It certainly is. But, guess what?! Eliminating food intolerances won’t solve all your problems.
Eliminating foods to jump start the healing process is alluring for people struggling with disease. And sometimes the elimination of a food actually works. I’ve seen many people experience great improvements in health by cutting out gluten. Other times, I’ve seen people only improve a bit. In the beginning, they feel a little relief by removing this food or that, but after some time they feel frustrated with not progressing further in their health.
Early in my recovery from fibromyalgia, I focused mainly on cutting out all the foods I couldn’t tolerate. Gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, nightshade plants, etc. After a while, I felt like I could only eat a handful of foods and yet, my health had very little to show for it.
It wasn’t until I started focusing on INCLUDING nourishing, nutrient-dense foods and therapeutic-grade probiotics that I saw my body begin to really heal. And that’s when I realized…elimination of food intolerances is only part of the solution.
Why Elimination Diets Alone Won’t Work
Removing the foods that you are sensitive can only take you so far. Food sensitivities are linked to TONS of health issues and avoiding them is important. Issues related to food sensitivities include:
- Digestive distress (IBS, cramps, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, etc.)
- Neurological issues (migraines, fibromyalgia, etc.)
- Immune issues (frequent colds, runny nose, seasonal allergies, eczema, etc.)
And avoiding foods you are sensitive to is important, but there is a REASON for these food intolerances! That reason NEEDS to be addressed!
The REASON for Food Sensitivities
A food sensitivity usually occurs when there is abnormal gut flora that damages the digestive wall. (This is not the case with Celiac disease, which is genetic.)
Abnormal gut flora can occur from issues such as:
- Overuse of antibiotics 1. found in commercial food such as CAFO meats, non-organic fruits and vegetables, contaminated water supply, etc. and 2. medications such as antibiotics, also found in contraceptives
- Diets high in sugar, grains, formula-fed babies, binge eating, and prolonged starvation all cause abnormal gut flora
- Stress and lack of sleep can cause changes in the gut flora
- Toxin exposure from toxic cleaning products, pollution, conventional toilletries, etc. contribute to abnormal gut flora
Often referred to as “Leaky Gut”, the lining of the digestive tract is impaired and becomes permeable. Rather than protecting the body from the contents passing through the intestines, the damaged gut lining allows partially digested food particles, toxins and pathogens to enter the blood stream. This triggers an immune response by the body and eventually results in sensitivity to certain foods.
Common food sensitivities include:
- Beans and legumes
- Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and spices derived from them such as paprika and cayenne)
- Chemical food preservatives
You know, the stuff that we eat EVERY DAY.
An elimination diet can be useful in detecting food sensitivities, but it can often be confusing. It may feel like you are sensitive to everything! And often times, that’s because you are! With a damaged gut lining and a permeable mucous membrane, chances are lots of foods are offenders. These food sensitivities cause a stress response in the body and further irritate the gut. It’s a vicious cycle. By avoiding food intolerances, you are allowing your body to rest. An extra step is needed for healing, though. (To learn more about an elimination diet and how to do one, go here.)
Heal Your Digestive Tract
It’s important to not only remove major food intolerances, but to also focus on healing your digestive tract with nourishing, nutrient-dense foods and therapeutic-grade probiotics! These foods nourish the cells of the digestive tract and help build a stronger, healthier digestive tract. A healed gut is no longer permiable. It doesn’t allow partially digested food to pass into the bloodstream. You can then digest food properly and even see your intolerances reversed!
Nutrient-dense, nourishing foods to heal your gut include:
- Bone broth-homemade bone broth rich in gelatin. Gelatin heals the mucosal lining of the gut. You can find a bone broth recipe here. You can also purchase gelatin here.
- Organ meats-choose liver and other organs for a rich source of Vitamin A and folic acid. For a GREAT tutorial on how to become a liver-lover, check out Liver: The New (Old School) Superfood.
- Fatty fish-fatty fish like wild salmon and wild sardines are high in fatty acids and provide essential nutrients needed to reduce inflammation and support healing. Here’s a recipe for Pan-Fried Sardines (although I just eat them straight out of the tin..mmm!) and Sesame Crusted Salmon.
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, fermented pickles, kombucha and my fermented garlic are brimming with probiotics that would LOVE to repopulate your gut flora! You can get culture starters and everything your need for your ferments here.
- Raw, organic dairy** is full of healthy fats that support healthy hormones, which support a healthy immune system! Whew. Raw milk contains probiotics, enzymes, and vitamins that would normally be destroyed through the process of pasteurization. Some suggest raw milk to be beneficial, but it does come with some risk. Finding a good, healthy, clean raw milk dairy is of great importance. Find a dairy near you with the Real Milk Finder.
- Healthy fats such as butter, cream, fats on meats, homemade rendered animal fats, coconut oil, and good quality olive oil are a great way to boost your immune system and support a healing digestive system. Coconut oil is one of the easiest fats to digest due to the medium-chain triglycerides.
Nutrient-dense foods like these provide the nutrients your body needs to heal and repair your gut lining.
**Milk-If you have an intolerance to milk, it can be helpful to avoid milk. Sometimes though, people can tolerate raw milk fine and not tolerate pasteurized milk at all. I write more on this later.
But don’t stop there!
Therapeutic-grade probiotics help repopulate and balance the microflora in your gut. By re-inoculating your gut with beneficial bacteria, you are helping fight off “bad” bacteria. The beneficial bacteria help maintain a healthy mucosal membrane. You can find quality, therapeutic-grade probiotics here.
If you are struggling with food intolerances and other health issues, adding nutrient-dense foods and therapeutic-grade probiotics are a great way to heal and repair a weakened digestive tract.
What about you?
Have you experienced Leaky Gut? What has helped in your healing process? What hasn’t helped?