Chances are you’ve heard the term leaky gut syndrome … somewhat comical sounding even in its seriousness, right?
More and more it’s being pointed to in health programs and articles as a source of digestive ailments along with a variety of other diseases, including allergies, arthritis and autoimmune disorders. It’s even been tied to multiple sclerosis.
Unfortunately, leaky gut isn’t just happening in humans. Our pets are also suffering from the condition and getting sick too.
So what is leaky gut syndrome?
A Dysfunctional Gut
Leaky gut happens when the gut’s mucosal, semipermeable intestinal lining becomes damaged.
Normally, the lining allows broken down nutrients from the intestines to pass through into the bloodstream while keeping toxins, undigested food and other undesirables inside the gut.
In the case of leaky gut, that lining becomes more permeable, which means all the bad stuff is able to pass right through into the bloodstream – not a good thing…
When these undesirable items enter the bloodstream, the body’s immune system launches an attack against them.
This is when you’ll start seeing symptoms like widespread “allergies” appear because the body starts seeing undigested food – like say bits of chicken – in the bloodstream and views them as a threat.
The more that leaks out into the bloodstream, the more the body will see as a threat and the greater the symptoms in the body.
No, not a pretty picture at all.
You’re probably wondering why this all happens in the first place? What causes that injury to the gut’s lining that sends it all spiraling out of control? Good question.
[RELATED] Find out if your dog has leaky gut. Click here to download our Leaky Gut Guide.
The Importance of a Balanced Gut
While there is some debate as to what exactly can cause the damage, most experts agree that it has a lot to do with the gut’s natural flora, aka microbiome, the microorganisms living there and providing just the right balance of good and bad bacteria, yeast, etc.
When this is thrown off balance by any of a number of factors (antibiotics, corticosteroids, highly processed diets like kibble, and vaccinations, to name a few), the bad bacteria and yeast take over.
The imbalance then causes damaging inflammation, which in turn causes leaky gut.
Well, great, now you know antibiotics and kibble are a terrible idea for your dog. But he’s already got a problem. What do you do now?
6 Natural Treatments For Leaky Gut
It should be no surprise that diet will play a huge role in healing leaky gut.
While every dog will be different, and you definitely want to consult a holistic, nutritionally-minded vet if you suspect your dog has a leaky gut.
Keep in mind the two things closely tied to the syndrome: an overpopulation of bad bacteria and yeast, and inflammation.
To that end, you’ll want to avoid carbohydrates and starches like grains, potatoes and sweet potatoes, because they’re essentially sugar and sugar feeds yeast.
Not only do grains turn into sugar, but they’re also considered pro-inflammatory.
(Do you want to improve your dog’s diet but you’re not sure where to begin? Click here)
3. Pre and Probiotics
Since the problem of leaky gut originates with an imbalance of gut flora, probiotics are pretty much a no-brainer.
In addition to probiotic supplements, there are food sources like fermented goat milk or kefir.
Prebiotics are a little different from probiotics in that they’re not actually live bacteria, rather their purpose is to promote probiotic growth.
They are found naturally, along with probiotics, in sprouted seeds.[RELATED] Always pair your probiotics with prebiotics. Here’s why …
4. Digestive Enzymes
Enzymes are produced in your dog’s body and help break down food. They are essential to the digestive process and are also recommended as part of a treatment protocol for leaky gut.
A natural form of enzyme supplementation can come in the form of feeding whole, raw foods since these contain their own enzymes.
However, you might still need to supplement, especially in the case of leaky gut. Make sure to do your homework because there are many out there.
The amino acid glutamine is made in the body, but when there’s stress in the body as in the case of leaky gut, there could be a deficiency.
According to the Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats by Shawn Messonnier DVM, “It appears to serve as a fuel for the cells that line the intestines (it serves as a primary energy source for the mucosal cells that line the intestinal tract).”
You can see how glutamine could be helpful in the case of leaky gut.
Good sources of glutamine are high-protein foods like meat, fish and dairy. (Note: If your dog is on anti-seizure medication, check with your veterinarian before considering glutamine – there is potential for a drug interaction.)
While the list of potentially helpful herbs for leaky gut would be long and varied, some popular and often helpful herbs for the digestive system are calendula, chamomile and slippery elm. They may be worth a shot.