How did a primal mama like me get a leaky gut? Well, I haven’t always been primal. The first 30 years of my life, my body saw plenty of processed food, medications, yeast, and inflammation. So even though the last 7 years I have lived quite primally, my body is now telling me that it has some healing to do if I want to stay healthy for years to come.
My health declined all of a sudden
I have never had very bad symptoms or reactions to foods, or connected my childhood illnesses to overall gut health. I just thought I had poor digestion of certain foods and when under stress. Even since I’ve ‘gone primal’, I’ve usually followed the 80/20 rule, which meant I still consumed some gluten, alcohol, processed dairy and a bit of junk food on the weekends or at parties. For 7 years, my weight never fluctuated and I was in the best health of my life.
Until a year and a half ago, when I got an ugly rosacea rash on my face and started to lose weight inexplicably (7 kgs in a year!). I also had chronic bloating, many new food intolerances, and nutrient deficiencies, despite an organic primal whole foods diet. My blood tested very high for gluten intolerance, and through researching that, I learned about leaky gut.
I explain what leaky gut is, common causes and symptoms, and what to do if you think you have it, in my article, “Do You Have Leaky Gut? “
Which leaky gut protocol or diet is best?
Everything I read about leaky gut made me think that this is what the real underlying problem is, but I kept getting distracted by the gluten/celiac situation (as I never thought that was an issue for me), food intolerance tests, and thoughts that my rash and weight loss must be from fungus or parasites.
I spent a year going to different types of holistic doctors and practitioners and experimenting with my diet and various herbs and supplements.
I read tons of articles about leaky gut and just got more and more confused about the best way to heal it, as there were so many different diets and supplements – which one was right for me?
I didn’t want to spend more than a year on the GAPS diet or SCD diet or Body Ecology Diet and not have results. I didn’t want to spend tons of money on glutamine and vitamins and enzymes and probiotics if they weren’t going to be the right ones to heal my body in particular.
I know that there is no one best way to eat or live. We are all different and even our own bodies are different at various points in our lives. We all exhibit illness and disease differently too, and so there is no one right way to heal.
How I got to the real root of the problem
Finally I decided it was time to find one good functional medicine health practitioner who specialised in functional diagnostics and healing the gut. Because whether I had food intolerance, parasites, gluten intolerance or all of the above, all those things begin in the gut. And the functional diagnostic tests would tell me what’s going on in MY gut.
So I took great care in searching for and choosing the right functional medicine doctor and getting the right functional diagnostic tests needed to get to the root of my problems. I tell all about how to do this in my article Do You Have a Leaky Gut?
First I worked with a functional medicine doctor. I found out I had a parasite called Dientamoeba Fragilis, took medication to eliminate that, tested positive for leaky gut, and negative for yeast overgrowth and thyroid dysfunction. Good, we were now getting really specific details about the causes of my symptoms!
I then sought out a naturopath and holistic nutritionist through the Mindd Foundation, to work exclusively with to heal my leaky gut. I wanted someone to be my guru through the whole journey, however long it took to heal my gut. Someone who would tell me which supplements and diet were best for MY specific situation.
My naturopath had me do a fecal microbial analysis test (poo test), which told us exactly which bacterias were overgrown or undergrown in my gut. I had very low levels of E. Coli bacteria (a type of E. Coli that our bodies need!), which was leaving plenty of room for the Streptococcus and Enterococcus bacterias to flourish wildly. I was also extremely low in Lactobacillus bacteria, despite years of eating yoghurt and taking probiotics! This imbalance of bacteria is called dybiosis, and it allows chaos in the gut to continue.
My personalised gut healing protocol
With all of this valuable information, plus several other tests showing specific vitamin deficiencies and other technical results, I put my trust in my chosen healer and was given a protocol to follow for at least 3 months.
It includes me taking every day: 2 enzyme pills, apple cider vinegar in water, 2 antimicrobial pills, slippery elm powder, 2 alkaline boosting pills, 1 E. Coli probiotic pill, 2 zinc pills, at least 1 cup of fermented veggies, and at least one mug of bone broth or powdered gelatin.
Getting my mindset right so I can stay the course
I put the protocol into this spreadsheet chart to make it easy for me to know what to do every day AND to make it my official healing instructions. The formality and organisation of it really put me in the right mindset to follow the protocol diligently and happily, knowing I am on the path to healing.
I called it My Gut’s Healing Holiday, and wrote the note: “Don’t mistake healing for disease” to remind myself of how wonderful it is that my body can tell me when it needs help and I can listen to it and do the right thing. To be happy that my body is NOT diseased, it is merely healing. To emphasise the care, love and nurturing I am giving to my body, rather than thinking about what’s been taken away.
I don’t have to let my leaky gut get worse until it leads to autoimmune disease. I can do something about it! I can heal my gut, start to better absorb my nutrients and that will slowly get me back to a healthy weight. As I heal, I will gradually have a wider variety of foods to eat that don’t irritate my body. Thanks to progressive medicine and our amazing knowledge of the body, I can heal myself.
