Avoid These Foods to Prevent a Leaky Gut

Avoid These Foods to Prevent a Leaky Gut
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Avoid these foods for leaky gut prevention: common drugs, foods, and beverages can disrupt the integrity of our intestinal barrier.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Intestinal permeability, the leakiness of our gut, may be a new target for disease prevention and therapy. With all the tiny folds, our intestinal barrier covers a surface of more than 4,000 square feet—that’s bigger than a tennis court, and requires approximately 40 percent of our body’s total energy expenditure to maintain.

Mounting evidence implicates the disruption of intestinal barrier integrity in the development of numerous ailments such as inflammatory bowel disease. Here, researchers measured intestinal permeability using blue food coloring. It stays in your gut if you’re healthy, but can be detected in the blood of extremely sick individuals as their gut barrier breaks down. You don’t have to end up in the ICU to develop a leaky gut, though. Simply taking some aspirin or ibuprofen can do the trick.

Indeed, taking two regular aspirin, or two extra-strength aspirin just once, can increase the leakiness of your gut. These results suggest even healthy individuals should be cautious with aspirin use, as it may result in gastrointestinal barrier dysfunction.

What about buffered aspirin? It doesn’t make any difference: both regular aspirin and Bufferin produced multiple erosions in the inner lining of the stomach and intestine. Put a scope down people’s throats, and you can see extensive erosions and redness inside 90 percent of people taking aspirin or Bufferin in their recommended doses. How many hours does it take for the damage to occur? None. It happens within five minutes. Acetaminophen, sold as Tylenol in the U.S., would be a better choice, unless you have problems with your liver. And, rather than making things better, vitamin C supplements appeared to make the aspirin-induced increase in gut leakiness even worse.

Interestingly, this may be why NSAID drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, are involved in up to 25 percent of food-induced anaphylaxis––in other words, increasing the odds of life-threatening food allergy attacks by more than 10-fold, presumably because these drugs increase the leakiness of the intestinal barrier, causing tiny food particles to slip into the bloodstream. Okay, but why can exercise increase risk, too?

Strenuous exercise, like an hour at 70 percent of maximum capacity, can divert so much blood to the muscles away from your internal organs that it can cause transient injury to your intestines, causing mild gut leakiness. But this can be aggravated if athletes take ibuprofen or any of the other NSAID drugs, which is unfortunately all too common.

Alcohol can also be a risk factor for food allergy attacks for the same reason, increasing gut leakiness. But cut out the alcohol and your gut can heal up.

What other dietary components can make a difference? Elevated consumption of saturated fat, which is found in meat, dairy, and junk, can cause the growth of bad bacteria that make the rotten egg gas hydrogen sulfide, which can degrade the protective mucus layer. It is said to be clear that high-fat diets in general negatively impact intestinal health by disrupting the intestinal barrier system through a variety of mechanisms, but most of the vast array of studies cited on the negative effects of a high-fat diet on gut leakiness were done on lab animals or in a petri dish. You don’t know for sure, until you put it to the test.

Rates of obesity and other cardiometabolic disorders have increased rapidly in parallel with a transition from traditional lower-fat diets to higher-fat diets. We know a disturbance in our good gut flora has been shown to be associated with a high risk of many of these same diseases, and studies using rodents suggest that a high-fat diet unbalances the microbiome and impairs the gut barrier, resulting in disease. To connect all the dots, though, we need a human interventional trial, and here we go. A six-month randomized controlled-feeding trial on the effects of dietary fat on gut microbiota. And indeed, higher fat consumption appeared to be associated with unfavorable changes in gut microbiome and proinflammatory factors in the blood, and note this wasn’t meat and dairy. The researchers were just swapped in refined carbs for refined fats, white rice and white flour for oil. These findings suggest countries westernizing their diets should advise against increasing intakes of dietary fat, while countries that have already adopted westernized diets should consider cutting down.

