Month: July 2018
Leaky gut is also known as increased intestinal permeability. It’s when the cells lining our intestines (gut) separate a bit from each other. They’re supposed to be nice and tightly joined to the cell beside it; this is to allow certain things into our bodies (like nutrients), and keep other things out.
When the tight junctions between intestinal cells weaken it can cause the gut to be more permeable – leakier – than normal. When this happens, it allows things into our bodies that should not get in; things like large pieces of protein, toxins, or even bacteria and waste.
When substances that shouldn’t be there get into our bloodstream through the “leaks” in our gut, our immune system kicks in. These leaked bits mimic a food allergy, and our body reacts accordingly. It mounts a response to try to attack the invaders, and this causes inflammation.
Leaky gut is associated with a number of issues including food allergies, celiac disease, autoimmune diseases (e.g., Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Hashimoto’s, asthma, type 1 diabetes, acne, eczema), joint pain, and neurological problems (e.g., multiple sclerosis). Some research shows that leaky gut might contribute to or worsen these conditions.
While some of our gut permeability may have a genetic factor, there are lifestyle habits that contribute as well. Too much sugar or alcohol, and not enough fibre can make things worse. Even certain compounds in foods (e.g., gluten, lectins, casein, fructose) and food additives (e.g., MSG) can weaken tight junctions.
So, what should we eat, and ditch, for optimal gut health?
Avoid or reduce these
There are certain foods that irritate the gut or can cause those loosened junctions to get even looser.
Some of these include:
- Foods that you’re allergic to
- Foods with added sugar
- Foods containing MSG
- Foods with sugar alcohols (e.g., sorbitol)
- Gluten-containing grains (e.g., wheat, rye)
- High-lectin foods (e.g., grains, legumes)
- Nightshades (e.g., eggplant, peppers, tomato)
- Dairy (which contains casein & lactose)
- Excessive alcohol
It’s a good idea to reduce these foods and if leaky gut is a confirmed issue for you, avoid them until the leaky gut has been addressed.
Eat more of these
There are also a bunch of foods that support gut health, including the intestinal cells themselves, as well as our friendly gut microbes. Many of these also reduce inflammation.
- Probiotic-rich fermented foods (e.g., sauerkraut, kimchi)
- Prebiotic fibre-rich foods which help our gut microbes produce butyrate (e.g., leafy greens, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds)
- Glutamine-rich foods (e.g., bone broth, meat)
- Zinc-rich foods (e.g., shellfish, organ meats, and pumpkin seeds)
- Quercetin-rich foods (e.g., citrus, apples, onions)
- Curcumin-rich turmeric
- Indole-rich foods (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens)
These are all nutritious foods that can help with gut health and overall health.
It’s not just what you eat that can affect your gut. Other lifestyle habits can help too.
- Eating slower and chewing better to help break down food better
- Eating when hungry, and stopping when satisfied
- Going to the bathroom when you need to (don’t hold it for longer than necessary)
- Getting more high-quality sleep
- Better stress management
All of these are great healthy habits to get into, gut problems or not.
To help keep our guts (and our bodies) in optimal condition, there are a lot of foods we should eat (and lots we should reduce).
Sticking with nutrient-dense unprocessed foods is always a good plan, whether you have gut issues, other concerns, or feel completely healthy.
And, don’t forget the importance of a healthy lifestyle like good eating habits, sleep, and stress management.
Which of these foods have you added or reduced? Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (Gut supporting): Braised Greens with Turmeric
2 bunches leafy greens (kale, chard, collards), washed and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp turmeric
2 dashes salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the greens and a splash of water.
Sauté until the greens start to wilt.
Remove from heat and sprinkle with lemon juice, turmeric, salt and pepper.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Serve this as a side dish (hot or cold), or add to soup.
Low carb diets have been popular on and off since the dawn of the Atkins fame (and maybe even earlier?).
But, what exactly defines low carb? Does eating this way actually help with weight loss? Are there any other health benefits (or risks) to eating fewer carbs?
What is a carb?
A carb, or carbohydrate, is one of our three main macronutrients. Carbs, along with protein and fat that are needed for optimal health in quantities larger than vitamins and minerals which are micronutrients.
Carbohydrates come in three main types:
Sugars are the smallest (molecule) carb. There are many different kinds of sugars, beyond the well-known table sugar (sucrose) or fruit sugar (fructose).
Starches are longer chains of many sugars bound together. Starches are broken down by our digestive enzymes into sugars. These sugars are then absorbed and metabolized in much the same way as if we ate sugar itself.
Fibre, on the other hand, is also a long chain of sugars, but these are not broken down by our digestive enzymes. Fibre passes through our system, feeds our friendly gut bacteria, and then takes food waste out the other end.
Because fibre isn’t digested like sugars and starches, it’s often excluded from the carb calculation.
How we metabolize carbs
When we eat carbs, our body absorbs the broken down sugar into our blood, thus raising our blood sugar. Depending on how high and fast our blood sugar rises, our body may release insulin to tell our cells to absorb that sugar out of our blood and use it as energy now or store it for later.
This is part of the theory as to why eating low carb diets may help with weight loss – by preventing the release of insulin, thus preventing the storage of excess calories.
But, our bodies are a bit more complicated than that!
Low carb for weight loss?
A few studies recently put low carb diets head-to-head against low-fat diets for weight loss.
Guess what they found?
1 – There isn’t one universal definition of low carb (see the next section below).
2 – It’s more difficult for people to stick to low carb diets than low-fat diets.
3 – Both diets work for some people, and neither one is overwhelmingly better for weight loss than the other.
