Leaky Gut, Take 2.
This was a hard post to write. I was nervous at first to bring up the subject of leaky gut in fear of people calling me crazy, trying to tell me it does not exist and that I should stop talking nonsense. Only one person has done that (there is always one!) - I have been overwhelmed by love and support from others who have gone through the same thing, who are currently healing themselves or who are interested to hear more as they are experiencing similar symptoms.
Long story short: I suffered from leaky gut in November 2013 and healed myself after making dietary and lifestyle changes. However after a few stressful months (Uni, working), combined with travelling frequently, lack of sleep, making poor food choices and drinking alcohol on my recent holiday, leaky gut has come back. On Monday 8th August I will start back on the same diet that I followed in 2013 and will do so for 3 months.
I hope that this post in some way helps or can lead you in the right direction to feel well again. There is a lot of information and research coming out relating to gut health so it is an exciting time for anyone working in the health and wellness field, as this will enable them to be able to further help patients.
“All Disease Begins In The Gut.” -Hippocrates
Why is having a healthy gut so important for overall wellbeing?
The health of your gastrointestinal (GI) system is extremely important to your overall sense of wellness. The connection between mood and gut health has been known for some time, as individuals suffering from bowel-disorders such as Celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or leaky gut are more likely than others to also suffer from autoimmune diseases and mental issues such as depression and anxiety. This makes sense when it is estimated that 90% of the body's serotonin is made in the digestive tract! Furthermore around 60-80% of our immune system is actually found in our gut. Did you know there are over 100 trillion friendly bacteria found in the gut? This is over 10 times the amount of cells found in the human body! This really puts things into perspective when it comes to the importance of gut health.
“The gut microbiome is 99 percent of the DNA in your body, and it is highly responsive and changeable based upon lifestyle choices, most importantly our food choices” -Dr. Perlmutter
What exactly is leaky gut?
The health of your GI system is generally determined by the levels and types of bacteria in your digestive tract. Ideally there is a balance of bacteria, however, an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria results in gut dysbiosis.
Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, occurs when the wall of your intestinal lining is weakened and large openings start forming in the intestines and, consequently, the lining of the stomach. This allows larger particles to pass through that shouldn't, such as microorganisms and food particles (i.e gluten). The passage of unwanted particles into the blood can activate an immune response, as the body attempts to fight off these foreign bodies.
Often times then your body will begin to recognize certain foods as toxic and will facilitate an immune reaction whenever you eat the food. If this problem continues, leaky gut can then progress to autoimmune disease.
What symptoms may you experience?
Someone with leaky gut may experience one or many of the following: gas, cramps, skin issues like acne, digestive issues, fatigue, eczema, food intolerances, aches and pain, brain fog and weight gain (the list goes on and on!). It’s not an official diagnosis, and many in the traditional medical community don’t consider LG a real condition.
What are some of the possible causes?
Too many to list, here are some of the main ones. - Medications – antibiotics - Toxins in the environment - Diet - Alcohol - Chronic stress - infections: parasites, fungal overgrowth
How to heal?
- The first thing to do is to look at diet! If you are not able to afford to see a practitioner (it is not cheap, and testing is even more expensive – but worth it), I would recommend cutting out the most common inflammatory foods being gluten, dairy and eggs. - You also want to remove infections such as bad bacteria and parasites so include probiotics and pre-biotics. - Look at lifestyle factors such as sleep and stress. Sleep controls hormones, the immune system, who you are! If you think that you can eat well without factoring in sleep and that will heal you, you are wrong. Do not under estimate the power of sleep (bed before 10pm!).
I love Dr Axe’s 4 steps to healing leaky gut
- REMOVE foods and factors that damage the gut
- REPLACE with healing foods
- REPAIR with specific supplements
- REBALANCE with probiotics
My leaky gut story…
I first noticed that something was not quite right with me after I started studying Nutrition in Sydney, where I am now based. After going to lecturers and learning that bloating is not normal, headaches all day are not normal, stomach pains are not normal, brain fog is not normal, acne is not normal, I thought to myself, okay, my body is telling me something is wrong, I need to do something about it. In November 2013 I went to see a Naturopath in the Inner West of Sydney. During the consultation with Daniela we went through my lifestyle, diet, family health history, listed medication or supplements I was on and symptoms I was experiencing. Daniela told me that I was likely suffering from leaky gut. From there Daniela gave me a test kit that I took home, pricked my skin, gave drops of my blood and sent the kit away to a lab. A few weeks later my results were in – I was intolerant to eggs, gluten, bananas and bakers yeast.
