Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Small Leak Will Sink a Great Ship

~Benjamin Franklin

"Leaky gut" is a phrase you've probably heard a lot recently, especially as the syndrome picks up popularity in alternative health circles, and natural publications.  The problem is, it doesn't exist, at least, it isn't a diagnosis taught in medical school.  This poses quite a problem when trying to find a qualified physician to help you navigate the path of the theory of intestinal permeability.  That's what you need to call it, by the way, to be taken remotely seriously by a healthcare professional: Intestinal Permeability.

What's the big deal anyway?  What's all the fuss about?  Why is everyone obsessed with guts these days?  Well, Hippocrates (the Father of Modern Medicine 460-370 BC), himself told us, "All disease begins in the gut," and with recent developments in our understanding of the importance of the human microbiome, as well as the gut-brain connection it seems science is finally making strides to catch up with his teachings.  Just think how advanced we could be if mankind didn't have to learn every single lesson the hard way, but I digress.  Gut health, if you've done any personal research on the topic already, you've discovered is incredibly important, and when it's compromised even by the smallest of "leaks" the effects are far reaching, and linked (but not limited) to:
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Bowel problems (probably the most obvious)
  • Diabetes (II) 
  • Depleted immune function
  • Eczema (among a whole host of skin conditions) 
  • Female reproductive health complications
  • Mental health (anxiety, depression, bi-polar, etc.)
  • Migraine 
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Weight management problems (overweight / underweight)

So, you've been in digestion-hell or suffering with seemingly random maladies, googled your symptoms, and fallen down the rabbit hole that is WebMD and are convinced you'll be dead within weeks ... What's to be done now, then?  Maybe before getting your affairs in order, you could look over the regimen I used to support my body on its path to healing, and incorporate what is manageable to you.  Whether you (or your practitioner) believe in the leaky gut theory, the routine that I used below helps soothe the soft tissues of an inflamed digestive tract, which is an integral part of healing any digestive issues.
Worth mentioning first, is that fresh is always best.  However, I know it's not even remotely realistic for everyone to be growing herbs and medicinal plants in their own back yard (never mind how difficult, and sanitarily suspect it would be to get in on the first feeding of a mammal post-birth!  More on that later...) so, do your best to find high quality supplements from brands you feel you can trust. 

Licorice Root (DGL-deglycyrrhizinated licorice root)
  • What it's for: Protects against ulcer formation, discourages proliferation of H. pylori, provides acid reflux and digestive support, soothes sore throats and coughs, prevents autoimmunity, relieves constipation, offers adrenal support, and eases the discomfort of many female reproductive issues, among a laundry list of other things. 
  • How to use it: Chew-able tablets (500 mg) three times a day 20 minutes before meals.
  • Warnings: Headache, heart palpitations because the glycyrrhizin compound causes potassium levels in the body to drop leading to abnormal heart rhythms, congestive heart failure (over extended use).
This is something meant for small doses, and short periods in order to heal, and move on.  As one of the first supplements I found to aid in my sub-par digestive experience, I made it through 2 bottles, and found it very helpful before retiring it from my routine.  By then, I had graduated to Betaine HCL with pepsin, and digestive enzymes to better, and more fully break down my food which made digestion an overall more comfortable, and gentle experience.  When you find yourself with lackluster gut health it is not uncommon to have low stomach acid levels, or have low output of naturally occurring digestive enzymes leaving the food you eat sitting too long, and putrefying in your stomach and then shoved through the rest of the digestive tract in its awkward state as opposed to being properly broken down into a substance your intestines can absorb nutrients from.  Read more about low stomach acid (as well as its connection with heartburn and GERD) here.

