Your gut is under attack! That may sound alarmist, but it's true. Your gut is one of your front line defenses. More than 60% of your immunity comes from your gut, and it's being overwhelmed. Environmental toxins, pathogens, food sensitivities, improper digestion, extensive antibiotic use and chronic stress are breaking your defenses down.
Your GI tract is a sophisticated processing & defense system. Break down of food begins in the mouth. But, it's in the GI tract, where food is finally broken down into incredibly small particles and absorbed into the bloodstream.
Your intestinal wall not only absorbs nutrients, it also defends you from pathogenic bacteria, toxins, large food particles, parasites and yeast.
Leaky Gut Syndrome is present if your intestinal wall is permeable. When the integrity of your intestinal lining is chronically inflamed, the tight junctures between cells become loose. This allows food particles which are too large for absorption to pass through. Additionally, bacteria, toxins and other materials normally denied entry – pass through to the blood stream.
One cause of chronic inflammation is food sensitivity. You could have a natural food sensitivity or allergy. But it's also possible that you have been eating foods that have passed through the loose junctures which triggered your immune system resulting in a new food sensitivity. Regardless of why you have a food sensitivity, you want to remove these foods. At least until your intestinal wall is healed.
You can take a Food Sensitivity test. If this interests you, contact me for more information by clicking this link and sending me a note.
Alternatively, you can start an elimination diet. An elimination diet is simple. You remove foods from your diet for a period of time and slowly re-introduce them. While re-introducing them, play close attention to how your body reacts to the food being introduced. Food sensitivities show up in many ways, and not all related to your digestive system.
Common Food Sensitivity Symptoms
- Runny nose
- Feeling under the weather
- Stomach ache
- Irritable bowel
- Congestion (especially upon waking)
- Sleep distrubances
- Skin breakouts – rashes, acne
Since you can't eliminate all the food in your diet and start from scratch, it's best to start with the most common culprits.
Top 8 Food Sensitivities
- Dairy – many lack the enzymes necessary to break down the sugars in dairy products and casein (dairy protein) is difficult to digest. It can also disrupt your pH balance and lectins are present. Lectins are form of protein that has been shown to damage the intestinal wall contributing to impermeability – leaky gut.
- Gluten – there's a lot of evidence, that gluten is closely tied to gut irritation and the number of individuals with celiac disease is on the rise.
- Corn – the prevalence of corn in your diet is the primary reason why you may be sensitive to it. Additionally, corn is not the corn your grandmother ate, and your digestive system may not have adapted to it.
- Soy – just like corn, soy is found in most processed foods and is a primary food allergen in children.
- Peanuts – peanuts are not only a common food allergen they are not true nuts, they are actually legumes. Legumes contain lectins which can aggravate or damage the intestinal wall.
- Caffeine – in addition to being a stimulate which triggers your sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight or freeze) redirecting resources from digesting, it also contains certain proteins and chemicals (salicylates) which seem to contribute to unwanted digestive symptoms.
- Eggs – another top food allergen for children, egg proteins can appear to trigger gut irritation. Most of these proteins are found in egg whites. Remove eggs from your diet altogether, and then challenge egg whites and egg yolks separately to determine sensitivity.
- Shellfish – a top food allergen for adults, they contain a protein that triggers the immune system.
If you suspect you have Leaky gut Syndrome, you may want to remove even more foods from your diet. These foods may be food sensitivities, but even if they are not – they tend to cause more inflammation or negatively affect your healthy bacteria residing in your GI tract. There are beneficial bacteria residing in your GI tract that you need for proper digestion and for producing metabolites necessary for energy production. The health of this environment, your microbiome, is essential for your overall well-being and vitality.
Additional Foods To Avoid If You Have Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Packaged and processed foods – these foods are filled with corn and soy products, chemicals your body doesn't recognize and lack nutrients. Additionally, they require a lot of water to digest, pulling more from your body.
- Grains – grains contain a lot of lectin and sugar which feeds pathogenic bacteria and yeast. Whole grains are acid-form which disrupts the pH balance.
- Refined sugar – Sugar feeds yeast, candida and pathogenic bacteria, which further damages your gut. Additionally, pathogenic bacteria secretes toxins called exotoxins that damage healthy cells and can eat a hole into your intestinal wall.
- Legumes (to include peanuts, soybeans & soybean products – unless fermented soy) – legumes contain lectin. Lectins act as a defense against microorganisms, pests, and insects. As such, they may have evolved as a way for seeds to remain intact as they passed through animals' digestive systems, for later dispersal. Lectins are resistant to human digestion and they enter the blood unchanged which over time triggers the immune system causing inflammation.
- Artificial sweeteners – being synthetic and not recognized by the body as a food, your immune system is triggers which increases inflammation and stress.
- Refined vegetable oils (canola, peanut, soy, corn, safflower and sunflower oils) – a major source of pro-inflammatory omega-6 essential fatty acids.
- Deli meats, bacon, ham and non-organic meats – the chemicals used in processing can cause inflammation and irritate the intestinal lining.
- Nightshade vegetables (eggplant, bell peppers, potatoes and tomatoes are the most widely eaten) – people with an autoimmune disease, leaky gut, or other gut related illnesses may be more sensitive to several constituents within nightshade vegetables and should avoid them while healing.
Alcohol and Your Leaky gut
I want to include a note on alcohol. There is a lot of debate whether or not alcohol supports digestion. Occasionally, and in moderation, it certainly can't hurt unless you have a severe case of Leaky Gut. I wanted to mention it, because I mention endotoxin above. I want you to realize of how extensive a problem alcohol can be when it comes to Leaky Gut Syndrome.
This is a summary of the symposium on Alcohol, Intestinal Bacterial Growth, Intestinal Permeability to Endotoxin, and Medical Consequences, organized by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Office of Dietary Supplements, and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of National Institutes of Health in Rockville, Maryland, October 11, 2006.
“Alcohol exposure can promote the growth of pathogenic bacteria which may result in higher-levels of endotoxin. In addition, alcohol metabolism by these bacteria and intestinal epithelial cells can increase intestinal permeability. Alcohol-induced generation of nitric oxide may also contribute to increased permeability and disruption of intestinal barrier function.
Increased permeability can lead to increased transfer of endotoxin from the intestine to the liver and general circulation where endotoxin may trigger inflammatory changes in the liver and other organs. Alcohol may also increase intestinal permeability to peptidoglycan which can initiate inflammatory response in liver and other organs.”
The damage is far reaching and can affect your liver and other organs. In turn, it can inhibit your ability to digest foods. This leads to more stress and less resources for natural energy production and healing & repairs.
This may appear overwhelming. Take it step by step. My initial recommendation is to remove everything except organic fruits and vegetables, wild caught fish high in omega-3s, grass-fed or wild meat, maybe white rice, bone broth (any broth without chemicals). I would stick to this diet for at least 3 weeks before challenging any foods you have removed.
Your partner in health,
PS: If you've tried an elimination diet, do you have any tips that helped you make it a successful or advice on what to avoid? Share your comments and insights on my Facebook page; Justine Cécile Coaching.
And if you are a woman and would like to dig deeper, come join me over at Designing Oneself on Facebook. Designing Oneself is a place for women who have seen a few things, experienced a few things and want more.
It's a place where we can gather and overcome conventional norms that say we have to slow down as we age. That stomach upset, fatigue, body aches & pains, and cognitive slowing down is not normal. (They may be common, but certainly NOT normal.)
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