Gut Health. For those in the know, this is a subject that is very basic: a starting point, if you will. But for those who need to heal their gut: This is the moment you encroach upon an epiphany. Do YOU need to heal your gut? How do you know? More importantly, how do you get started? If you have “modern” health problems then healing your gut definitely cant hurt and may help. First lets find out if YOU need to heal your gut by learning why someone would need to heal the gut.
Why do I need to heal my gut? First of all, you don’t need to have gut problems to have a leaky gut. Nor do you have to have some “mystery illness”. The need to heal the gut is as old as civilization. Hippocrates himself said that all health begins in the gut. Many experts agree that modern farming practices, poor food choices and fast paced lifestyles (and more) have taken the everyday stomach problem to new heights. Something called “Leaky Gut Syndrome” has gone way beyond what Hippocrates likely ever experienced and has brought on a slew of modern diseases in addition to ones that have been around for lifetimes. Leaky Gut Syndrome, or LGS, has been linked to autism, ADHD, depression and anxiety, autoimmune including Celiac and MS, eczema, psoriasis, and more. I would also encourage you to heal your gut if you suffer from digestive disorders such as IBS, Crohn’s, Colitis or you are feeling bloated and fatigued for any reason. For the sake of discussion, I’m going to focus on LGS as it pertains to autoimmune but the basic principles are the same although the symptoms and consequences vary from person to person or group to group. Basically, if you have autoimmune: you have a leaky gut (unless you have healed it already). If you have psoriasis, then you guessed it.. you have leaky gut… and so on.
How does leaky gut happen? LGS happens a variety of ways and as a result of various factors. Certain foods (particularly gluten and GMO foods), imbalances of bacteria and fungus mixed with stress create holes in the lining of the gut every time we eat certain foods. For a healthy individual, the stomach heals itself in a matter of about 3 days, keeping digestive bits where they belong as they travel through the digestive tract. They heal until they don’t heal themselves. In some individuals, the stomach stops healing itself and bits of food and digestive matter leak through the lining and get into the bloodstream where they are not supposed to be. The body notices a foreign invader and attacks. Sometimes, the protein that is identified as a foreign invader is very similar to our own tissue and the body gets a bit confused and attacks our own tissues instead, resulting in autoimmune disease. The longer the gut goes unhealed, the more food intolerances the individual may “collect”. And for some, this may lead to multiple autoimmune diseases as the body continues to confuse these foreign proteins for our own. For other individuals, the body tries to get rid of these toxins through the skin. For any of these individuals, the stomach isn’t healing itself and needs some extra support to do so. Which leads us to the how.
So How do I heal my gut? I highly suggest doing this with the guidance of a Functional Medicine Doctor. Even after reading several doctor written books, my FMD was able to suggest specific products to aid in my healing. If you don’t know what a Functional Medicine Doctor is imagine a doctor who looks for the “why” to the “what”. An FMD looks at causes: “why is the body doing this?” and “what can we do to get the body to heal itself?” For example, if there is a blood pressure problem they may look for vitamin deficiencies which can result in the dysregulation of blood pressure and heart rate. A traditional doctor would put you on blood pressure medicine. The FMD treats the cause (fixing the deficiency in this hypothetical instance) while an allopathic or traditional medical doctor treats the symptoms. If they are also integrative, then they will use a combination of pharmaceuticals, diet, lifestyle, and supplements to help you heal as necessary. Not all are integrative. Some use more pharmaceuticals than others and some use none. Its up to you and what you decide to choose for your care and body. Point is: you have options. But I digress. The basics of healing your gut are Probiotics (not yogurt as this only contains one strain of good bacteria as opposed to many) such as the kind in fermented foods, Homemade Bone Broth (the kind that gels when it gets cold; the collagen seals the holes) and various good-for-the-gut supplements such as oregano, aloe, gelatin and more. My doctor put me on GI benefits by DaVinci Labs and GI Synergy by Apex along with some other supplements, daily bone broth or gelatin and daily probiotics. In addition to the bone broth and supplements, you will need to eliminate (at least temporarily) the foods that caused or contributed to the damage to begin with: gluten, corn, gmo foods and sugar. Things like gluten will most likely need to be eliminated forever as once you have leaky gut you are prone to it and won’t want to repeat your ordeal (Please consult your doctor for guidance for what is right for your body). You will want to reduce anything that may be triggering a “flare” to your condition. But first you need to figure out what foods are causing flares or episodes. For this reason I suggest doing the AIP way of eating. AIP is a version of the paleo diet that eliminates all major allergens/triggers. If you are Celiac, I suggest also eliminating all yeasts, molds, fungus and ferments. and tapioca, cassava, yuca (these last three are different parts of the same plant and often yuca is misspelled as yucca) as these can cross contaminate with gluten (meaning that your body thinks they are gluten and will give you a reaction if they are misidentifying the yeast, etc. as gluten in your body). After eliminating foods to stop flares of your condition, you then systematically reintroduce foods to identify triggers for your condition. For some (according to my doctor this does not include Celiacs and not everyone) you get some of these “trigger” foods back after healing your gut, when you try to reintroduce trigger foods for a second time to see if your intolerance to them has been reversed once the gut isn’t leaking the particles into the bloodstream. For more information on the AIP lifestyle I suggest some books listed here.
So if you are frustrated with autoimmune, food intolerance, neurological disturbances such as anxiety or depression or just want to improve digestive health then I encourage you to focus on your gut health. Even if you don’t have LGS, adding in things like fermented foods and bone broth can help build a healthy body and immune system. Probiotics (good quality ones which you can find at a health food store or from a functional medicine doctor) are also a good idea for general health also, particularly if you have been exposed to antibiotics or food treated with antibiotics. After all, a large portion of the immune system is in the gut! And if you are like most of us, you are going need your health on this crazy journey we call life. For more information, check out the sources and resources listed below. And as always, to your health!
These are the sources I read to learn all this:
The Immune System Recovery Plan by Dr. Susan Blum
The Wahls Protocol by Dr. Terry Wahls
One Cause, Many Ailments. Leaky Gut Syndrom: What It Is and How It May Be Affecting Your Health by Dr. John Pagano, DC. (this is written in 2008 and there has been a lot of information since then about this subject. The book still has some things to teach about the subject but I suggest the other two as your primary sources).
Other Great Sources:
There is also a great online support group on facebook called AIP SUPPORT. Come join us for some great support and community in this crazy journey that a lot of us are already on!