It has been a long journey, however we have made it to the final stage in our gut healing journey. So far, we have removed the things from our diet and lifestyle that are harming our gut, we have optimized our digestion and improved our microbiome balance. The final stage of our gut healing journey is to repair the actual lining of the gut. It might not seem like the lining of our gut would play an important role, but it is integral for our health and overall wellbeing. It acts a protective barrier that is very selective with what it allows to leave the intestinal tract and enter the bloodstream. It allows the absorption of things we want in our body and blocks the absorption of what we don’t want. Basically, it will allow fully digested food to pass through so we can get the necessary nutrients from it, while keeping out undigested food, microbes and toxins.
The lining of our gut is only one cell thick in some places, so it can be very vulnerable to damage. Things that can cause this damage include stress, over exercise, certain medications, certain foods, chemicals and pesticides. When damage occurs, it creates tears in the gut lining causing intestinal permeability, or leaky gut. When this happens, the gut is no longer an effective protective barrier, allowing things like undigested food into our system. When this happens, our immune system gets triggered as it realizes these things are not meant to be there. The immune response is turned on and inflammation ensues. For this reason, the leaky gut is often associated with an overactive immune system and manifests with conditions like food sensitivities and auto-immune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, hashimoto's thyroiditis.
The great thing is, we can heal our gut lining. The cells in the gut regenerate every few days, repairing any holes in the lining. The only challenge is, if we continue to be exposed to the factor that is causing this, such as stress, or a certain type of food, our body is undergoing constant damage and loses its ability to repair itself. This is why the essential first stage of our gut health journey was to eliminate the things that can be possibly triggering our gut issues.
There are things we can do to enhance our gut healing and repair. The emphasis being on using nutrients that soothe the gut lining and reduce inflammation, nourish our guts cells and strengthen the bonds between gut cells. Do this by incorporating the following nutrients:
Omega-3 - essential fatty acids that help reduce inflammation and expedite the healing of the gut lining. Consumption of omega-3s has also been link to microbiome diversity, which is an important measure of gut health. You can get omega-3s from EPA/DHA fish oil or foods like almonds (and almond butter), cashew (and cashew butter), macadamia nut (and butter), sunflower seeds (and sunflower butter, sunflower oil), flaxseed (and flaxseed oil) and olive oil.
L-Glutamine - an amino acid that has anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to strengthen the bonds between the intestinal cells to reduce leaky gut. It is also a precursor to glutathione. You can get L-Glutamine in supplement form or foods like shellfish, seafood, beef, chicken, pork, eggs, walnut, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, spinach and kale.
Glutathione - an amino acid that has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (one of the most powerful known antioxidants). It has been shown to strengthen the bonds between the intestinal cells to reduce leaky gut. You can get glutathione in supplement form or foods like avocado, broccoli, beets, cabbage and spinach.
Butyrate (or butyric acid) - a short chain fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also acts as a source of fuel for both intestinal cells and microbiome to aid in the process of healing the gut lining. You can get butyrate in supplement form or you can make butyrate when you eat foods like garlic, onions, leeks, artichokes, apple, oats and barley.
Marshmallow - A herb that helps to reduce irritation and inflammation in the gut lining. When mixed with water it creates a gluey substance that coats and soothes the lining of the gut. It is often taken as a powder which is either added to water (cold water is best) and allowed to sit overnight to solidify.
Slippery Elm - A herb that helps to reduce irritation and inflammation in the gut lining. When mixed with water it creates a gluey substance that coats and soothes the lining of the gut. It also is a very potent antioxidant. It is often taken as a powder which is either added to water (cold water is best) or added to oats.
Zinc - Can help heal the gut lining and has been shown to strengthen the bonds between the intestinal cells to reduce leaky gut. You can get zinc from foods like oysters, chicken, beef, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, spinach, asparagus and cocoa.
Want to learn more?
Check out this blog on how our gut health impacts our overall health (part 1 of this series).
Check out this blog on how to remove things harming your gut (part 2 of this series)
Check out this blog on how to improve sluggish digestion (part 3 of this series)
Check out this blog on how to de-stress before eating to improve digestion (part 4 of this series)
Check out this blog on how to balance your microbiome (part 5 of this series)