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leaky gut

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Leaky Freakin' Gut: Explained

Alright, time for me to break it down. I've mentioned leaky gut before and the concept of it is pretty simple once you can visualize it. When I first read about it in It Starts With Food, I realized right away I probably had it. I am (was) a bagel, pasta, fresh crunchy baguette loving woman, especially in college, so grain was pretty much my number one food group. I asked a doctor friend of mine if real MDs acknowledge leaky gut as a real thing or if it's just some crazy holistic idea and I was surprised by the answer. Doctors definitely acknowledge that leaky gut (also commonly know as intestinal hyper-permeability) is a problem, but they are just now learning more about how it relates to disease and auto-immune disorders.

The best and shortest way to describe leaky gut is this: 

70% of your immune system is located in your belly, which is hard to imagine since we typically think of our immune system as being, well, everywhere. But think about it, you bring in food, toxins, germs and more through your mouth and into your gut every day, so the immune system is there to fight off those invaders at the front door. If you think of your intestinal lining as a brick wall there are cells and mortar. In a normally functioning gut, the mortar is strong and nothing can pass through the wall, but if a gut in attacked over and over again by things like yeast, parasites, bad bacteria, viruses, alcohol, antibiotics, NSAIDS (Advil / ibuprofen) the mortar starts to weaken and gets leaky causing these invaders and other non-digested particles of food into the bloodstream where they are not supposed to be. 

Think of your intestine like you think of the outside of your body. You put unprocessed food in it to be broken down. So anything that starts on the outside of our body that goes through your mouth and into your intestines is technically still on the outside of your body until digested properly. When the lining of your gut is permeated, those things that belong on the outside seep to the inside.

Let's take gluten as an example since removing it from my diet is what confirmed to me that I had leaky gut. When undigested gluten leaks into your bloodstream over and over again, your immune system recognizes it as bad and attacks it. What happens next is crazy. The gluten DNA looks a whole lot like human joint DNA and overtime, your exhausted immune system confuses the two and starts attacking your joints. In my case, this is why when I eat gluten, my RA symptoms flare up. My immune system thinks my joints are bad foreign invaders. For me, those are the only symptoms of leaky gut I had so removing the gluten improved my joint pain and helped me realize my gut was leaky.

For many though, there are no signs or symptoms of leaky gut. A recent study mentioned in Dr. Blum's book The Immune System Recovery Plan says that the majority of people with an auto-immune diseases also have leaky gut. This is a huge statement that would be basically impossible to prove, but I think it sheds light on how many people are most likely sick because of leaky gut and don't even know it.

The reason why functional doctors like Dr. Blum say they can reverse auto-immune disorders is that once you remove the gluten and heal the gut lining, your immune system should restore itself and stop attacking your body in whatever way it has manifested. It's a long process that I'm working on over time, but I've noticed that the absence of gluten in my diet is helping me more than any other medicine I've taken. That is enough to believe food has a major impact on our health.

I know that being gluten free is seen as very trendy right now. A year ago, I too thought it was a stupid fad that everyone was jumping on, but now I see the benefits. There are a lot of books out there that talk about why wheat and other sources of gluten are not native to human bodies and why they're suddenly making our bodies go nuts. If you want more info and don't want to read the books I've listed above, check out these articles that I think illustrate leaky gut pretty well:

New Research Shows Poorly Understood Leaky Gut Syndrome May Be The Cause Of Several Diseases | The Daily Beast

9 Signs You Have Leaky Gut | Mind Body Green

5 Symptoms Of Gluten Sensitivity You Probably Don't Know About | Mind Body Green

 

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Read This: The Immune System Recovery Plan

This book has become my bible in just two short months. I finally moved it from my Amazon wishlist to my shopping cart out of the desire to see what Dr. Susan Blum had to say about the immune system that I hadn't already read. 

Well, let me tell you. You says a lot. The book is divided into four parts: adopting a detox diet, fixing stress & adrenal fatigue, healing a leaking gut and cleansing heavy metals from the system. She claims that many of her patients were cured or mostly cured from their auto-immune diseases after following her plan. I was skeptical at first, but I had nothing but some money to lose. She writes a totally relevant and understandable way, including recipes as she goes, while making you understand the root cause of your problems with just enough scientific detail.

The detox diet requires you remove corn, gluten, soy and diary for three weeks, then add each back in separately and keep the foods that irritate you out for good. I skipped this step since I had already been gluten free for a year, tested the effects of dairy on my system (zits and chest congestion... fun), and knew I didn't have issues with corn or soy (except again, zits come with the soy territory too due to the elevated estrogen in it). She also requires the removal of white grain (rice, quinoa, etc) and white sugar. I cut back drastically there but completely is really impossible. I also removed diary from my diet again. For a lot of people, this chapter alone could be overwhelming but power through... it's worth it! 

Next came healing my leaky gut. It just so happened that leading up to reading this book, I had been suffering from major bloating and lower stomach heaviness on and off for about three months. Some days, I literally looked four months pregnant and felt like I had a box of stones in my belly weighing my down (FUPA in yoga pants, my god!). My back even hurt. One day I thought I had ovarian cancer I was so swollen and achy down there. My gynecologist insisted I was fine, of course, and suggested I see a gastroenterologist, but I'm glad I waited. Everything Dr. Blum described as symptoms of leaky gut, I had. Her book has little tests you take that help you determine if you have severe issues and then she gives you remedies for each level of severity. For me, I need to heal my intestines with supplements and glutamine. I followed her steps (I'll go into detail about that in a another post soon) and sure enough, within days of starting her supplement plan and being more vigorous with my diet, I had no swelling or pain. In two months, I have kept it up and had no issues, not even once!

I've moved on to the adrenal fatigue portion of the book now and will get into the heavy metal removal later. It's a lot of information to digest in one sitting. I find myself reading parts of the book over and over again picking up new insight as I get further into the plan. She says it can take up to a year to really heal, but I'm definitely feeling less swelling in my joints and much, much better in my stomach. 

Dr. Blum knows what she's talking about. She was a traditional doctor who was diagnosed with hashimoto's thyroiditis. She healed herself with this plan and now she heals others. If you have fatigue, digestive or auto-immune issues at all, I suggest you get this book and hear what she has to say. I'm only half way through the journey, but it's been worth every second.

 

 

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