Part 1: Leaky Gut
Is gut health the root cause to autoimmune disease?
You hear that all health starts in the gut but what does that mean and what can you do to improve your gut health?
It’s time for a gut check.
There are two foundational aspects of gut health that are important to understand.
- Leaky Gut
- Gut Dysbiosis
Let’s start with a quick review of what happens to food when it goes through the digestive tract.
Crash Course on the Digestive System
The digestion process actually begins in our mouth. When you chew food, digestive enzymes are released that start to breakdown that food.
That’s why it’s so important to properly chew your food. If we eat too fast, the food misses the opportunity to fully mix with those digestive enzymes, so it travels to the stomach not being properly digested making it harder to digest… hence bloating, discomfort, gas, etc.
Food travels from the mouth to the stomach where it mixes with stomach acid and enzymes into smaller particles.
Then it enters the small intestines. This is where all the magic of cellular nutrition happens. More on this in a second, but in short, it’s where the nutrients from the food are absorbed into the bloodstream and sent to our cells for energy.
In the large intestines, liquid is removed from the waste products and is prepared for elimination – poop!
Now that we have an understanding of what proper digestion should look like, let’s dive into what often goes wrong that can lead to an autoimmune response.
Let’s revisit the small intestines where the nutrients are transferred from the food into the bloodstream and to the cells.
This happens because the lining of the small intestines is semi-permeable. It’s very selective with what can pass through – and that’s a really good thing.
We want a strong bouncer at the lining of our small intestines because what passes through enters the blood stream – gaining broader access to our body. We only want to give nutrients that access.
However, that lining can weaken enabling undigested food particles, toxins and bacteria to enter into the bloodstream.
This is when things go haywire.
Many things can weaken that lining to trigger this reaction including:
- Food/proteins such as gluten, dairy, lectins (protein found in grains, legumes and nightshades)
When the immune system detects these undigested food particles and bacteria in the bloodstream, it typically reacts by increasing inflammation and making antibodies to attack those undigested protein fragments.
Our immune system is designed to protect us against foreign invaders. So, our immune system sees these substances in our blood stream as a foreign object that’s a threat to the body, so it begins its attack.
This immune response can lead to:
- Brain fog
- Poor mood
- Food sensitivities
This process is known as leaky gut and is often attributed to be the start of autoimmunity.
What can you do to address it?
I often recommend starting with these three steps.
Remove the damaging foods.
Often the very first step of addressing autoimmunity through diet and lifestyle is removing the inflammatory foods from the diet – specifically gluten and dairy.
I typically recommend you go cold turkey with these foods because we know they’re only causing further damage. This has the potential to accelerate an autoimmune disease but also leaving one at risk for a second or third autoimmune disease.
The sooner you’re able to eliminate them from your diet, the faster the healing takes place and the sooner you’ll see results.
Support the healing with gut superfoods.
There are also some nutrients that can be helpful to add in because they support the healing of the gut. Collagen in particular can help to seal the lining of the intestines, slowing down and ultimately stopping the “leaking” of the food particles and bacteria into the blood stream.
You can get collagen through bone broth or in a powder form that can be added to a smoothie or herbal tea.
Yes, I know we hear it all the time. We need to manage stress, but then life gets in the way or we don’t have the patience to sit in meditation because our mind just doesn’t turn off the way we thought it would.
There are a lot of ways in which you can manage stress, start with
- Diffusing some lavender essential oils in your home
- Take a bath
- Go for a walk outside
- Listen to a guided meditation before bed
Just pick something that is small and manageable because that is what you’re most likely to be consistent with. You can always build upon it in the future but just put something into place.
Understanding the digestive system and leaky gut is incredibly empowering in healing autoimmune disease. It gives you the knowledge to start making meaningful change.
So, I’ll leave you with this question, what is one thing you can do with what you’ve learned here that you can put into action today?
Stay tuned for Gut Check Part 2: Gut Dysbiosis.