Gut health, health and happiness

Gut health and leaky gut in particular are hot topics.  There's a lot of research coming out that the health of our gut and balance of our gut bacteria is linked to everything from anxiety and depression, ADHD, allergies and inflammatory diseases to autoimmune diseases.  I'm focusing a lot lately on improving our gut health as a possible way to alleviate some of our health concerns.  I've figured out through trial and error that some foods don't agree with me and make me anxious, tired, irritable etc. As a dietitian and mother of 3 boys, one with anaphylactic food allergies and the other 2 with suspected food intolerances that affect their behavior, I have to consider what the food we eat does to us.
Leaky gut is a condition of increased permeability of the intestinal wall that allows toxins and other chemicals from our food into the blood that aren't supposed to leave the gut.  The resulting inflammation, imbalance of bacteria and malabsorption of nutrients in addition to these toxins getting into our blood and brains is a viscous cycle and can be related to so many mental issues and physical diseases.


I wanted to share the information and the remedies we're using to help control what we can.   We're certainly NOT perfect, but I'm really trying to make a significant and lasting change that will improve our quality of life, gut health and relationship with food.  The below suggestions are meant to work together.  And while I am a registered dietitian/integrative nutritionist, I'm not much of a science "writer" so I'll leave links throughout this post.  I hope this information might help you in some way, big or small.

Here are the signs that you may have a leaky gut:

Food intolerances
Food allergies
Mood disorders
Anxiety/depression
ADHD
Inflammatory conditions
Autoimmune disorders
GI disturbances
Fertility issues
Skin conditions
Inability to lose weight

And the possible causes of your leaky gut: 

*Poor diet: i.e. too much sugar, too many grains, overuse of vegetable oils (corn, soy, canola, sunflower etc. and not enough omega-3) and excessive processed foods
*Food allergies or intolerances
*Stress
*Antibiotic use (current, recent or past)
*Over use of NSAIDS (advil, Aleve, etc)
*Over use of alcohol
*Low fermentable fiber diet

And here are my suggestions for how to heal a leaky gut:

1.  Identify the problem and eliminate it:
Consider your lifestyle and history.  If any of the above conditions and causes apply to you, it's likely you'll benefit from making a few changes, eliminating the offending cause and adding some remedies to your life that will benefit your gut and overall wellness.  For my kids, I know that diary causes issues with behavior and too much sugar doesn't benefit anyone so I try to cut those things out or at least minimize them.

2.  Evaluate and adjust your diet accordingly:  No matter what the cause of your leaky gut, I would suggest really looking at your diet.  Even our "healthy" diets sometimes aren't so much anymore especially if you have leaky gut.  One of the things that might surprise us is that even the "organic" snacks we're feeding our families are made with vegetable oils that aren't so bad in small, occasional doses,  but they've become so ubiquitous in our diets and are replacing other healthier, anti-inflammatory fats and oils like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, butter and even lard.  Vegetable oils are produced through a lot of chemical processing, aren't innate to our diets and are generally PRO inflammatory causing our gut lining to be stressed and leak.  The same goes with too much processed foods which generally contain plenty of sugar and vegetable oils.  Grains can be hard on the gut (and especially a leaky gut) as components of the grains that are meant to stay in the gut can get into the blood stream where they cause an autoimmune and thus inflammatory response.  If  you're interested in really overhauling your diet to eliminate some of the conditions listed above, I would suggest looking into specific diets that eliminate the offending foods and focus on healing the gut and your symptoms.  Here are a few suggestions for diets to consider:

The GAPS diet,
The Autoimmune Protocol 
Whole 30
 If you're scared of these "rules" (and I don't blame you), I would suggest starting slowly which is what we're working on.  I'm doing all I can to cut out most grains (specifically wheat), vegetable oils and refined sugars from out diets and upping our intake of bone broth, collagen, gelatin, probiotics and prebiotics.  It's really just a clean up at home for now as things were getting a little out of control.  My two older sons go to school and birthday parties and I can't control what they eat all the time but I can control what I bring into our house. Check out Green and Plenty on Instagram for more recipe and snack ideas.



