Gas, bloating, reflux, constipation, diarrhoea, parasites and food intolerances and allergies are all signs of poor gut health. However, it goes a lot deeper than that. Good gut health is essential for overall good health. Leaky gut is probably one of the most overlooked health conditions in the world today. According to the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, he says all disease begins in the gut. So not 50%, but 100% of your health issues really begin in the gut. It’s at the root of what’s causing other issues.
Leaky gut is where you start to get larger holes in the lining of your intestines, and so proteins, parasites and a number of other issues can leak through your gut and into the bloodstream. These substances shouldn’t be in your bloodstream, therefore, your body doesn’t recognize it, treats it as a foreign invader and starts an immune response to break it down and destroy it. This is how systemic inflammation occurs throughout your body. If you really want to heal your body, you’ve got to start to repair your gut lining, which helps heal your entire body.
The following issues are also warning signs of leaky gut:
§ Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
§ Autoimmune disease i.e. Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s, lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis
§ Thyroid and adrenal issues
§ Joint pain or rheumatoid arthritis
§ Malabsorption issues – deficient in b12, zinc, magnesium, iron etc.
§ Skin issues – acne, rosacea, dry flaking skin, eczema, psoriasis
§ Mood issues – emotional ups and downs, anxiety, depression, bipolar, ADHD, autism
§ Poor concentration and memory, including brain fog
So, what causes our gut to be leaky? There are several factors and it all begins before birth. It depends on the state of the parent’s own gut health as well as diet, medications and lifestyle during pregnancy. Also, whether the child is born vaginally or via C-section. Bottle or breastfed will determine the types of bacteria in the gut, essential for good digestive and immune systems. A diet high in trans fats, gluten, sugar, processed foods and alcohol all disturb the gastrointestinal (GI) environment. Another major factor contributing to poor gut health, especially the formation of ulcers of the GI tract is medications (antibiotics, analgesics, anti-inflammatories, antacids, oral contraceptive pill). Other contributing factors are infections (parasitic, viral), stress, toxic chemicals, pollution, radiation, dental work, shift work and exercise.
What can you do to heal the gut lining and promote overall good health? Firstly, you must remove the trigger foods that cause gut inflammation. Every individual is different, however, these are the main trigger foods: gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugar, peanuts, corn, alcohol and eggs. Going gluten free will certainly make a difference but not stop inflammation and the cause of leaky gut. By removing all grains that are typically inflammatory and going on a ‘paleo’ style diet and consume meat, vegetables and fruit are much easier on your digestion. However, there are still issues here with the over-consumption of animal products in every meal that may continue to be a problem if you have liver, gallbladder or bile issues. Another issue can be the consumption of raw nuts and seeds causing further aggravation if you suffer with autoimmune-like issues or have food sensitivities. Then there is the nightshade family, containing potatoes, chilli, capsicums, goji berries and eggplant, which may also aggravate those with autoimmune conditions, especially rheumatoid arthritis. So how do you know how far you need to go with what foods to remove and what to add in? In particular, the GAPS diet is a specific gut healing diet. It is quite restrictive, although a relatively short-term commitment, depending on the severity of symptoms and condition. My advice here, use a trained professional to help maximize your healing potential. They can also use specific testing if necessary.
The following foods are essential for gut healing. Bone broth contains certain nutrients that tighten up and repair the holes in the gut lining. Bone broth should be consumed every single day whether it is taken on its own (1 cup) with every meal, or as stock in stews or soups. Probiotic rich foods such as kefir and yoghurt, fermented for 24-29 hours that comes from either an A2 cow, an ancient breed of cattle, or goats or sheep. Fermented raw dairy is also a good option if this is available. Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, kimchi and beet kvass contain active enzymes and also live probiotic bacteria. These are all so inexpensive and easy to make in your own home. Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of wild-caught salmon, sprouted flax and chia or even flax seed oil are anti-inflammatory and fantastic for healing leaky gut.
There are specific supplements that may be a necessary inclusion. Gut healing powders contain glutamine, an amino acid that repairs and restores the lining of the intestines. The powders may also contain the following or at least should be sourced individually: prebiotics (food for probiotics); certain essential vitamins and minerals (i.e. zinc, vitamin A and D); soothing and healing herbs (aloe vera, licorice); anti-inflammatory nutrients (quercetin); and probiotics. Stomach acid boosters may be necessary if there is not enough stomach acid being produced to break down food. Digestive enzymes are used also to help break down food when those cells of the stomach, pancreas and intestines aren’t working optimally. Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of cod liver oil are anti-inflammatory and contain vitamins A and D, essential for healing the lining.
Probiotics are essential for:
§ Replenishing the gut flora
§ Protecting the gut from infections
§ Improving digestion and absorption
§ Keeping the gut clean
§ Balancing the immune system
§ Destroying toxins and carcinogens
There are so many probiotics out there so depending on your symptoms will determine which probiotic to use. They only last between 2-4 days so you need to constantly replace these. It is ongoing to supplement probiotics for life. Part of the treatment with probiotics is a particular strain called Saccharomyces Boulardii. This strain will help inhibit the biofilm – being the slimy substance of cells (such as bacterial) sticking together in the lining. This will break it down and secrete it, particularly used for infections. I use this at the beginning of all treatments. This is the probiotic you need to take away travelling with you, starting the course before you travel.
Depending what you are specifically struggling with or what’s causing your leaky gut, getting back to basics with your food and staying away from all processed foods, eating in season and locally will certainly make a huge difference. Supplements may be necessary to get you on track and assist in the healing process. It doesn’t end here with just diet and supplements; there are lifestyle factors that are essential to the healing process. Stress management through exercise, mindfulness, meditation and breathing is an absolute inclusion to overcoming leaky gut. For further information, please do not hesitate to contact me through www.phazenaturaltherapies.com.au.