What could joint pain, skin, problems, sugar cravings, food allergies, food sensitivities, constipation and autoimmune disease have in common? Would you believe, Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The ancient Greek physician and Hippocrates said that “all health and disease begins in the gut”. Maybe he was on to something. Today, scientific, published study after study (which number in the several thousands) have grown our understanding of how modern diets and lifestyles negatively affect gut function and so lower our disease immunity In short, we could be currently eating ourselves into unwellness.
When my partner Thom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006, the neurologists tried a few drug combos, none of which worked. They verbally patted his head and told him that there was nothing to be done, that he should just accept his fate like a good boy. The condescension is not exaggerated. Enter me into his life in 2011, unable to accept that verdict. As a 3rd level Reiki practitioner familiar with plant-based remedies and aromatherapy, I had been around enough situations where people (including myself) could turn around physical conditions without having to revert to Western Medicine and its “triage management” approach. And so the research into what could help Thom began. Which is when we met, “Leaky Gut Syndrome".
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Your gut is a powerhouse that works night and day to process the food-fuel you put into your body. Your gut lining is like a security guard that lets beneficial nutrients into your bloodstream while keeping the toxic waste out so that it can be eliminated. Now imagine that there are so many toxins in your intestines that they have riddled your gut lining with holes through which undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacteria are free to enter your bloodstream and poison your body. Now you have Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Studies show that 80% of your immune system cells live in your gut. When random particles enter your bloodstream, your body sets off its warning alarm to tell your immune system to call in the troops and fight the infection. Your immune response will protect you, but each time it’s triggered, it causes systemic inflammation. And if the stream of toxins is relentless, your immune system will go into overdrive, preventing your body from being able to heal and repair itself naturally. The long-term effects of this could be more chronic illnesses like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. Leaky gut has also been linked to autism, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, obesity, cancer and Multiple Sclerosis. Cue Light Bulb Moment.
How do I know if I have Leaky Gut?
According to those same studies, there’s a direct link between the gut and the skin (gut-skin axis) gut and brain (gut-brain axis). What that means is that there’s a long list of symptoms you could have when your immune system is fighting toxic infection. Here are some of them:
• Skin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis
• Allergies, food sensitivities, and food intolerances
• Digestive symptoms, like bloating, constipation, diarrhea
• Candida yeast overgrowth
• Irritable Bowel Diseases, like Celiac Disease, Crohn’s and ulcertaive colitis
• Autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, MS
• Depression, anxiety
• Hormonal imbalances, including PMS and estrogen dominance
• Nutrient deficiencies
• Brain fog
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
The ones that twigged for Thom were Autoimmune disease, food allergies, skin conditions, brain fog, asthma and depression. So I began to research how we might be able to heal his gut.
Can You Heal a Leaky Gut? Eat Gut Healing Foods
Our modern, North American fast food/processed food diet really sucks for health and wellness. The major culprits, in our experience, are refined sugar and carbs, trans-fats, gluten, non-organic dairy products,, wheat, additives and preservatives and pesticides. These pro-inflammatory foods are most damaging to gut health. Yet in North America we consume them on a regular basis.
So we made changes to his diet. Bye Bye Donuts, brownies, dairy, pasta, bread, noodles, lagers. Hello Green Smoothies, grass fed meat, coconut oil, veggies and fruits, seed butters, bone broth, sauerkraut, and Guiness. This process took some time. We eliminated foods and put them back to see what he reacted to. In the end, we found ourselves in the Paleo Diet terrain, which also works for me and my eczema. I’ve included a downloadable PDF from www.blog.kettleandfire.com of lists of foods that heal Leaky Gut and foods to stay away from. There are some things on the “Never Eat” list that Thom can eat, just not everyday. It’s all a matter of paying attention, trial, error. Or getting yourself tested to see what foods are “no go zones” for you. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to download the PDF.
Here are some gut-healing must-haves:
• Bone Broth. It's full of collagen, gelatin and glutamine, which help heal and repair the gut lining. We make ours broth at the top of the week in a slow cooker. It get put into smoothies and other meals.
