Leaky Gut and Probiotics

Hey y’all! I hope the last week has treated you well!

I’m been dealing with some health issues of my own lately. My back and shoulder has been out of whack – pro tip: don’t go a year without a chiropractor appointment when you have a history of easily going out of alignment. In addition to the back issues, I’ve had a lot of joint pain.

So I’m on a mission to figure out what is going on with my health. And it fit in perfectly that the health portion of the nutrition course I’m taking had to deal with digestive health. Today, I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve learned about Leaky Gut, and how probiotics can help heal.

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky Gut Syndrome is a condition described as intestinal permeability – the intestinal lining has become porous and things such as undigested food molecules, yeast, and toxins, instead of being screened out, get through into the blood stream. Leaky Gut has been linked to various autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes and Crohn’s disease, and other inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis, MS, RA, depression and anxiety. (I especially found the depression and anxiety link interesting because one of my symptoms when I had too much gluten – pre-paleo – was depression.)

What causes Leaky Gut?

There are a variety of factors:

Diet: if your diet is low in probiotics and fiber (more on probiotics in a moment), high in sugar or processed foods, and high in grains and conventional dairy, you might have Leaky Gut.

Medication: if you overuse medications such as NSAIDs, antibiotics, asprin, or take hormones such as birth control, you might have Leaky Gut.

Stress: If you have high emotional stress in your life, you might have Leaky Gut. (I’ve previously discussed how stress messed with my health here.)

Bacterial imbalances: If you suffer from candida, SIBO, or frequent yeast infections, you might have Leaky Gut.

Leaky Gut can lead to food intolerance, immune abnormalities, and autoimmune conditions. Inflammation plays an important role here: the body tries to protect itself from what it views as foreign objects. If your gut lining is disrupted, food particles can be viewed as invaders, and the body will create antibodies to protect itself. Maybe your body views gluten as an invader. Or casein. Or lactose. Food intolerance is one of the first signs that something could be going on with your digestive system. After a while, the body might get confused and think that the gluten protein, for example, is in the cells of your skin, and so you develop psoriasis.

In my case, while I’ve been good about avoiding gluten, I have had more gluten-free foods, dairy, and high sugar items (curse you, ice cream!) in the last few months than I usually have. So I believe it’s quite possible that my joint pain could be related to my diet.

How do I heal Leaky Gut?

First, the diet needs to support the digestive system. Eat simple carbs in the form of non-starchy vegetables, fruits and raw honey, healthy fats like ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil and egg yolks, and easily digested protein like fish, chicken, and grass-fed beef. Bone broth is also a wonderful addition to the diet to help heal, and I always drink it when I feel a cold starting in order to boost my immune system, since gut health and immune health are so strongly linked. Lastly, eating probiotic rich foods, such as sauerkraut and pickles, can help add the “good” bacteria back to the gut, especially if you’ve taken antibiotics recently, or often wash your hands with antibacterial soap (which is practically everyone). I also learned that foods that come fresh from the farmer – the ones that still have a bit of dirt on them – will naturally have probiotics from the soil. Unfortunately, these probiotics are washed away by the chlorine spray that supermarkets may use to keep their food fresh. Yet another reason to shop at your local farmer’s market!

Supplements can also help. I am not a doctor, so I wouldn’t dream of telling anyone what to take, I can only share what I’ve learned, what I’m currently taking, and what I plan to take.

I learned that there are 4 supplements that help allow the body to heal itself.

1. First, for more acute reactions, digestive enzymes may help. There are a variety of different enzymes, and this post from Whole9Life gives some great advice about how to find a quality product. But basically, digestive enzymes do exactly what their name says: they are enzymes that help our bodies digest food and absorb nutrients. If we aren’t digesting food properly, we can’t digest nutrients properly, and that will interfere with our health. And if you’re making the effort to eat a diet like the one suggested above, you really want to make sure your body is able to get all the nutrients it can. I personally have been taking serrapeptase due to a recommendation from my Krav Maga instructor as a way to help relieve my joint pain, and I do notice I have less joint pain in my knees and ankles when I take it.

