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October 14, 2019

You’re Damaging your Gut (& You don’t Even Know It).

Editor’s Note: This website is not designed to, and should not be construed to, provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment.

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You could be damaging your gut without even knowing it.

Wouldn’t you want someone to tell you if you were?

Well, that’s what I’m doing right here.

There are three key things that, if you eat them often, will damage your gut over time. It’s this that causes “leaky gut,” which can cause a whole host of issues, all over your body—one of them being food intolerances.

Why does this matter?

By learning which foods are destroying your gut and causing intolerances, you can choose to remove or cut back on them. This will prevent further damage to your gut and is the first step in healing your gut.

Why heal your gut?

So you can feel more comfortable. So you can wake up in the morning and put on any outfit you want, without thinking about it covering up your bloat. So you can get on with living your life and not constantly worrying about your stomach.

How your gut gets “leaky”

Let’s start with a tiny bit of science.

Leaky gut is a condition where holes form in the lining of your intestines. This then allows for large particles of food to go where they’re not supposed to. It’s a protein called zonulin that causes the tight junctions in the gut lining to loosen, and it’s this that allows those “offending” food particles to pass through.

Therefore, anything that causes our body to produce excess zonulin will, in turn, lead to our gut lining being destroyed, our gut becoming leaky, and potent food intolerances developing.

These are the three things you may be eating that cause the most zonulin to be produced—and therefore are more likely to be damaging your gut:

1. Gluten

Gluten and gliadin are the most powerful triggers for an increase in zonulin in your body. These are the proteins found in wheat. Studies have found that wheat and gluten cause your body to produce more zonulin. Therefore, whether you’re intolerant to gluten or not, it could be damaging your gut. You might get absolutely no immediate reactions, and feel fine every time you eat it, but it could be causing you problems without you knowing it.

2. Lectins

Lectins are the defenses that plants and seeds use to protect themselves. When you think about it, it’s pretty clever that they’ve got this built-in defense mechanism to stop them getting eaten. These selections are designed to be harmful to predators trying to eat them, but they’re also harmful to the gut when we digest them.

Foods that contain lectins are:

>> Grains (e.g., wheat, rice, couscous)
>> Nightshades (e.g., eggplant, tomatoes, peppers)
>> Legumes (e.g., beans, chickpeas, peanuts)
>> Dairy (e.g., milk, cheese, yogurt)

3. Processed foods

Processed food gets absorbed really quickly in your gut, without any help from your good gut bacteria. That means your greedy gut bacteria aren’t fed, so they start eating the walls of your intestines.

On top of not feeding your good bacteria, processed foods do feed your bad bacteria. This means they grow and outnumber the good bacteria, which leads to inflammation and all sorts of nasty IBS symptoms. Interestingly, the more bad bacteria you have in your gut, the more processed foods you crave, so this becomes a vicious circle.

Processed foods also contain many additives that can harm your gut. One example of these additives is emulsifiers, which are in a lot of processed foods. They’re gum-like additives that stop food ingredients from separating when they’re put on a shelf. They’re added to frozen foods, baked goods, ice creams, salad dressings, and long-life milks, amongst other things.

For example, shelf-stable almond milk contains an emulsifier. Without it, the water and almonds would separate. Studies have shown that even a small amount of emulsifier can disrupt the mucus membrane in the gut, as well as the microbiome. This can cause the gut to become inflamed and lead to leaky gut.

In summary:

>> Anything that causes your gut to produce more zonulin will cause your gut to become leaky.
>> By learning which foods are destroying your gut and causing intolerances, you can choose to remove or cut back on them. This’ll prevent further damage to your gut and is the first step in healing your gut.
>> The three foods that are most likely to be damaging your gut are gluten, lectins, and processed foods.

You don’t have to go and cut all these foods out of your diet tomorrow in order to feel better. Just use this information as a starting point.

Could you be more aware of emulsifiers in your food? Could you try cutting out gluten for a month and seeing if you feel better? Could you try experimenting with cutting back on lectins?

Pick one thing to focus on, and keep a food log as you go to report how you feel.

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author: Sophie Bibbs

Image: gbarkz/Unsplash

Editor: Kelsey Michal