Leaky gut syndrome can be difficult for people to diagnose due to its wide range of symptoms. This is due to bacteria and toxins leaching past your intestinal barrier and into your bloodstream, causing inflammatory conditions. Thankfully there are nutritional supplements such as sunflower lecithin for leaky gut, as well as beneficial foods that help to soothe and repair the gut lining.
Optimizing upper digestive function by ensuring adequate stomach acid levels, bile flow, and enzyme secretion is crucial for preventing the ripple effects that lead to a leaky gut. Sunflower lecithin is not as widely known for healing leaky gut but is a critical component in repairing the intestinal wall.
What is leaky gut?
Leaky gut syndrome signifies increased intestinal permeability, meaning the junctions between the cells that make up the intestinal lining becomes loose. As a result, the gut lining becomes leaky and can let through substances that should not pass through to the bloodstream. These substances include undigested food particles, disease-causing bacteria, fungi, and other foreign invaders.
Our immune system recognizes these substances as foreign and, as a result, stimulates the immune system to create antibodies to these invaders to fight them off. When the immune system continuously fights pathogens or undigested food particles that have passed through the gut lining, it produces an inflammation response and, over time can lead to chronic diseases.
It is essential to address the underlying causes of your leaky gut so that you can stop the inflammatory response and begin to repair the damaged lining; reversing symptoms as a result. Leaky gut symptoms include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Food sensitivities
- Autoimmune disorders
- Skin irritation
- Joint pain
- Environmental sensitivities
- Brain fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Food mal-absorption / Nutritional deficiencies
- Celiac disease
Unfortunately, leaky gut syndrome is rising, and many people are living with this unknowingly. Many health conditions can be related to digestive issues and a leaky gut; the gut microbiota and intestinal mucosa are our protection from pathogens and key components of our immune systems.
Think of your intestinal wall as your internal skin, protecting you from the outside world of parasites, bad bacteria, viruses, and anything harmful to the body. 70-80 percent of our immune system lies in the gut, and a healthy, robust microbiome full of diversity is needed for optimal immune system function.
We want the gut lining to be filled with healthy probiotic bacteria to help ward off harmful pathogens entering the body through the GI tract. The intestinal lining is a line of defense; where our troops are ready to combat foreign invaders.
A healthy gut microbiome is essential in preventing pathogens from taking up residence in the GI tract. An intact intestinal lining lets nutrients pass through yet prevents large food particles and foreign pathogens.
Sunflower lecithin for leaky gut
Taking sunflower lecithin for leaky gut is vital as sunflower lecithin is the best phosphatidylcholine source and helps promote bile flow, preventing SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). SIBO can cause a leaky gut due to endotoxins released by the bacteria, which can irritate the gut lining.
Bile’s antimicrobial properties prevent SIBO and keep the small intestine free of excess bacteria. Bile also helps to emulsify and break down fats so that undigested fats do not pass through the gut lining causing additional inflammation. Therefore, optimizing bile flow for its antimicrobial properties is essential to heal leaky gut; you can do this using phosphatidylcholine from sunflower or soy lecithin.
The cells that make up the gut lining continuously renew, and phosphatidylcholine is crucial in making new cells with healthy cell membranes and supporting new healthy cell formation along the intestinal lining. Phosphatidylcholine from lecithin was found to make up 70% of phospholipids within the intestinal mucus layer and creates a hydrophobic layer of protection against pathogens. Sunflower lecithin is a critical yet nearly undiscovered supplement for healing leaky gut.
The following is a list of lecithin-rich foods that you can include in your diet to support the production of phosphatidylcholine:
- Sunflower seeds
- Organ meats
- Wheat germ
Another aspect to consider is that some individuals have gene mutations that prohibit them from effectively making phosphatidylcholine. Dr. Ben Lynch has some great information regarding gene testing and offers a customized genetic report which will show individual gene mutations or variations that you may have. But first, you must complete genetic testing through either Ancestry DNA or 23andMe. Genetic testing provides valuable information for many reasons regarding overall health. Learn what you can expect from your strategene report in this post.
If you have a leaky gut or SIBO, it is beneficial to find out if you have SNP’s in the PEMT gene. Anyone with gene mutations in the PEMT gene will struggle to make phosphatidylcholine, also any mutations in the methylation pathway, such as the MTHFR gene.
What causes leaky gut?
Food products containing gluten are one of the worst offenders for gut health as it irritates the gut lining. A study was published involving intestinal biopsies of celiac patients, celiac patients in remission, non-celiac patients with gluten sensitivity, and a non-celiac control group.
