How do I heal my leaky gut?
The 5 'Rs' is an excellent and very effective programme, and it refers to the gut healing principles used in Functional Medicine.
Those principles are: Remove, Replace, Reinoculuate, Repair & Rebalance.
We need to remove and eliminate everything that adversely affects the gastrointestinal tract and gut lining.
Foods that upset the microbiome and cause intestinal permeability;
Things we don’t choose consciously to introduce, like chemicals that cause harm to the good microbes
Any pathogenic microflora in the GI tract, like yeast, parasites or bad and unbalanced bacteria.
The removing phase involves a healing diet, in which all potentially problematic foods are removed. It also involves the elimination and avoidance of chemicals, which are harmful to the gut. This includes chemicals, like artificial sweeteners, and also the damaging chemicals, produced by our own bodies, like excessive cortisol from chronic stress. It can also include taking prescribed medications by your GP, or herbs to eliminate the bad bacteria, yeast or parasites.
This step involves:
· consuming an anti-inflammatory diet,
· adopting stress management techniques (mindfulness, yoga, walking),
· reducing exposure to chemicals
· practising mindful medication use
· being mindful of your caffeine intake.
Replacing restores naturally occurring digestive aids, including enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and bile acids that support proper digestion. These can be taken in supplement form before eating a meal.
Reinoculation supports and reintroduces beneficial bacteria. Reinoculation includes dietary approaches, like fermented foods, probiotic supplements and resistant starches, as well as medical interventions, like fecal microbiota transplants.
Repair refers to the repairing of the mucosal gut lining, and it relates to the 'nutrient-dense diet' element of the programme.
This includes ensuring adequate intake of nutrients, such as:
· nutritional anti-inflammatories like curcumin and Omega-3 fatty acids,
· bone broth, which is an excellent restorative for the GI mucosa,
· colostrum is another excellent restorative for the GI mucosa.
Rebalance refers to the implementing of restorative processes that will support gut health in the long-term. These are the lifestyle factors that can get over-looked when we focus solely on food and supplements, and includes:
· physical activity,
· stress management practices (yoga, meditation & mindfulness)
Putting the 5 'Rs' into Action
So where should one with leaky gut begin?
To start on the 5 R Programme, follow the steps in the recommend order, below:
Remove: foods and factors that damage the gut (gluten, sugar, non-organic cows dairy). Do this for a minimum of 2 weeks, although try to follow this for 4 weeks, if possible.
Replace: with healing foods (as per below), and consider using proteolytic enzymes with every meal (see below).
Repair: with specific supplements (zinc and Omega 3 – Biocare Mega EPA is great). Also include a bovine colostrum for gut healing.
Reinoculate: note how you tolerate fermented foods, probiotic supplements and resistant starches.
Rebalance: with powerful lifestyle factors (deep sleep, mindfulness, yoga, walking)
Top 5 Gut Healing Foods
1) Bone Broth - Bone broth contains collagen and the amino acids glycine and proline. These nutrients can really help heal your damaged cell walls and gut lining.
2) Raw Cultured Dairy - contains both probiotics and SCFA's that can help heal the gut. Pasteurised kefir yogurt, butter, and raw cheese are some of the recommended foods – if you are lactose tolerant.
3) Fermented Vegetables - contain organic acids that balance intestinal pH and probiotics to support the gut. Sauerkraut and kimchi are excellent sources.
4) Coconut Products - coconut products are great for your gut. The MCFA's in coconut are easier to digest than other fats so better a weak gut. Also, coconut kefir contains probiotics that support your digestive system.
5) Sprouted seeds –flaxseeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds, which have been sprouted, are fantastic sources of fibre. This fibre helps support the good bacteria and encourages it to grow.
And, if you have a very damaged gut, you may wish to get your fibre from steamed vegetables and fruit initially. Then introduce sprouted seeds when your gut is feeling stronger.
Also, consuming foods that have anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats is highly recommended. You can find omega-3 fats in wild caught fish, like salmon.
Top 5 Supplements for Gut Healing
There are many supplements that support your digestive health but the most beneficial are:
L-Glutamine, probiotics, digestive enzymes, aloe vera juice, and liquorice root.
Probiotics are the most important supplement to take because it helps replenish good bacteria and crowds out bad bacteria. I recommend getting probiotics in both food and supplement form (Biocare is a great brand, and if you have not had your gut bacteria analysed, I recommend starting with Biocare Lactobacillus Forte). Re-inoculating your gut with good bacteria is so important. Include both probiotic rich foods and also a probiotic supplement, making sure your supplement includes at least 50 billion units of probiotics daily (remember to keep your probiotic in the fridge, as most probiotics should be kept in the fridge).
2) Digestive Enzymes
Digestive Enzymes (one or two capsules at the beginning of each meal) make sure that foods are completely digested, reducing the risk that partially digested foods particles and proteins may damage your gut wall.
3) L-Glutamine - Glutamine is an essential amino acid that is anti-inflammatory and vital for the growth and repair of your intestinal lining. L-Glutamine is vital for any programme, which concentrates on healing a damaged gut, as it “lines” the cell walls, thus serving as a protectant, whilst also repelling gut irritants. Take 2-5 grams twice daily.
4) Liquorice Root (DGL) - Liquorice root is an adaptogenic herb that helps balance cortisol levels and improves acid production in the stomach. DGL supports the body's process for ensuring a healthy stomach and gut mucosal lining. This herb is especially effective if someone's gut damage is caused by emotional stress. Take 500mg twice daily.
5) Quercetin - Quercetin has also been demonstrated to improve gut barrier function by sealing the gut because it supports creation of tight junction proteins. It also stabilises mast cells and the release of histamine is decreased. Research has also demonstrated its efficacy in healing ulcerative colitis. Take 500mg 3x daily (with meals).
If you follow the above programme and commit to it, you will really notice a change in your gut health. Stick to it and you will really start to reap the rewards from these positive changes!