First of all, if you live in Reno, NV, please come see my talk on this subject on Aug. 27th at 6p at Inspire Reno. Here is the link to purchase $5 tickets!
With this article, I would like to announce that I am shifting the focus of my health consulting business to Gut Health. This IS the ROOT of all health for Kids AND Moms and I have become drawn to sharply focus on this important and rampant issue instead of the broader “Kid’s Health” platform.
The thing that brought me to create this blog and my Health Consulting business is the deep desire to share information with you that puts you back in the driver seat of your health. Information that I feel is being withheld, suppressed or simply under-appreciated by conventional health care providers and media. I believe WE are our best health advocates and that WE can take control of our health when in comes to lifestyle diseases ( which are pretty much all our most common and escalating diseases in the US today). It’s all about prevention, gaining the knowledge and re-asserting the confidence we have in our bodies’ ability to heal.
With GI health, I am equally as baffled by how many patients come to me from the Conventional health care model being treated with hard-core medications OR ignored all together when a few lifestyle modifications would solve the Gut Problem. I know this is overly simplistic and not EVERY case is easily solved by a small change in the diet. But I am being dramatic for effect.
Gastroenterologists are JUST NOW STARTING to admit that WHAT WE EAT AFFECTS OUR GUT. Doesn’t that seem so common sensical??? To agree that what we eat affects the tube the food flows down???? But can you believe that likely 80% still don’t tell their patients to change their diets?? The shift IS occurring but uber-slowly.
For example, 40% of my patients are 100% better just by removing gluten and taking a digestive enzyme. And YET THEY HAVE SEEN 2-3 GI DOCS WITH NO ANSWERS!!! (again, likely an oversimplification for dramatic effect)
So when I began to have exacerbated gut issues 8 years ago ( I have had GI issues my whole life) when I started eating a Paleo type diet (no gluten, grains and minimal dairy, tons of veggies and pastured meats, no chemicals, no processed foods etc), I had to look even further into GI health than ever before. As a holistic Doctor, of course I knew the basics of GI dysfunction: gluten and dairy are the number 1 issues with GI disorders, followed by other grains, sugar, processed foods, chemicals, and individual allergens. But I was doing all that. I had started a clean, high-quality way of eating and was suffering.
When I say suffering, I mean pain. My cramps put me into a sweaty, near-pass-out state. My 8 minute commute in the morning was nearly impossible: I would arrive in the parking lot at work, breathing through my cramps, waiting for a lull in the pain, so I could make a quick, stealthy maneuver to the office bathroom without being stopped to chat.
I had to take a dive deep into gut health to solve my issues.
Today, I am 90% healed, know what to eat to feel good, am aware when I’m about to “cheat”, understand the consequences and can bring myself quickly out of a downward spiral, nipping it in the bud with little more than a few cramps. This is not something that can be fully cured- rather, it is the development of an understanding of what my body needs to be healthy, knowing that everyone is a bit different and that my body, though much more tolerant of trigger foods, will never be able to handle the same foods as the next person.
And it goes far beyond gluten, dairy and processed crap. And you will very likely NEVER hear most of this from your GI doctor. Although, the profession has begun to open up to the idea and SOME are recommending a “Low FODAPs” diet, which is where we are headed. But this is just the TIP of the iceberg.
So today, let me introduce you to the First F-word that is likely sabotaging your gut health, if you have already tried gluten and dairy removal to no avail.
F-word #1: Fiber
Fiber is the preferred food of our gut microbiome. Fiber comes from plants, all of which are carbohydrates. We all hear that fiber is GOOD for our microbiome and that we all need more and more fiber. Fiber is the #1 recommendation for ALL GI issues. And fiber IS GOOD and we DO ALL NEED SOME FIBER.
