Most of us seek out help once we start developing problems. These “problems” are actually symptoms that manifest as common issues like pain, fatigue, and digestive trouble. Not knowing that these are symptoms of a larger issue, we begin to treat these “problems” directly with pain medications, energy supplements, and digestive help. This seems like the right thing to do – because you don’t know better. I certainly didn’t, and I have a degree in the heath field!
It’s not a big secret, but it’s also not common knowledge that our gut health is the most important thing for our health. I wish I knew this before feeding my body years of medications trying to fix my “symptoms” and only making my gut worse. But that is why I am here educating – so you can live your best life. It is not okay to have no energy, to be in constant pain or fatigued, and to have digestion issues. Sadly, suffering from these issues is so common that we ignore them and assume it’s normal. I hope the information I provide is informative and helpful. Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and you should seek out professional medical advice before changing any medications, supplements, or diet.
My personal journey has led me to pieces of the puzzle which ultimately resulted in a leaky gut diagnosis. I’ve always suspected I had a leaky gut, but I didn’t realize the importance and impact it has on your health. Ultimately my leaky gut led to many food intolerances and absorption issues due to chronic medication use and a diet high in the wrong foods, even though I thought I was eating right. You probably are not aware of the importance of your diet, especially if you have health issues.
What is a “leaky gut”?
Gut health is thankfully getting its well-deserved fame these days but the word “leaky gut” is being thrown around without full understanding. Although it is a controversial diagnosis in Western Medicine, there are many sources and research studies illustrating that gut health is directly correlated to most illnesses and diseases. To understand leaky gut, first you must understand that it involves more than digestive issues. This was true for me: I had no issues or evidence of a digestive disease. Of course you can (and most people do) have digestive issues, but a leaky gut also causes illnesses with chronic inflammation and can masquerade as fatigue, anxiety, blood sugar issues, weight gain, and so forth.
Leaky gut is defined as “a condition in which the lining of the small intestine has broken down. In this state, it becomes permeable to foods which should only be able to get into the bloodstream when they are more or less completely broken down (digested). With leaky gut, these food elements flood into the bloodstream as more or less complete compounds. These substances are capable of stimulating allergies and creating many problems which are widespread in the body.”
In layman’s terms, your body is not absorbing your food and nutrients properly, which leads to common issues and medical diagnoses. Toxins then seep into your bloodstream and your body has to work hard to fight them. This leads to chronic inflammation, pain, and other symptoms. Examples of leaky gut disguised as disease include (but are not limited to) non-insulin dependent diabetes, fertility issues, thyroid issues, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, IBS, and Crohn’s. More than likely, you will be prescribed medications for these issues. The medications may help, but they are not fixing the root issue. Your gut remains leaky, and eventually the medications may stop being efficient, another “illness” will arise, or your illness will get worse. As a result of getting sicker, you will probably be prescribed more medications to “help” – unknowingly making it worse.
As your gut health becomes worse, your body becomes more inflamed and sensitive. This leads to food intolerances and sensitivities. Food sensitivities come with a whole other slew of symptoms which include pain, brain fog, anxiety, and depression. This can be confusing because you can suffer these issues from a leaky gut and food sensitivities. More than likely, your food sensitivity is worsened by your leaky gut. It’s a big connecting puzzle in the end, but in the meantime, it makes finding out the one root cause of why you feel so sick harder and harder.
Ultimately, I have learned there is not just one cause and more so a combination. The leakier your gut becomes, the more sensitive your body becomes. Your body begins working harder to fight off the inflammation while still not absorbing the proper nutrients needed to allow you to heal and continuously allowing toxins to seep through. Consequently, you continue to get sicker as the cycle continues. If you are anything like me, this may lead you to becoming desperate, and in turn, you might end up taking any medication (making it worse) the doctor throws at you in the hope that something will help. The good news is that you know the answer now, and it’s not another hopeless diagnosis – it’s treatable!
How to heal your gut?
Diet Change. This is something no one wants to hear (I’ve been there), but would you rather suffer the above issues or change your lifestyle to live a happier, healthier life? Sadly most of us (myself included) would have rather taken another pill than change their diet, but diet change is necessary to heal the gut. There are TONS of diet recommendations for healing a leaky gut, and without the proper testing, it’s sort of a guessing game to identify what is causing the inflammation in your body. Even though it seems like a lot and is restrictive until you get the hang of things, it’s best to eliminate everything all together and then reintroduce one at a time once you are feeling better. Here are the most overlapping and strongly correlated changes you can implement in your diet:
- Eliminate Gluten. This was something I refused to do; I have been tested for gluten intolerances and celiac disease but have never shown sensitivity, so I was stubborn and refused. After I sought out care and had a food sensitivity test done, I realized that I am sensitive to almost every form of gluten (wheat, barley, rye, and a ton of other non-gluten grains–eek!). Remember, by allowing more inflammation in your diet, your body becomes increasingly sensitive to more types of foods. You may be able to reintroduce some forms of gluten in later on, but for now, you should eliminate it until you are feeling a lot better. If you like research to back up your decision, here is an article from a medical journal on the effects of gluten on our bodies and specifically our gut.
