Dr. Doni explains why it can be so hard to get treatment for leaky gut and outlines her 5-step plan for healing it.
Part 3 of Dr. Doni’s Series on Leaky Gut
So far in this series, we’ve covered a few important questions: Is leaky gut real? And, What is leaky gut? We also discussed how you would know you have leaky gut, what causes it, and how to test for it. If you missed the first two parts of this series and would like to catch up, here are the links:
- Part 1: Leaky Gut – What Is It and What Can You Do About It?
- Part 2: Testing for Leaky Gut – Putting the Pieces Together
Can Leaky Gut Be Healed?
However, there are still a couple of unresolved questions: Can leaky gut be cured? Can it heal itself? And if it can, then why haven’t the gastroenterologist, rheumatologist, endocrinologist, internist, and oncologist said anything about it?
I am asked these questions every day, either by people who are considering whether it is worth the investment to have me review their case or patients who are so sick and tired of feeling sick and tired that they have lost every bit of hope that they will ever feel better.
Here’s the thing about science and medicine. Even if there are thousands of studies proving the existence of a certain condition, if there is no standard test to show the severity of the condition and few studies that show that an improvement can be made with treatment—then there may be no way to prove the condition was either present or that it healed. In a way, it is like the question, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to witness it, does it make a sound?” It is similar with leaky gut—even though there are thousands of studies detailing its existence (the studies call it intestinal permeability or intestinal barrier impairment) there is no standard test to identify its severity, and very few studies to show that treatment results in improvement. Without this evidence, how do we know if leaky gut actually heals or not?
The difficulty for the gastroenterologist, rheumatologist, endocrinologist, internist, and oncologist is that leaky gut is present at a microscopic level, which cannot be seen with an endoscopy or colonoscopy. Unfortunately, these are the tests that they tend to rely on. Leaky gut cannot be treated with surgery—nor is there a prescription medication that can cure it. In fact, as I alluded to in the last article, it is more often caused by prescription medications such as ibuprofen and antibiotics.
So the question remains—does it heal, and if so, how?
Well yes, I believe it does heal and I’m going to show you how.
My Experiential Evidence with Leaky Gut
I know this first of all from my own health experience. I believe I had leaky gut which caused a whole bunch of really unpleasant symptoms that made me feel really unwell for a really long time. These symptoms included:
- canker sores
- stomach discomfort
- recurrent episodes of vomiting
- recurrent sinusitis
I felt so awful and so frustrated that the doctors were unable to help me that I took matters into my own hands and started to do my own research. I suspected the problem was with my digestion, so I searched and researched to try and find out which foods I reacted to and why.
I started to remove certain foods from my diet to see if it had any effect on my symptoms. It was only when I starting avoiding gluten, and all my other food allergens (which was quite an extensive list) and began taking supplements that have been demonstrated to support the healing of leaky gut that it all came together. I truly started feeling better. No more reflux, no more canker sores, no more stomach upsets, headaches, allergies, or sinusitis! The absence of all these horrible symptoms improved the quality of my life immensely.
From my own experience—and extensive experience with patients with similar symptoms, I began to devise a program to help everyone with leaky gut uncover the causes and find their own route to health.
My Five-Step Program for Healing Leaky Gut
Step 1 – Eliminate the Cause(s)
One of the difficulties with diagnosing and treating leaky gut is that one size definitely does not fit all. Leaky gut has a huge range of possible causes and, subsequently, a huge range of possible treatments. The combination of causes and treatments are unique to every person who has it. This means we need to investigate the causes for each new patient to have the best success with healing.
In the subsequent articles in this series, I will go into more detail about each of the causes of leaky gut and how we can treat them because, as we understand and address the causes we’ll be able to create an environment where the body can heal. Eliminating the cause can involve avoiding certain foods in the diet, especially those that cause leaky gut (such as gluten) and optimizing the balance of healthy bacteria in the small and large intestines.
To start, as we saw in the last article, I recommend a simple IgG and IgA food sensitivity test that will give us a lot of information about the best course of treatment for you including which foods to eliminate from your diet.
