Friends of mine have children who are currently suffering with gut issues. One five-year old was recently completely covered in hives and sent to the hospital in an ambulance because of her allergic reaction to something she ate or encountered at school! The other little girl (from a different family) has been suffering for months with severe abdominal pain that the doctors can’t diagnose.
I remember when my own daughter was about two years old and one of her eyelids suddenly swelled up shut. We took her to the ER and we came home with no diagnosis. The doctors said anything might have triggered this allergic reaction--laundry detergent, food, perfume. They just didn’t know what caused it and neither did I.
These cases may seem isolated and somewhat mysterious. Doctors couldn’t solve them so what makes me think that they are all tied to gut health? It’s because I’ve come to understand that our overall health is inextricably related to our digestive health. I studied with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and I’ve interviewed well over 100 health professionals for the Wise Traditions podcast, and I’ve heard this message loud and clear: our health depends on what’s happening deep inside our bodies. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said it best: “All disease begins in the gut.”
That’s why I see these random symptoms—rashes, hives, reactions, pain—as the body’s way of waving a red flag at us. “Something’s wrong! Pay attention! HELP!”
You might think that I am going to suggest that the answer lies in changing the diet. Well, yes and no. If the gut is damaged, our bodies can’t make the most of the good food we are giving it. Nutrients aren’t necessarily getting to the right places in our bodies. So good food can only go so far. Think of the body as a house and the gut as the plumbing. If the pipes are leaky, the water won’t go where it’s supposed to and it will cause damage, leading to warped walls and mold. In the same way, if our guts are leaky/damaged, food particles, waste, and bacteria can pass through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream. The result? Symptoms such as those the children are experiencing and worse! Having a compromised gut can lead to chronic health conditions such as ADD, asthma, Krohn’s, celiac, and even mental illness.
So, should you bother eating “clean”? In a word, yes, because good food builds the body up and some of the nutrients may still make it to their destination, despite the leakiness. On the whole, it’s wise to avoid fast food and packaged foods with pesticides, GMOs, additives, artificial colors and flavorings. These irritate the gut, are not recognized as food by the body, and exacerbate the problem. In contrast, clean, real, organic, whole foods can protect and enhance proper body function. But more still needs to be done to restore and heal the gut.
The experts have a number of ideas on how to address and heal a leaky gut. I have followed much of their advice--from taking steps to minimize our family's exposure to toxins to getting outside more and communing with nature (yes, this is good for gut health)! Below are my favorite podcasts on how to shore up gut health. Ideas contained within, range from switching to the GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome), to adding fermented foods, to avoiding GMOs. And, by the way, even if you don’t have a presenting symptom that indicates an issue with your digestion, I suggest listening anyway. Most of us have compromised guts and don’t even realize it!
Wise Traditions podcast #5 "The gut: key to good health" w/ Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride – an overview of gut health & why so many of us have gut issues
Wise Traditions podcast #113 "It takes guts" w/ Dr. Zach Bush – how to protect and rebuild the gut lining
Wise Traditions podcast #77 "Throw off your toxic burden" w/ Zen Honeycutt – her son's life-threatening nut allergy prompted her to act; what she recommends to minimize the toxins that cause gut damage
Wise Traditions podcast #84 "Ground zero of most health disorders" w/ Dr. Kiran Krishnan – specifics about how the gut layer is compromised and what to do about it
Wise Traditions podcast #63 "Heal your gut" w/ Hilary Boynton – how changing her diet turned around her family's health and helped her own gut heal
Pick one or listen to them all and let me know what you get out of them! Remember that for good health, it’s critical to go with your gut!
Hilda Labrada Gore is a podcast professional who helps holistic health practitioners launch their own shows! She is also the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast, sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts. She is an integrative nutrition health coach, a fitness professional, and the DC Metro Regional Director for Body & Soul Fitness. She lives in D.C. with her husband, Mitch, their children, and their cat and dog.