With all types of food intolerance, comes an underlying gut problem. Heal your gut and your body will react less. Your body is reacting to foods because there’s an imbalance of bacteria and ‘leaky gut’. If you have ongoing gut symptoms, emotional problems, skin issues or multiple sensitivities, then a good old gut healing protocol may be just what you need.
The imbalance between good and bad bacteria is called dysbiosis; and leaky gut is a weakening of the junctions between cells in the gut wall that open up and create spaces that allow food particles to pass through. The food leaks into the blood stream, where the immune system reacts. So when treating food intolerance, it’s not enough to cut out the offending foods. The real job is to heal the gut lining, to allow better absorption of nutrients, and put some good bacteria back in, leaving less space for the unhealthy bacteria to colonise. This will build up your immune system (which is centred in your gut) and lower inflammation. Then in time your body will react less and you can determine what foods you can tolerate again.
So, how do I heal my gut, I hear you say? Well, here are my top 7 gut healing tips for food intolerance. (It’s best to do this under the supervision of a well-qualified nutritionist or naturopath, and get an individualised program.)
Glutamine repairs the mucous membranes of the gut and tightens the junctions between cells to reduce leaky gut. It is a non-essential amino acid, meaning the body can make it, but in times of metabolic stress, our bodies stop making enough. Glutamine is found in animal and plant protein, cabbage juice, eggs, fermented miso (soybeans) and yoghurt, so eating a wholefood diet is really important. It requires B6, zinc and magnesium to be converted to GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps calm the nervous system and further decrease reactions.
Gelatine is an animal product found in skin, bones and cartilage of animals, that contains collagen and amino acids glycine and proline that help to heal skin, joints and lining of your gut. It can be found in good quality or home-made bone broths or purchased as a powder and turned into jellies. Try my gut-healing bone broth recipe here.
Saccharomyces boulardii is a well-studied and effective yeast that is used in dysbiosis to sweep the intestines clean and make space for healthy bacteria to colonise. The specific strains of probiotics to use after this depend on the specific conditions of the individual. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), for example, has been shown to work well for eczema – so ask your nutritionist to recommend one just for you.
- Prebiotics and fibre
Prebiotics are food for our good bacteria. Too much junk food, breads, pasta and sugar feed the bad bacteria, stopping us from ever getting well! Some prebiotic foods include leek, onion, garlic, chickpeas and other beans. With severe gut symptoms, these foods may cause a reaction, so if you’re not already eating them, go cautiously, a little at a time and ease off if you get symptoms.
- Immune boosting foods
Zinc and vitamin C are essential for boosting immunity and healing the gut throughout this tricky process. An abundance of fresh fruits and veggies will provide plenty of vitamin C, while zinc can be found in fresh seafood and meat and a little in nuts and seeds too.
- Lose the inflammatory foods
While the gut heals, it’s important to cut out anything causing inflammation. Wheat, gluten, dairy and sugar, are the usual suspects for anyone with gut symptoms. It’s worth cutting them out for a time to let the gut heal. Whole yoghurt with strains of Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium may be beneficial to some people (unless you know you can’t tolerate any dairy).
Once you’re feeling better, you can start on the journey of eliminations to establish what’s causing you to react.
- Be kind to yourself
Finally, managing your emotions, getting enough sleep and giving yourself time to heal are crucial elements of the journey. Poor gut health affects your emotions, behaviour and mental health. Food intolerance can manifest as poor concentration, irritability, poor judgement, clouded thinking, defiance, depression and anxiety. These are not fun emotions and symptoms to deal with, so it is worth investigating all possible causes (check with a professional to rule out other conditions).
Be kind to yourself, find nice activities you enjoy and talk to someone about how you’re feeling. Do things that help you wind down before bed, like taking an Epsom salts bath or reading, avoiding screen time for at least 30 minutes before you want to sleep. When you’re asleep, your body heals and detoxifies, so getting enough good quality sleep is even more important than you realise, especially when you’re healing your gut.