As of late, a condition called leaky gut syndrome has taken the holistic health world by storm. One of my roles as a Holistic Health Coach is to help people find healing from the foods they eat. So many foods cause inflammation and food allergies/sensitivities, with the “why” behind such reactions being a big fat (inflamed, if you will) question mark. The concept behind leaky gut syndrome (aka increased intestinal permeability) is providing health professionals with some serious insight.
Whether you feel you may be suffering from some level of leaky gut syndrome or not, having your gut flora in balance is SO important to your digestive system, your body, your health, even your skin. Below you’ll find a bit of the background on this newly surfaced conditions, followed by some dietary suggestions to restore your gut health!
Some of the leading causes of leaky gut syndrome may be chronic inflammation, stress, food sensitivity and inflammatory foods (two of the leading inflammatory foods being dairy and sugar), damage from taking large amounts or certain antibiotics, excessive alcohol consumption, or compromised immunity.
Leaky gut syndrome is a result of damage to the cells along your intestinal lining from above-said causes. This cell wall is basically the first point of contact that our stomach has with the outside world. Think of this barrier as a fence with all 10 posts tightly touching. When it’s healthy, it’s able to do its job: holding in and digesting the food that’s in your gut, and allowing the gut to filter through nutrients and biological substances. But when the lining becomes damaged imagine those fence posts starting to pull away from each other creating open areas. These open areas allow bacteria, toxins, even incompletely digested food to pass through the lining and “leak” into your bloodstream. Once in your blood stream, an autoimmune reaction is triggered: your immune system basically goes into attack mode against what it recognizes as foreign invaders and your body experiences symptoms ranging from those of an allergic reaction to inflammation, bloating, head fog, rashes, even joint pain. Your now agitated immune system may also become so unstable as to attack your own body, producing autoimmune diseases.
The good news is that a damaged wall can be repaired and your body can begin restoring itself back to health. There’s so much research out there connecting our gut health with our physical health, our brain health, our immune system, and so on. We need to eat foods that heal and nurture our bodies and, in turn, make us feel good. Your body is not meant to make mistakes and your body communicates with you – tune into it, listen to it and make sure you’re treating it with nothing but love. Be kind to your gut and it will be kind to you!
Now, Feed That Gut Flora!
A few dietary suggestions for restoring or maintaining your gut health:
Fermented foods – naturally packed with probiotics (the good bacteria that reside in our gut, and show up in some foods), fermented foods are one of the best foods you can eat for gut health! Try experimenting with the following: kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, yogurt (including soy, almond and coconut for the vegans or lactose-intolerants out there), even pickles (!)
- Note: if you’re new to fermented foods start by adding SMALL amounts, as large amounts can cause digestive issues.
Probiotic Supplements – if you’re not getting enough probiotics through your food, a supplement makes for a great addition.
Miso Paste – made from fermented soybeans, miso paste is loaded with probiotics and is so fun to experiment with in recipes! Additional benefits: protein, fiber, and bone-strengthening vitamin K.
Tempeh – also made from fermented soybeans. Make your own or find it store bought; however, if you prefer the latter, and you have a gluten allergy or sensitivity, watch out for any brands containing added wheat products.
Sourdough Bread – YES! You read that right! You can eat bread (unless you have celiacs or a gluten sensitivity in which case, I’m sorry and please proceed to Fermentable Fibers)!
The base of sourdough bread is a lactic acid starter that contains strains of lactobacillus, a friendly type of bacteria that adds good microbes.
Foods Containing Fermentable & Prebiotic Fibers – Load up on fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds – all loaded with said fibers and optimal for gut repair, quieting cancer-causing genes, controlling appetite and blood sugar, regulating inflammation and improving your immune system. The list of benefits to eating whole foods is endless.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet – Type of person that needs stricter guidelines? Dr. Weil (THE MAN!) gives detailed information on his amazing, recommended anti-inflammatory diet here.
Another GREAT place to start figuring out which foods you’re allergic or sensitive to is with a detailed elimination diet. I have a great 30 day one, given to me by my Naturopathic Doctor, that I would love to share with you. Email me for details!
Cheers to your health!
**Disclaimer: all of the above suggestions can and should be tailored to fit individual needs. Symptoms, and healing mechanisms and ability will vary greatly depending on the individual.