Step 2 – Digest at Your Best
The first role of your digestion, from the moment you even think of taking a bite is to break down your food so your body can access the nutrients. If your body cannot easily digest the food you eat (these things are also determined by genetics and stress exposure), it can become a cause of leaky gut and much discomfort. Plus undigested food can then leak through the intestinal lining and trigger more food sensitivities.
Ensuring you take time to chew your food thoroughly and not eat too much food (especially carbohydrates) at one sitting will give your body a better chance of digesting well. Additionally, we can support each aspect of your digestion using plant-based enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and/or bile support depending on your needs. You may need to meet with a practitioner and complete a stool test in order to find out how well you are digesting proteins, carbohydrates and fats to know what support is needed.
As a first step, I recommend taking plant-based pancreatic enzymes with meals to support the digestion of food. Pancreatic enzymes can help digest proteins, fats and carbohydrates, ensuring that you can absorb the nutrients and avoid immune responses to the foods you eat. An example product that I recommend is called Similase GFCF (click to find it in my online store). Similase is designed to digest all food types and it also contains the specific enzymes to digest gluten and casein (the protein in dairy products).
Step 3 – Ingest the Solution
Research is currently being done to try and clarify what helps the recovery of our intestinal cells. For now, while we wait for the results, we focus on the amino acid that is such an important fuel to the small intestinal cells, L-glutamine. We combine this with anti-inflammatory herbs that support a natural healing process such as licorice (DGL), quercetin, aloe, slippery elm, and curcumin. We also add MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), which provides sulfur that helps the tight junctions to heal and zinc which is essential for healthy new cells in the intestinal lining. By taking these supplements* orally, we can get all of them to the location of your leaky gut—the small intestines.1
When Leaky Gut is more severe (and your digestion is more sensitive), it can be necessary to start simple with one ingredient at a time. For others a combination formula can make it possible to take in several supportive herbs and nutrients in one product. Find the specific formulas I recommend here:
- Glutamine alone: L-glutamine powder and capsules
- DGL alone: DGL powder
- Glutamine in combination with aloe and DGL as a powder:
GlutAloeMine and Glutagenics
- Glutamine in combination with several herbs and nutrients in a powder: Optimal GI
- Glutamine in combination with herbs and nutrients as a capsule: GI Repair
Step 4 – Optimize Healthy Bacteria
There are several possible scenarios in which the bacteria that should be healthfully living in your large intestines can be thrown off track. You could have taken a lot of antibiotics that killed the healthy bacteria and allowed yeast (also known as candida) to grow in its place. Or perhaps you’ve overdone the fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, and yogurt and they’ve become too happy in a place that requires a careful balance of the right bacteria.
Once we know more about any imbalance of bacteria in your gut, we can start to change the environment so the healthiest bacteria are able to flourish and protect your body. Keep in mind, however, that healthy bacteria require a healthy intestinal lining, so treating leaky gut and stabilizing your digestion is an ongoing process alongside maintaining the right balance of gut bacteria.
To get started with a high-quality probiotic, I recommend Klaire Detoxification Support. It contains 2 strains of Lactobacillus and 1 strain of Bifidobacteria that are known to decrease inflammation and improve the balance of bacteria in the intestines. Keep in mind that if you ever feel worse after taking a probiotic that you should stop taking it and consult with a practitioner who can help you assess the cause and best approach for you.
Step 5 – Assess Your Stress
Studies show that stress of any kind (emotional or physical) increases your likelihood of developing leaky gut so, in addition to eliminating certain foods and taking supplements, healing it has to address the stress factors.2,3 You can assess your stress levels by entering your email address in the box to the right of this article called ‘How Has Your Body Been Affected by Stress’. You can also download my free action guide to wellness—a 10 page jump-start to assessing and addressing stress with simple 15-minute activities that I refer to as “Stress Remedies.”
To make it easy for you to get started with products that meet my criteria and allow you to get started with my 5-point protocol to heal leaky gut, I put together a group of products at a discount for you in my online store. You can find out about it by clicking here.
