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Leaky Gut Syndrome and Your Diet

Posted by Edna B. Wilson on

In this article, Edna gets personal by sharing her journey to a healthier lifestyle and her personal experiences with Leaky Gut Syndrome. You might be surprised how influential one of our favorite foods is to healing a leaky gut. Edna was! 

Processed foods can wreak havoc on your health.

Photo by Maliz Ong

I can’t recall when it all started; one thing led to another. It seems like it all came to a head in my 30’s. First I was tired all the time, hungry, couldn’t get enough to eat, and I had cravings for sweets, and blood sugar swings. I thought I needed to eat a banana in the morning to get my potassium; turned out that was way off base. I needed little to no sugar in the A.M.

Shortly after, I developed allergies to many things I used to be able to eat when I was younger. The allergies weren’t apparent to me - I didn’t know until I took a blood test or scratch test. As a kid, I only knew I was allergic to horses, hay, and cats. As an adult, I had sinus infections, was sick a lot, and unable to focus. My list of health woes went on and on.

A career coach suggested I may have a Vitamin D deficiency; he had just found out he needed to take copious amounts of Vitamin D, and sent me to a holistic health center. It was my first encounter with the alternative health centers that most likely saved my life, or at least my body.

Unexpected Allergies and a Change in Lifestyle

I drank milk since it was good for me, and bananas with cereal for breakfast since bananas had potassium and believed that too was good for me. It may have been all the cheese I got hooked on when I officially moved to Milwaukee after college ended. Or maybe it was the mac & tuna & cheese during the winter that warmed me up. Oh, and the bread.

The first insight came when I went to a holistic health center in Brookfield, WI.

After filling out a lengthy questionnaire, doing some allergy tests, and returning again to talk with a nutritionist, she showed me the test results, which included a long list of foods I was allergic to. It was a long list, with varying levels of reaction and severity to foods including sunflower seeds, corn, milk, cheese, eggs, and wheat. I recall thinking my life was ending if I had to cut out all those foods. What would I eat?

“Cut out all processed foods,” she said thinking she was making it easier for me. “If you have to eat cheese just eat white or off white cheese. It hasn’t been overly processed.”

“Eat steak for breakfast, or meat, she continued. You need protein in the morning, not sugar. You can still have sugar, just eat it at night and you’ll fall asleep naturally. Sugar makes you tired, it doesn’t give you energy.”

Although all the tests and information were helpful, somehow it wasn’t quite enough. I needed someone to show me how to eat all over again and how to change my diet. Somehow, I made my way to another nearby alternative health center, this time one with a massage therapist and chiropractor that helped adjust my neck and align my hips, spine, and body. They also had a nutritionist on staff that took another allergy test, even though I said I’d already done a blood test.

All the tests and opinions started blurring together. Another test, maybe a blood test – I don’t remember at this point – and a quick look under her microscope, and this nutritionist came back with new information. I had leaky gut syndrome, which, while initially overwhelming, actually had a positive side. The chiropractor and nutritionist said a leaky gut could be healed and ‘fixed’ as long as I was willing to learn to eat differently.

Apparently, the food I was eating wasn’t providing the nutrients I needed for my system, which meant I wasn’t eating the right food. Leaky gut is rather complex and mimics other issues like Lyme disease, celiac disease, chronic fatigue, and other autoimmune disorders.

In my case, the nutritionist said I had a small tear or tears in my intestine that were leaking particles of what I was allergic to into my blood stream. That bloated feeling I had, the achiness, foggy thinking, numbness in one of my legs, and lack of energy 1 … all came from eating things I was either allergic or highly sensitive to – corn, wheat, peanuts, sunflower seeds, cheese, eggs, flour, milk.

Leaky Gut “Diet”

Healthy, whole foods make great-tasting substitutes for the junk you crave.

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

The staff at the alternative health center was very supportive. The good news, they said, was that leaky guy can be healed. They put me on a group of supplements to provide some minerals and nutrients that I hadn’t had with my meals. And they suggested I cut out refined sugar and my allergens out of my regular meals, and to see how I felt after the diet change.

First, I let go of some of the easy foods I really wasn’t attached to: morning cereal, bananas, wheat pasta, all sodas, cow’s milk, Fritos, pretzels, all breads, peanuts, and sunflower seeds. What started out as a nightmare ended up being an adventure into learning about new types of food.

As I learned how to read labels and sugar content on packages, I realized many of the name brands I’d been eating for years weren’t really good for me. With further discovery and experimentation, I found – much to my relief – that I could substitute rice flour for wheat or white flour and almond or goat’s milk for cow’s milk. And the list of new foods kept growing.

Rice pasta was substituted for wheat pasta, hearty gluten free oatmeal for quick oatmeal, peanuts and sunflower seeds were traded in for almonds, brown rice took the place of white rice, green tea with lemon moved in, and coffee with cream was kicked out. Natural sources of sugar, like fruits, vegetables, and honey, were fine to eat since my body could process them well.

Another key to getting healthy was to rotate my foods and not eat the same thing all the time. Many allergies are caused by people eating too much of one food; like too much pasta, too much cheese, and not enough fruits and vegetables or fish.

Although many people refer to changing your eating habits as a diet, that term seems more like a passing fad. This wasn’t just a leaky gut “diet” for me, it turned into a new lifestyle and way of thinking about food and eating food I’d never tried before. Granted some foods, like popcorn with salt and butter, were very hard to give up, so instead I found other crunchy foods to eat and ate less popcorn. Within a week or so, I felt better and had more energy.

Turns out, it was just the beginning of the changes in my life. Someone referred me to an acupuncturist to help with my compromised immune system and find ways to reduce my stress. My sessions included massage, heat lamps, and of course the dreaded needles, which I grew to appreciate.

Bone Broth and Acupuncture

Low and behold, one day in autumn, my acupuncturist talked about making soup in the winter with bones – beef bones as I recall – and cooking down the bones, making a broth with the gelatin, then adding vegetables and rice, and how wonderful it was in December, January, February, and March.  The taste was incredible he said, and you got all the nutrients from the bones 2, since you cooked them down and used all the marrow, too.

At first, I was repulsed by the thought of cooking bones to make soup, but that quickly changed to intrigue. Although I made chicken soup in the winter, I never considered making true bone broth 3. And it hadn’t occurred to me that bone broth could help heal my gut.

Like my new “diet”, acupuncture has become part of my routine and what keeps me healthy and relaxed. My immune system is strong, and each year I get sick less and less. Roughly 85% of my immune system is located in my gut, so I pay attention even more these days to how much I eat and what foods I choose. And I love bone broth – not just for its health benefits. 

I’m on my way to healthy, and the foods I eat play a major role. If you’ve got a similar story to share, we’d love to hear it, and maybe even share it here on the blog. Food is nature’s pharmacy. When we pay close attention to what we eat, why, and when, our health stands to benefit greatly.  





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