• Lightly cooked veggies - steamed or stir fried in coconut oil. The rule of thumb is that raw foods can be hard for a leaky gut to digest. I’d say see what works for your gut.
• Coconut oil. Its natural antibacterial properties help combat bad bacteria in the gut; its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe and calm the intestinal lining. Besides, it provides much needed “brain fuel”. An essential ingredient of Thom’s smoothies, and my go-to for stir frys.
• Grass fed meats are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids and minerals— two nutrients needed for gut health. And it tastes WAAAAY better than grain-fed meats.
• Wild fatty fish or fish oil is an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids. Fish also contains vitamin D, which has been linked to gut health. We also use flaxseed oil.
• Oat Juice. It helps soothe and repair intestinal linings. We found that this was the case with Thom. If you have serious grain intolerance, this might not work for you.
Keep Stress Levels Down.
This one is critical because stress unleashes hormones in your body that can exacerbate the immune system. Here are some suggestions to beat stress.
• Go to bed an hour earlier each night (bonus: every hour of sleep you get before 11 p.m. is said to be worth 2 hours). I must confess that Netflix and binge watching sometimes makes this one hard to do!
• Turn off the Tech before bed time. The artificial blue light from screens is linked to disturbances in your natural sleep and wake cycles. Yeah, also not an easy one for me, much easier for Thom.
• Spend time outdoors (even if it’s just a 20-minute walk during your lunch break) to absorb vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it promotes a happier mood, and it also plays an important role in reducing gut inflammation. This one makes a huge difference!
• Yoga, meditation, and exercise can help ground you through stress and release those“happy hormones”, your body’s natural anti-depressants. Thom has been hitting the gym with our friend, Pam three times a week. His stability, strength and mood have greatly improved. I have been walking more and going to Zumba Classes. A little happy dancing goes a long way!
• Hang out with with people who inspire and uplift. Do more things on your own that nurture your spirit. Spend less time with people and situations that depress or create anxiety. This is totally making a difference for Thom. And music is his go-to for soul nurturing.
Put in some Good Bacteria
Probiotics are incredibly important when it comes to healing and preventing leaky gut. Not only do they help keep bad bacteria out of your digestive tract, they also strengthen the gut lining, to help prevent leaky gut. There’s a few things that can deplete good bacteria from your system: antibiotics, chronic stress, too many carbs, too much refined sugar and stomach viruses. But fear not, you can replace good bacteria with fermented foods like:
• Unsweetened coconut or goat milk yogurt (organic cows milk yogurt if you don’t have dairy sensitivities)
• Apple cider vinegar (raw, unpasteurized, and with “the mother”)
• Beet Kvass
• Organic unsweetened goat milk kefir
Or you can take a probiotic supplement that will contain several different strains of good bacteria. These can be found in the refrigerated section of your local health food store. Goat milk kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi are Thom’s go-tos. Mine is organic yogurt, which I have with fruit and nuts in the morning.
Detox Your System
While you can’t control all the toxins around you, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure to them. Number three below is actually one of my inspirations for starting Free Lion Body Care in the first place.
• Drinking plenty of clean, filtered water.
• Choosing organic produce when possible.
• Switching to natural cosmetics, body care products, and household cleaning products. I make my own (!!).
• Making it a priority to sweat. Sweating through exercise helps your body eliminate toxins naturally.
The state of your gut matters to your health, on a daily basis. Even the most basic, little changes can mean the difference to feeling more energetic, having healthier looking skin, and having deeper, more restful sleeps. And who doesn’t want that!?
It is my hope that these changes we’ve made are setting Thom’s body up for some success in the eventually healing MS department. Already we have seen improvement, though not total reversal, in his symptoms. And dude is WAAAAY happier to be around these days. I have no idea if the damage already caused by the disease is actually reversible. Apparently, the MS doctors don’t either. So it comes down to choosing between, “Nothing you can do, but be a good boy and have this pill while you’re waiting to die” vs. “Hell, YA, let’s give that natural remedy a try. What’ve we got to lose? And are you up for sit skiing this winter, honey?” For us, that choice is a no brainer.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team.
This blog post represents my opinion and experience only. Do what works for you. Below is downloadable PDF infographic on foods the help or hinder the gut.