2. L-glutamine is another supplement that is recommended to help protect the gut lining. I don’t know much about it and will do more research before I start taking it.

3. Fermented cod liver oil – this supplement is my favorite. I’ve already been taking it since December as a good source of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins A, D, and K2. As some who tends to have low vitamin D levels (the joys of living in the northeast!), I wanted to find a real food supplement that my body could use more efficiently than a Vitamin D pill. I use the Green Pastures brand, and this post from Balanced Bites explains a lot about cod liver oil vs. fish oil and answers practically any question you might ever have about cod liver oil.

4. Lastly, probiotics. Probiotics are responsible for: producing vitamins such as B12 and K2, crowding out harmful bacteria, creating enzymes that destroy the harmful bacteria, and stimulating the secretion of regulatory T cells (cells that modulate the immune system and may help treat autoimmune diseases) and IgA (an antibody that is found in the intestinal tract – without it, you will have a suppressed or deficient immune system). 

A few tips when it comes to buying a probiotic supplement:

1. Get a reputable brand. You pay for what you get.

2. Look for a probiotic brand that has a high number of probiotic (15 billion-100 billion) and a high strain diversity (10-30 different strains).

3. Strains such as bacillus coagulans, saccharomyces boulardii, bacillus subtilis, and lactobacillus rhamnosus are heat resistant, so they will live long enough to get to the gut and colonize. It’s very useful (and cost effective) to take a probiotic that will have survivable strains.

As always, do your own research. Different strains will help with different needs. For example, bifidobacterium longum supports liver function and reduces inflammation, so for my needs I would search for a brand that contains that strain. If you have lactose intolerance, lactobacillus acidophilus could help with that. To support treatment of Crohn’s disease, saccharomyces boulardii has been proven effective, and this strain also reduces inflammation. Other strains boost the immune system, some support vitamin production, and others suppress the growth of bad bacteria like salmonella and e. coli.

I do not yet take a probiotic, but I started eating sauerkraut a couple months ago…and I don’t think I’ve had it in the last few weeks. Oops?

So my action plan to heal my own gut:

– Clean up diet – cut out the dairy, sugar and gluten-free treats for at least 3 weeks (although 4 weeks would be best). Just in time for a 21-Day Sugar Detox!

– Make more bone broth

– Eat more sauerkraut

– Research and buy a probiotic supplement

– Continue taking fermented cod liver oil

That’s all for tonight! If you liked what you read, please take a moment and leave a comment telling me a bit about yourself. I’d like to get to know my readers!

See you next week!

Top Tips for Cleaning Up Your Health

Hello! Today’s topic is an answer to one of the most popular health-related questions:

I want to get healthier, but where do I start?

It can be daunting to figure out how to eat better, especially when there is quite a bit of conflicting information out there. Here are my top five tips for cleaning up your health – it’s what worked for me!

1) Ditch the vegetable/seed oil and the margarine.

Canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower seed oil, vegetable shortening…unfortunately, these oils are not the health food those commercials lead you to believe they are. They are highly processed through chemical extraction methods, and they easily oxidize and become rancid – sometimes they are like that before you use it! When a food becomes oxidized, the body doesn’t recognize it as food, and it becomes a toxin, leading to inflammation. Inflammation is a large factor in many diseases and in weight gain or weight loss resistance.

Instead use: butter (the real deal!), coconut oil, olive oil when cooking over low heat (otherwise it can also go rancid), and animal fat from properly raised and treated animals. I’ve tried duck fat, and to me it has a pretty bland taste, so it won’t change the flavor of your food much. I’ll save the fat when I cook high quality bacon, because that stuff makes everything taste delicious!

2) Add more fat to each meal.

