You’ve been diagnosed with IBS, what now?

A different kind of diagnosis:

First things first  – realise that IBS is not really a diagnosis in the true sense of the word “the art or act of identifying a disease from its signs and symptoms” (definition from Merriam Webster). It’s actually a ‘diagnosis of exclusion’, meaning you’re told you have ‘IBS’ when there’s nothing else making any sense from your case history, symptoms & all the testing you’ve had done. It’s not bowel cancer, not coeliac disease, not diverticulitis, not inflammatory bowel disease, not a food intolerance…hmmm – you must have ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome ‘. I guess it’s much more comforting hearing that from your Dr / specialist than ‘we have no idea what is making you feel so unwell’ (which is also usually true).

“Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the absence of a specific and unique organic pathology, although microscopic inflammation has been documented in some patients”.  (Medscape) Keywords here are ‘functional gastrointestinal disorder’ & ‘in the absence of a specific and unique organic pathology’.  This means that the gut is not functioning normally, but there appears to be nothing wrong with it…no disease process going on…nothing that shows up on the tests currently available anyway.

A new definition for functional gut disorders:

“Functional GI disorders are disorders of gut-brain interaction. It is a group of disorders classified by GI symptoms related to any combination of the following: motility disturbance, visceral hypersensitivity, altered mucosal and immune function, altered gut microbiota, and altered central nervous system processing” I’ll explain briefly what these all mean below:

  • motility disturbance = how the bowel contracts & causes movement of food & waste through the GIT isn’t normal.
  • visceral hypersensitivity = gut distension / pain / discomfort is felt more strongly & acutely.
  • altered mucosal & immune function = your gut immune axis is a bit wonky. Your gut lining & gut bugs that live there aren’t working together optimally.
  • altered gut microbiota = your gut microbial balance is out. The ‘ecosystem’ inside you has been disturbed or just isn’t harmonious.
  • altered central nervous system processing = your brain is processing signals from the gut differently to normal.

If you suspect you may have IBS but aren’t really one for going to the dr, one IBS ‘self-test’ you can do is: eat normal healthy food for a month & if you often suffer from bloating, pain, discomfort, irregular bowel motions…then there’s a good chance you have IBS! If your gut is doing really weird & annoying things (sometimes extremely painful & debilitating weird things that can be so intense you become anxious, depressed & even suicidal)…it’s highly likely you have IBS. 

EVEN THOUGH AN IBS DIAGNOSIS IS NOT REALLY A TRUE DIAGNOSIS – IT’S IMPORTANT. IF YOU’RE SUFFERING FROM GUT SYMPTOMS & THINK IT MAY BE IBS, GET YOURSELF CHECKED OUT BY A PRACTITIONER ASAP. IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT TO EXCLUDE SOME OTHER CONDITIONS THAT MAY HAVE SIMILAR SYMPTOMS, BUT MUCH MORE SEVERE CONSEQUENCES IF LEFT UNDIAGNOSED.

(Things like coeliac disease, food intolerances, inflammatory bowel disease, or even cancer can present with IBS-like symptoms). Get your badly-behaved gut checked!

IBS Sub-Types:

Realise that your IBS is not the same as the IBS your neighbour / friend / colleague / mum / aunty may be experiencing. Remember, just because your gut trouble has been given the same name as theirs, it doesn’t mean you have the same stuff happening or the same cause, or the same triggers.

There are many recognised IBS sub-types: these just narrow it down a little, but still don’t mean that treatment or triggers will be the same.

  1. IBS-C (constipation is the predominant symptom)
  2. IBS-D (diarrhoea predominant)
  3. IBS-M or A (mixed or alternating. This is the best of both worlds, with both diarrhoea & constipation experienced often).
  4. Post-Infectious IBS (usually begins after a bout of gastro, food poisoning or traveller’s diarrhoea, but not necessarily so soon after that you’ll connect the dots). This one is more of a cause than a sub-type, as post-infectious IBS can morph into any of the above types, though more commonly IBS-D or M.

…then, of course, there will be subtypes within the subtypes.  And you can switch from one sub-type to another, maybe CBD (confused bowel syndrome) could also be a sub-type? 

Warning Signs – Don’t Ignore These:

If you have tummy symptoms that you think may be IBS, but also experience any of the following – you need to get checked out ASAP!

  • Fever
  • Persistent ongoing diarrhoea
  • Unexplained or significant weight loss
  • Blood in stools or dark coloured / black looking stools
  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Nausea & / or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain that isn’t relieved completely by having a bowel motion
  • Initial onset of symptoms occurring after age 50

So – now that you have your ‘diagnosis’, (or whatever it is)…what to do?

In most cases, upon ‘diagnosis’ with IBS you will have been offered various medications – something to block you up when you have diarrhoea, laxatives to help you go when constipated, some type of fibre supplement, some probiotics & maybe some antispasmodics to help control bowel contractions / cramping.  