So far, we’ve discussed things to prevent a leaky gut. What about foods to heal a leaky gut? That’s what we’ll cover, next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Intestinal permeability, the leakiness of our gut, may be a new target for disease prevention and therapy. With all the tiny folds, our intestinal barrier covers a surface of more than 4,000 square feet—that’s bigger than a tennis court, and requires approximately 40 percent of our body’s total energy expenditure to maintain.

Mounting evidence implicates the disruption of intestinal barrier integrity in the development of numerous ailments such as inflammatory bowel disease. Here, researchers measured intestinal permeability using blue food coloring. It stays in your gut if you’re healthy, but can be detected in the blood of extremely sick individuals as their gut barrier breaks down. You don’t have to end up in the ICU to develop a leaky gut, though. Simply taking some aspirin or ibuprofen can do the trick.

Indeed, taking two regular aspirin, or two extra-strength aspirin just once, can increase the leakiness of your gut. These results suggest even healthy individuals should be cautious with aspirin use, as it may result in gastrointestinal barrier dysfunction.

What about buffered aspirin? It doesn’t make any difference: both regular aspirin and Bufferin produced multiple erosions in the inner lining of the stomach and intestine. Put a scope down people’s throats, and you can see extensive erosions and redness inside 90 percent of people taking aspirin or Bufferin in their recommended doses. How many hours does it take for the damage to occur? None. It happens within five minutes. Acetaminophen, sold as Tylenol in the U.S., would be a better choice, unless you have problems with your liver. And, rather than making things better, vitamin C supplements appeared to make the aspirin-induced increase in gut leakiness even worse.

Interestingly, this may be why NSAID drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, are involved in up to 25 percent of food-induced anaphylaxis––in other words, increasing the odds of life-threatening food allergy attacks by more than 10-fold, presumably because these drugs increase the leakiness of the intestinal barrier, causing tiny food particles to slip into the bloodstream. Okay, but why can exercise increase risk, too?

Strenuous exercise, like an hour at 70 percent of maximum capacity, can divert so much blood to the muscles away from your internal organs that it can cause transient injury to your intestines, causing mild gut leakiness. But this can be aggravated if athletes take ibuprofen or any of the other NSAID drugs, which is unfortunately all too common.

Alcohol can also be a risk factor for food allergy attacks for the same reason, increasing gut leakiness. But cut out the alcohol and your gut can heal up.

What other dietary components can make a difference? Elevated consumption of saturated fat, which is found in meat, dairy, and junk, can cause the growth of bad bacteria that make the rotten egg gas hydrogen sulfide, which can degrade the protective mucus layer. It is said to be clear that high-fat diets in general negatively impact intestinal health by disrupting the intestinal barrier system through a variety of mechanisms, but most of the vast array of studies cited on the negative effects of a high-fat diet on gut leakiness were done on lab animals or in a petri dish. You don’t know for sure, until you put it to the test.

Rates of obesity and other cardiometabolic disorders have increased rapidly in parallel with a transition from traditional lower-fat diets to higher-fat diets. We know a disturbance in our good gut flora has been shown to be associated with a high risk of many of these same diseases, and studies using rodents suggest that a high-fat diet unbalances the microbiome and impairs the gut barrier, resulting in disease. To connect all the dots, though, we need a human interventional trial, and here we go. A six-month randomized controlled-feeding trial on the effects of dietary fat on gut microbiota. And indeed, higher fat consumption appeared to be associated with unfavorable changes in gut microbiome and proinflammatory factors in the blood, and note this wasn’t meat and dairy. The researchers were just swapped in refined carbs for refined fats, white rice and white flour for oil. These findings suggest countries westernizing their diets should advise against increasing intakes of dietary fat, while countries that have already adopted westernized diets should consider cutting down.

So far, we’ve discussed things to prevent a leaky gut. What about foods to heal a leaky gut? That’s what we’ll cover, next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Doctor's Note

At this time, I have one other video devoted to leaky gut: The Leaky Gut Theory of Why Animal Products Cause Inflammation. Stay tuned for How to Heal a Leaky Gut with Diet.

I also talked about gut leakiness in my SIBO series. Check out Are Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) Tests Valid? and Fiber vs. Low FODMAP for SIBO Symptoms.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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