4 – The number of calories people eat is still considered a huge factor when it comes to weight loss success – more than whether the calories are from carbs or fat.
How many carbs is low carb?
There isn’t one single definition.
The average American eats about 300 g of carbs per day. Some people consider eating under 250 g of carbs per day to be the first threshold of a low carb diet. That’s really not that low in carbs, it’s lower carb, rather than low carb. Plus, if you’re new to cutting carbs, this level is easy to maintain and a good start (if you want to cut your carbs).
Taking that a step further, eating less than 150 g per day of carbs is considered a typical low carb diet.
On the extreme side, eating less than 50 g of carbs per day is considered to be very low carb – it falls under the ketogenic diet range. Eating so few carbs can actually change your metabolism into a ketogenic state. Eating this way can be difficult for many people to maintain.
Other health benefits of low carb diets
Low carb diets have the benefit of preserving muscle mass during weight loss. They can also improve heart health biomarkers like cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Not to mention that eating fewer carbs can improve how our bodies manage those carbs in terms of insulin and fasting blood sugar levels.
There can definitely be some non-weight-loss health benefits to eating fewer carbs!
Eating a low carb diet can be healthy, as long as it contains enough of all the essential nutrients. Some people may lose weight eating fewer carbs, and others won’t.
Low carb diets can help to improve how the body manages blood lipids and blood sugar, so it can be a healthy choice for some people.
As with most things in nutrition, there isn’t a one size fits all rule. Low carb diets can be a good choice for many people, but it’s not the magic bullet that some people claim.
What about you – have you tried (or do you currently) eat low carb? How many carbs do you eat per day? Have you had any great (or not so great) health effects from it? Let me know in the comments below.
Recipe (Low carb): Baked “Breaded” Chicken
2 pounds chicken drumsticks
½ cup almond flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp rosemary or thyme
½ tsp garlic powder
Preheat oven to 450F.
Cover a large baking dish with parchment paper.
In large food storage bag, combine all ingredients except chicken.
Place a couple of pieces of chicken in the bag and shake until coated.
Repeat with the rest of the chicken.
Place chicken on a lined dish and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
Turn over and bake 15 minutes longer.
Ensure internal temperature of chicken reaches 165F.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can roast veggies in another pan at the same time. Just chop, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. They might not need to cook as long as the chicken, so check them periodically.
Grapefruit is good for you!
It’s a vitamin C-rich citrus fruit that’s low in sugar and contains vitamin A, potassium, and fibre. It has a low glycemic index and does not spike your blood sugar when you eat it. The pink and red varieties also contain lycopene.
It’s definitely a nutritious health-promoting food.
It even had a whole weight-loss diet created around it – the “grapefruit diet!” Research has proven that grapefruit doesn’t have any magical weight loss properties, so don’t eat it just to lose weight.
There is something you need to know about grapefruit if you take medications.
Grapefruit enhances the effects of many medications – over 85 at last count; this is sometimes called the “grapefruit effect.” Taking grapefruit (or its juice) along with certain medications – even a day apart – can increase the risk of side effects.
For example, when taken with certain blood pressure lowering medications it lowers blood pressure too much. This causes lightheadedness and other symptoms.
Another example is when taken with certain birth control pills, women have a higher risk of blood clots.
Grapefruit affects the metabolism of some of the following categories of medications:
● Blood pressure
● Birth control
● Immunosuppressive and anti-rejection
● Urinary tract agents
● over-the-counter cough medication
When the medication is taken within 24-72 hours of consuming grapefruit or its juice (yes, up to three days later!), there can be an interaction and potential side effect. In fact, for half of the medications affected, the grapefruit effect can be serious. Serious effects include heart and muscle issues and kidney toxicity, just to name a few.
How does this even happen, and why is grapefruit special?
How does grapefruit interact with medications?
Grapefruit (as well as Seville oranges, limes, and pomelos) contain a compound called “furanocoumarin.” It’s this compound that inhibits (stops) an enzyme in our gut (enzyme CYP 3A4) from working properly.
When working properly, this enzyme breaks down and metabolizes many compounds we ingest, including dozens of medications.
When the enzyme is inhibited, like when we’ve consumed grapefruit, this slows down the enzyme. This leads to slowing down of the rate these medications are metabolized and eliminated from the body.
If you slow down metabolism and elimination, this leads to higher than normal levels of medications in the blood – up to 137% higher! This “enhances” their effect and can cause those side effects.
When medications are prescribed at certain doses to be taken in certain time frames, this is based on the medication being metabolized normally – not way-too-slowly.
If you need to replace grapefruit or its juice in your diet, try another fruit or vegetable. Or, talk with your doctor about swapping for another medication that’s not affected by grapefruit.
Since one glass of grapefruit juice can affect the enzyme’s function for over 24-hours, it’s advisable to stop eating the grapefruit or drinking its juice altogether while you’re taking certain medications.
If you love eating grapefruit or drinking its juice and are taking medications, definitely speak with your doctor or pharmacist to see if this affects you. Many medications are not metabolized by this enzyme, and even if they are, this grapefruit effect may not pose a serious risk for all of those medications.
So, now that you know grapefruit’s little secret go find out if you’re affected.
Do you know someone who loves grapefruit or its juice, and is taking medications that have the grapefruit effect? Share this post to let them know that they should double-check with their doctor or pharmacist before enjoying this awesome fruit.
Recipe (Tangy Citrusy): Non-Grapefruit Juice
2 cups pineapple, peeled & chopped
1 cup cucumber, washed & chopped
1 lemon, peeled
Juice pineapple, cucumber and lemon.
Serve over ice & enjoy!
Tip: Top with fresh mint leaves.