This study looked at the effects of intestinal exposure to gliadin, a component of gluten. Its findings showed that biopsies from ALL four groups experienced increased intestinal permeability to some degree after gliadin exposure.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan has extensively researched wheat/gluten and its link to excess intestinal permeability and autoimmune disease. Please find some of his work if you are interested in furthering your knowledge on the connection between gluten and leaky gut.
Processed foods, GMO foods, and food additives such as dietary emulsifiers will aggravate the epithelial cells lining the intestinal tract. It would also be wise to understand if you have any food sensitivities, as these will be causing an inflammatory response and a crucial component to healing a leaky gut.
Rotating through different types of food is also vital to prevent further food sensitivities from forming. The most common food sensitivities are wheat, dairy, soy, and eggs, but they will certainly be specific to the individual. You will likely develop food sensitivities to your most frequently eaten foods when a leaky gut is present, as it triggers an immune response every time these larger particles pass into the bloodstream causing various health problems.
When there are pathogens present in the gut, there is a release of pro-inflammatory substances resulting in further damage to epithelial cells, larger gaps between the cells, and increased intestinal permeability. Some people notice that high FODMAP foods are also triggering and can be worth eliminating for periods of time while healing is undergoing, specifically if SIBO is causing the leaky gut.
Underlying causes of leaky gut include:
- Chronic stress
- Poor digestion
- Environmental toxins
- Endotoxins produced by internal gut bacteria
- Overuse of alcohol
- Refined high carbohydrate food that feeds yeast
- Presence of pathogenic bacteria
- Candida overgrowth
This list may seem extensive, but the good news is that healing begins with eating natural, unprocessed foods, enhancing digestive function, and balancing the microbiome to optimize the terrain. It is also wise to look at current dietary choices and eliminate common food sensitivities such as gluten which are the worst offenders I mentioned earlier.
How does candida cause leaky gut?
Candida overgrowth is an underlying cause of leaky gut as the yeast burrows into the intestinal lining, causing irritation and breaking down the tight junctions between the cells that line the gut.
If you have a history of taking antibiotics, candida could contribute to your leaky gut. Antibiotics kill both the bacterial pathogen and many of your healthy probiotic bacteria. Yet, it does not kill candida. After antibiotics, candida acts as an opportunistic organism that can take over and overgrow in the spaces where our healthy probiotic bacteria once resided.
Candida also loves sugar, starchy carbs, and refined carbohydrates such as bread and pasta, so these foods should be eliminated or reduced when healing leaky gut.
L. Reuteri, Saccromyces Boulardi, and L.Rhamnosus are the best probiotic strains for candida and leaky gut. Balancing the microbiome with strain-specific probiotics is vital for healing leaky gut caused by gut dysbiosis.
Digestive enzymes for leaky gut
Healing your leaky gut starts with optimizing your digestive function while providing healing and sealing nutrients to help regenerate new cells in your intestinal lining.
Chewing your food and utilizing digestive enzymes to ensure the proper breakdown of food is critical to naturally healing leaky gut. It is undigested food that impacts the gut lining and provides fuel for opportunistic organisms. When undigested large food particles pass through the gut lining, this unprocessed food will trigger an immune response and inflammation that further damages the gut lining.
Utilizing a broad spectrum enzyme blend such as seeking health’s pro digestion intensive and chewing your food helps ensure that all food is broken down into tiny particles suited to pass through the gut lining. This blend includes additional enzymes to help digest all sugars, gluten, and lactose.
The small intestine has brush border enzymes that further break down long chains of sugar molecules into absorbable glucose molecules. Damaged brush border enzymes result in poor digestion of foods. Supplementing with external digestive enzymes breaks down food to aid in healing leaky gut.
Pro Digestion Intensive is one of the best digestive enzymes for leaky gut. It includes additional enzymes such as maltase, sucrase, and lactase to break down sugar molecules, thus preventing dysbiosis (an imbalance in the microbiota) and candida overgrowth.
Nutrients for repairing leaky gut
The first step required to heal leaky gut is to soothe, heal and seal the intestinal lining. One of the best supplements for leaky gut is seeking health’s optimal GI powder; which contains a blend of powerful nutrients to help support healthy mucous membranes. Some of these include:
- Slippery elm
- Marshmallow root
- Superoxide dismutase
How these nutrients help calm and heal leaky gut
Optimal GI powder contains l-glutamine, a crucial amino acid used by the intestinal lining cells as their primary fuel source for maintenance and repair. Zinc carnosine is another nutrient that can help to reduce inflammation in the gut and maintain a healthy mucosal lining.
