What I learned about Leaky Gut

Last week I watched a webinar about leaky gut with Dr. Josh Axe. It was super interesting (nutrition nerd alert), & I made sure to take notes in order to simplify this very interesting topic for you that I know everyone else is so curious about! 😉

First of all, what is leaky gut? Leaky gut is referred to as intestinal permeability. Okay, now I know what you’re thinking…

What the heck does intestinal permeability mean? Our gut is meant to be semipermeable, meaning the lining of our intestines allow certain substances to pass through, and not others. Permeable on the other hand, is letting all substances to essentially pass through the gut and into the rest of the body AKA the bloodstream. Leaky gut = intestinal permeability = letting all substances pass through.

The next question is…. is this a problem? Well, what if the gut leaks EVERYTHING into the rest of the body or bloodstream? The membrane of our gut usually prevents toxins, bacteria, yeast, and other large molecules of food (such as undigested food like proteins, including wheat, which is a protein) from passing through the barrier. But when these things are able to pass through the gut, they have consistently shown to  trigger autoimmune reactions and cause mild to severe health problems. Some believe that EVERY health problem begins in the gut and whether the gut is functioning properly or not. This includes whether the semipermeable membrane is doing its proper job. After all, 80% of your immune system is located in your gut.

“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates

According to Dr. Axe’s webinar, a leaky gut affects the whole body, everything from the skin, thyroid, colon, adrenals, joints, sinuses, mouth, brain, etc. It is the root cause of food intolerance, immune system complications, inflammation, and autoimmunity.

symptoms

Photo // Dr. Axe

Dr. Axe also claims that the leaky gut triggers include:

  • GMO foods, which might potentially kill the good bacteria in the gut
  • Antibiotics, which he refers to as “ABombs”
  • Gluten, for those with gluten sensitivity, which is not broken down properly and may cause inflammation
  • Processed sugar, which feeds yeast in the body, causes candida yeast overgrowth
  • Conventional dairy. dairy (and meat) these days frequently contain antibiotics, hormones, and other harmful substances due to the common farming agricultural practices.
  • Food sensitivities or allergies (leaky gut can essentially cause food sensitivities or allergies, but if you genuinely have a food sensitivity or allergy and continue to eat the food, it will cause leaky gut. For example if you have Celiac and continue to eat wheat, it may cause leaky gut, but leaky gut does NOT cause celiac)

*Not apart of this webinar, but according to Michael Gregor, M.D., (see video here): animal fat causes the gut lining to become leaky and contributes to the breakdown of intestinal barrier. Studies showed that the bloodstream became abundant in edotoxins (bacterial toxin) following a high animal fat meal (I think the meal was McDonadls sausage and egg McMuffins), which causes inflammation and the immune system going abrupt. These endotoxins come from the gut!

Dr. Axe’s 5 steps to heal leaky gut:

  1. Know your gut type (he did not go into detail about gut types)
  2. Remove inflammatory food triggers, which is different for everyone
  3. Nourish your gut lining with key nutrients
  4. Treat specific organs with supplements
  5. Rebalance microbes and probiotics

Not but not least, his top healing foods include:

  • Bone broth. Contains proline, glycine, and L-glutamine. These amino acids are abundant in bone broth, but they are also found is many foods, including a plant-based foods. They are also not essential amino acids, which means they can be produced by the body. Just a little side note: When we get sick, chicken noodle soup is the go-to, right? But back in the day chicken noodle soup was very different than chicken noodle soup today. Today, chicken noodle soup has processed chicken, or chicken that was pumped with antibiotics or growth hormones and are fed a grain diet. What the chicken eats and the antibiotics/hormones they receive are most definitely translated to the food product you are eating. Not to mention the noodles in chicken noodle soup, which is processed grain, ultimately devoid of any nutrients the grain originally had. Can you tell I am totally against the “chicken noodle soup cure”? Chicken noodle soup today does not equal chicken noodle soup hundreds of years ago, which was essentially “bone broth.” The point is, while proline, glycine, and l-gutamine are important amino acids (as are ALL amino acids), they can be obtained from a varied diet based on healthy, whole foods. You don’t need to go out and make some bone broth in order to get them, although there are some people who might benefit from a bone broth concoction depending on their health condition and needs.
  • Coconut oil. According to Dr. Axe, coconut oil kills of yeast, especially for those with “candida gut.” I need to do more information seeking on this.
  • Sauerkraut & fermented veggies. These are very good prebiotics (food for probiotics that live in the gut).
  • Goats milk, kefir. These are probiotics. *To understand the difference between probiotics and prebiotics, check out my previous article on the topic.
  • Blueberries. Which contain resveratrol, flavanoids, and other antioxidants, and lower in sugar compared to other fruits. (Okay, in my opinion, blueberries are definitely great for you but as are ALL fruits. Don’t just eat blueberries and think you’re doing yourself a favor. A diet including all fruit, which contains many different antioxidants and phytochemicals is ALWAYS the best idea.).
  • Orange/yellow foods. Especially squash family.

