When I first realized my gut health was at the core of my health issues I was experiencing, I began researching. I googled a lot. I was all over Instagram and Pinterest searching for that quick fix. What can I do to fix this and fast? What I soon realized was that there was no quick fix. I mean, let's be real. Leaky gut doesn't just happen overnight. It's a series of things that contribute to it over time. So why I thought I could just fix this with a supplement and not change my lifestyle, I don't know. But when you're feeling terrible all the time, have no energy, can't think straight and are so deep in a health rut you are just searching for some thread of hope to help you get out of this mess.
So first and foremost, I'm here to show you how to simplify the process of healing your gut so you can stop searching the random thoughts that pop in your head about your gut symptoms at 1 am and further perpetuate your state of being stuck and overwhelmed. I am not here to sugar coat the work it takes to truly heal. It requires commitment, consistency and actual lifestyle changes. However, if you do the work - I know from firsthand experience and from taking others through this process that it will forever change your life. You will never go back to the bad habits that got you in this mess in the first place.
What is leaky gut?
So maybe you're new to the gut health world and have just started hearing about this thing called leaky gut. Or maybe you've been there, done that. Either way, I think it's important to understand what's happening inside our bodies with leaky gut. Did you know that leaky gut is now correlated with over 90% of autoimmune diseases? Did you know that 80% of Americans are dealing with leaky gut and have no idea?! So you can see how working on healing your gut and be such a HUGE step in the right direction in terms of getting to optimal health?
Let's start with the technical definition of Leaky Gut:
Leaky Gut is the weakening and inflammation of the gut barrier, which causes molecules to leak through. These molecules are things like food particles or toxins and when they enter the bloodstream they cause a cascade of symptoms.
This is a great clip from Dr. Oz showing you visually what leaky gut looks like and what is happening inside the body.
What causes leaky gut?
So what are the things that cause this to happen? Like most health problems, they don't happen overnight. It's the longterm consistent exposures that begin to break down the gut lining. Chances are your symptoms started out subtle and increased over time becoming more chronic, which has lead you on this search of figuring things out so that you can feel better. So here are some of the common causes and contributors to leaky gut:
- Chronic stress (emotional & physical)
- NSAIDS (Advil, Ibuprofen, etc.)
- Birth Control
- Diet high in processed foods & refined sugar
- Exposure to toxins (medications, pesticides, BPA, heavy metals, etc.)
- Gut Infections (Candida, SIBO, H. Pylori, Parasites, etc.)
Can you identify with some or maybe even all of these? Part of healing the gut means making lifestyle changes to decrease our exposures to the above list as best as we can. We cannot try to heal the gut with supplements alone while still filling our bodies with the above toxins. That's like filling a bucket that has a hole in the bottom. You'll never be able to fill it up just like you'll never be able to heal because you aren't removing what's contributing to the problem.
Signs of leaky gut
For a long time I ignored leaky gut and glossed over it anytime someone would talk about it because I thought it didn't apply to me. I had no major digestive issues so I just figured my symptoms were related to something else! I couldn't have been more wrong. So just because you either don't have digestive issues or have digestive issues that are few and far between, does NOT mean you're not dealing with gut issues. So check out this list and see how many you can relate to:
- Constipation, bloating, gas, abdominal pain
- Food sensitivities
- Fatigue/Brain fog
- Mood disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.)
- Skin issues (eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, etc.)
- Chemical sensitivities
- Asthma & allergies
Did you know that 95% of serotonin (your feel good hormone) is made in the gut and only 5% is made in the brain? So if you experience things like anxiety & depression it is 100% linked to your gut health and can be reversed through healing your gut!
What do I eat?
Okay, let's tackle the elephant in the room. This is always the biggest area of struggle for people because they don't know what to eat, what not to eat and they end up feeling so overwhelmed with food that they never start making changes.
Let's flip this around and talk about what you should focus on eating. Whole foods - lots of organic fruits and vegetables, gluten free grains, organic, grass-fed meats & healthy fats (coconut oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts & seeds). If you focus on eating whole foods you are going to be off to an amazing start. You do not need to starve! If you're hungry, eat! Just make sure it's from the above list!
I know. You want the list of what to avoid, so here it is:
Gluten, dairy, inflammatory oils, processed foods, caffeine, alcohol & refined sugars.
If you find yourself reacting to healthy foods like eggs, nuts & seeds, legumes or nightshades those may need to be removed too but this isn't as common.
So you're saying I can never enjoy a treat again?