The Low FODMAP Diet:

If you’re lucky, your GP / gastroenterologist has referred you to a dietician, nutritionist or naturopath who can help you try & figure out food triggers using a Low FODMAP diet (which limits certain rapidly fermentable carbohydrates known to cause IBS symptoms). My advice would be to shove the medications to the back of the cupboard, to be used in times of great need, but try your hardest to understand & follow the Low FODMAP diet & get an understanding of how FODMAPs affect your gut. While it won’t help everybody, for many it can be an absolute game-changer. But don’t go it alone, get help – FODMAPs can be super-confusing with an already confusing gut! The diet, when used properly, can help up to 75% of people diagnosed with IBS to manage their symptoms & feel more in control very quickly, so this is the first step to take. At least give it a go to find out if it will be useful for you – one potentially great tool in your IBS management toolkit.  

Note – a Low FODMAP diet is not meant to be a long-term diet, nor is it recommended for those without IBS. It is a tool to manage gastrointestinal symptoms, & great for general gut awareness, but is not recommended as a healthy life-long diet choice as many very healthy (& prebiotic) foods are excluded.

Some More Natural Tools for IBS Management:

  • hypnotherapy (proven to be useful in IBS management), check out the Monash Uni research on this
  • meditation (proven to be effective for stress management, which is critical with IBS)
  • other forms of stress management. I cannot stress enough how strongly stress will impact your IBS. Stress can cause everything to grind to a halt – when you’re fighting or fleeing, you aren’t eating / digesting. It will interfere with the migrating motor complex & also stomach acid production (which can lead to constipation, SIBO & all round poor digestion). Do ‘whatever floats your boat’ & helps you sail through life more happily – make time for it! Exercise, funny movies, massage, yoga, deep breathing, art, music…find your pressure release valve & hit it really regularly)!
  • sleep, get enough. When we’re stressed out & not sleeping properly, our gut microbial balance changes (not in a good way), & that can make sleeping well even harder. It really is a cycle – bad gut, stress, worse gut, worse stress….until the nervous system & gut are completely dysfunctional.
  • herbal relief (slippery elm, turmeric, aloe vera, herbal antimicrobials, bitter liver herbs, pomegranate, ginger, peppermint, berberine & polyphenol-rich herbs…get professional guidance from a naturopath, functional GP or herbalist for best results. Many plant extracts have been proven to help with IBS, or have been used for hundreds or even thousands of years to support healthy digestion).
  • leave spaces between eating (give your migrating motor complex a chance to ‘clean up’)
  • probiotics & fermented foods  (these can be hit & miss, so it’s best to get help from a practitioner who knows their bifido from their bacillus!) Some supplemental strains may aggravate some IBS people, e.g. SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) people usually don’t tolerate the common & usually beneficial Lactobacillus strains well. In general, I think it’s best to try to get probiotics from foods, but sometimes capsules or powder are just more convenient.
  • prebiotics (get help again, taking prebiotics can significantly alter your gut microbial balance, so you need to work with someone who can choose what is most appropriate for your system. Once again – prebiotic foods are generally better than supplements as they contain more diverse types of fibre & because mother nature made them, not some factory).
  • exercise (moderation is key, being sedentary means poor gut function & microbial diversity, but overdoing exercise can hurt your gut).
  • intermittent fasting (this can help by giving the gut a longer rest period in between meals & also can cause changes to the gut microbial population).
  • fat / fibre / carbs / protein (experiment with what fuels your body best. Some feel better on a high-fat diet, some seem to function better with more carbs…see what works best for you). Fibre is crucial to good gut function as it provides food to support your beneficial gut bugs – just increase gradually to avoid gas & bloating
  • ACV / lemon water (many people swear by these, taken first thing in the morning to ‘wake up’ & prime the digestive system for action).
  • magnesium (helps many with IBS-C, plus it’s great for helping you relax if you’re deficient – which is extremely common. Constipated stress-heads LOVE magnesium).
  • charcoal (handy to carry capsules in your handbag to swallow if you’re prone to gas & bloating).
  • coffee (be careful with caffeine – it is a bowel stimulant. Everyone responds differently but just be aware of it. Some use it as a morning stimulant to help them ‘go’, others find it gives them the runs & need to avoid entirely).
  • carbonated beverages (will aggravate bloating, just be aware).
  • alcohol (some types may be ok in moderation but it depends – listen to your body).
  • self-massage (great to help unblock trapped gas pockets or help move things along, add some peppermint oil into a carrier oil or moisturiser).
  • get enough sleep (if you’re not sleeping well, your gut microbial balance won’t be optimal & neither will your ability to handle stress).
  • gluten & dairy (2 really common triggers – aside from FODMAP’s, although there is overlap, worth trialling a GF DF period of a few weeks-months to see how you feel).
  • sugar (makes you fat, moody, pimply, rots your teeth…& disrupts your gut microbial health. IBS is just one more great reason to minimise it).
  • avoid antibiotics where you can (wiping out your gut ecosystem & hoping something that functions well grows back is a huge gamble that quite often ends in a long-term gut issue). Sometimes antibiotics can be useful though, to ‘clean the slate’ so you can start from scratch again – eating well & making an effort to cultivate & nurture a better ecosystem.
  • medication review
  • other medications can list IBS-like symptoms as a ’side effect’ (ask your pharmacist for detailed digestive info on your drugs).
  • look into an FMT (faecal microbe transplant). Although not commonly recommended for IBS, definitely worth getting an expert opinion if nothing else is helping you. Be aware that there are potential risks involved, but also massive potential for making much needed gut microbial changes. This treatment would need to be supported with many of the above tips for best results (otherwise, you’ll likely end up back in the same place again after a while).

