Healing Leaky Gut

 In Blog, Functional Medicine

Healing Leaky Gut

I just got back from an amazing vacation in Cabo San Lucas. I haven’t been on a beach vacation in a long time. Several years I think. Usually when I go on vacation I slack off on my diet and eat pretty much whatever I want. But this last two months, I’ve been trying to heal my digestive system from Leaky Gut. So I “behaved” myself and didn’t indulge in some of my favorite vacation foods. But I did allow myself to have just a little tequila!

I often speak with my patients about Leaky Gut. It’s a condition that occurs basically when your intestines absorb things into the blood stream that they shouldn’t absorb. Imagine that your intestines are like a colander with tiny different sized and shaped holes in it. Each food you eat gets broken down first in your stomach by the acids, and then in your small intestine by enzymes, into little particles of amino acids, sugars, and fats that are then absorbed through the holes in the colander. Each nutrient knows just where it belongs in your blood. On the other side of your intestines you have your immune system, sitting there like sentries waiting for foreign invaders to pick a fight with. When you have leaky gut, your colander is broken and your food gets absorbed into your blood stream before it has a chance to properly break down.

Your immune system is programmed to recognize its friendly nutrients like a soldier at a military fort. If the wrong nutrient gets in to your blood – your immune system’s job is to attack – don’t take prisoners. This is one cause of inflammation. Many things cause leaky gut including – stress, food allergies, medications like Advil, Aleve, antibiotics, or birth control pills, and imbalances in your intestinal flora. It’s hard to diagnose leaky gut. Many conventional medical practitioners don’t believe in it as a condition at all. One way to diagnose it is with an IgG food allergy test. It’s a test that checks your delayed reaction to food. From the perspective of those of us who practice functional medicine or integrative medicine, we’ve found that if you react to a lot of different foods, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re allergic to all those foods, it more likely means that you are absorbing things into your blood stream that your immune system doesn’t like – which usually means you have leaky gut.

I recently ran the test on myself thinking that I have a good diet, free of most allergenic foods, and live a healthy lifestyle. I was shocked to find that I was highly reactive to certain foods that I basically lived on, including almonds, avocados, and asparagus! I wasn’t shocked to see that I react to dairy, eggs, and gluten. It’s tough to distinguish what it all means when you have that many reactions to food. But here is how I use this information. Basically it is because of leaky gut.

It is a four-part protocol for healing leaky gut. First you have to eliminate any infections in the guts – either through doing a good stool test, or using a powerful herbal protocol for eliminating infection. 2nd – stop the irritation by eliminating foods that are possible irritants, 3rd, rebuild the intestines using another herbal protocol – that includes L- glutamine, probiotics, and possibly other supplements depending on what is imbalanced. Last – reintroduce the foods one at a time.

You have to avoid the reactive foods long enough for the inflammation to go down in your body. That would be at least 6 weeks of staying away from those foods. And it’s not about having that food less often. If your body is reacting negatively to any foods, cutting back on it isn’t an option. You have to stop eating it all together. Then re-introduce it once your guts have healed. When you re-introduce foods, you will add one at a time and then see how you feel.

You don’t always have digestive problems when you have leaky gut, which makes measuring improvement tricky. You may have joint pains, swelling, headaches, back pain, nasal congestion, hay fever/allergy symptoms, asthma, foggy brain, weight issues, and a whole slew of digestive problems.

My symptoms were not digestive; they have consisted mostly of joint pains. Years ago I had severe irritable bowel syndrome, which lasted forever. I learned so much about healing my intestines during that time.

When you read about leaky gut you will find that there are many opinions about which tests to use, and how to figure it all out. You may feel like its way too much trouble to eliminate foods from your diet to see if you feel better. I can tell you from my personal and clinical experience, that its worth it to heal your digestion. You can get to a more normal life where you don’t have to feel uncomfortable in your body all the time.

 

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