So, that last post was fun, right? Detailed discussions about your guts, the bugs within, and things leaking out.
Now that I have you mortified fully up to speed about the goings on in your gut microbiome and how things can go awry, we can skip most of the gore and get straight to the diet interventions you can take to get back in balance.
As with any posts about actions to take, please keep in mind these are very GENERAL guidelines. This information – diet and supplementation – does not replace the individualized guidance you should seek out from a qualified practitioner. This is especially true if you have serious digestive or cognitive issues, or specific food sensitivities or intolerances where the path to resolution could look very different depending on the specific issues within your system.
(I can help absolutely help with that, or work alongside your existing practitioner for diet strategy, so email me if that is something you’d like to explore).
In Part 1, I went into a lot of detail about the diseases and conditions associated with a disrupted microbiome (dysbiosis or a leaky gut) – autoimmune disease being a big one. In a nutshell, here are some signs that your gut health is not on point:
- All autoimmune disease symptoms
- Food sensitivities or food intolerance
- Skin conditions (acne, eczema, rashes…)
- Cognitive mood issues (depression, anxiety, OCD, aggression, foggy thinking)
- Digestive issues (inflammatory bowel disease, irregular BM’s, yeast/Candida overgrowth, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth),
- Joint pain
- Strong cravings (especially for wheat & dairy)
If you’re checking the box on any (or close to all) of the above, don’t fret. The damage can be repaired. The time it will take depends on many factors – including your specific condition and your compliance with the plan to correct it.
To keep things simple, let’s break this down into two general categories:
- What to take out
- What to put in
What to Take Out
Let’s start here because it doesn’t really make sense to address a condition until damage control measures are put into place. Meaning, don’t wash your car while it’s sitting under a tree full of birds.
|Gluten||As mentioned in Part 1, gluten is a large protein that is very hard to digest. In addition, when you consume gluten, it causes the release of a protein called zonulin, which unzips the “tight junctions” that hold together your intestinal lining. This applies to everyone not just those with celiac or a gluten sensitivity. However, if you do have celiac or a sensitivity, it is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL that you avoid it completely. A dose about the size of your pinky nail is enough to illicit damaging inflammation.|
|Sugar||Sugar feeds the pathogenic bacteria (e.g. yeast), allowing them to overtake the beneficial bacteria, aka “dysbiosis.” How strict you need be about cutting this out will depend on the specific condition you have. For example, some with serious digestive concerns, even the most natural of sugars (like fresh fruit) may need to be avoided for a period of time. Or for some, grains and other specific types of carbohydrates may need to be completely avoided.
If you are looking for general guidelines, at a minimum take a step now to eliminate highly processed versions of sugar. They are void of all nutrients and absorb quickly into your system, resulting in inflammatory and fat storing insulin spikes (this includes corn syrup, white flour products [even if they are “gluten-free”!], sweetened drinks, and desserts). Swap in more natural sources (honey, maple syrup, molasses, Lakanto sugar). Once you get a handle on that, reduce the amounts altogether.
Ditching sugar, which suppresses the immune system, can also aid in avoiding infections that lead to additional antibiotic use. A win-win.
|GMO's||Addressing GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) in their scientific and political entirety could be an entire article (or 10) in itself. But, to keep things in context of our gut health, I will focus on one point:
The Bt (Bacillus thuringienesis)-toxin within genetically modified crops has been show to alter immune function and gut permeability.
For more background and helpful resources on avoiding GMO’s, check out Environmental Working Group. In the meantime, here is a quick tip: most commonly GM crops are corn, soy, cottonseed, beet sugar, alfalfa. If they aren’t labeled “organic” or “non-GMO” then they are most likely genetically modified versions.
This goes for the animals consuming the feed, too. Be sure to also look for beef, bison, chicken, eggs and dairy that are “organic”, “grass-fed” or “pastured” to ensure they’re consuming high omega-3, inflammation fighting grass (rather than GM corn).
|NSAID's||NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – aspirin, ibuprofen, Aleve, etc.) play a large role in increasing the permeability of your gut. I cannot interfere with any type of medical treatment plan you are following, but I’m a big proponent of looking at other options when appropriate, as well as getting to the root cause of the issue that is requiring you to take them.
Do you have physical aches & pains or an injury? Could physical therapy, acupuncture, ice, heat or rest help? Do you have joint pain that could be caused by food sensitivities? Headaches from stress? Have you tried alternatives like arnica?
|Stress||I know. Wouldn’t that be easy? Remove stress. Check. Like emptying the dishwasher.
It’s not that easy, I get it. But, I’m hopeful that if you better understand the specific domino effect this has on your health (e.g. disrupting hormones that are disrupting your gut health that are disrupting your all over health), you’ll make it more of a priority.
