It is no secret that the average “modern” diet – rich in sugar, high-glycemic grains, inflammatory fats and a variety of preservatives and chemicals – is responsible for a serious deterioration in our collective health. The rates of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s are at all-time highs. Not to mention the related epidemics of obesity and diabetes.
But there is a lesser-known epidemic, also caused by the foods we eat. It results in a wide array of symptoms and is often misdiagnosed. I’m talking about the condition known as “leaky gut” – implicated in the rise of food allergies and intolerances, autoimmune illness, chronic fatigue and a range of brain and body illnesses.
In a previous article, I discussed the causes of leaky gut and its related health issues. If you have a leaky gut (and many of us do), you’ll want to read today’s article carefully as we discuss natural approaches to heal and seal your gut... and therefore improve your overall health.
This is based on a four-step protocol developed by Dr. Josh Axe that is designed to help heal leaky gut and address what is often the root cause of autoimmune illness and chronic inflammation.1
Healing Leaky Gut Step 1: Remove
The first step is to remove from your diet all foods known to promote inflammation in the gut, including the following:
• Vegetable, corn and seed oils
• Alcohol and caffeine
Many pharmaceutical drugs can also promote leaky gut. If you are taking medications that may worsen leaky gut, talk with your doctor about alternatives that may be easier on your digestive system.
Healing Leaky Gut Step 2: Replace
Once you’ve removed foods that can trigger leaky gut, it’s important to replace those foods with options that help to nourish your gut. A diet that is rich in healthy fats is the cornerstone for healing the gut. And saturated fat is the most beneficial.
So, fill your plate with grass-fed beef, wild fish (especially salmon, sardines and mackerel) and nutrient-dense bone marrow. Cook with animal fats like tallow and lard. Bone broth is also especially helpful thanks to its high glycine and proline content. These amino acid compounds help rebuild the cellular structure of the gut lining and also reduce inflammation.2,3
Fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha are also very beneficial. And take notice of how you feel when you consume uncooked vegetables. Many people with a compromised gut or weak digestion do better with vegetables well-cooked until the gut is healed.
Healing Leaky Gut Step 3: Repair
Certain foods and supplements can further help to repair and seal the gut, including:
1. Fiber: The probiotics that are critical to gut health can’t live without fiber. Indigestible fibers (called prebiotics) are the food that helps a diverse and healthy microbiome thrive in your gut.
2. Digestive Enzymes: These compounds help break down proteins, complex sugars and starches, which can reduce intestinal inflammation and remedy nutrient deficiencies.
3. Turmeric: This yellow spice, commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine, can help contract the proteins in your bowel lining (thus reducing gut permeability). Turmeric is also a powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory spice.4
4. Quercetin: Helps seal the gut lining and stabilizes the cells that release histamine into the body (thereby having an anti-inflammatory effect).5
5. L-Glutamine: An essential amino acid with powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Also well known for its ability to tighten and repair a leaky gut.6
Healing Leaky Gut Step 4: Rebalance
Rebalancing your microbiome with probiotics is your final step. And it is one you must stick to diligently even after symptoms subside. The most important source of probiotics are fermented foods, including sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and more.
Supplements can also be quite beneficial. When choosing a probiotic supplement, the following features are important for optimal benefit:
1. Survivability – Look for strains known for being able to make it to the gut and colonize, including bacillus coagulans, saccharomyces boulardii, bacillus subtilis, and bifidobacterium.
2. Shelf Stability – Your supplement should be able to withstand storage at room-temperature without losing potency.
3. Strain Diversity – Be sure your probiotic supplement contains at least five or more strains of different bacteria… or take more than one supplement with different strains to increase diversity.
4. High CFU Count – Your probiotic should have a count of at least five billion colony forming units (CFU). This greatly improves chances of colonization.
Maintaining the health of your gut in today’s world requires a return to our basic dietary roots. Enjoying an ancestral diet, rich in healthy fats and gut-healing nutrients… welcoming “good bugs” into your life with lacto-fermented foods and farm-fresh veggies (bonus points if there is a bit of dirt still clinging on!)… and approaching your health with natural means (rather than chemicals or pharmaceuticals), can make a big impact on the integrity of your gut and your overall, long-term health.
Ed Note: Kelley Herring is the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, makers of grain-free, gluten-free and low-carb baking mixes for cakes, cookies, breads, pizza and more. If you’re following a paleo diet (or working to restore your digestive health) it’s important to avoid grains. Wellness Bakeries can help you enjoy your favorite comfort foods and sweet treats… without souring your health! Check out their products on the US Wellness Meats store here.
- Dr. Axe: 4 Steps to Heal Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Disease. https://draxe.com/4-steps-to-heal-leaky-gut-and-autoimmune-disease/
- Wheeler MD, Ikejema K, Mol Life Sci. Enomoto N, et al. Glycine: a new anti-inflammatory immunonutrient. Cell Mol Life Sci.1999; 56:843-856.
- Zhong Z, Wheeler MD, Li X, Froh M, Schemmer P, Yin M, Bunzendaul H, Bradford B, Lemasters JJ., L-Glycine: a novel antiinflammatory, immunomodulatory, and cytoprotective agent.
- Siddhartha S. Ghosh, Jinghua Bie, Jing Wang, Shobha Ghosh. Oral Supplementation with Non-Absorbable Antibiotics or Curcumin Attenuates Western Diet-Induced Atherosclerosis and Glucose Intolerance in LDLR−/− Mice – Role of Intestinal Permeability and Macrophage Activation. Published: September 24, 2014
- University of Maryland. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide. Queretin. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/quercetin
- Bertrand J1, Ghouzali I1, Guérin C1, Bôle-Feysot C1, Gouteux M1, Déchelotte P2, Ducrotté P3, Coëffier M4.Glutamine Restores Tight Junction Protein Claudin-1 Expression in Colonic Mucosa of Patients With Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome.JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2015 May 13.