Some Kind of Normality!

New found control of IBS symptoms can help immensely with getting some normality back into life, as it’s not just your bowel motions that IBS affects. It’s your productivity, your employment options; your ability to travel, study, attend classes & events; your relationships, your social life, your sex-life, your parenting ability…your mental-emotional well-being. Everything. When your gut is unpredictable, you can’t say ‘yes’ to things you’d normally love to, for fear that you’ll end up: looking 5mths pregnant, suffering extreme pain, getting extremely embarrassed, being stuck in a hotel room, having to answer a million questions, feeling uncomfortable, or just plain starving.

People with normal healthy bowel function tend to take this kind of freedom for granted. If this is you – spare a thought for those whose gut literally dictates their life! 

If you have tried other methods that have been successful please email me, I’m still learning & the best teachers are people living the day-to-day IBS rollercoaster!

Jeanie xx
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

 

P.s. In this episode of Eat Play Poo – I talk to Marina Iacovou from the Monash University, and she gives some great insights to the future of IBS – it’s about an hour long be we had a great chat :-)

Hippocrates, Gut Health, the Microbiome & Medication

Gut health is all of a sudden becoming front & centre in mainstream western medicine, as it rightly should be. Us naturopaths have been preaching it forever (we took a couple of things Hippocrates said pretty seriously – believing medicine should ‘do no harm’ & that ‘all disease begins in the gut.)’ Smart bloke old Hippocrates – no wonder he’s considered ‘the father of modern medicine’.  Here are some of my other favourite Hippocrates quotes (& how they can connect to the current microbiome / gut health picture). 

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”– the easiest way to alter the microbiome is by changing the diet. Changing a dysfunctional microbiome can restore health in many cases. 

“Walking is man’s best medicine. ” – exercise is crucial to maintain a healthy microbiome.

“It is far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.” – our individual gut microbial makeup can determine how we respond to many foods, medicines, health challenges & triggers. 

“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses.” – never take good health for granted, always listen to your gut if it’s feeling out of whack & fix it ASAP! Recognise symptoms as signs that something has to change, find out what your illness can teach you.

“Extreme remedies are very appropriate for extreme diseases.”– strong pharmaceutical medications can be life-saving / necessary / powerful / awesome, but let’s save them for the ‘extreme’ cases & endeavour to fix the rest using food, lifestyle & gentler approaches. 

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” – totally! Our guts (and our economy) would be a whole lot healthier too. It shoud be a requirement (like paying tax) to nourish ourselves properly & exercise regularly. Then – there’s very little need for medical treatment – with it’s side effects & expense :) 

Walking

Since Hippocrates’ time (460-375 BC) ‘modern medicine’ has veered (just a teensy bit) off-track unfortunately, propelled by profit-hungry pharmaceutical giants into a system that completely overlooks or even disregards many of these fundamental healing principles taught by it’s medical ‘dad’ & mother nature. I have a feeling that the father of modern medicine would not be too happy with his wayward offspring right now. 

But there’s a turning point ahead for medicine – there has to be. It simply cannot continue on the same trajectory, given recent scientific ‘discoveries’ on how important our gut ecology is to our overall health (naturopaths & integrative practitioners everywhere are rolling their eyes & saying ‘well, duh’).  

Many widely used & trusted medications will no longer be considered ‘free from harmful side effects’ as we take into account their (often very significant) impact on our gut microbiome & gut lining. The relative risks of home first-aid kit staples like Panadol, Nurofen, Aspirin, (& many other meds handed out like lollies to young & old for decades by well-meaning GP’s & pharmacies) will be reconsidered. Antibiotics, ant-acids, anti-depressants, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, contraceptive pills…they’re not just fixing our symptoms & passing through our guts unnoticed by our gut bugs. And when you mess with your gut ecosystem, there’s always a knock-on effect, even if it takes years to become apparent. 

