Many aspects of the typical American lifestyle –the foods we eat, the things we drink (even the way in which we eat or drink), the personal care products we use and of course, many prescription drugs — can contribute to digestive tract malfunctions and ultimately leaky gut. And not just in the obvious malfunctions such as indigestion, reflux, GERD, constipation, diarrhea or IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), but malfunction within the small intestines that affect absorption of nutrition and trigger various immune responses.
Each part of the digestive process is critical for good overall health: the mouth, throat, stomach, various sections of the small intestines, gall bladder, pancreas and the colon or large intestine.
Most medical attention is on the stomach, usually for indigestion or the large intestines for polyps, diverticulitis, or worst case, colon cancer. Little attention is given to the small intestines. Because most medical doctors listen for symptoms and place a corresponding medication, they hardly ever implement actual functional support. The objective of most doctors is to identify a disease and prescribe a medication, rather than enable the body to return to correct function.
Basics of the digestive process
Proper hydration with quality clean, alkaline water throughout the day and little to no water with or during a meal is very important. Often people wash foods down with various things they drink. This alters the pH and dilutes the various enzymes in the mouth necessary to digest most carbohydrates, starches or sugars.
Once food enters the stomach, acid is released from the stomach lining to digest mostly proteins into various amino acids, and to extract various vitamins like B vitamins from food. The stomach churns the food with the acid and enzymes it produces, and then releases it into the first section of the small intestines. Here, very alkaline fluids from the gallbladder, along with pancreatic enzymes, mix with the food and significantly change the pH and further digest oils or fats.
The food should be very alkaline and in correct molecular size for the villi, which line the small intestines, to selectively absorb nutrients.
As you can begin to see, the exact balance of pH and the level at which food is dissolved play a big part in absorption. Improper levels of pH, digestion in the mouth, stomach, gall bladder and pancreas function can result in foods being an irritant and triggering an immune response that otherwise would not be an issue.
Because 80-% of the immune system resides in the area of the small intestine, numerous potential antigens can form from the incomplete breakdown of food products. Autoimmune states can be induced by food sensitivities that cause intestinal gut permeability and complicate leaky gut syndrome. Along with alkaline water throughout the day, eating more organic fruits and veggies and various nuts and seeds will improve your nutrient reserves and support better digestion and overall health.
Once the digestive process gets off track, heightened reactions occur that may not be a true picture of food allergies. A common food allergy test, the ALCAT, is often the standard in food allergy testing. Those who have been eating the average American diet or even those who have started eliminating some things often test allergic to countless foods and feel that there is nothing to eat. The fasting soothing fiber plan discussed later will assist in resetting digestive allergy reactions.
Testing leaky gut
There are blood test and urine test that can determine leaky gut. In my practice I use the Indican, also called the Obermeyer test. The test is performed by mixing chemicals with urine, and test results are known within minutes. These chemicals react to certain proteins that should be limited to fecal waste and not urine. The more the mix turns shades of blue from light to darker, the more involvement one has of leaky gut.
Why get tested
Long before someone feels like they have digestive issues there can be countless other health concerns due to leaky gut, such as skin rashes, acne, headaches, chills, sweats, sleepless nights to feeling tried all the time. That’s why in “natural health”, we say all health begins in the gut.
Sometime people will bring me lab work that shows what nutrients they are missing. Even after diet and supplement changes and upon retesting they may not reach their desired nutrient levels because their leaky gut has not been fully addressed.
There is overwhelming evidence of how mental issues — from ADD, ADHD, depression, anxiety, fear, memory lapses, cognitive decline and even procrastination and excess fears — are influenced by digestion and immune responses within the digestive track.
Also, the severity to which someone has autism may increase because of leaky gut. The increasing frequency at which autism is occurring in our population is being attributed to improper digestive process, poor assimilation and lack of available nutrition before and after conception.
Other research validates the high occurrences of food reactions to various foods and the relationship to autoimmune conditions, such as Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease. Additional research reinforces eating an anti-inflammatory diet down-regulates many autoimmune responses.
Resetting the gut diet
Keeping your gut healthy is a lot easier than restoring it. My recommendations will vary some, depending on various digestive complaints, but I usually start with the following.
The first week I recommend a modified fast, with at least two meals or snacks being a smoothie made from a non-allergenic protein such as pea protein, soothing fiber mixes, immune-regulating support nutrients, various oils, and herbs that fight yeast, parasites and harmful bacteria, often in water, papaya juice or juice. Use very little ice to assure the drink is not too cold; otherwise the drink needs to stay longer in the mouth to get closer to body temperature to assure best digestion and assimilation.
Other meals during the day should be soups made of veggie or chicken broth and finely chopped, very well-cooked veggies. Remember to avoid the most common irritants: cow milks and cheeses, corn, rice, wheat and soy. Another guide for food selection is using the Eat Right For Your Blood Type and eating from the beneficial list.
Over the next few weeks, slowly transition into more dense foods while avoiding the common reactive food just mentioned.
Then for two to six months, avoid all battered and fried foods, trans fats, fast carbs, alcohol, wheat and dairy.
Reset the gut supplementation
During this liquid diet phase, an herbal cleanse along with kidney and lymphatic drainage remedies is beneficial, since the leaky gut has polluted every organ in the body. Digestive enzymes and probiotics, along with the amino acid L-glutamine, can be very supportive, too.
Also remember to stay hydrated with a general rule of dividing your weight in half and drink that number in ounces daily. If you sweat due to heavy exercise or outdoor activities, add more water. Remember to pace the water consumption and limit intake during meals.
Retesting leaky gut
Retesting the leaky gut monthly is recommended to assure you are doing enough to heal the gut. As mentioned, many health issues can be the result of the leaky gut, and those areas or functions may need additional supplemental support until the diet and corrected digestion take over. In addition to many liquid supplements for better absorption, there are also sublingual supplements and transdermal lotions that bypass the digestive process and the liver, providing critical nutrients for the body to repair.
About the Author
Carl Schmidt, ND, CNHP completed a Doctor of Naturopathy from Trinity College of Natural Health, Certified Natural Health Professional through the National Association of CNHP, Inc. He completed continuing education from Bridgeport College of Chiropractics Continuing Education Studies under the supervision of Apex Energetic Seminars Department in Functional Blood Chemistry, Auto-immunity, Digestive Health and Hormonal Imbalances. He’s a master herbals and is an avid reader and researcher. He has had the privilege to integrate supplement, diet and various wellness venues for patients with medical professionals in the areas, general practice, rheumatology, psychiatry, physical therapist, dietetics, and home health care. Carl films TV shows monthly and is often a guest on several radio shows. He offer a refreshing common sense approach to better health through various testing methods where he implements and monitors diet, meal replacements, supplements and hydration.