I also had blood tests performed to check that there wasn't something else going on in my body – the blood test results showed low Vitamin D and iodine, which I worked on getting levels up through diet and more sun exposure. My iron levels were above average, and at the time I was vegetarian so it just goes to show being vegetarian does not necessarily mean you are not able to get all the iron you need #plantpower
These are my actual IgG food intolerance test results from November 2013.
What were the next steps?
Daniela tailored a diet to suit me. My lifestyle, my intolerances, my food likes and dislikes. The first and most important thing to do to heal a leaky gut is to stop eating foods that damage and inflame the gut lining.
Before I go on I want to let you know that what worked for me, may not work for you. We are all so different. It is important to note that before embarking on a journey such as this to consult a health professional first. I was intolerant to foods that you may be able to tolerate, and you could be intolerant to foods that I am able to eat. Someone told me that their daughter had food testing performed and was intolerant to coconut, another lady told me broccoli. Foods that are perfectly “healthy” and you would presume are okay to eat, but without proper testing and consulting a health practitioner, you would never know.
As well as providing me with a list of foods to include and not include into my diet, I was given liquid herbs, glutamine powder and a high strength probiotic.
What foods did I have to cut out?
This has been the most asked question with I first mentioned leaky gut. Feel free to use this as a guide if you are not able to see a health practitioner but just know that you could be fine eating some of the foods I am listing and it would be silly to cut them out unless you absolutely have to (except the processed foods, no one needs those!)
The “Do not eat”
- Processed foods. Packed with trans fats, emulsifiers, sugars and other harmful additives, processed foods also do a great job of messing with the delicate microclimate of the gut. - Gluten containing foods. - Dairy products. Some people following the LG diet can tolerate small amounts of goats cheese. - Grains/Wheat: breads, cereals, pasta, flours, couscous, noodles, corn, barley. - Alcohol. No explanation needed. - Caffeine (that will be a challenge for a lot of people!) - Sugar: Sugar will feed the growth of yeast, candida and bad bacteria - Fruit (except for berries, limes and lemon) - Eggs. The IgG food intolerance test showed that I was intolerant to eggs and while I did not eat many, I completely cut them out of my diet. - Soy: edamame, miso, soy milk, soy protein, soy sauce, tempeh, tofu - Nightshade Foods: eggplant, paprika, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes. - Legumes: Legumes contain lectins. Lectins have been shown to degrade the intestinal barrier This new diet meant I had to be extremely focused and organized. Every meal had to be well thought out and going out socializing was pretty much a no no. The first few weeks were tough – mentally I felt fine but my diet had completely changed and it was adjusting to the change that I did not like. Of course, I was doing this all in the name of health and knew that my body was in need of some love. The more I told myself that, the easier it got.
I believe in a holistic philosophy – paying attention to your physical body and your emotions, mind and soul.
What foods to eat or add more of to your diet?
When I started on my leaky gut journey in 2013 I was a vegetarian and due to cutting out a huge proportion of foods I ate every single day I introduced animal protein back into my diet, and felt so much better for it!
The “yes eat lots of”
- Animal protein: choose organic/grass fed where possible. - Fermented foods: kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut. - Bone Broth – it is best to choose organic. Bone broth contains collagen and the amino acids proline and glycine that can help heal your damaged cell walls - Coconut: The MCFA’s in coconut are easier to digest than other fats so they work well for leaky gut. They also keep you nice and full. - Vegetables: Fibre in vegetables can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria. They also contain tonnes of vitamins and minerals that our body loves. - Essential Fatty Acids: fish, nuts, avocados, coconut oil, and olive oil. - Roots, herbs and spices: Ginger and turmeric are excellent for promoting inflammatory response. Licorice, fennel, and dandelion root have cleansing and digestive properties - Pea Protein shakes: Some people are not able to have legumes when following a leaky gut diet, and although I was advised against it, my body did fine with pea protein. Whenever I was hungry I would have a protein shake to fill the gap.
There are so many different variations of the leaky gut diet out there! They are all quite similar but can differ slightly, so again, best to consult your health practitioner first.
Supplements to take?
Your health practitioner will be able to recommend the right supplements for you depending on your intolerances, blood tests results, health history and any current medication you are taking. Below are the supplements that I took when healing my leaky gut in 2013 and I will continue on with this time around too.