Do a little research & you’ll see that the way we’re using medicine is about to really start changing. Big pharma won’t be missing out though – they’re not stupid. As I write, there are many millions of dollars being poured into the research & development of new products & technologies made suddenly relevant by gut microbiome discoveries. This is truly game-changing. It means that whatever we introduce into our bodies has to be beneficial or at least compatible with our gut ecology, in order to be considered free from harmful side effects – not the case for most medicines & even for many of our chemical-laden & highly processed modern foods.

So…next time you’re prescribed a medication you feel may be unnecessary, ask the pharmacist or GP “What is the likely impact of this medication on my gut microbiome?” Unless you have a really ‘onto it’ practitioner, you probably won’t get much of an answer (in most cases it will be unknown anyway). But – at least make it clear that you’re aware there’s an impact, that you’re conscious of looking after your gut balance…& that his ‘dad’ would be concerned too. 

Read more about medication & your microbiome here:

surprising-number-of-common-medications-impact-the-gut-microbiome

Here are a few gut-wrecking / impacting meds that I would be finding alternatives for if you’re trying to get your gut / yourself truly well:

Antibiotics: only resort to these in really serious circumstances, when your body doesn’t seem capable of fighting the infection itself. Be guided by a Dr / practitioner who understands the gut & it’s crucial role in wellbeing as well as the very real risks that infection can pose – it’s never worth risking your life or serious side-effects of an infection striving to keep your gut microbial balance healthy. If you have to take them, there are probably times that you will – take them as directed, but also get advice & invest in some gut rehabilitation to minimise long-term damage & maximise your chances of a full recovery.

Alternative: Keep your immune system strong – it is meant to be your infection-defender! Prioritise sleep, stay well-hydrated, exercise regularly with moderate intensity, figure out how to deal with stress & do it, eat the rainbow, focus your diet on gut-loving pre & probiotic foods, minimise chemical toxicity in your life, get a good dose of sunshine regularly, minimise sugar & processed foods, eat natural, organically grown food as much as you can.   

Read more here: 101101083144.htm  

Ant-acids: Think about it. If you’re getting acid reflux, something is ‘up’ with your digestion, & you need to address that as a priority – your body is literally screaming at you to change something. Don’t just cover the symptom with a medication that blocks your ability to digest proteins & disrupts your digestive process further!! I can almost guarantee you’ll end up with worse issues than the reflux as a result. Your body relies on stomach acid to help start the break down of protein you eat. If you’re taking acid blockers or antacids continually, you’re not going to break down & absorb protein properly & you also risk developing many other nutritional deficiencies, as well as bone fractures, gastro infections, & IBS-type symptoms.

Alternative: If you suffer from reflux, GERD etc – don’t just opt for the band-aid medication solution. My advice would be to see a naturopath or functional GP who specialises in gut health (they will normally list this as a specialty). They may order some tests, prescribe a change in diet & include things like apple cider vinegar or digestive bitters before meals. Read more here: skip-the-antacid

The Contraceptive Pill: You may not realise that your hormones & gut bugs are very connected. There are many different ‘pills’ in use today, with different hormonal effects, just be aware that some have been linked to increased risk of active inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s) & that they do cause alterations in your gut (& vaginal) microbiome, which can lead to changes in bowel habits as well. 

Read more here: PMC4928680

To find a more extensive list of meds you may want to research, this is a great article:

the-effects-of-non-antibiotic-drugs-on-the-microbiome

If you have a story to share about medication & your gut – I’d really love to hear it. I’m not anti-medication, just believe that we should save them to use as a last resort – cos they can often upset our all-important gut microbial balance.

Jeanie
jeanie@goodmix.com.au

The Microbiome & The Future of Food

Over the past 5 years, gut health & the human microbiome have exploded from obscurity into popular mainstream topics, with new books, podcasts, gurus, websites, blogs, food & beverage products appearing weekly now. Gut health is finally & deservedly front & centre in Australia, with so many suffering from debilitating ’functional gut disorders’ (gut symptoms with nothing detectably wrong with the digestive tract). These functional gut issues, & many, many other health problems almost certainly have gut microbial disturbances at their centre. 

‘IBS’ (irritable bowel syndrome) is the second most common reason for Australians to miss work, only after colds & the flu (which, when you consider that our immune system is largely governed by the health of our gut…could mean that our newfound interest in gut health makes the Aussie sick day strictly for hangovers?!)

Choosing to eat gluten free (for non-coeliacs & even for those with no strong symptoms of intolerance) has been a growing dietary trend / necessity (depending on who you talk to) for years now, with 40% of us Aussies regularly purchasing gluten free products & 10-15% consistently eating ‘gluten free’. At the recent Brisbane gluten free expo, we even saw gluten free beer & pies, Aussie coeliac blokes rejoice!! 