+ Supplements. Varies greatly per person, but Dr. Axe recommends:

  • Probiotics. 50 billion IU/daily. (Need to say SBO – soil based organisms & food based strains)
  • Digestive enzymes. These help break down food and gives the gut a rest, especially when consumed with meat or starch products.
  • Adaptogenic herbs. He mentions Ginseng, Ashwagandha, and Licorice root.
  • L-Glutamine. He claims this amino acid supplements is a “band-aid” for the gut lining and helps repair the small intestine.

Supplements should only be taken after you have seen a health professional!

To wrap up, I just want to clarify that this article is based off of the webinar from Dr. Josh Axe. These are not necessarily my opinions, although I did include my opinion where I felt it was needed. I just wanted to share my notes with you. I do think leaky gut is very real and such a major contributor to disease and health complications. This is why I consistently recommend a diet based on whole foods, because a diet based on whole foods will contain all the essential nutrients for a proper functioning gut!

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Essential Fatty Acids

Believe it or not, our bodies can synthesize all the fat it needs, and saturated, monounsaturated, and trans fat (including cholesterol) do not need to be consumed through the diet. Omega-3 and omega-6 are the only two which the body cannot synthesize and therefore they are considered essential fats.

Technically, only one kind of omega-3 needs to be obtained through our diet: Alpha-lenolenic acid (ALA), which has the ability to produce other omega-3 fatty acids in the body such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). However, this conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is relatively limited, and it is often recommended that EPA and DHA be consumed through the diet as well, either through food source or supplements. The Omega-6 that needs to be obtained from the diet is called Linoleic acid (LA).

But how much omega-3 and omega-6 do we need to consume in the diet?

ALA (omega-3) and LA (omega-6) compete for metabolism, which means too much of either one will reduce the metabolism of the other. This is one of the reasons a recommended ratio of 1 (or about 2:1) for omega-6 to omega-3 was developed (1). Unfortunately most Americans consume excessive amounts of omega-6 and are deficient in omega-3, with an average ratio of 16:1!

Both omega-3 and -6 play essential roles in brain function, normal growth and development. The high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, however, promotes the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (3). Omega-3 (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio), on the other hand, has been shown to prevent against these major diseases and also help control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis (2).

The high ratio of omega-6 can be attributed to grain fed animals (including the meat, dairy, and eggs that come from them), mayo-based foods, and the increased vegetable oil consumption: safflower, sunflower, corn, and soybean oils, coming from processed foods and cooking methods.

Remember, the idea is that both of these fatty acids are essential for proper health and play a  role in the prevention of many diseases. The key is balance between the two. It’s very easy to consume omega-6 in our diet, and a bit tricker to get those omega-3’s. Here are the top  sources of omega-3 (which also have low ratio of omega6/3):

  • Flax seeds*
  • Hemp seeds*
  • Chia seeds
  • Algae/seaweed
  • Beans, leafy greens, squash-help meet the RDA (4)
  • Supplements for ALA, DHA, or EPA
  • Fatty fish (good sources include anchovies, herring, salmon, sardines, rainbow trout, and pacific oysters) & shellfish

efacontentoils(5)

*Including their oils.

  1. http://www.eufic.org/article/en/artid/The-importance-of-omega-3-and-omega-6-fatty-acids/
  2. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/omega-3-fats/
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12442909
  4. http://plenteousveg.com/vegan-sources-omega-3/
  5. https://chriskresser.com/how-too-much-omega-6-and-not-enough-omega-3-is-making-us-sick/

 

 

Prebiotics and Probiotics.. what’s the difference?

Probiotics always seem to be a topic of interest among health-conscious individuals. Most of us have at least heard of probiotics, and maybe we have even tried a few products containing them when we have gotten some type of cold or other sickness (because that’s what your neighbor told you to do, or your friend’s friend has suggested it, or because you googled probiotic and the first website you read claimed probiotics are the ‘real-deal’). But I often wonder if we really understand what a probiotic is. What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? And should we really trust either one? I’ve learned about these two forms of bacteria in some of my classes, I’ve done some information gathering, and I hope to clear some things up.

First things first. Let’s talk bacteria. Our gastrointestinal tract is made up of hundreds of different species of “good” bacteria, also known as our body’s microflora. This bacteria helps our body metabolize nutrients, vitamins, drugs, hormones, and carcinogens; fight against intruders; prevents pathogens from colonizing; protects us against allergies and immune disorders; and regulates our immune system (1,2). These functions of the gut flora help our body’s to function properly and prevent disease-causing bacteria (AKA the “bad” bacteria) from taking hold. Our diet and lifestyle affects the types of bacteria that live in our gut. A healthy, nutrient-dense diet helps promote the growth of the good bacteria; an unhealthy diet consisting of refined sugar and animal fat, low fiber, and antibiotic use promotes the bad bacteria. This is where probiotics and prebiotics come into play. People frequently believe their diet can be “fixed” with supplementation, including probiotics.

I find that the definition of probiotics is often confusing, but Dr. Joel Fuhrman explains it best:

“The term probiotics is used both for the beneficial bacteria that are native to our intestinal tract and for supplemental live bacterial organisms that are thought to be beneficial when ingested. However, the (limited) bacteria in supplemental probiotics and fermented foods are not the same as the indigenous bacterial flora that live in the gut. Supplemental probiotics serve a beneficial role–but mostly when the normal native bacteria have been harmed or removed with antibiotic use or perverted with a diet of sweets and processed foods (1).”