Contrary to popular belief, eating fat will not make you fat. Your body needs fat to function, and quite often your body won’t want to let go of its own fat stores when it doesn’t get enough from food. Fat is what is needed to digest those fat-soluble vitamins that are so important to our health: Vitamins A, D, E, and K. (Why are these vitamins important? That blog entry is coming up soon!) Ever eat a satisfying meal, yet feel starving a few hours later? Most often that’s due to lack of fat. Seriously, quality fat is amazing – yes, even saturated fat!

How to add more fat:

♥ Eat some fatty foods! And no, I don’t mean fatty foods from a fast food eatery. Eat eggs (yolk included!), avocados, nuts, olives, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines. You’ll fill up and stay full for hours.

♥ Use healthy fats to cook with! (See #1)

♥ Add butter to your vegetables and your meat. If you can handle dairy, butter is such a wonderful flavor to add to the meal you are already eating. Already having steak? Add some butter! Did you microwave that package of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots? Go add some butter! If you’re not used to it, I’d start with a teaspoon of butter and build up to a tablespoon. A little goes a long way to satisfying your hunger and giving your body the nutrition it needs.

♥ Start eating full-fat versions of the food you already eat. No more skim milk or fat-free yogurt – to take out the fat, something had to be added in: sugar and/or chemicals. Neither one will fill you up.  And really, doesn’t full-fat sour cream just taste better?

3) Eat a balanced meal.

This means that for every meal or snack you eat, there should be fat, protein, and carbohydrate in that meal. This will help make sure that you are getting a variety of nutrients that your body needs to function. You’ll also feel satiated and stay that way. The need to snack every few hours will disappear. You’ll more easily avoid the sugar cravings that will get you in trouble. And a balanced meal just tastes good!

The easiest way I balance my meal is to have half the plate full of vegetables (carbohydrate), the other half with my protein of choice (meat, fish, or eggs). Then I’ll either add some butter or have an avocado. If I cooked with a lot of coconut oil, or I’m eating fish or meat that already contains a good amount of fat in it, then I might forgo the butter (although often I’ll still have the butter!).

Example:

♥ 6 – 8 oz burger (protein), pan fried zucchini in coconut oil (carbohydrate and fat), and a side of sweet potato with butter (carbohydrate and fat)

petespaleo

Duck tenderloin, roasted beets and acorn squash

♥ A dish from Pete’s Paleo: duck, roasted beets (this is my second time having beets EVER, and they are delicious!), and acorn squash

To be honest, I sometimes get bored with the food if I have to fill half a plate with the same vegetable/carbohydrate, so I try to mix it up and maybe make two veggies. Then I’ve got leftovers, which I love!

(You may have noticed I don’t have the “typical” carbohydrates that the Standard American Diet is based upon. See here for my reasons why I avoid them.)

I want to quickly mention something to those of you working out for an hour or more a day: PLEASE make sure you eat enough to fuel your workout. A common complaint I hear is, “I’m eating 1500-2000 calories a day and I’m exercising an hour a day yet I’m GAINING weight!” That is often the case when the body feels it’s being starved. I don’t look at calorie count since I stopped eating processed foods – I eat when I’m hungry, and I’m able to stop when I’m full because my body told me it had enough. A body that exercises at a high intensity often will need more fuel. But it’s not an excuse to go eat ice cream or whatever “treat” you want to give yourself “because I worked out today”. If your goal is to lose weight or to get stronger, then you need to give your body the tools it needs to accomplish those goals – eat real, nutrient dense food, and eat enough to that your workout is high quality.

4) Get enough sleep.