Whilst those with coeliac disease have no option but to strictly avoid gluten to stay well, there’s a lot of controversy re the more casual ‘gluten avoiders’. Some GF people (esp those with diagnosed IBS) have experimented with or changed to a Low FODMAP diet to find relief, & many do – 3/4 of IBS sufferers find it helpful in managing their symptoms. There is a crossover here, as many gluten containing foods are also high FODMAP (ie wheat products). 

The prediction is that like gluten awareness, (& all things relevant to gut health), FODMAP awareness will grow massively over the next few yrs, as gut-conscious people begin to realise they can make themselves feel more comfortable just by understanding their FODMAP reactivity & modifying intake when needed. More info on FODMAPS here at the Monash University Low FODMAP website. 

The Future of Food…

There are so many changes affecting the food industry right now, microbiome research is just one driver – but it’s definitely changing the way we eat & shop. Imagine – just fast-forward 10 yrs to 2028…when we’ve uncovered more of the gut iceberg!

This is what I’m Imagining…(some of this is already happening)!

1. We will all have a gut microbial analysis done anytime we’re unwell, babies will all have their stool bacteria analysed not long after birth & then at intervals as they grow, to see how their gut flora is developing & what foods will be best to support optimal health, growth & the development of a diverse & robust gut ecosystem. There will be easy steps to take to improve the gut-immune outcomes for babies who are born via C-section &/or are unable to breastfeed.

2. Antibiotics & other medications will not be prescribed routinely & never without a ‘gut-rehabilitation’ program or procedure to follow / accompany them. Probiotics in some way may become the new antibiotics…& FMT’s (focal microbe transplants) will be commonly used to treat all kinds of disease.

3. We’ll all be choosing food based on how it affects our individual gut bugs (we will all know our microbial profile & have a personalised diet template based on that), & we’ll know the optimal timing for us to eat & drink as well, & whether certain supplements will benefit us or not.

4. Food manufacturers will be researching & making food & drink that can act as ‘gut microbial medicines’ (food giants are already starting to decrease sugar, crappy fats & artificials & adding in beneficial things like good fats, probiotics, prebiotic fibre, collagen & protein wherever they can). The big companies who have been pumping out gut-destroying processed junk food are (finally & rapidly) losing customers & profit as awareness grows & trust shrinks…change is coming, about bloody time! (Too bad we had to hit rock-bottom with our health first!)

5. The development of new foods & medicines will require ‘microbiome testing’ – i.e. how does that substance affect our microbial ecosystem when ingested?

6. Food farmers will use microbes instead of chemicals to control pests & keep soil healthy.

7. Your health professional will need to know your gut microbial profile before prescribing anything (whether it be drug, diet or lifestyle change).

8. Mental health issues will be much easier to diagnose, treat / control.

9. Chemicals for use in cleaning / agriculture / personal care products / household products will be examined for their microbial impact.

10. We will all use probiotic hand sanitisers, nasal sprays, bench wipes, moisturisers, hand creams, feminine hygiene products, deodorants, toothpastes…friendly microbes will be considered friends.

11. Rates of autism, ADHD & extreme childhood behavioural issues will start to decline.

12. Asthma, eczema & allergies will become rare.

13. Suicide, drug use & crime rates will drop.

14. The majority of our food will be organic, with minimal artificial additives as we know how sensitive our guts are to chemicals.

15. We’ll have a much better understanding of how our food impacts our mood, our health, our appearance…& we’ll eat accordingly. Teenagers will start eating veggies & fermented foods…& shun McDonalds, lollies & Coke, because it’s no longer just mum & dad hassling them –  science actually proves that eating gut-supporting foods & avoiding nasties will make them happier, less pimply, pudgy / gangly / awkward.

16. Someone will develop a gluten free, low FODMAP bread that tastes great untoasted, as a sandwich & has no crappy ingredients (hopefully goodMix, next project?!)  But will our guts all be so robust & healthy by then that sales will be poor?

This is mostly imaginary (but definitely possible) stuff…mobile phones & Facetime were imaginary not so long ago too. We’ve only just started to seriously look into our guts & listen to them…just imagine what the next decade or 2 will bring!!!

Leaky Gut – What is it & How Do You Fix It?

What is leaky gut? (AKA ‘Intestinal hyperpermeability’)

We all have 2 obvious holes in our digestive system, one at the top end (mouth) & one at the bottom end (anus). But along the way there are actually a lot more little openings, in our small intestine. These ‘tight junctions’ are teeny-tiny regulated openings designed to allow useful things from our food out of the intestines & into our bloodstream (i.e. nutrients, vitamins, minerals etc) & keep harmful things out (chemicals, microbes, & other unwanted particles like larger proteins). Leaky gut happens when your tight junctions are not working as they should, get ‘a bit too loose’ / don’t function properly, or when there’s some damage to the cells lining the gut. Damage can occur when the bad guys vs the good guys battle is favouring the baddies, also things like excess alcohol, medications (especially NSAID’S like ibuprofen), parasites, gastro bugs, stress, extremely strenuous exercise & poor sleep can cause / contribute to a leaking gut.

