Today is Day 12 of my Leaky Gut protocol. No gluten or grains, no sugar, no alcohol or caffeine (update: coffee and wine are allowed in limited amounts), no starchy vegetables, no legumes, no GMOs, and no cow's dairy. I've decided to commit to this protocol for 30 days. There are many reasons why I decided to finally do the darn thing, but this post is dedicated to explaining how this diet will help heal my gut. Check in with me in a couple weeks to see how I'm avoiding sugar at the store, fighting cravings at work, and modifying my meals day to day.
After a recent practice session with a current NTP student, we discovered that my small intestine was not very happy with me, and in fact was showing symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome. With a few overall health concerns on my mind, I finally felt like I had something to really focus on with my digestion. You may be thinking: "What the heck is Leaky Gut?? Sounds gross." Very briefly, Leaky Gut is a condition in which the lining of your small intestine has become more permeable, or leaky, and starts allowing proteins, bad bacteria, and undigested particles to enter the blood stream. Over time, this can elicit an allergic or autoimmune response because the body is trained to defend itself against these new invaders.
So how do we repair the permeable holes in the gut? We can start by avoiding the foods that are difficult to digest and that irritate the lining.
I work at an Italian restaurant a few nights a week. Pizza for staff meal every night. Breadsticks to snack on during down times. Fried dough, chicken fingers and french fries on special occasions. After hearing me list the foods I vowed to give up for a month, one server implored, "But, is there science behind that??"
I appreciated the question. So, the science is this:
1. Gluten is a very difficult protein to digest. If it is not fully digested in the stomach, it will make its way to the small intestine and wreak havoc on the villi, the finger-like projections on the intestinal lining that absorb nutrients.
2. Cow's dairy contains the protein casein which triggers similar reactions as gluten. In fact, some scientists believe it can cause a reaction much more inflammatory than gluten.
3. Sugar is food for bad bacteria and yeast that may be damaging the intestinal wall.
4. Caffeine is an inflammatory substance.
5. Alcohol, overtime, can loosen and create "holes" in the epithelial lining of our gut, degrade mucosal lining, and cause an imbalance in gut bacteria.
6. GMOs contain herbicides and pesticides that destroy probiotics and cause inflammation in the gut.
7. Grains, with or without gluten, if not processed properly (by sprouting or fermenting) have phytic acid, which can irritate the gut lining, but primarily inhibits the absorption of essential minerals including zinc, iron, magnesium, copper, and calcium.
8. Legumes contain very high levels of saponins which react with cholesterol to alter the cell surface membrane causing the holes that contribute to "leaky gut".
The diet may sound super restrictive and torturous, but there are actually loads of tasty foods you can eat like this pulled chicken with bone broth-braised cabbage. Look out for this recipe and more on the website!