Last week I went into detail regarding ‘Leaky Gut’, how it originates and how it affects autoimmunity. I also mention that this week I would go into detail about what to do when you have leaky gut and how to go about “Gut Healing”. Let’s first look at if you need some Gut Healing in the first place!
Who needs Gut Healing Anyway?
I believe that if you have been eating a “Standard American Diet” (processed foods, small amount of veggies, increased amount of sugars, etc) for any period of time, you could use some healing. Eating in this “SAD” way inhibits growth of beneficial bacteria in our guts and promotes growth of harmful bacteria, which can lead to imbalances and overgrowths like Candida or SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth).
Also, if you have any abnormal symptoms including: GI symptoms (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea), cognitive symptoms (brain fog, memory issues, headaches), skin symptoms (rashes, acne, eczema), fatigue, joint pain, mood issues or an autoimmune disease, you need some gut healing.
Fixing leaky gut usually involves a long process that unfortunately can take its sweet time. So what does that process look like?
There are many different plans and ‘diets’ you can look up to heal leaky gut or that promote got healing, AIP being one of them. But if you just break down gut healing into its essential steps you will find these at the root of every protocol:
(1) Removal of toxic and damaging foods.
(2) Replacement of these foods with healing, helpful foods.
(3) Re-balancing of the flora with fermented foods and probiotics.
(4) Repairing of the gut with supplements if needed.
First before doing anything else, we need to remove all of the food or substances that damaged the gut in the first place (aka the ‘elimination phase’ of any protocol). No use in starting a healing protocol if you are still consuming all of the same harmful things, right? This can be really hard for some, I know it was for me. This is also where the specific diets come into play, like AIP, Wahls Protocol, GAPS diet, etc. Each of these were created for a specific population in mind, and help with specific autoimmune issue, and some are more general than others. Following one of the specific diets makes this elimination phase much easier. Overall they eliminate the same groups of foods, gluten, grains, dairy, soy, sugars and processed foods. Again, some diets go into greater detail and eliminate more specific foods as well.
Usually, eliminating damaging foods and adding in healing foods happens simultaneously, but it doesn’t have to. The process can be slowed down if need be. Eliminating foods sometimes is enough for a few weeks! When you’re ready to start adding in healing foods, some good examples of those are bone broth, pasture raised meats, wild caught seafood, collagen and gelatin and TONS of veggies. Obviously this is not a complete list, but a good list to get you started and to give you an idea of what are considered healing foods. These are considered healing foods because of the vitamins, minerals and amino acids that are found in them. For example, bone broth contains collagen and 2 specific amino acids (proline and glycine) that help to heal your gut. Adding foods like these on a daily basis will help heal your leaky gut and improve the overall health of your body immensely.
When leaky gut is present, the beneficial and harmful bacteria that is found in your system is out of balance. Often, the bad bacteria out numbers the good bacteria and has created an environment of dysbiosis, which can lead to a number of G.I. symptoms. In order to balance the good and bad bacteria in your system, you will need to eat foods that contain the good bacteria or take probiotics, or sometimes do both. Foods that contain good bacteria are fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. Taking a probiotic can be beneficial as well. This is always something to talk to your doctor about before starting but this is the one that I use, Prescript-Assist, it is a soil based probiotic and I think it is very gentle.
**One note about eating fermented foods is that if SIBO is an issue, often times eating ferments will make an individual feel much worse! This is something that can be frustrating (“I’m doing something good, why do I feel crappy?”) and why it’s helpful to work with someone who is trained to recognize these reactions!**
Sometimes when healing leaky gut, food alone doesn’t seem like it’s going to be enough at first. In these cases supplementation is sometimes necessary. If you feel like this sounds like you, I would recommend working with a medical professional to figure out exactly what’s going on. Some extra supplements that are most often used are digestive enzymes, L glutamine, digestive bitters, ox bile enzymes and licorice root. Again, this is not an exhaustive list, just an idea of things that are out there that help support digestive function.
The whole process of gut healing always seems somewhat vague and like it can take a very long time. Also, how do you know when you’re finished? Will you wake up one day and feel magically cured? Well, I can tell you that through my process of gut healing, I do feel drastically different than when I started. I know that my body is working much better than it was before, but I know that I have a long way to go. I also know that this is the way I choose to eat now. I’m not going to heal my gut, then return to foods that got me in that situation in the first place. That’s not really how this works. I’ve discovered that choosing to eat this way makes me feel physically and mentally much better. So, I’ll keep you posted about the finish line and if and when it shows up. But I have a feeling that even if I cross it, my victory lap is going to look very similar to my first lap.
If you are interested in this process and want more information, contact me here and I’ll be happy to help you!
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