What happens when you have leaky gut?

With all these things leaking out into your bloodstream that aren’t supposed to be getting in there, your immune system activates, as its job is to protect the body from dangerous invaders. It sees all these random things leaking out from the gut into the bloodstream as intruders & potentially dangerous, so it goes into overdrive, sometimes a bit ‘trigger happy’ & may become overwhelmed. When your immune system is freaking out, it releases inflammatory chemicals & you may notice things like food intolerances / sensitivities, hayfever, asthma, arthritis, eczema & other skin issues (like acne, rosacea, psoriasis) getting worse. Brain fog, sleep disturbances, fatigue, aches & pains, depression, weight gain, hormonal imbalances & even autoimmune diseases will be triggered or feel much worse when your gut lining isn’t working as it should.  You may also notice more direct gut problems like bloating, gas, ’IBS’ type symptoms (constipation / diarrhoea / abdominal pain & discomfort). Long term, there are links between chronic leaky gut & insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome & the development of diabetes & cardiovascular disease (chronic inflammation caused by ‘endotoxins’ leaking from the gut into the blood stream). 

What causes / contributes to leaky gut? (That we know of so far).

We all have a degree of normal & healthy ‘gut-leakiness’. Our gut lining is supposed to allow certain things out, things that the immune system will see as normal & not react to. It’s when damage occurs to the gut lining or our tight junctions aren’t as tight as they need to be – that’s when trouble starts. Below is a list of potential triggers & things that can cause / aggravate a leaky gut.

  • alcohol (small doses can be ok in healthy people, bigger doses = gut trouble, & if your gut is already damaged you’ll feel much better if you abstain completely).
  • NSAID’s (Ibuprofen might save you from pain in the short term, but can create a heap more in the long term!) It is not designed for & is not ‘gut-safe’ to use long term. Avoid it wherever possible.
  • antibiotic use (killing your gut bugs every time you get sick = gut-immune devastation). The more often you use antibiotics, the more you’ll be open to the next infection going around. Take great care to rehabilitate your gut if you do need to take a course of antibiotics.
  • other medications. Ant-acids & stomach acid blockers are the biggest culprits for leaky gut, as these can lead to big changes in your gut microbial balance further down the GIT. There are numerous other pills that can also wreak digestive havoc, so ask your pharmacist which of your meds can cause gut side-effects.
  • a bout of gastroenteritis (a severe infection can be very damaging to your gut lining & often leave your gut bugs seriously out of whack – think post-infectious IBS, extremely common).
  • overgrowth of certain gut microbial populations or an ‘out of balance’ gut microbiome (caused by food, stress, medications etc), too many bacteria in the wrong area (i.e. SIBO / small intestinal bacterial overgrowth or SIFO / small intestinal fungal overgrowth).
  • gluten in food (gluten impacts the tight junctions in sensitive people, it makes them leakier). Anyone with suspected leaky gut or the conditions commonly associated with it should experiment with a gluten-free diet for at least 6 weeks, preferably longer to observe their reaction). Our breads & pastas are not the same as they once were due to agricultural developments & food processing changes, & our guts can’t cope as well as they once could (they’re in pretty poor shape now).
  • excess sugar & refined carbohydrates (processed food) causing poor gut microbial population. Minimise these as much as you can in your diet! For your gut as well as your blood sugar, your weight, your heart health, mental health etc etc etc – just don’t have them in the house, you know you’ll eat them if they’re there!
  • chemicals in our foods (non-organic foods esp those grown using the weed killer glyphosate aka ‘Round-up’). These chemicals can interfere with your gut bacterial activity, even if they are supposedly safe for humans, they have not been tested safe for our gut bugs (as important as any organ of our body).
  • artificial sweeteners (these can cause imbalances to your gut ecosystem, & they still lead to obesity – don’t eat / drink them).
  • extremely intense or prolonged exercise. If you are a serious athlete, you need to be aware that this will put you at risk for developing leaky gut (even if it’s just post competition / hard training). L-glutamine is a great supplement to support athletes with gut issues.

How Do I Test For Leaky Gut?

Your doctor, specialist or naturopath should be able to organise some tests to see if your body is showing signs of gut leakage.

  • urine test. This is the easiest & most common way to test – you’ll be given something sugary to drink & they’ll check if large sugar molecules are leaking through the gut lining later on (your pee will provide the answers).
  • SIBO breath test (not strictly a test for leaky gut, but chances are very high that your gut is leaking if you have SIBO – small intestinal overgrowth).
  • LPS & actomyosin antibodies tests (blood testing to see what level of immune reactivity is going on to ‘lipopolysaccharide’ – something found in higher levels in the blood when gut bacteria are leaking out in the bloodstream, & actomyosin – exposed to the blood & immune system when the tight junctions get leaky).

How Do I Fix Leaky Gut?