But here’s the problem. Our GI tract contains a Small Intestine (SI) and a Large Intestine (LI). And each of these “organs” have different requirements. Our LI contains millions of microbes, helping to break down our food, providing us with nutrients, detoxifying us, digesting fibers we cannot and producing waste (gas). Our SI SHOULD NOT CONTAIN MANY MICROBES. IN FACT, THE UPPER PART OF OUR SI SHOULD BE NEARLY STERILE! This is because the SI is where we absorb nutrients from our food and to properly do this, we do not need microbes, just a healthy gut lining and some enzymes. The problem occurs when (for many reasons) microbes overgrow in the SI. Even if they are “good bacteria”, they wreak havoc in the Small Intestine. With too many bugs in our SI, the bugs go to town digesting our food and fiber, releasing gasses and toxins which cause bloaing, pain, craping and diarrhea/constipation. The party is not supposed to occur in the SI where the gases can’t escape. The fiber is meant to transit to the LI for the party, not the SI.
This is called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). And many researchers believe that SIBO IS IBS.
So this is why totally healthy foods that contain fiber, like fruit and veggies can cause IBS-like symptoms and can be disastrous for ones health. The pain and bloating are an indication of inflammation, the gut lining gets damaged and we are set up for leaky gut and all sorts of other issues.
One of my virtual mentors, Dr. Michael Ruscio explains this fiber phenomenon this way:
Imagine a rain forest. As an ecosystem, it thrives on 100’s of inches of rain per year. Now consider our region of the Eastern Sierra Mountains: high desert. We average 8 inches of rain per year and what happens when we get 5 inches all at once? Well, we have all witnessed that disaster: mud slides, gardens washed away, retaining walls breached, roads closed. Deserts do not do well with too much rain fall, especially all at once.
Well, we humans are the same. We have an ecosystem in our GI tract- truly! We support and live synergistically with 1000’s of species of microbes all living in our Gut. And each of our ecosystems is TOTALLY UNIQUE TO US. Some of us boast rainforest-like ecosystems, some of us simply thrive with a drier, high-mountain desert-like ecosystem. Neither is better. It is simply our make-up. We can slightly alter our ecosystems with the right nudging. We can certainly improve our gut health and optimize our microbiome, but basically, due to genetics and nurture, we’ve got what we’ve got. We simply need to figure out what our micro biome needs and honor that.
So what the solution?
Often times, simply eliminating the foods that provide party food for the bugs can make them subside. Sometime it requires a more limited diet for a short period to kill off the misplaced bugs. Many times, working with a Functional Medicine practitioner like myself is required to kill off the bugs, heal the gut and fine tune the diet.
Honoring Our Unique Ecosystems
But in the long run, we also must remember our unique ecosystem. Even after getting SIBO under control, I for example, still have to watch my over-consumption of watermelon, plums, and onions (just to name a few). In a fully “healed state”, I can eat SOME of my trigger foods. But if I go overboard, I hear about it. It is because these particular types of fibers provided by these fruits/veggies simply invite a party in my gut. Some foods I will have to avoid forever, some I can eat in moderation. But I have discovered what my ecosystem needs and know how to eat to feel good. And I know when I’m pushing my limits, and sometimes pay the consequences. But I also know how to get back.
I have worked with 100’s of patients and clients who’s lives have changed simply by learning about their own ecosystems and what works for their bodies.
As healthy as fiber is- and we certainly DO NEED FIBER- everyone is different. So, just because your best friend can down a huge bowl of kale salad and feel fine, does NOT mean that you should do the same despite the pain it causes. Those fiber pills your husband swears by may torture your gut.
So if you have already tried eliminating the common foods and still struggle, you may want to consider working with me or any well-trained Functional Medicine practitioner. A good start is to follow a “Low FODMAPs” diet to see if you get relief. An elimination diet requires a comprehensive re-introduction plan so you can introduce as many foods as possible. It is not a good idea to remove a large number of vegetables on a permanent basis. You may need guidance. You also may need an herbal protocol, probiotics and long-term support. I can help you with this so contact me! or firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out my Facebook Live on Gut Health here.
And more FB Lives here.