To stop me from stressing about every little thing related to my health and healing, I did two main things:
1/I learned a bit about the reasons for each supplement or food inclusion in my protocol, but mainly I didn’t worry too much about the exact science and reasoning behind it. Instead, I trusted my chosen practitioners ability to help many people heal their guts. She is an expert in this field, and and my chosen guru for this healing journey of mine. If questions came up, I simply wrote them down to put out of my mind and ask her at a later time.
2/I finally stopped reading about it all. It’s tempting to read every article online about what you’re going through, what you’ve been diagnosed with, what intolerances you have. I could probably read about gluten and leaky gut every day for months and not run out of books or articles. But every new piece of information just made me doubt what I had already read or what I was doing, and instead of spending all my time focused on my health, I can now get on with my life and read a novel or inspirational book instead!
My leaky gut healing diet
A positive mindset is especially crucial to help me keep to the right diet for healing. Fortunately for me, I already know how to eat like a primal champion, but there are still many adjustments that have been made to my diet which took some time for me to accept happily.
What I’m NOT eating
I used to eat and love moderate amounts of nuts, soaked grains and raw dairy, but those things seem to aggravate my gut now that it’s damaged, so I have taken those things out of my diet for now.
I used to occasionally have dessert foods, an alcoholic drink, or processed snacks on weekends or at parties, but I know that my gut is too delicate to handle those things right now, so I am not eating 80/20 for now.
I am not having my delicious cacao for primal snacks and shakes, as it’s too stimulating for my overworked system, and I am not having any type of sugar, even raw honey, in order to allow my gut bacteria to balance easier.
Even some primal whole foods like certain raw vegetables, starchy vegetables like sweet potato, and raw apples and pears are difficult for me to digest at the moment, so I am avoiding those as much as possible, despite how much I love them.
My antibodies to gluten are so high that there’s no question my body sees gluten as a very foreign invader and any small amounts will continue to inflame my gut and immune system. So I am learning how to be 100% gluten free. The only gluten I thought I was eating before was the occassional beer, indian samosa, or a cracker at a party or something. But I’m now learning that gluten is everywhere and how to avoid it. This is a bit of a challenge when I’m not eating at home, especially because I don’t feel good eating any grains or grain flours (even rice or corn). But I’m learning so much and will share more with you on that soon. Like how to eat 100% gluten-free in restaurants!
I went through periods of anger and frustration of not being able to eat these certain foods and having to be so careful at restaurants and friend’s houses. But now I have got my positive mindset on, and am feeling good about what I’m doing for my body!
What I AM eating
Plus, I have so many delicious meats, fats, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices to enjoy! And I am not only eliminating certain things from my diet, but I am also adding a few things in…
I am eating fermented food every day now, which is key to increasing the amount of good bacteria in my gut. I am having so much fun making my own sauerkraut and fermented vegetables and pickles of all kinds. I am also making my own kombucha and kefir fermented drinks in all different home-brew flavours.
I am drinking bone broth daily, which is just like having a cup of tea everyday, but when I drink it, I know it is providing awesome amounts of gelatin and collagen to heal up the lining for my inflamed gut. How cool! I make my own chicken broth, and it’s delicious, warming and healing. On days when I don’t drink broth, I simply put some powdered gelatin into my herbal tea or my shake.
Fermented veggies and bone broth are the cheapest superfoods and gut healing aids you can find. They are superior to any medication, and my naturopath tells me that if I am vigilant about including them in my diet daily, I will save tons of money on supplements in the long run. Nice!
I have also learned from my guru that onions, okra, and marshmallow root tea are beneficial to my gut’s recovery, and that xylitol is anti-strep and helps breaks down biofilm (something in the gut where bad bacteria can hide behind). So xylitol made from birch (not corn) is my new sweetener if I need a teaspoon of something for my shakes or homemade jelly (made with healing gelatin).
I just think of my gut like a delicate little newborn baby that needs me to be extra gentle and careful with it. And I really do want to care for my gut, as it’s the center of my immune system – the very thing that keeps me energetic, happy and healthy and enjoying my life.
Use this formula to heal yourself of most anything
Whatever it is that ails you, know that you can probably take similar steps to heal yourself.
– Write down all your symptoms.
– Pay attention to how you feel after eating different foods.
– Take stock of your Primal 6, and work on getting primal with your food, movement and lifestyle.
– If you are still suffering, enlist a progressive holistic health practitioner who you truly believe has expertise and can help you.
– Find a practitioner who uses thorough diet and lifestyle assessments and/or functional diagnostic testing to get to the cause, rather than just looking to diagnose you with a disease or syndrome based on your symptoms.
– Together with your chosen practitioner (guru), make a plan to heal your body.
– Write down and organise your plan in a way that works for you to remember it, embrace it and feel positive about it.
– Get yourself in the right mindset. Focus NOT on what ails you, but what you are doing to heal yourself. Focus NOT on how your plan may restrict your lifestyle, but how your healing will ensure continued health for a better life, free of those symptoms you first wrote down. Be proud of yourself that you are wise enough, proactive enough and patient enough to heal your own body.
– Stop incessantly gathering new information and get on with enjoying your life, happily following your healing protocol.
Are you ready to heal yourself of what ails you? Are you on a healing protocol already? Please share your experiences!