If you think you may have leaky gut, you should get everything looked into & be tested to exclude other causes (like Coeliac disease for example). An integrative GP or naturopath who specialises in gut health will be the best person to book an appointment with, they can recommend what needs to be checked & also arrange some ‘leak detection’ testing if leaky gut seems likely.  

  • avoid the main triggers / aggravators mentioned above
  • make sure your upper GIT function is good as this is crucial for the function & microbial balance further down. You may benefit from apple cider vinegar, digestive enzymes, chewing your food more, taking a bitter liver-stimulating herbal formula.
  • exercise is essential for a healthy digestive system. If you’re an athlete or go to extremes – be aware this can compromise your gut lining as blood flow is directed away from the digestive system in favour of your muscles, causing damage to the cells lining the gut. If you’re sedentary, you need to start moving to fix your gut as a stagnating gut will breed lots of nasty bugs, that will stay lurking long enough to damage your gut lining. If you are not currently exercising due to pain / injury – you need to start moving the non-painful parts at least, this will help.
  • sleep. If sleep is a problem for you, it will be messing with your gut (it may also be caused by your gut microbes). Eating more fibre & less sugar = great for the gut, & can also help with sleep too.
  • stress management (regular massage, holidays, time off, counselling, meditation, laughing lots, spending time with people who relax you – not the stress heads…make time to do the things that you love). Do not underestimate the ability of stress to make you sick, or the ability to manage your stress better to get you well again.
  • sunshine (vitamin D is very important for your immune system & also your gut lining). Get yours tested.
  • eat lots of polyphenols & practice some intermittent fasting (increase your population of the ‘akkermansia’ gut bugs, these gut guys help maintain & strengthen your gut lining).
  • pre & probiotics (try eating a fibre rich diet that also includes fermented foods, or use a probiotic supplement regularly). Get guidance with these if you think you may have SIBO, often found with leaky gut). We find this probiotic to be well tolerated by those with leaky gut / SIBO.  PRESCRIPT ASSIST PROBIOTIC
  • kill off your gut bug nasties (decrease sugar & carb consumption, eat your prebiotic fibre, use antimicrobial herbs & probiotics when you know you’ve overindulged & have overfed your bad guys – seek help with this to get started).
  • L-glutamine, zinc, N-acetyl glucosamine are nutrients that you’ll find in most ‘gut repair’ type products in the health food store & are very useful in healing the gut lining.
  • licorice (the plant, not the lollies – you can try liquorice tea or a herbal tincture / capsules)
  • greens – your gut bugs LOVE their greens, even if you don’t! If you hate eating greens, drink them in a green smoothie instead. They can be sooo yummy this way! PondWater – our supergreens powder is a ‘2-in-1’ gut tonic (organic grass & algae plus a good therapeutic dose of aloe vera inner leaf gel, perfect for adding into green smoothies).
  • collagen is great to help heal leaky gut. It is found in meat, skin, gristle & cooked bones. Sip on bone broth, chicken soup, or add collagen powder to a smoothie regularly.
  • aloe vera, slippery elm, okra, oats, oysters = rich in mucopolysaccharides (good gut-healing foods)….some great vegan bone broth alternatives (except the oysters obviously!)
  • resistant starch. This is easily found in cooked & cooled rice & potatoes, potato starch & green banana flour (& in smaller doses in many other foods).
  • calm the immune system response. Eat oily fish, turmeric, ginger, flaxseed – include lots of the natural anti-inflammatories in your diet (or take these in supplement form).

Love to hear from anyone who’s suffered from leaky gut & managed to ‘plug the leaks’ using any of these strategies (or maybe something else). Comment below or send me an email direct :)

Jeanie
jeanie@goodmix.com.au 

 

The Pre & Pro (biotic) Breakfast Combo!

Q: What am I? I’m breakfast…with benefits!

Hint: I’m quick, easy, super-nutritious & freakin delicious.  I’m portable. I’m vegan-friendly. I’m gluten free / dairy free / refined sugar-free & low FODMAP. I’m high in good fats, plant protein & diverse fibre. I’m gonna give you a ‘good gut feeling’ all day long.

A: I’m the ultimate gut-healthy breakkie combo!

Blend11 teamed with Pure n Free Coconut Yoghurt!

Quick, Easy, Nutritious & Delicious:

We’re all time-poor (& maybe a teeny bit lazy) & we don’t have the time or inclination to research what’s good for us & what’s not (that’s our job). Nobody has time to run around shopping for top-quality individual ingredients (our job as well) & there’s definitely no time in the morning to design complex nutritional breakfast masterpieces that tick all of the right boxes.                                                      

 

Good news = we did it already!! Well we did the hard bits, you can just do the fun bits like adding some fruit!

