology Research and Practice, 2022). It's time to feel good from within!
Gut Barrier Damage
When your gut barrier is damaged, it develops cracks or holes, allowing digested food, toxins, and pathogens to enter your system which can trigger inflammation, and it can lead to many problems in the gut. This can cause a chain reaction of problems such as bloating, gas, cramps, food sensitivities, fatigue, headaches, and joint pain. An untreated damaged gut barrier can actually lead to conditions such as leaky gut, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. Some studies have shown that leaky gut may also be associated with other autoimmune diseases (lupus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, allergies, asthma, acne, obesity, and even mental illness (Harvard Health, 2021). So, TLDR, the gut barrier is really, really, really, important.
What causes gut barrier damage? The biggest culprits are genes and diet! Since we can’t do much about our genes, let’s look at what we can control: our lifestyle habits. Studies have shown that diets low in fibre but high in sugar and saturated fats with heavy alcohol intake can disrupt the balance of our gut barriers (Harvard Health, 2021). If you’re prone, via your genetics, to have a more sensitive barrier (don’t worry you’re not alone), keep a close eye on potential sensitivities. Over exacerbating your gut with irritants over a long period of time can cause some real damage. We also can't forget the effect that stress has on your gut. More on that at our previous blog post here.
Repair Your Gut
Seek a Professional
Think you could have a damaged gut barrier? Maybe it's time to speak to your doctor! They may be able to test your gut to see if you have specific conditions, and put you on protocols or treatments to repair your gut lining. If you find that your GP isn’t the right fit in finding the right solutions, try looking for a practitioner that specializes in gut and gastrointestinal health, or practitioners like Naturopathic doctors who can provide a more holistic approach to your issues.
Keep a Food Diary
Though we always recommend seeking expert advice, we know going to the doctor can sometimes be intimidating! So to begin, you can review and re-evaluate your consumption habits at home. As we’ve mentioned in some of our previous journal entries, a way to understand what is happening in your gut is to keep a food diary. Listen to your body, how it reacts to foods and drinks–do you notice bloat after certain things, constipation, diarrhea, pain? Some common causes of gut inflammation include alcohol, processed foods, and possibly gluten or dairy, so these may be the first to pay close attention to. Everyone, though, is different, so make sure to listen to YOUR body. Once you are able to pinpoint your sensitivities, you can then take the next steps to halt the irritation happening in your gut, and move towards healing that barrier.
Clinically Studied Ingredients That May Heal Your Gut Barrier
You know us, we love science! So here’s a simple list of some clinically studied ingredients that may heal your gut barrier (Aleman, et al, 2023). As always, make sure to consult with a practitioner before starting any new regimens.
- FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols)
- L Glutamine
- Vitamin A and D
- Fibers and Short-Chain Fatty Acids
It's time to invest in your overall digestive health! One way to do so is by following a gut-healthy diet that limits processed foods, high-fat and high-sugar foods, and adding more fibre and greens to your diet! Again, just limit! There’s no RULE to remove “bad” foods out of your diet (unless it’s doctors orders!)
Have you heard about probiotics? It's a supplement of live bacteria and a healthy community of microorganisms. Probiotics have been used with the goal of balancing the gut microbiome and preventing disease. Clinical trials have shown that probiotic treatments can reduce the risk of certain diseases like antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Many studies have shown that a wide range of doses and strains of bacteria that help prevent and fight certain diseases can also increase barrier function (American Physiological Society).
How Probiotics Maintain Gut Barrier Health (American Physiological Society):
- Supporting mucous secretion. Which helps flush out bad bacteria, viruses and harmful pathogens
- Producing antimicrobial molecules. Which fights the bad bacteria, viruses and harmful pathogens
- Lowering pH levels. Which helps create an environment where bad bacteria, viruses and harmful pathogens do not thrive.
Aleman, Ricardo Santos, et al. “Leaky Gut and the Ingredients That Help Treat It: A Review.” Molecules, vol. 28, no. 2, Jan. 2023, p. 619. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules28020619.
Yonggang Tian, Dekui Zhang, "Biological Clock and Inflammatory Bowel Disease Review: From the Standpoint of the Intestinal Barrier", Gastroenterology Research and Practice, vol. 2022, Article ID 2939921, 11 pages, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1155/2022/2939921
Viggiano D, Ianiro G, Vanella G, Bibbò S, Bruno G, Simeone G, Mele G. Gut barrier in health and disease: focus on childhood. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015;19(6):1077-85. PMID: 25855935.
“Probiotic bacteria and intestinal epithelial barrier function” Christina L. Ohland and Wallace K. MacNaughton, American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology 2010 298:6, G807-G819
“Leaky gut: what is it and what does it mean for you” Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/leaky-gut-what-is-it-and-what-does-it-mean-for-you-2017092212451
“Putting a stop to a leaky gut” Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/putting-a-stop-to-leaky-gut-2018111815289
“Don't hate your guts heal them” Harvard Health, https://wyss.harvard.edu/news/dont-hate-your-guts-heal-them/
Role for Diet in Normal Gut Barrier Function: Developing Guidance ... https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpgi.00063.2019.
“Empowering mucosal healing with an engineered probiotic” Harvard Health, https://otd.harvard.edu/news/empowering-mucosal-healing-with-an-engineered-probiotic/
Vancamelbeke, Maaike, and Séverine Vermeire. “The intestinal barrier: a fundamental role in health and disease.” Expert review of gastroenterology & hepatology vol. 11,9 (2017): 821-834. doi:10.1080/17474124.2017.1343143
DISCLAIMER: THIS POST DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AS MEDICAL ADVICE. THIS POST IS NOT MEANT TO TREAT, CURE, PREVENT, OR DIAGNOSE CONDITIONS OR DISEASES; AND IS MEANT FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES. AS ALWAYS, PLEASE CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TRYING ANY NEW TREATMENTS OR SUPPLEMENTS.