The other day I posted about how I’ve been dealing with digestive issues. I’ve been wanting to write a follow up post all week outlining my gut healing strategy, but unfortunately life got in the way. And by life I mean my summer school class. I’m taking a class on the structure & function of cells which is one of the class required for my major, and also one of the classes most commonly failed by the average biology student at my college. So I thought that taking the three week long intensive version offered for the first time this summer would be a better alternative. Now, two weeks in, do I think that taking this class over the summer was a good idea? Hell no. Buut, one week from now, will I think that taking the class was the right thing to do? Hopefully. If I pass, that is..
Anyway, point is, the class is intense & extremely time-consuming. BUT it’s only three weeks long. I’m two-thirds of the way done. Home stretch baby. I have nothing to complain about. Juuust wanted to give a lil excuse as to why I didn’t write this post earlier.
But now it is officially the weekend & I’ve got an hour of morning left before I head over to yoga sooo, with a steaming cup of peppermint tea by my side, and an 8tracks sweet sounds playlist playing softly in the background, I shall begin.
Since I first realized that it was time to heal my gut I have been doing a lot of research on the topic. Well, as much research as I am able to in the midst of my cell structure & function studying. Basically, I’ve been googling the crap out of topics such as “Paleo Gut Healing”, “Gut Healing Protocol”, “Healing a Leaky Gut”, “Paleo and IBS”, “Paleo and Leaky Gut”, “Real Food Gut Healing”, “Top Supplements for Gut Healing”, “Digestive Health Paleo”, ETC ETC..
And I’ve found a lot of helpful articles and references. Many of which are reinforcing the same general approach, which is quite reassuring. Some of the professionals and resources I’ve found most helpful in my research have been:
- Chris Kresser - the integrative medicine practitioner and author of Your Personal Paleo Code
- Diane Sanfilippo, aka my idol – the Holistic Nutritionist who specializes in Paleo nutrition (AND specifically digestive health!), author of Practical Paleo (aka the Paleo Bible) & the 21 Day Sugar Detox series
- The Paleo Mom, Sarah Ballantyne (of course) – the scientist and expert in all things auto-immune and paleo-related, author of The Paleo Approach and founder of the blog and website, thepaleomom.com
- Aglaee Jacob – the registered dietitian, naturopath, and real-food expert author of Digestive Health with REAL Food, and founder of radicatamedicine.com
- This article, posted on The Paleo Leap, about the importance of Gut Flora
- This article, posted on Primaldocs.com, about 8 supplements to heal a leaky gut
- This article, posted on Dr. Axe’s website, about how to heal a leaky gut
- This article, posted on Do It Yourself Health on steps for healing IBS
I’ve also been reading and re-reading the Digestive Health chapter of Practical Paleo. And I purchased Digestive Health with REAL Food by Aglaee Jacob last week and have skimmed through the entire book and have started reading a couple pages before bed each night. The book is amazing. Once I get through that baby I am definitely going to be well-educated on the entire digestive system/digestive process and the real food approach to healing digestive conditions.
Lastly, about a year & a half ago I worked with Ben Greenfield (through the one-on-one nutrition coaching service he offers) to heal some digestive issues I’d been having – mostly some gas/bloating that were most likely a side effect vegetarian/vegan-ish phase. Ben led me through a gut healing protocol that was based off of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet approach and using that along with some supplementing, I was able to transition back into eating meat again and was able to get rid of my gas/bloating issues with much success. So I revisited the meal plan that he had outlined for me, and did some more research on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). The premise of the SCD is remove complex carbohydrates, lactose, sucrose, and other problematic and/or gut-irritating foods to eliminate all sources that bad bacteria and yeast can feed on and in turn allow the gut flora to normalize while the intestinal tract repairs any potential damage. The SCD Diet begins with an “Intervention Diet” or “Intro Diet” where only easily digestible, thoroughly cooked foods are consumed in order to jump start the gut flora rebalancing and reduction of inflammation in the intestines. The Intro Diet floods the body with natural anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals and consists of well-cooked meats (such as beef burgers), homemade chicken soup (bone broth baby), eggs (preferably hardboiled or scrambled/fried all the way) boiled or steamed & pureed carrots, and homemade gummies or gelatin squares. While quite restrictive, the Intro Diet is only followed for 2-5 days and must not be skipped in order to jump start the healing process and give the body the proper anti-inflammatory compounds to reduce inflammation quickly. After the Intro Diet you can begin to incorporate more well cooked, easy to digest low carbohydrate vegetables such as zucchini, spinach, butternut squash, and other squashes and other food groups such as some fruits, high quality dairy (if tolerated), and nuts/seeds.