- Eliminate Conventional Dairy. This was also something I was very hesitant about because I used ghee/butter in all my cooking. A breif elimination of conventional dairy allows you to add in good quality dairy after inflammation is decreased. Check out my blog on dairy here. Gluten and dairy with a leaky gut membrane can allow for candida overgrowth, so if you have skin issues such as rashes, extreme fatique or acne this should clear up dramatically 6-8 weeks in of your elimination. Conventional dairy is very congesting and also proven to cause inflammation.
- Avoid Soy. Soy products have been clinically proven to cause inflammation. Look for whole soy products and limit to a few times a week.
- Avoid Preservatives and MSG. I have an entire blog post on this, but preservatives cause inflammation in your body and oxidization of your cells. This only increases inflammation and poor absorption in your body.
- Avoid Histamines. This can seem restricting along with eliminating dairy and gluten. Check out this article on what foods release or activate histamine and why histamine causes inflammation. You can wait to do this if you are not feeling any better after a couple months into being DF/GF beacuse it can feel very restricting. I found a ton of unknown triggers here and was able to reintroduce these foods after a few months, making my diet less restrictive. Keep a food diary; it helps a ton with tracking symptoms and food triggers, especially when you are reintroducing foods.
- Eat More Fiber. The easiest way to do this is by eating more fruit and veggies! Because your gut is healing, try to avoid a ton of raw veggies and cook them first to allow for easier digestion. We worry way too much on protein when most of our plate should be veggies with our meals. Start small by adding veggies to each meal if possible.
- Supplement Support. These suggestions should not be done until speaking with your doctor. Try to buy refrigerated supplements as they are better for absorption because they aren’t as oxidized.
- Look into the need for a digestion enzyme such as HCL. Most people with a leaky gut also have low stomach acid and slow digestion. There are plenty of natural foods that support HCL as well as herbs. I love digestive bitters!
- Do your research and take a good live probiotic while your gut is healing. Microbiome Labs is my favorite but work with a practictioner because some probiotics can worsen symptoms if you are not ready for them.
- Liver and Gall Bladder Support. I love supplements with Grass Fed Beef Liver, Vitamin C Taurine, Pancrelipase and Organic Beet Concentrate.
These are recommendations and common causes and triggers of a leaky gut, but regardless, you should seek guidance from a medical professional. I thought I could “heal myself” with natural remedies and diet changes, but I had no luck and was exhausted from seeing new doctors and the bills that accompany them. I do not think I would be where I am in my health journey without the proper guidance. I receive care from a naturopathic doctor who is able test and interpret labs and tests that standard American doctors do not test for. I spent so much money on natural doctors and the root cause was always nutrition. This is why I went back to school– I felt it could be done for much cheaper and less invasive. I do not recommend doing this on your own because there are many different supplement options and since absorption is an issue, you need to be particular in what you are taking. Prior to seeking out a naturopathic doctor, I have seen over a dozen specialists and have had more tests and procedures than I can count with empty diagnosis after diagnosis.I Although I did appreciate all naturopathic medicine had to offer me, I truly do believe that I could have avoided the expenses of all the testing and just changed my diet for what my body needed with working with an NTP! Being in the medical field I wanted to see the hard proof before making a huge lifestyle change. In hindsight, the lifestyle change was needed and would have been more beneficial than all the testing and anxiety of seeing “things wrong”, when obviously something was not normal, I was having symptoms! Lucky for you this is why I went back to school! I now know the nitty gritty of common symptoms without the expensive tests and supplements being the first round of defense. Food is ultimately the easiest answer for your health.
It may have been quick, but more than likely, it took awhile for your gut to get so bad and it will also take time to fix. It isn’t your fault that your gut got sick. As a society, we are becoming more aware of the importance and impact of the overuse of antibiotics and medications along with the problems of a Standard American Diet.
Work with me or your medical professional to play around when to reintroduce foods and for supplement support along the way. These lifestyle changes are important in healing and may not be forever but are necessary to heal your gut if you want to feel better. The saying “food is medicine” is often quoted for a reason. With time, your gut will heal and your symptoms will start to dissipate. It is scary making a dramatic diet change, but trust me when I say it is worth it. I wish I knew years ago; I could have started healing myself and not have gone through all the time and money it took to get here. I am not sure I would have listened, but I at least would have known the importance and jumped on the bandwagon sooner.
After suffering for years and finally having relief, and after reading so many other success stories related to gut health, I urge you to give it your all because what do you have to lose? Your health and your life is more important than that frozen pizza and day-old donut. You will learn to love healthy food and will want to eat good because feeling good is worth it; you may even start to enjoy cooking. I can’t promise you that will fall in love with food prep dishes, but maybe the dishwasher?
I wish you luck on your journey and I hope this was informative to you. Thanks for reading!