If you are sensitive to certain foods or most/all foods for that matter, you are not alone. Food sensitivities are becoming EXTREMELY common and the subsequent digestive upset from those sensitivities is something I see regularly in my patients. Abdominal pain, gas, bloating, belching heartburn, and indigestion are your bodies way of screaming at you that something is wrong in your gut and that you need to make changes in your life to heal your gut.
Characteristics of a healthy gut:
- In a healthy gut, you have a plethora and diverse amount of good bacteria that work together to help you digest the food you eat, feed the cells that line your intestines, and take up space so harmful bacteria can’t take up residence.
- A healthy gut will also be lined with intestinal cells that fit together all snug as a bug in a rug.
- These intestinal cells also have gates within them that only allow specific nutrients to pass into your blood stream to nourish your body.
- In a healthy gut, there will also be a nice mucus lining coating your intestines to protect your intestinal cells from inflammation.
- Our mouth, stomach, and intestines require the correct pH and lots of different types of enzymes to break down the foods that we eat. A healthy gut and surrounding organs that aid digestion regulates the pH and enzymes secreted.
Characteristics of an UNhealthy gut:
- In an unhealthy gut, there will likely be some sort of disturbance to the gut microbiome; either the healthy/good bacteria won’t be as prevalent or there will be bad bacteria inhabiting the gut microbiome.
- Our gut bacteria like to be nourished by the foods we eat, specifically fiber rich foods. If we aren’t eating enough fiber in our diet, our gut bacteria (even the good ones) start eating the mucus that lines our gut. With less mucus creating a protective barrier, bacteria and food particles come into direct contact with our intestinal cells. This creates inflammation.
- Inflammation in the gut and a decrease in the mucus lining leads to destruction of the tight junctions that used to hold our intestinal cells together. When our intestinal cells aren’t attached together snuggly, food particles that typically aren’t allowed into our blood stream (either they are too big and should have been broken down more or are typically excreted in our feces) travel through the not-supposed-to-be-there space between our intestinal cells. Our body recognizes these food particles that are NOT supposed to be in our blood stream as “foreign”. Our immune system goes on high alert and creates an army of cells to attack these foreign food particles creating even more inflammation. The more inflammation there is à the more unhappy our gut is à the more symptoms the body creates. Even foods that were typically always “safe” foods that never gave the body any symptoms, now may lead to inflammation and symptoms because our body isn’t breaking them down and absorbing them properly. Once you have one foods sensitivity, it will likely lead to more food sensitivities unless you change your diet and lifestyle to create less inflammation in the gut and support a healthy gut microbiome.
- An unhealthy gut may also be due to an imbalance in the pH of our gut and/or a disruption in enzyme production. With this combination, you will not be breaking down the foods you eat effectively.
On Your Way to a Healthier Gut
I love helping people restore their gut health! My hope is to help my patients who have food sensitivities have a positive relationship with foods once again, knowing that the foods that they eat will be assimilated properly and not lead to digestive upset. Eating food should be enjoyable and should nourish every cell making us stronger, healthier and happier individuals.
So how do we do that? Dietary changes are typically the number one thing you can do to help heal the gut. This means eating whole foods with lots of plants and avoiding foods that you know your body is sensitive too. It is important to restore your gut microbiome and ensure that you are feeding those good bacteria every single day with lots of fiber. Botanical medicine can also do wonders to help your gut heal and to decrease inflammation. Some of my favorites are cabbage, yarrow, licorice root (NOT black licorice), plantain, comfrey, aloe vera, and calendula. Want more ideas and a uniquely created wellness plan for you? Book an appointment with a naturopathic doctor who is trained to help you heal your gut and say goodbye to your food sensitivities once and for all.