Gluten Free : Dairy Free : Refined Sugar Free : Low FODMAP:

Starting your day with a Pre & Pro Combo means no nasty gut aggravators for breakfast =  bye-bye to annoying bloating, poo problems, brain fog, cravings & energy slumps! Hello to feeling comfortable, alert & relaxed throughout the day with a happy & functional gut.

Fasting Friendly:

The Pre & Pro combo is perfect for anyone who feels & functions better eating breakfast a little later in the day. Breakfast jars can be made in advance & stored in the fridge ready to ‘grab & go’ on the way out the door. Just store in an insulated lunch box or wrap a stubbie cooler around the jar to keep it nice & cool until hunger hits. Ideal to give our overworked guts some good long sleep-ins, & train the body to burn up any leftover energy stores (fat)!

Pre & Pro Biotic Hit:

The first thing to hit your belly every morning should be some gut-love! Prebiotic fibre plus probiotic yoghurt = yummy for the tummy. “Get in my belly, & let the pre & pro party begin!” Diverse prebiotic fibre that is also Low FODMAP means plenty of good tucker for the good tummy bugs to munch on, so they can get a head start on the bad guys for the day, plus a heap of probiotic reinforcements to support your own army! This kind of breakfast is setting the stage for ‘a good gut feeling’ throughout the day!

Vegan Friendly:

No animals involved = happy days for everyone. The more easy, yummy & nutritious vegan options we all have in our fridges / pantries the better. Even if you’re not vegan all the time, you can easily eat vegan at breakfast time. 

Fat Fibre & Protein:

So many of the easy breakfast options are waaay too carb & sugar heavy. Add more fat, fibre & protein & energy levels will be much more stable, cravings will decrease, moods will be better (that’s just short term). In the long term we can see better gut function, better metabolism & body composition, better skin, better immunity, better brain function, decreased systemic inflammation…high-fat fibre & protein to start the day beats a bowl full of carbs hands down.

All Natural:

Too many numbers in your day = your days are numbered. Food with numbers & weird scientific names & added this that & the other is best avoided at any time of the day, but especially breakfast time (at least get the first meal right!) Go for unrefined, real food that will ‘go off’. Anything with an unnaturally long shelf life will shorten yours.  Look for food that’s alive, & close to how nature made it. Activated enzyme-rich organic seeds plus organic natural coconut yoghurt with living probiotics = winning combo. Top it off with some delicious fruit & you have a bowl full of vitality to start the day.

Versatile:

Not in the mood to chew? No clean bowls in the house? Smoothie it! So many possibilities – berry, banana, cacao, acai, green, coffee, vanilla….so many flavour options, & coconut yoghurt with activated seeds are equally at home in a glass or a bowl.

Do The Experiment!

Ditch your normal breakfast for a month & see how your gut feels, starting the day with all the things it needs & without all the nasties. Forget the Special K breakfast challenge, this is the pre & pro ‘special poo challenge’ ;-)

FIND A STOCKIST NEAR YOU   & REMBER TO ACTIVATE (SOAK YOUR SEEDS IN WATER)

Not All Fibre is Created Equal

Blend11 fibre

Over the many years I spent working in health food stores, I noticed that the most commonly (& religiously) purchased products were the fibre & gut health supplements – whether it be psyllium, bran, prunes, a particular breakfast or a capsule / tablet / powder to help with regularity. The three most commonly purchased ‘foods’ to help improve bowel function are:

  1. psyllium
  2. bran
  3. prunes or other dried fruit

All of these will have the desired effect, but also have their own associated problems.

1. Psyllium

Pysllium

Psyllium is basically just fibre & nothing else. It contains no other nutrients whatsoever, so regular users would be much better off eating something which also supplies some nutrients as well. It is also not great to be relying on one food source foe the majority of your fibre needs – users of all fibre supplements need to be wary of this, as fibrous variety is the spice of life for our gut bacteria! Diverse fibre encourages diverse gut bugs.

 

2. Bran

Wheat bran

Bran is worse as it is very high in phytic acid, which can bind to minerals (like calcium, zinc & magnesium) in our body and end up depleting these crucial building blocks of health.

 

3. Dried fruits

dried fruits

Dried fruits do provide some nutrients, but unfortunately also deliver a concentrated hit of sugar, and often high levels of sulphur dioxide as a preservative. If you use them, combine them with some good fats & protein – to slow the release of sugars.

 

4. A modern solution…

goodmix-blend11-best-poos-rs

A better fibre solution may be Blend11

  • low carbs / sugars (no energy spikes & crashes)
  • protein & good fats (super-filling & satisfying)
  • diversity of fibre (encourages a diverse gut microbial population)
  • soaked overnight to activate seeds & maximise absorption of nutrients.

Fibre diversity is important to encourage a balanced gut bacterial population.

Blend11 is also quick & easy to prepare & suitable to take to work / school / college / the gym / travelling etc…happy poo = happy you ;)

Best poos ever READ OUR CUSTOMER REVIEWS