I wish I had learned this one LONG before I did. The length and quality of our sleep is just as important as what we eat and how we move when we’re awake. Food and exercise often go hand in hand, but sleep is ignored. Our bodies do so many important processes while we sleep, and so if we cut our sleep short, our bodies won’t work at an optimal level. So if the weight isn’t coming off, or you don’t recover from exercise as quickly as you’d like, it could be that you aren’t sleeping enough. I find it harder to deal with cravings when I haven’t gotten enough sleep. Eight hours of sleep is typically best, especially from 10pm-6am. Yes, it’s hard to go to bed at 10pm – there are so many distractions in the world today, and sometimes it just doesn’t fit into a person’s lifestyle. But if your diet is on track and you still aren’t seeing the results you want, try it for a week and see what happens.

5) Don’t forget to play outside.

Anyone who knows me in person might laugh at this tip. I’m a bookworm, and growing up there was nothing I liked better than to spend an entire Saturday in the summer, from sun up to sun down, reading a book INSIDE the air conditioned house. I didn’t even go read outside by the pool!

This tip is, in a way, two in one: play, and being outside. To balance our lives and our health, having fun needs to be a part of it. It’s what rejuvenates the body and, if you believe in it, the soul. Stress is a key factor in declining health, and I can tell you from experience that stress-related illnesses are no fun. Often I hear people say, “I don’t have time to take some time for myself.” But you need to take that time, especially if it will make your life and your interactions with your loved ones better. If you’re too stressed to sleep, then you’ll be too tired to workout, make smart food choices, and do fun things with your loved ones, which will make you stressed. You’ll get stuck in that cycle until you decide to break it, or until you get sick. You are worth putting yourself first in order to be healthy.

Just the thought of being outside relaxes me: the fresh air, the sun, and nature. You’ve got your Vitamin D from the sun, a chance to breathe in air that hasn’t been cooped up in a building (hopefully), and a chance to disconnect from our wired world. When’s the last time you took off your shoes, stood in the grass, and just took a deep breath? Or maybe you prefer to have your feet in the sand on a beach? Or in the water? It doesn’t matter how you decide to connect with the natural world, just as long as you do so. Go for a walk. Get on a bike. Throw a frisbee. Kayak. Look at the stars. Breathe. Take a moment to remember that you are part of this wonderfully magnificent world. And remember that you are wonderful, too.

 

So, dear readers, tell me: what’s YOUR favorite health tip? What’s worked for you? Did any of my tips surprise you? Do you have a health-related question for me?

A Step Forward

I’ve finally taken a step forward toward becoming a health coach. Yay! I’m SO excited!

I’m taking part in Dr. Axe’s new program, “Institute of Nutritional Leadership”. It fulfills a lot of what I’ve been looking for in a “beginner” (for me) program: business guidance, some basic nutrition foundation, coaching strategies, and, what was a bonus for me, essential oils training. (And when I say beginner program, by that I mean a short, relatively inexpensive program for me to test the waters before a jump into a longer, more expensive program.)

Tonight was the first business webinar, and I have so many ideas running through my head! But the biggest one relates to creating content and consistency. And I’ve been a naughty blogger! “What doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get done” is a HUGE take-away for me, and I realized that I wasn’t truly scheduling consistent content.

And I realized perfectionism and imposter syndrome (“Who am I to give health advice?” constantly running through my head as I type) was getting in my way. I don’t need to be perfect, and I’m someone who regained a lot of health by making the switch to eating real food, so yes, I can give advice as to what worked for me! And I’m good enough! So there!

Lastly, I realized 1) Each entry does not, and should not, be a chapter of a novel, and 2) Writing isn’t my first love. What do I love? Helping people. Answering other people’s health questions. Teaching. Talking. So, how can I do that? My awesome boyfriend suggested doing some short youtube videos. And I’ve been afraid to try. Man, this mind REALLY likes to get in the way of my success!

So please, if you have a health/nutrition related question, leave a comment or fill out the contact form below with your question. You can be as specific or general as you want. For example, “I eat x, y, and z, and I’m hungry an hour later. What gives?” Or “I move more and eat less, but I haven’t lost any weight. Can you help?” I’ll answer your question in my very first video. Woohoo!

See you Monday!