Image: Cath Muscat via Heal Your Gut by Lee Holmes
So, your gut’s unhappy. And it’s making you unhappy. Whether you’re at your wit’s end and it’s a constant battle or you’re in the beginning and it’s just the occasional flair up, gut issues are debilitating—and they can make you f*cking depressed.
So, we want to help. We’ve partnered with holistic food and nutrition coach, Lee Holmes as well as the co-founder of the SIBO Center for Digestive Health in Portland, Oregon, Dr Steven Sandberg-Lewis to do just that. Combining Holmes’ first-hand experience and Dr Sandber-Lewis’ expertise, we’ve put together this practical guide to healing your gut.
Last week, we covered the signs and symptoms of an unhealthy gut and some tests available to diagnose one. So if you missed it, start there. If not, read on and take the first step in your journey to healing your gut.
Step One: The Elimination Diet
Before you begin to heal your gut it’s important to first diagnose any food allergies or intolerances you might have. According to Dr Sandberg-Lewis, the best way to do this is to undertake an elimination diet.
“Given that food intolerances vary widely, even among people diagnosed with the same condition, starting with an elimination diet and keeping a food diary can help identify your personal food triggers.
The two most prevalent food triggers known to cause gut issues are gluten and dairy. Other common food irritants include soy, eggs and corn. In fact, for some people, popcorn can be as irritating as razor blades for your ileocecal valve (the muscle that separates your small and large intestine). You might also want to consider removing foods that are difficult on the gut, such as grains and beans.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, low FODMAPs and the SIBO Specific Food Guide are the three most common dietary plans that I use for SIBO/IBS,” he says.
Once this has been established, you can begin the process of repairing your gut.
According to Holmes, healing your gut involves a dual focus: improving the balance of good bacteria in the gut, and healing the intestinal wall to decrease its permeability. In her book, Heal Your Gut, she breaks this up into four phases, starting with the repair of the gut lining. This must be done first in order to create an environment that allows good bacteria to flourish and nutrient absorption to occur.
“Researchers are now recognising that the integrity of the intestinal barrier is paramount in preventing and healing a range of diseases. By [repairing your gut lining] you are allowing the gut to smoothly complete all of the functions required to regulate your entire body, without leaking unwanted toxic substances into the bloodstream,” she told us.
In phase one, Holmes suggests adopting a liquid diet for four weeks.
“After giving my body a four-week break from digesting solid food it was amazing how my gut lining healed and became less inflamed. This, in turn, enabled me to absorb more nutrients, which gave me an increase in energy and decrease in symptoms,” she writes.
“The gut needs a proper rest from foods which are hard to digest and cause a reaction in the body. As a result of the industrial revolution and the globalisation of the modern food industry, in some cases our plates are filled with ingredients that our DNA may not be adapted to tolerate, these are artificial foods and ingredients that our bodies don’t recognise and have no idea how to process.”
In this phase, such irritants are eliminated and instead, Holmes focuses on consuming foods that are soothing and assist in repair. This includes mineral-rich bone broths, easy-to-digest vegetables and foods—like gelatine, slippery elm and aloe vera—that help maintain the integrity of the gut. Her book includes an abundance of nutrient-rich, satiating recipes as well as detailed meal plans to guide you every step of the way.
Completed this? Here are the next steps in your gut-healing journey.
This is the health journey taken by Lee Holmes, after much research, experimentation and speaking with integrative doctors and nutritionists. While it worked for her, every individual is unique and it does not guarantee it will work for you.