3 Steps to Healing your Gut
Hey there Diva friends! Kylene here, enjoying this BEAUTIFUL day and thinking about all the wonderful things I want to share with you in the coming months....but today I'd like to talk about something I'm SUPER passionate about and that's gut health!
Have you ever wondered WHY everyone is suddenly getting food sensitivities, IBS, bloating, indigestion, acid reflux, celiac etc....? Why are autoimmune diseases becoming more and more prominent? Why are imodium, Ex-Lax, gas-x and tums part of every American's medicine cabinet? Why does everyone seem to have a sensitivity to SOMETHING?
Or maybe you haven't wondered...you just think that these things are part of life, aging, eating rich foods and that it's "normal"....
A few years ago I had INTENSE stomach pains. So bad in fact that I had to leave work several times because I would be doubled over on my desk incapable of doing anything productive. I remember one specific instance where I went home and took everything available in the medicine cabinet aka excedrin, pepto bismol, tums, ibuprofin....WHATEVER could help the pain go away. But nothing seemed to work!
This happened enough times that I was pretty concerned and thought "could I have an ulcer?""is it stress?" "What could this be?" I had nowhere near the understanding of nutrition and gut health that I do today, but somewhere in my mind I connected that maybe it had something to do with what I was eating....or rather drinking....so I cut out soda for YEARS. Thankfully after that the pain pretty much went away. That isn't to say that everything ELSE I was eating was healthy....but this is what I have found out. Our bodies are INCREDIBLE at healing themselves... and what I now believe I was struggling with is something called gut permeability. The soda exacerbated my already irritated gut lining, and removing it didn't necessarily HEAL it, but at least it stopped the pain.
What the heck is gut permeability?
So glad you asked :) Gut permeability is the fancy term for what is commonly referred to as "leaky gut". And that my friends is EXACTLY what it sounds like.
See these little guys? These are the little villi, or teeny tiny hairs, that line your small intestine! They are coated by even tinier hairs! These villi keep things moving in your gut - they wave around and protect your gut lining, absorb the nutrients you NEED, and keep the bigger and/or bad particles OUT of your blood stream. But what happens when you have leaky gut? These little guys can't do their job. The hairs get separated or damaged and then particles get into your blood steam that aren't meant to be there!!! Depending on the damage, large particles of food can fall in between the villi into the blood stream or if there is significant damage the particles can even be absorbed through them inappropriately.
This of course causes all sorts of irritation, inflammation and food sensitivities!
What Causes Gut Permeability?
Let me back up here for just a second because I just said that gut permeability can cause food sensitivities....but what do you think causes gut permeability in the first place? You guessed it.... food sensitivities! I'll explain:
Step 1) We eat food that causes irritation. Many foods we have been told are "healthy" are the worst culprits! The biggest reason for that is genetic modification - the "food" is no longer in it's created state and cannot be digested properly (an entirely separate blog post!)
Step 2) That food damages the villi and loosens the tight junctions in the gut, lowering our immune system, allowing food particles into the blood stream that shouldn't be there, and causing symptoms (p.s. symptoms are some of the LAST things to occur NOT the first!) like acid reflux, constipation, indigestion, pain, acne, bloating etc....by the time you feel symptoms, something is going wrong inside!
Step 3) Your gut is inflamed and irritated....because of that, many foods that may normally be fine are now being labeled by your body as irritants! For example: Let's say wheat and dairy (usually the top 2 most common inflammatory foods!) are the actual culprits that started step #1 in your body. Once you are having gut pain, intolerances, belching, etc....your body has probably labeled a few other foods as irritants as well. If at this point you took a food sensitivity test you may be alarmed at the long list of foods that are on it. "Avocado?! Eggs?! No way! I know these aren't bad for me and there's no way I can be sensitive to them" is what you might think. And in most cases you'd be right! The good news is that once your gut is healed many of those foods can be brought right back in with no problem. Foods that are KNOWN gut disrupters remain gone forever.
So how can I heal my gut?
Remove the offensive foods. Whether or not you take a blood test to know the full list of irritants, there are many common offenders that everyone can try at home through a simple elimination diet. An elimination diet should last for approximately 1 month (or longer) and means that you eliminate any food that can cause inflammation, gut damage, or sensitivities. After that time you can go through a guided process of reintroducing those foods one by one into your diet to see how you react to them individually.
The most common irritants are grain (all), wheat (specifically) and dairy (depending on the person this can be all dairy or just low quality dairy). A few less common are legumes, nuts and nightshades (like tomatoes). Sugar is also inflammatory and processed sugar should be avoided.
Step 2 is crucial and step 1 and 2 will not be as successful without each other. While you are removing the foods that cause irritation you also need to bring in foods that can soothe, heal, and repair your gut!
My top 3 favorites are: Collagen, Bone Broth, and Gelatin. I love to add Collagen to my Shakeology, drink bone broth like coffee (homemade is the best!) and occasionally I'll make homemade jello from the gelatin! You can find a great Jello recipe HERE.
Fermented foods like Sauerkraut and kombucha are also really beneficial to boost your healthy gut bugs and a high quality probiotic is a good choice. A note on fermented foods and probiotics: If you begin taking these and notice bloating afterwards it may indicate some further bacterial issues and require further testing which leads me to step 3...
Be willing to get some testing done, work with a practitioner, or coach that is familiar with the process and can help guide you through the elimination diet. Resources, encouragement, and knowing you are not alone can be invaluable! When I work with my clients sometimes they just need to be HEARD. We can laugh that they aren't crazy, and it makes the process more fun to have someone that can support you every step of the way. It's also great to have access to someone you can email and say "hey - I'm going out to eat is this ok?" or, "I'm really craving this right now - any recipes for me". They also find relief in knowing that I do the work of finding good recipes for them so they don't have to google, guess, and experiment!
Often when you have gut dysfunction you are struggling with several other things like skin issues, fatigue, hormone balance, joint pain, or more....The body is very connected and much of our health begins in the gut....which begins with what we eat! So it's great to work with someone who can guide you, test instead of guessing, encourage you, and help you resolve it from the ROOT cause - not just cover up a symptom!