Marshmallow Root
  • What it's for: Soothes mucus membranes, and protects against stomach ulcers, acid reflux and digestive disorders, restores saliva volume, alleviates sore throat, cough, and cold, respiratory infection, eases asthma, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, offers kidney support, treats eczema and myriad skin conditions, as well as small cuts, and burns.  It's even helpful in decreasing inflammation in teething infants - many people peel the root, and let the child chew on it.  If that doesn't work, cut it in half and stick one piece in each of your ears.
  • How to use it: 2 capsules (480 mg) three times a day with meals.
  • Warnings: Typically considered safe while pregnant or breastfeeding, check with your healthcare professional before using, and use caution if diabetic as it could be linked to drops in blood sugar levels.  It may also cause malabsorption of medications, be sure to wait 1 hour after taking any medicine or supplements before ingesting.
Plantain (yeah, that funny little weed growing in your yard)
  • What it's for: With anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties that heal intestinal wounds, seal intestinal permeability, and protects the liver just to name a few.  Used topically for for all manner of skin conditions including sunburns, burns, minor cuts, blisters, insect & snake bites, and stings. 
  • How to use it: Rinse 2 cup of leaves and combine in french press with 4 cups of water, and steep until cool, once strained it can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks. Or cram a few handfuls through your juicer and drink with veggie juice of your choice.
  • Warnings:  I can't find a definitive answer, but people with melon allergies should use caution with this herb.  Pregnant, and breastfeeding women should also avoid it, as it is rumored to assist in miscarriage.
Slippery Elm
  • What it's for: Stimulates nerve endings in intestinal tract, increases body's mucus secretion, enhances stomach lining, combats excessive acidity & ulcers in digestive tract.  It is also a hefty antioxidant that guards against inflammation.
  • How to use it: Mix 1 teaspoon of powder with 8 oz boiling water, stir & sip. 
  • Warnings: Slippery Elm has been rumored to cause miscarriage, and while no scientific proof of this claim exists, it is wise to exercise caution.  It may also cause malabsorption of medications, be sure to wait 1 hour after taking any medicine or supplements before ingesting.
Slippery Elm, Marshmallow Root, Plantain, and Licorice Root are all considered demulcent herbs, which simply means that they create a protective coating that diminishes irritation and inflammation of the mucus membranes.  

  • What it's for: Praised for it's immune boosting, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-aging properties, it is said to provide support for healthy cells in your skin, hair, joints, bones, and organs, and used to heal injuries, repair the nervous system, and what we're most interested in here, it helps to seal the digestive tract, and keep pathogens and toxins from passing through our intestinal walls, and protects against further inflammation.
  • How to use it: 3 capsules (1500mg) twice a day on an empty stomach.
  • Warnings: Use caution with bovine allergies.  Although rare, people with HIV need to be aware of possible nausea, vomiting, abnormal liver function, and decreased red blood cells.
This might be the most difficult of all to acquire in its freshest form, nor would it be entirely appealing to ingest I imagine, but what you can do is look for a product that boasts USDA Grade A bovine origins and is BSE, antibiotic, pesticide, and hormone free.  Also look for a "first milking" derived product, and of course third party verification is preferred.  I was most apprehensive to try this supplement, myself, because I actually have a beef, and cow milk allergy so I wasn't exactly sure what would happen or what kind of undesirable reaction I was in store for, but I was in so much pain and discomfort, and so sickly, and weak I kind of didn't care what happened to me after I swallowed the capsule.  To my astonishment, nothing happened!  Nothing negative that I could discern, that is, but even better than that, I began to feel better almost immediately in my supplementation process.

Possibly the single most important thing you can do for yourself during this supplementation and healing process is to slash inflammation in your system by eliminating any foods that are known irritants (dairy, corn, gluten, soy, sugar, and wheat) and focusing on incorporating as many gentle, organic, whole foods into your diet as possible.  Juicing is also incredibly helpful, and allows you to flood your body with vitamins, nutrients, and trace minerals you've been deprived of because of your struggle with intestinal permeability.  One excellent juice used to raise stomach acidity is fresh, pure celery juice first thing on an empty stomach.  If you haven't researched the benefits of ordinary celery juice yet, I urge you to do so, it's basically a miracle food.

I've mentioned earlier in this post the topic of low stomach acid levels, and another great juice, and handy way to test yourself for low stomach acid or check your progress with healing your gut is beet juice (see my favorite recipe below).  After ingesting a beet or its juice, if your urine has pink tinges of color it is likely you have low levels of stomach acid.

Just Beet it!
1 beet
2-3 carrots
1-2 apples
1/2 lime
1" knob of ginger

Run everything except the lime through your juicer (I prefer an auger model), once finished, ream your lime and combine with the rest of the juice, serve and enjoy!

Additional supplements and foods you can add to your daily routine to aid this process include: Aloe Vera Juice, Chamomile, Coconut oil, Ginger, Glutamine, Green leafy vegetables, and Yarrow.  

Happy healing!