Gut-soothing nutrients such as aloe, marshmallow root, and slippery elm all help coat the intestinal lining while helping to calm down inflammation. Curcuminoids, superoxide dismutase, and quercetin also help calm down inflammation in the gut.
Seeking Health’s Optimal GI Powder contains all these high-quality nutrients and more. It is a great supplement to help heal and seal the gut lining while you address the other underlying root causes of a leaky gut.
The optimal GI powder can be mixed into water, blended into smoothies, or made into tea by adding warm coconut milk and cinnamon. For maximum benefit, enjoy these gut-soothing nutrients before eating to help coat and soothe the Gi tract before food enters the small intestine.
How lecithin helps heal leaky gut
Take lecithin for leaky gut to support the regeneration of healthy cells that line the intestine. These cells renew every three days, which requires ample amounts of phosphatidylcholine from sunflower lecithin to heal the leaky gut.
Sunflower lecithin will also promote antimicrobial bile flow from the gallbladder to prevent SIBO, which is an underlying root cause of leaky gut that no one is talking about! Kill two birds with one stone by taking lecithin to help repair the intestinal lining while keeping the small intestine free from harmful bacteria that contribute to a leaky gut.
If you suspect a leaky gut, a great place to start is supporting your digestive health with phosphatidylcholine, digestive enzymes, and gut-healing nutrients.
Identifying and avoiding food sensitivities while implementing gut-healing foods can help calm and heal your leaky gut. You may need to investigate pathogens, parasites, or opportunistic organisms that have overgrown and eliminate SIBO and candida.
Gut healing foods
Supportive foods to help heal leaky gut include cabbage juice, bone broth (as long as you don’t have histamine intolerance), fresh vegetable juices, vegetable broths, soups, and smoothies.
Foods such as legumes and raw vegetables can be more difficult to digest and may be too hard on the intestinal lining while trying to heal. Supporting the body with easy-to-digest foods such as blended soups and smoothies can help to give digestion a break and speed the healing of leaky gut.
I hope this information gives you the confidence and curiosity to dig into and identify the root cause of your leaky gut. Start implementing the necessary lifestyle changes, and your mucosal barrier will thank you!
Also, be sure to sign up for my gut health guide and gain access to my FREE resource library with recipe E-books for SIBO and IBS.
“Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases”
“NIH Choline nutritional fact sheet”
“The Role of Microbiota and Intestinal Permeability in the Pathophysiology of Autoimmune and Neuroimmune Processes”
“Impact of Food Additives on Gut Homeostasis”
“Effect of gliadin on permeability of intestinal biopsy explants from celiac disease patients and patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity”
Interesting article thanks 🙂
I have been taking sunflower lecithin but I have recently been reading that emulsifiers like lecithin might be problematic for gut health. This article seems to conclude that soy lecithin is actually better than sunflower lecithin when it comes to the health of the microbiome. What do you think?
“Direct impact of commonly used dietary emulsifiers on human gut microbiota”
Hi Kat, Thanks for sharing that link. That was a very interesting study! Here is what it said about sunflower lecithin:
“It has been reported that sunflower lecithin is a non-GMO (non-genetically modified organisms) byproduct and was suggested as an alternative to soybean lecithin [55, 56]. However, we observed here that gut microbiota was more detrimentally impacted by sunflower lecithin, which significantly induced increased levels of FliC during the treatment phase compared with soy lecithin (p = 0.0069). This pro-inflammatory effect of sunflower lecithin could be due to its content of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, previously demonstrated to induce inflammation.”
Both sunflower lecithin and soy lecithin are high in the essential omega six fats that are pro-inflammatory when out of balance with the omega three fats. For this reason, I always recommend alternating between fish oil and lecithin to keep these fats in balance, whether it is sunflower or soy lecithin 🙂 I noticed increased inflammation in my skin when I took lecithin for a month, so I stopped taking it daily and alternated it with fish oil. It’s a bit of a catch-22 because, on the one hand, sunflower lecithin is beneficial for promoting antimicrobial bile flow, which inhibits the growth of SIBO yet, as this article suggests, may contribute to inflammation. It could also be dependent on the type of gut bacteria already existing in someone’s gut 🙂 Lots more study to be done!