3.  Add gelatin/collagen/bone broth to your diet: 
The amino acids in gelatin and collagen, in particular glycine and proline, are helpful in healing the gut wall (and also great for the skin, hair and nails).   Bone broth is the most nutrient dense source of gelatin as it also contains a variety of nutrients.  Here's how to make your own bone broth and more on the many benefits. You can make any soup, chili or casserole that calls for stock or broth with bone broth too.  PS, add a little vitamin C in the form of lemon juice to your broth to maximize the skin benefits. 

Collagen and Gelatin are available in powder form and are essentially the same thing with different chemical structures.  Collagen powder is tasteless and easily dissolves in hot or cold while gelatin powder is used to make things that gel.

HOW WE ADD GELATIN/COLLAGEN/BONE BROTH TO OUR DIET:
*Bone broth daily (even just a tablespoon or two for the kids if they aren't into a whole bowl).  I try to drink at least 8oz once or twice a day.  If you don't make your own, Bonafide Provisions broth is great and has lots of gelatin as evidenced by the jiggle.

*Collagen powder (I like Vital Proteins) daily or every other day.  I add 1/2 scoop to the boys morning smoothie.  My instagram feed features great kid-friendly smoothie and snack recipes you can easily add this powder to without them knowing.  Collagen will work in any smoothie or coffee etc.  Start with 1/4 scoop and work up.

*Gelatin powder is used to make jello like products.  I make these gelatin rich gummies once a week and they boys really like them.

4.  Add high quality probiotics: Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and kimchi are easy to find at most grocery stores and are important for adding live beneficial bacteria (probiotics) to your daily diet.  It's also important to add a probiotic supplement if you have a leaky gut as it helps to repair your gut lining and is essential to restoring the right balance of bacteria in your gut.  Probiotics help with leaky gut as well as everything from improving digestion and mental health to reducing your risk of developing many chronic diseases.  You can read more in these links about what bacteria do for our guts and our health (specifically mental health).

HOW WE ADD PROBIOTICS TO OUR DIET:
Probiotic rich foods daily: Kombucha with snacks, sauerkraut with just about anything (for me, but not so much the kids), Bubbies pickles in lunches or pickle juice to drink every few days.  I'm also anxious to try the Farmhouse Culture gut shots and swear I'll eventually start making my own kombucha to save $$$$...

Probiotic Supplements daily:  There are so many probiotics on the market and it's hard to know which is right for you as everyone and every bottle is different.  I've done a lot of research and have settled (for now) on Prescript Assist probiotics.  These are soil based probiotics (found naturally in soil...see #6 below).  I take 1 Prescript Assist capsule before bed and add the contents of1/2 capsule into the morning smoothie that I split between the 3 boys.  I also give Leo, the allergy baby, Garden of Life Raw probiotics occasionally as probiotic diversity is thought to be best.

5. Add prebiotics: Compounds found in certain types of fibrous foods that can't be broken down by our guts are actually the food for good bacteria and allow them to grow and colonize the large intestine.  Some prebiotic rich foods are onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks, avocados, sweet potatoes, dandelion greens, under-ripe bananas, plantains and jicama are all good sources of prebiotics that are easy to work into our diets.


6. Get dirty: Most of us don't really garden anymore, but there are actually beneficial bacteria in the soil that could really help repair and restore our gut health.  Some of that dirt on your apple could benefit your health and that of your gut so at the very least, try shopping at your local farmer's market.  It's also important to stop using antibacterial gels, soaps and cleaning products all day everyday.  Some germs truly aren't so bad.

7.  Add vitamin D:  So many of us aren't getting enough vitamin D.  This vitamin, actually technically a hormone, is needed by the cells that repair the holes in the gut lining.  Research by Dr. Steven Gundry shows that patients with autoimmune diseases who aren't getting any better while practicing the above treatments all have very low levels of Vitamin D.  This article is a great read about how and why to get more vitamin D.

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