The intestines are lined with millions of cells that are sealed together by “tight junctions”. In healthy intestines, these tight junctions work as barriers to allow or prohibit particles from moving through the gastrointestinal tract and into the circulatory system. However, if the lining becomes permeable (or open, aka “Leaky Gut”), it affects the lining of the intestines creating a dysfunction at the microscopic surface of the intestine. This impairs the ability to properly digest foods. When the intestines cannot filter properly, tiny pieces of incompletely digested foods, bacteria, and other waste by-products may leak through the intestines into the blood stream where they do not belong.
Inflammation is not limited to swelling at the surface of the skin. In fact, tiny cells inside the body that line the gastrointestinal tract are prone to both acute and chronic inflammation since they are in direct contact with food particles, bacteria, and other substances throughout the day. Ongoing inflammation in the gut causes a dilation of the vessels lining the GI tract, or the “tight junctions” as a way for the body to protect itself. When the vessels dilate, they allow fluid in to “flush” out the foreign invader. This is why we get diarrhea when we get food poisoning! While diarrhea is an extreme example of this dilation, the signal for these junctions to open over and over again is similar to leaving the screen door open at your house at all times. The screen door keeps bugs and other “impostors” out, but if left open, allows all of those to enter when they are unwelcome.
The body does not like foreign substances floating around and the immune system will kick in and try to fight whatever it thinks is a danger in the intestines. This will cause inflammation and inhibit functioning. When this happen the ability to digest foods and absorb nutrients is decreased and the immune system can be compromised. Chronic inflammation in the intestines is a real concern. It has the potential link between serious disorders like:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
How do I Determine What I Need to Change in My Diet?
Food sensitivities are a common culprit go gastrointestinal complaints. They are often dose-dependent, with symptom onset delayed by many hours, and there are usually many reactive foods, not just 1 or 2 as in food allergy. And just like each person has a unique fingerprint, both food sensitivity symptoms and trigger foods are different from one person to another. In other words, in two gluten sensitive people, gluten may cause digestive problems in one person and migraines in another.
To make matters even more challenging, that “healthy” salmon with all of those anti-inflammatory health benefits you read about and that you so desperately want for your own health, may actually be the cause of an inflammatory reaction that gives you diarrhea or any symptom! The unexpected and unfortunate truth is that even so-called healthy foods like salmon, blueberries, garlic, or broccoli can become triggers that lead to unwanted symptoms. It’s a very challenging puzzle that requires an expert approach to figure it out.
How Can I Find Out if There is Something Else Wrong in My Gut?
Getting a stool test done is an excellent way to determine what is going on in your gastrointestinal tract. Identification of overgrown pathogenic yeast, bacteria, parasites, and viruses is a crucial step in optimizing gut health. While one may not always be symptomatic of bacterial imbalances, chances are you have been on antibiotics and are exposed to them through other ways, such as through diet, that could have negative implication on your bacterial balance. When the “good guys” are lowered and defenses are down, that opens the door for the “bad guys” to proliferate and take over. When that happens it is bad news!
A stool test can also help to identify inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract that can decrease the ability of your gut to absorb nutrients properly and may lead a practitioner to adjust your supplementation. Additionally, looking at a sample of stool can determine if you are secreting enough digestive juices to break down food and supplements properly, which can also be remedied through dietary and enzymatic therapy. And, finally, it can determine if you have adequate mucous layers in the GI tract and/or if you have gluten related inflammation.
Your Nutritional Therapy Counseling Session Includes Nicole’s “4-R Approach” to Healing the Gut:
Healthy gastrointestinal (GI) function is essential for good health. For many individuals, suboptimal GI function may be the result of processed foods, environmental toxins, excess sugar and alcohol, inadequate intake of water, fiber, and other probiotic and prebiotic nutrients, stress, and a variety of other factors. However, these factors can be addressed and healthy GI function supported with a FOUR phase program
The FOUR Phases of This Approach Are:
- Remove: Triggers that affect GI function which include food sensitivities, overgrowth of unfriendly organism, and other potential GI stressors
- Replace: Digestive enzymes and supporting chemicals that are needed for optimum digestion
- Repopulate: Targeted probiotic supplementation to help support the health of the GI Tract and maintain proper microbial balance
- Repair: The lining of the GI tract is essential for the recovery and maintenance of our health as it acts as a barrier against undigested foods, toxins, and other organisms. It is also necessary proper nutrient absorption.