- L-Glutamine (an amino acid)– Your cells in your body are composed of glutamine, the building blocks of your body. Glutamine is the principle fuel used by the upper intestinal tract to repair and heal. - Probiotic, with multiple strains. Our gut is full of good and bad bacteria. Probiotics help keep the gut in check. - Gut healing herbs – always best to see a herbalist to get the correct mixture for yourself. I love to have a mixture of anti microbial and anti parasitic herbs to zap all the bad bugs! - Slippery Elm and Marshmallow – used as effective gut healers for centuries! They stimulate protective mucus secretion may also help with the healing. - Multi Vitamin - A good quality multi vitamin to ensure you are getting all vitamins that you need – good green stuff. - Fish Oil – It can be very helpful in the treatment of intestinal inflammation by decreasing inflammatory prostaglandins.
How long does it take to heal?
3, 6 or even up to 12 months people may have to alter their diets for. Depending on the extent of the damage, the health of the gut microflora and other factors are all taken into consideration. People with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) it can take 18-24 months!
For myself I followed the LG diet for 3 months and that was enough time for my body to repair and feel well again.
I think something may be wrong with me, what should I do now?
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned you could try eliminating foods that you believe are causing issues, or start with the most common culprits – dairy and gluten. Your bloating could be due to an intolerance to one of those foods groups so your treatment path would differ to the leaky gut diet. You could be allergic to a certain food and that could also lead you to experience one of the listed symptoms. Food intolerance is not the same as food allergy!
I have listed below health practitioners around New Zealand and in Sydney. These are practitioners that I know personally or have been recommended by others.
The New Zealand Society of Naturopaths – a directory to find a practitioner in your area.
Auckland (North Shore) Lynette Hill, Naturopath & Homeopath at My Remedy Clinic. My whole family has been to see Lynette, we absolutely adore her! http://myremedy.co.nz/lynette-hill/
Auckland Cliff Harvey, Clinical Nutritionist. He is one of the people behind NuZest, also one of Libby’s lecturers. Cliff is very experienced in all things gut health. http://www.cliffharvey.com/cliff.html
Auckland The Tonic Room – a wellness clinic with an Integrative GP and Medical Herbalist. They offer IgG food intolerance testing. http://www.tonicroom.co.nz
Auckland Philip Dowling, Naturopath. Phil developed and lead the Bachelor of Naturopathy degree at Wellpark College in Grey Lynn (where Libby studied). http://www.healthjourneysnz.com
Te Puke Julie Crossley, Naturopath. http://www.naturaltherapypages.co.nz/therapist/96
Hamilton Dr Steve Jo, Integrative Medical Doctor. He comes highly recommeded! http://drstevejoe.co.nz
Papamoa Hayley Flavell, Naturopath https://www.facebook.com/Natlady-Hails-Naturopath-691471720901490/
Tauranga Christine O'Reilly, Naturopathic Doctor. http://www.naturaltherapypages.co.nz/therapist/14
New Plymouth Cat Neale, Naturopath. http://www.themedicinewoman.co.nz
Hawkes Bay Ben Warren, Nutritionist. http://www.bepure.co.nz
Nelson Dr Cindy de Villers, Integrative Doctor. http://www.healthfunction.co.nz
Nelson Dr Tim Ewer, Integrative Medicine physician. http://www.mapuahealth.com
Nelson Loveday Clinic - A natural health centre. http://www.lovedayclinic.co.nz
Wellington Dr Tessa Jones, Integrative Doctor. Very experienced! http://www.karangahealth.co.nz/staff-and-prices/dr-tessa-jones
Blenheim Huia Margaret Crosby, Naturopath and Medical Herbalist. http://huiaholistic.co.nz
Christchurch Richard Whelan, Medical Herbalist http://www.rjwhelan.co.nz
Christchurch The Herb Centre – They have a number of practitioners and offer food intolerance testing. http://www.theherbcentre.co.nz/clinic-services/
Christchurch Integrative Medical Centre. http://www.helios.co.nz/Home/
Dunedin Tracey Loughran, Naturopathic Doctor. http://www.flourishonline.co.nz
Invercargill Leisa Cournane, Naturopath. http://www.compleat.co/NATUROPATH.html
Natural Therapy Pages – find a health practitioner in your area.
Sydney Kate Johnson, Naturopath Nutritionist. http://korewellbeing.com.au
Sydney Daniela Viola, Naturopath Nutritionist. Daniela is the Naturopath who I saw and diagnosed me with leaky gut. http://www.livewellnaturalhealth.com.au
Remember bloating and tummy pains after eating food is not normal. If you do experience any of these issues I cannot recommend a visit to a holistic health practitioner more. Health is wealth.
I would love to hear in the comments about your experience with leaky gut, how you healed yourself or if you simply have any questions, feel free to leave them below. Jx