So depending on how big of a factor this is for you, maybe you take a step towards meditation, or a yoga class. Perhaps you can leave the office early and separate from the drama that is brigning you down. And by the by – overtraining can also be a source of stress to your body so maybe switch the dead lifts to a barre class, or skipping the exercise if you are too tired (and if you are worried about calories, read this for a different take).
|Other Food Sensitvities||Beyond gluten, other sensitivities or intolerances can exist that can be tested via blood work and/or elimination diets. Common culprits are dairy from cow’s milk, corn and soy. If you don’t have a sensitivity to cow’s milk, you should be consuming raw or pastured, organic whole fat versions, to ensure you are getting the enzymes to help break down the casein, inflammation-fighting omega-3s from the grass they are eating (instead of GM corn) healthy saturated fat, and fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K).
And both corn and soy require the same digestive enzymes used to break down gluten, so if you have a sensitivity to one, all three could be an issue.
What to Add In
|Probiotics||Probiotics provide the beneficial, or commensal, bacteria that keep our immunity in check, make certain vitamins, regulate our metabolism, and assist in gene expression and digestion.
The simplest route is to take a probiotic supplement. A general recommendation for a probiotic supplement is to choose one that has at least 25 billion strains (containing at a minimum Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) and choose one that is refrigerated, unless purchasing a professional grade supplement specifically designed to maintain potency at room temperature.
However, whole, raw fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, non-dairy, homemade yogurts and other fermented vegetables) have been found to have several times over the amount of beneficial bacteria than a bottle of probiotics.I realize if you’re new to the clean eating thing, fermenting your own foods is an advanced move for which you are not prepare. I myself am still not quite there. So I head to the health food stores and farmers markets that sell them.
*NOTE: If you have serious digestion conditions – especially if you have been diagnosed with SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) – do not start taking a probiotic without first working with a qualified practitioner.
|Omega-3 Fats||Omega-3 fats provide fight inflammation – including the inflammation that could exist in your gut. Great sources include wild fish (e.g. salmon, sardines) or flax seed if a vegan option is needed. Alternatively, fish oil supplements, such as a high-vitamin (both A & D), fermented, cod liver oil can be taken.|
|Protein/Essential Amino Acids||Depending on your diet, this may not necessarily need to be “added”, but you do need to be sure it exists. A general rule of thumb is to have each meal be about ¼ protein source (meat, fish, eggs) with another ¼ grains and ½ veggies and fruit (mostly veggies). However, depending on your specific condition, this make-up could look much different.
Protein provides the essential building blocks for tissue growth and repair, enzymes and detoxification. Consuming animal sources ensures you will be getting all essential amino acids (plus required neurotransmitters for cognitive function). Just remember the points made above in the GMO section on looking for “organic” and “grass-fed” whenever possible.
If you’ve been hearing a lot about bone broths lately, this is why. They can be a great, concentrated source of nutrients. However, their appropriateness depends on your circumstances.
If consuming a vegan diet, I recommend working with a nutrition professional that can help you make sure you’re combining foods appropriately. Your body needs a combination of essential amino acids and adequate B12, vitamin D, iron and calcium supplementation, while avoiding gluten-containing meat substitutes and genetically modified soy.
|Supplementation||I won’t provide specific recommendations or dosages because the nature of the conditions – and the treatment of them – can vary greatly. However, some of the supplements you may encounter to help repair the integrity of your gut include:
*Glutamine (never to be used for those with autism), zinc, marshmallow root, slippery elm (high in polysaccharides so not for anyone following a Specific Carbohydrate Diet)
*Anti-inflammatories: boswellia, quercetin, aloe vera juice, turmeric
*Antioxidants: Vitamins A, C, E, selenium
*Digestive aids (digestive enzymes, HCl or apple cider vinegar)
Again, these are general guidelines.
And I can’t stress enough the importance of individualized treatment. How these nutrition principles (or other interventions, if needed) are implemented could vary greatly depending on what is going on with. So use caution. And better yet, use a professional. (This is especially important if you are having severe digestive symptoms. There are at least five different therapeutic diets that can be used, depending on the condition – all with critical intricacies).
That was a lot to take in.
Depending on where your diet stands today, you might be scrambling a little. Let me encourage you to take a deep breath and go step by step. You don’t have to recite detailed ingredient lists to your dinner party guests, nor do you have to set fire to your kitchen. For now, just keep your eye on the prize: renewed health and vitality.
So take a minute to marinate on all of this information, and ask yourself a few questions.
What would your life look like without the pain or fatigue from an autoimmune condition? The life-disrupting digestive issues? The uncomfortable skin conditions? What would it be worth to you to not have to deal with these and just get back to living?
Would making a few diet changes be worth it? Even if you aren’t up for doing it all in one fell swoop, could you make one change today? If you would encourage your best friend to do it for her health, then aren’t you worth that step too?
Here’s an easy first step: simply start with taking a probiotic. That alone could pay big dividends. Then maybe look at gluten (or call to make an appointment with someone who can help you with that).
No matter where things stand for you today, know that little steps can add up to big impact in your health and your life. In upcoming posts, we will work more on goal setting and planning for that eventual, life-affirming change.
In the meantime, you know where to find me.
For more information about gut health/microbiome, food sensitivities, inflammation and a personalized, step-by-step plan to heal, check out my book, INFLAMED: Discover the root cause of inflammation and personalize a step-by-step plan to create a healthy, vibrant life.