Upcoming articles in this series will go into the details of each of these steps further so that you’ll start to understand how to get on the path of healing leaky gut—because it can and does heal with the right mix of ingredients and a strong willingness to make changes to your diet. Research is starting to demonstrate this, such as in one particular study that shows that patients with chronic fatigue syndrome improved as leaky gut resolved.4
Leaky Gut Recovery Process
Many patients ask me how long it takes to heal leaky gut. I tell them it varies, but that I look for steady improvement over 3 to 6 months—which means feeling less awful and more like your old self. At 6 months, we reassess to find out if we can start reintroducing some foods. Then, as your gut heals, fewer foods will trigger an immune response. At that point, we adapt our plan as needed and keep going.
In fact, even after all this time, I continue to support the healing of my leaky gut every day. I recommend that you do the same, because no matter how careful we are to avoid the causes, many daily activities and exposures can add up to a recurrence of leaky gut. Additionally, and much to your benefit, healing leaky gut (and preventing it from occurring or recurring) can also stop autoimmunity in its tracks, prevent unwanted weight gain, improve your mood, and halt the processes that lead to heart, liver, and kidney failure.5, 6, 7, 8,9
Remember that getting to the bottom of what is causing your leaky gut so we can treat it effectively is a complex process but one that allows us to tailor treatment specifically to your unique needs. Taking the time to do this properly can rid you of many unpleasant and persistent symptoms thus revolutionizing your health and wellbeing.
If you are suffering from leaky gut (or suspect you are) and are ready to invest in getting on track for optimal health, then consider checking out my Leaky Gut Solutions Package here. The package includes consultations with me, the food sensitivity panel I recommend that will tell us how stress is affecting your health, as well as products and tips to support you to heal leaky gut.
Leaky gut can go away, but not if you ignore it. All you have to do is start taking steps to eliminate the causes and introduce support to help your body heal.
If you have any questions, thoughts, or experiences you would like to share, please use the comments box below. To make sure that you don’t miss the next articles in this series, you can subscribe to this blog or to my newsletter below.
29th June 2015
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.
- Rapin JR, Wiernsperger N. Possible Links between Intestinal Permeablity and Food Processing: A Potential Therapeutic Niche for Glutamine. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2010 Jun; 65(6): 635–643. A Mahmood, A J FitzGerald, T Marchbank, E Ntatsaki, D Murray, S Ghosh, and R J Playford. Zinc carnosine, a health food supplement that stabilises small bowel integrity and stimulates gut repair processes. Gut. 2007 Feb; 56(2): 168–175.
- Konturek PC1, Brzozowski T, Konturek SJ. Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011 Dec;62(6):591-9.
- Aucoin M, Lalonde-Parsi MJ, and Cooley K. Mindfulness-Based Therapies in the Treatment of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: A Meta-Analysis. J Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014 Sep 11. doi: 10.1155/2014/140724. Maes M1, Leunis JC. Normalization of leaky gut in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is accompanied by a clinical improvement: effects of age, duration of illness and the translocation of LPS from gram-negative bacteria. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2008 Dec;29(6):902-10.
- Piya MK1, Harte AL, McTernan PG. Metabolic endotoxaemia: is it more than just a gut feeling? Curr Opin Lipidol. 2013 Feb;24(1):78-85.
- Karakuła-Juchnowicz H, Szachta P, Opolska A, Morylowska-Topolska J, Gałęcka M, Juchnowicz D, Krukow P, Lasik Z. The role of IgG hypersensitivity in the pathogenesis and therapy of depressive disorders. Nutr Neurosci. 2014 Sep 30.
- Rogler G1, Rosano G. The heart and the gut. Eur Heart J. 2014 Feb;35(7):426-30.
- Fukui H1. Gut-liver axis in liver cirrhosis: How to manage leaky gut and endotoxemia. World J Hepatol. 2015 Mar 27;7(3):425-42. doi: 10.4254/wjh.v7.i3.425.
- Lau WL1, Kalantar-Zadeh K, Vaziri ND. The Gut as a Source of Inflammation in Chronic Kidney Disease. Nephron. 2015;130:92-8.