How Do We Reverse Leaky Gut?
This long list of potential triggers can seem daunting, but the most common triggers that cause leaky gut are stress, food sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies, a deficiency in digestive enzymes, an imbalance of gut bacteria, and intestinal infections (including SIBO).
By addressing and managing stress and then tackling potential gut irritants, we can oftentimes reverse leaky gut and stop autoimmunity in its tracks!
There are four steps to removing some of the triggers and putting an end to leaky gut and its symptoms.
Step 1: Remove Reactive Foods
In some conditions, a single food can act as a trigger and induce intestinal permeability. This is the case with gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and rye) and Celiac disease.
Even in a person without Celiac disease or any apparent gluten sensitivity, gluten can lead to a leaky gut because it is a protein that is difficult to digest for humans.
While some people with Hashimoto’s go into remission just by removing gluten from their diet, others will need to search for additional “root causes”. These additional food sensitivities are likely to include dairy, soy, and grains, but might also include nuts, seeds, eggs or nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers and eggplant).
We suggest that to discover the food triggers that are causing your leaky gut, begin by eliminating gluten, dairy, soy and grains for a period of 4 weeks. If you begin to feel a relief of gut symptoms after that trial period, you can slowly add each food group back into your diet, one at a time, allowing a few days between foods to see if you get a reaction. A food sensitivity test would also be a good idea at this stage (we can arrange this in clinic).
If after eliminating each of these food groups you are still experiencing gut symptoms, it might be time to eliminate a wider group of possible food irritants.
This elimination diet would exclude:
It might seem extreme at first glance, but there are still many different delicious and healing foods you can eat while eliminating those that are causing your body harm.
Step 2: Supplement with Enzymes
Several studies have found that people with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism often have a deficiency in hydrochloric acid, resulting in low levels or even a complete absence of stomach acid.
Digestion is one of the biggest energy-requiring processes of our bodies. When extra effort is required to break down the proteins we eat, it takes a huge toll on our bodies and can often lead to extreme fatigue – a common symptom for those dealing with thyroid and other autoimmune conditions.
A digestive system that is weakened by difficulty with digesting proteins can set off a chain reaction of greater digestive trouble as it struggles to digest the more complex protein molecules found in gluten, dairy and soy. When proteins are poorly digested, we are more likely to become sensitive to them, leading many people with Hashimoto’s to become sensitive to gluten, dairy and soy, among other foods.
It’s a vicious cycle, but one that can be slowed by supplementing with hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes, which can assist the body in breaking down these difficult to digest proteins and improving overall intestinal function and vitality.
Betaine HCL with Pepsin –
Betaine HCl and Pepsin are naturally occurring components of the gastric juices that break down protein bonds in our food to make nutrients and amino acids more bioavailable. They are especially important for proper absorption of protein, calcium, B12, and iron. Taking Betaine HCL with Pepsin after every protein-containing meal can assist with digestion and greatly improve energy levels
Proteolytic Enzymes – Also known as systemic enzymes, proteolytic enzymes can help bring our immune system back into balance by breaking down pathogens and reducing inflammation that can lead to autoimmunity.
Digestive Enzymes – Fat malabsorption is easily overlooked by patients and practitioners alike, but is a common occurrence, affecting 40 to 50 percent of people with Hashimoto’s. Some signs and symptoms of fat malabsorption include greasy, smelly, floating, light-coloured stools, gas or belching after eating, diarrhea, dry skin, stomach pain, gallbladder pain (which is on the right side, under the ribs), gallstones, gallbladder removal, nausea, weight loss, hormonal imbalances, and adrenal issues.
Potential reasons why a person may have difficulty with fat malabsorption include bile deficiency, pancreatic enzymes deficiency, liver backlog, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Vegetable Digestive Enzymes – Many people with Hashimoto’s may also have an impaired ability to digest vegetables due to fibre and starch content. In some cases of hypothyroidism, an indigestible ball of plant fibre material known as a phytobezoar has been found to cause bowel obstruction. In the case of poor fibre absorption, undigested vegetables fibre may be found in the stools, and high-fibre meals may cause bloating. A vegetable digestive enzyme that contains fibre-digesting enzymes like cellulase, and/or starch digesting enzymes like amylases, may help with digesting vegetables.
Broad Spectrum Digestive Enzymes – A broad spectrum digestive enzyme may also be helpful with decreasing symptoms of nutrient deficiencies and increasing energy. Digestive Enzymes can support optimal digestion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Balance the Gut Flora
The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, and studies have shown that autoimmune disorders can be brought on by an overabundance of the wrong type of bacteria, and can be reversed by an increase in beneficial bacteria.
So, you can see how important it is to make sure our gut flora is well balanced.
Gut flora balance is achieved in large part through eating a wide variety of healthy foods, but for those on restrictive diets to help get to the root cause of their autoimmunity, this might be difficult. For that reason, it is often necessary to supplement with fermented foods and probiotics.
Fermented foods – Sauerkraut and similar fermented vegetables are a wonderful source of beneficial bacteria and can help to restore proper gut flora when consumed regularly. Similarly, kefir and yogurt offer an abundance of good bacteria, but should be avoided by those who have been determined to have a sensitivity to dairy. Coconut yogurt and fermented coconut water are great alternatives.
Probiotics – Widely used to rebalance gut bacteria, probiotics can be a powerful tool for those dealing with leaky gut, as they can help restore healthy gut flora by displacing the pathogenic bacteria.
It is important to note that not all probiotics are created equally, and it’s crucial to start slowly and build up from there. As the “good” bacteria begins to take up residence in your intestines and displace the “bad” bacteria, the die-off can sometimes create what’s called a Herxheimer reaction.
This can include lethargy, difficulty concentrating, cravings for sweets, diarrhea, rashes, irritability, gas, bloating, headache, nausea, vomiting, congestion, and increased autoimmune symptoms. This type of reaction usually clears within three to five days and leaves the person feeling much better in the end.
Nourish the Gut
Providing nourishing food and supplements is an important last step to give your gut long term support. By adding a few critical nutrients, we can both heal and help prevent leaky gut.
One of the easiest ways to soothe and heal the lining of the gut is to have a delicious cup of bone broth. Bone broth is a traditional food that we hear a lot about these days because it really is one of the most nourishing foods we can feed our bodies.
The reported benefits of bone broth include boosting immunity, relieving joint pain, increasing energy, improving digestion, and giving you a more youthful appearance. Most importantly, for those suffering from leaky gut, the gelatin in bone broth actually helps to seal the junctions in the intestines so they are no longer permeable; and so that toxic substances can no longer pass through the intestinal wall.
Could an Infection Be at the Root?
In some cases, even after removing problematic foods and adding supplements, a person will still have symptoms of a leaky gut. In this case, we’ve got to look even deeper to get to the root cause, which can oftentimes be found in an underlying gut infection.
Since gut infections can lead to intestinal permeability, removing the infections can be the missing link in gut repair. It can be tricky to identify which type of infection is the culprit, but a few common ones I see in my Hashimoto’s clients include: Blastocystis hominis, H. pylori, SIBO or yeast overgrowth.
If you discover that you do have an intestinal infection, the good news is that you now know one of the root causes of your autoimmune condition and have targeted tools to help you heal.
You may need a combination of treatments that might include various types of herbs, antifungal, antiviral or antiprotozoal agents, to eradicate these infections. Each infection will require a different approach, but please believe that with the right support, healing your gut can lead to an elimination of your gut-related symptoms—and recovery is possible!
For More information contact Toni on firstname.lastname@example.org