The foods included in the Intro Diet and Phase 1 of the SCD are very similar to what Aglaee Jacob recommends in her book. She outlines seven factors for gut-healing foods: real, unprocessed food, easy-to-digest, low irritant and low allergen, anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, carb-restricted, and customized. She also recommends an Elimination Diet protocol, similar to the Intro Diet of the SCD. The goal of the Elimination Diet is to eat only REAL, easy to digest, nourishing foods in order to eliminate your negative digestive symptoms, and allow the entire system time to heal and reset. The foods included in the Elimination Diet are most all types of animal protein from healthy, pastured animals (with minimal processing so that means no bacon or sausage at first unfortunately), traditional fats such as coconut oil, ghee, extra virgin olive oil, and animal fat (duck fat, tallow, or lard), and “safe” vegetables - carrot, zucchini, spinach, and green beans (always cooked, peeled, and de-seeded as much as possible). Seasonings such as cinnamon, lemon/lime juice, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, most fresh herbs, and chives are also allowed along with herbal teas and sparkling water.
So since I realized the other week that it was time for a gut healing intervention, I’ve been gathering the tools necessary to officially start healing my gut – I’ve been accumulating knowledge and new resources to help me on my journey and have also made multiple trips to many different grocery stores to gather my supplements and food supplies.
Last week I removed all potentially gut irritating foods, and have been incorporating many of the principles I’ve read about into my daily routine. I stripped my diet down to well-cooked and mostly pureed low carbohydrate vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, butternut squash, and spinach. I made and consumed plenty of Bone Broth daily. I began taking L-Glutamine on an empty stomach every morning. I also took Oil of Oregano for 6 days straight, which is an essential oil with powerful antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic effects, in order to try and kill off any potentially harmful or bad bacteria that had colonized in my gut. (Read more about Oil of Oregano here). I have also been working on eliminating life stressors such as stress from school work or exercise (been doing my very best to walk/practice yoga over CrossFitting), and have begun a morning ritual/meditation-esque practice. I began taking Digestive Enzymes (NOW Foods) before each major meal, and ordered a Probiotic (Klaire Labs) that finally came in a couple days ago!
Now that everything has been gathered I’m ready to officially start my Intro or Elimination Diet. Basically what I am going to implement (starting fresh Monday morning) is a hybrid Gut Healing Protocol using principles of both the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, and Real Food Digestive Approach. Over the weekend I stripped my diet of everything except for Bone Broth, well-cooked high quality meats (in the form of Grass-fed burgers, pastured pork, and organic, pastured chicken), a small amount of pastured pork liver (from my local farmers market), gelatin gummies made from Herbal Teas (Licorice Root and Lemon-Ginger), and a small amount of Butternut Squash with each meal. Sunday I made the chicken soup from the SCD & am switching over from Butternut squash to steamed and pureed carrots, in a very small amount.
I am going to do the Intro/Elimination Diet for 2-3 days, after which I plan to start slowly incorporating in some of the safe veggies and traditional fats recommended by Aglaee Jacob. I am keeping a journal to track all progress (or lack there of) and symptoms. During my Intro/Elimination Phase a typical day will look something like this:
- Morning: Big Glass of Water with L-Glutamine dissolved into it + Probiotic (taken on an empty stomach)
- Breakfast: [Digestive Enzyme] Chicken Soup + small amount of Pureed Carrots*
- Lunch: [Digestive Enzyme] Grass-fed beef burger (with or without hidden liver) + small amount of Pureed Carrots
- Snack: Herbal Tea Gummies, Can of Sardines, Oysters, or Tuna, and/or Bone Broth
- Dinner: [Digestive Enzyme] Chicken Soup and/or Grass-fed Burger or other form of animal protein + Licorice Root, Peppermint, or Chamomile Tea before bed
- Throughout the day: Plenty of water with lemon and/or ginger, or Iced soothing herbal teas
*If the carrots don’t seem to be working well with my system I’m going to replace them with steamed, pureed, and de-seeded/peeled zucchini squash.
ALSO, I know that despite the negative results from my first stool sample there is still a possibility that that a pathogenic or bad bacteria is present in my system that could be contributing (or causing) my symptoms but I’ve been to the doctor here and spoken with multiple doctors on the phone who aren’t concerned. I plan on seeing another doctor once I’m home in Maryland in two weeks and getting another stool sample (or couple of stool samples) ordered along with a blood test (in order to check my hormone levels and what not) to ensure that there isn’t a pathogenic bacteria present. In the meantime however, I’m trying things my way with a little proactive, real food based approach. And even if it doesn’t help or completely fix my digestive symptoms, it can’t hurt. I think it’s still a worthwhile experiment and will allow me to get one step closer to regaining my digestive health and eliminating my GI issues for good! So let the healing experiment officially began..