Do you find that you’ve become “allergic” or “sensitive” to all of the “healthy” foods that you once loved? Headaches after a bowl of quinoa? Joint pain after a handful of almonds? Brain fog after refried beans? No, you’re not crazy. But, you may have developed Leaky Gut Syndrome. There’s no quick fix for this one, but it IS fixable.
Leaky Gut can be precipitated by physical and emotional stress (like surgeries and new jobs) and preexisting/underlying/undiagnosed autoimmune conditions; and exacerbated by antibiotics, poor sleep, and poor/inappropriate diet.
Basically, through a series of inflammatory reactions and a lack of the proper nutrients, the junctions between the cells of your intestinal wall “open up”, allowing proteins and other molecules that should NOT permeate this barrier to get directly into the blood stream. When the immune system sees these proteins in the blood, it recognizes them as foreign bodies and attacks them, leading to a systemic immune response (the symptoms of which you will notice as aches/pains, brain fog, irritability, fatigue, etc.) This immune response eventually causes a cascade of other biochemical pathways to go haywire, and you feel worse and worse. As Leaky Gut progresses, you may find that you’re becoming “allergic to everything”. This is not necessarily permanent, and this is not unusual.
So, where to start to fix it? As I said, there’s no quick or easy fix for this one. It’s going to take commitment (which I know you’ve got plenty of!) Here’s what Functional Medicine calls the 5R approach for reversing autoimmune reaction and leaky gut:
Step 1: REMOVE – Remove all possibly offending/inflammatory foods. This means a strict elimination diet (No grains, dairy, soy, corn, nuts, legumes, eggs, or refined sugar) for 3 months. We’re talking basically tons of veggies, a little fruit, and a little meat. As much organic as possible. You’ll be breaking some addictions to foods here, so it’s gonna be hard. You’re gonna have cravings. Power through. (If you’re working with a practitioner, and I suggest that you do find one, this is a good time to talk about IgG food sensitivity testing, along with the possibility of candida overgrowth and/or SIBO.)
Step 2: RESTORE – Give your body the tools for proper digestion. Take a high quality digestive enzyme before every meal. If you were on antacids or acid blockers, consider eliminating them to ensure you have proper levels of HCl in your stomach (always talk with your doctor before discontinuing medications).
Step 3: REINOCULATE – A healthy gut micro biome is essential for proper digestion and good health. Start rebuilding it by including as many raw fermented foods into your diet as possible (raw sauerkraut and pickled veggies, kombucha, water kefir, etc). Supplement with a quality probiotic. (Look for one with multiple species of lactobacilli and bifidobacilli. High quality supplements will need refrigeration.) Aim for 25 – 100 billion CFUs/day. Be sure you’re feeding all these good new bugs by including a ton of soluble fiber (and/or a prebiotic supplement).
Step 4: REPAIR – Give you gut the nutrients it needs to repair the damage. This may include supplements such as: L-glutamine, zinc, omega-3/fish oil, Vitamin C, and Aloe.
Step 5: REBALANCE – Your lifestyle choices, even beyond diet, can play a huge role in your digestion, gut, and overall health. Look to get plenty of sleep at night (that means about 8 hours, for most of us). Get some sort of exercise (at least 30 minutes of moderate effort) most days of the week. Find (healthy) activities and people who help you to de-stress and feel happy.
The 5R program is intense. The elimination diet can be difficult. Be strong, but be gentle with yourself. Activate your support network, and know that you WILL begin to feel better.
The power of good health is in your hands (and in your healthy gut!)