He goes on to explain that it can take months to reestablish the good microflora and that a healthy diet needs to be maintained in order to do so. Probiotic bacteria that come from supplements drop within days when supplementation stops. This begins to explain why a healthy diet is the most important factor in promoting the right type of bacteria in our gut–not occasional probiotic supplementation.

There are many studies that have been done regarding probiotics, but the evidence is mixed when it comes to its effectiveness (1). For this reason more research needs to be done before we can proclaim that probiotics are the real deal. That being said, there are a few conditions that have been shown to benefit most from probiotics, including antibiotic associated diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (2). For more information regarding probiotics, check out Dr. Fuhrman’s article: What are probiotics?).

So, why is a healthy diet the most important factor in promoting the good bacteria? The good bacteria (and even probiotics themselves), feed off of non-digestible carbohydrate sources, resistant starch and fibers coming from vegetables, fruit, and legumes. These types of food act as prebiotics, which support the growth and activity of the good bacteria. They are found in foods like onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks, artichokes, oats, and bananas (2,3). It is not necessary to eat fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir to have beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract (1). A whole-food diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and legumes (AKA a high fiber, resistant starch and carbohydrate diet consisting of natural prebiotics) will provide enough of the favorable bacteria in our gut to keep us healthy and functioning at our best.

Probiotics may be helpful for some people under certain conditions, but I hope more research is completed in the future so we can determine their safety and effectiveness. As of right now, the evidence regarding the benefits of prebiotics from whole, plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables is our best bet when we want to keep our good bacteria in check. When you’re feeling sick, think about how your diet has been over the last few months or even the last few weeks. Are you fueling your microflora with healthy foods (prebiotics), or are you encouraging the growth of the “bad” bacteria?

This photo comes from PCRM.org:

healthy-gut-bacteria

This is a really good video video from nutritionfacts.org regarding probiotics and prebiotics.

  1. Furhman, Joel. Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body’s Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free. Harper One. 2012. pp. 89; 151-153. Print.
  2. “Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits.” MDPI. Web.: http://www.pcrm.org/media/online/sept2014/seven-foods-to-supercharge-your-gut-bacteria
  3. “Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits.” MDPI. Web.: http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/probiotics.aspx#_ENREF_1
  4. “Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits.” MDPI. Web.

Tofu Grilled Cheese

Tofu Grilled Cheese

Something quick and easy for brunch today.

  • 1 roll Arnold’s whole grain bread
  • 2 slices of extra firm sprouted tofu (pressed between paper towels)
  • 1 slice Daiya cheddar cheese
  • Red pepper hummus
  • Avocado
  • Sliced red onion
  • Garlic powder, sea salt, pepper

First prepare the tofu by pressing between paper towels, and then sprinkled with the garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper (I pressed down on the tofu slices with a spatula to make sure the spices stick).

Next cook the tofu on each side in a skillet, about medium high heat, turning once. I did not use any oil to cook. While tofu is cooking, I made the sandwich–cheese slice and sliced red onion on the bottom side of bread and then I mashed a small amount of avocado and red pepper hummus on the top side.

After the tofu was finished I placed it on top of the cheese/sliced red onion, topped with the other slice of bread and put it back on skillet to melt cheese! Again I used no oil, just let the bread toast. Flipping the sandwich to cook the top side can be tricky! Good luck!

Grilled Cheese

Plus an article about the nutrition confusion among all of us. It’s personally one of the most frustrating things to deal with, when everyone around me acts as a nutritional expert because they know how to type in the search bar on google. There really is a skill that we all need to learn when it comes to using the internet as an educational tool, and I’m so grateful that I learned about research methods during my psychology education a couple of years ago. I hope to post an article soon about this!

For now, it’s valuable to understand that many health and nutritional information you find on the internet focus on very specific nutrients and specific effects on the body. How many times have you heard to use a calcium, iron, or vitamin D supplement? Unfortunately our bodies do not work based on this reductionist approach, a term coined by Dr. Campbell. He’s been one of my most favorite authors and physicians, mainly because he has taught me that reductionism misses the larger context, and abandons the wholistic approach we need to focus on for true and lasting health. I recommend reading some of his books, especially Whole, as it explains the reductionism phenomenon.

Here is the article: http://nutritionstudies.org/reductionist-paradigm-cause-nutrition-confusion/

Aside from nutritional information focusing too much on specific nutrients and effects, it’s important to remember that many people over the internet have no educational background regarding nutrition. Make sure to dig into an articles resources and especially find out the authors credentials. Including mine! You can find out in my about me that I have my BS in business management and psychology, I have a certificate in Plant-based Nutrition, and I am currently pursuing my Master’s in Dietetics and Nutrition, as well as a health coach certification.  It’s up to you to be able to trust the information I am providing as I am not yet a Registered Dietitian or Health Coach. My educational experience started a quite a few years ago and it continues, but you should always question the bloggers experience and knowledge.

I hope this helps you use the internet more efficiently!