Nope, not at all. I do not advocate for long-term restrictive dieting and I instead teach a balanced approach. However, when you're in the gut healing process, it is important to remove these foods for a bare minimum of 30 days (6-8 weeks is even better). You have to give your body a break from the inflammation in order for it to heal and an elimination diet is a great way to do that.
Keep in mind, elimination diets are not forever nor should they be. They are a tool to help you heal. An elimination diet alone will not heal you if you don't address your root cause (we'll get to that soon) but they typically do help to drastically reduce your symptoms. I teach my clients how to maintain balance post elimination diet so they never feel deprived or restricted in their eating even if they're still dealing with some lingering food sensitivities while healing.
I should also add that if you're not sure what your food sensitivities are, an elimination diet is a great way to figure them out if you do the reintroduction process properly. Working with a practitioner like myself, can make this process so much easier and take the guesswork out of it!
What supplements do I take?
This is always one of the most common questions when it comes to healing the gut and while gut-supporting supplements are often necessary to begin restoring balance to the gut microbiome we have to remember they are not the end-all be-all if we aren't making the necessary lifestyle changes. Remember the bucket analogy of pouring water into a bucket with a hole in it? Do not waste your money on supplements if you're not willing to put in the work to make the lifestyle changes necessary. You must do them in conjunction with one another to see true progress.
With that being said, probiotics & enzymes are my top two but it is helpful to work with a practitioner because there are times when probiotics can make things worse depending on what you're dealing with as a root cause. Probiotics will replenish the good bacteria in your gut while enzymes will help you to break down your food so that it can be more easily digested and absorbed. Some other common supplements for gut healing are HCL, this helps to increase stomach acid. If you deal with acid reflux, you actually have low stomach acid and this supplement is important. Things like Prilosec are only masking the true problem of low stomach acid and aren't doing you any favors. When you have low stomach acid you cannot fight off pathogens and often times this is how people can develop things like parasites. One more important supplement is anything that's going to help seal the gut lining - things like L-glutamine & collagen can help to do this.
I give you specific supplement brands and links that I recommend in my 5 Day Gut Health Challenge e-mail series but as always check with your doctor and work with a health practitioner like myself to personalize your supplement protocol to your needs.
The Stress-Gut Connection
We may want to ignore this piece but it's honestly a huge piece of the gut healing puzzle. When your body is in a state of stress you actually cannot digest food properly. It is essential to make sure you are getting yourself into a calm state while eating. Take a few deep breaths before eating & don't eat while multi-tasking. You could be taking all the right supplements and eating all of the right foods and it WILL NOT MATTER if you are in a constant state of stress.
How do I really heal my gut?
The above suggestions are going to make a huge difference in your health if you haven't ever truly implemented them consistently and they are essential in the gut healing process. However, if you find yourself still dealing with symptoms then it's time to dig deeper and look at your personal root causes. You could have some underlying issues that need to be addressed in order to truly heal long term.
This happened to me personally. I thought that I had figured things out with just focusing on lifestyle changes like diet, supplements and stress but what I failed to realize was that I wasn't at the root causes of my gut dysfunction so my symptoms kept coming back. While I felt significantly better than I had been feeling, I was finding that over time if I wasn't super strict with my eating, supplements, sleep, stress management, etc. that one slip up would send me into a spiral of symptoms. I knew I had to dig deeper. Everyone's root causes will vary. Keep in mind that things like SIBO, IBS, Candida, H. Pylori, etc. are not root causes. Something bigger is causing them!
This is what I help women to figure out and if you're ready to get on the fast track to truly healing your gut, getting to your root causes and achieving optimal health once and for all, then I'm happy to help you. You can learn more about my 1:1 Integrative Virtual Health Coaching Program here.
In the meantime, I've got an action plan for you!
Go sign up for The 5 Day Gut Health Challenge, where we dive much deeper into actual action steps you can take that will truly transform your healing. These are all the things I focused on when I first began working on my gut health several years ago. To be honest, 30 days of consistency with these things turned into feeling better than I had in year and did the same for my clients! I'm giving you all of this info for FREE in The 5 Day Gut Health Challenge plus we will also tackle possible root causes and how to test for them!
This is a 5 day e-mail series delivered right to your inbox to view and follow at your leisure. This is everything I wish I had 3+ years ago to save me from my midnight Google sessions and staying stuck for far too long because I was afraid to even start for fear of nothing working and just simply feeling overwhelmed and defeated.
If you're not into DIY and want the 1:1 help with this process with a lot more education, support and personalization, then feel free to apply to work with me or contact me directly if you want to chat to see if the program is a good fit for you.