Author: Katie Morra, MS, RD, LDN
As a functional medicine nutritionist, I focus my attention on the whole person and seek out the root cause of dysfunction for each individual’s health concerns. Did you know that over 70% of our immune system resides in our gut? More times than not, that’s directing me to find the root cause of dysfunction or disease to be stemming from the gut. Many of us don’t prioritize our health until disease has surfaced and fail to consider how we treat our body day to day. This can all directly impact our health in its entirety and is why the healing approach of “starting with the gut” really works- let us heal ourselves from the inside out!
Many people assume their gut is working properly and all is well if they don’t suffer from digestive problems such as heartburn, bloating, and gas. Unfortunately, digestive problems can manifest in unexpected ways, such as autoimmune disorders, rashes, acne, eczema, psoriasis, food sensitivities, mood swings, arthritis and much more. The health of your gut is the key to maintaining the balance of your microflora, or essentially the “good bugs” and “bad bugs” inside. This gut harmony helps to determine how well you absorb and use the nutrients you eat, as well as protecting you from the toxins in your diet and environment.
Many of my patients suffer from intestinal permeability, otherwise known as “leaky gut.” To put it more simply, if the integrity of their gut lining becomes damaged, things can come and go through the lining, which when healthy should not. One example of this is large protein molecules leaking out, causing food intolerances to things you could normally digest with no problem. This happens when your body starts to see a non- harmful molecule, such as gluten (protein found in wheat) as a foreign invader. This reaction causes your immune system to become overactive, wreaking havoc within and sparking an inflammatory response. Until the gut lining is repaired and balance is re-established, the cascade that leads to impaired gut health will only get worse.
How do you damage your gut lining?
- SAD diet (Standard American Diet)- high caloric, high processed, high refined sugar, and low fiber intake that promotes the growth of bad bacteria and yeasts and limits the growth of good bacteria
- Chronic stress can alter the balance of the good and bad
- Excessive intake of toxins and failure to eliminate these toxins
- Overuse of medications such as antibiotics, steroids, antacids and alcohol use
- Chronic infections, yeast and bacterial overgrowth
How do you heal your gut lining?
- Maintain a whole foods diet, absent of refined sugars and processed foods and rich in fiber
- Seek out an experienced nutritionist to trial an elimination diet (removal of gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs for 3 weeks) to establish any food intolerances and triggers.
- Use digestive enzymes or hydrochloric acid, if recommended by your health care practitioner, to aid in food break down and digestion
- Supplement with (I suggest seeking out a company that follows Good Manufacturing Practices):
- L-Glutamine – an amino acid that aids in gut healing and protects the integrity of your intestinal tract
- Probiotics – one that contains lactobacillus and bifidobacteria to re-introduce good bacteria and reestablish balance within gut
- Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids)– helps to reduce inflammation
- Multivitamin– zinc, vitamins A, C and E can all help heal the gut lining
- Anti-inflammatory medical foods – use a hypoallergenic rice based formula that provides you with nutrients, protein and healing properties as recommended by your physician or nutritionist
For an easy way to put your new knowledge into action, just remember the 5 R’s of functional medicine:
- Remove the bad
- Replace with the good
- Re-inoculate with probiotics
- Repair with supplements and food
- Rebalance with a healthy lifestyle