Question: After reading about Leaky Gut Syndrome, I noticed that my family bears some of the characteristics and symptoms. I asked our pediatrician and she asked me what types of foods our boys eat.
I explained that we do a lot of fruits and veggies, but also a lot of grains and some kid-friendly junk like French fries and chicken nuggets. She said it sounded like we were doing a good job and not to get too crazy with internet diagnosis. I’m looking for easy-to-understand information about Leaky Gut and some tips for helping heal or strengthen the stomach lining of a picky little eater.
Answer: Leaky Gut Syndrome is essentially inflammation caused when the microscopic “holes” in our gut lining that open up and become bigger allowing food, gluten and bad microbes for example, into the bloodstream. This immune response plus inflammation can, over long periods of time, contribute to depression, brain fog, ADHD and autism, rheumatoid arthritis and joint pain, IBS, celiac disease and other autoimmune disorders.
There are many ways we can heal leaky gut but the most helpful options I have found are:
1. Drink bone broth daily, preferably homemade chicken bone broth with beef being a close second. Only use bones from a quality organic, grass-fed source. Bone broth contains vital proteins that we may not be getting enough of in our daily diet, such as glycine, prolene and glutamine as well as collagen which will help repair the intestinal walls.
Cook vegetables in the bone broth and use the broth in soups and stews to get even more benefit. If there is resistance at first, persevere, it can take a child up to 7-9 times to like a food.
Get them their own “fancy” mug if that helps, add it to scrambled eggs or gluten free pancakes, whatever it takes to get it into their diet.
2. Limit raw vegetables and fruit and opt for cooked or steamed vegetables in order to limit any and irritation in the body. Raw vegetables can be irritating to the gut lining and should be limited until the gut has healed. Eat fresh fruits when they are seasonally available and limit to small amounts. Eating seasonally will help our bodies to stay in homeostasis (balance).
3. Limit grains and dairy. Dairy is highly inflammatory. Choose alternatives such as coconut milk, “clean” almond milk (make sure to read the ingredient list for hidden sugars), hemp milk etc. which are less inflammatory. Use grains sparingly and choose organic varieties where possible. Grains can also cause irritation to the gut lining, so choose alternatives such as quinoa, teff, amaranth, buckwheat or choose lentils or millet for variety.
4. Remove white sugar from the diet, white refined sugar is highly inflammatory. Sugar is hidden in so many products so you need to be vigilant and read labels. When baking choose alternatives such as coconut sugar, maple syrup, raw honey, organic cane sugar or perhaps stevia. These refined sugar alternatives will help to keep your blood sugar balanced but should also be used sparingly. Be vigilant for food colorings in foods as well as trans fats which should be avoided due to their inflammatory response in the body.
5. Probiotics are an essential go-to especially for those with leaky gut. Look for a high quality brand that can show you the genus, species, and strain on the packaging. The label should also indicate the type of CFU’s (colony forming units) present at the time of manufacturing. When purchasing a probiotic supplement always consider these key aspects:
* High quality brand
* High CFU count
* Diversity of strains included
6. Make gut-friendlier versions of your child’s favorite foods at home. Almond flour chicken nuggets are better than nuggets made with white processed flour. Bake or fry them in coconut oil or avocado oil (but make sure the oil does not smoke). Fries can be switched out for yam fries and baked or you could use organic white potatoes, cut into French fry stripes and baked in duck fat which is lower in saturated fats than conventional frying oils or drizzle them in avocado oil and season with sea salt. Stay away from deep frying and frying in vegetables oils or olive oil. Most of the fats used in take-out restaurants rancid oils (created by the high heat and oxidation) that create carcinogens in the body.
7. If your family enjoys fermented foods I would suggest adding in sauerkraut, or something with a little kick for the adults maybe, kimchi. These foods contain beneficial probiotics and can be eaten daily to improve the immune system and digestive function.
8. Take into account any stressful aspects of the environment, is school going well? Is your child worried about anything? Perhaps there is a bullying aspect at school? Do they have close friends who they feel they can talk to? Are you spending quality time together as a family without electronic devices? Spending time together can reduce stress and anxiety (which can lead to leaky gut) and create an atmosphere of trust and love. This trust will open up the doors for everyone to be able to reduce any stressors or anxiety in a safe place.
Eating together as a family in a calm and relaxed environment is crucial for optimal digestive health. Allowing time to smell and take in the appearance of the food, to chew properly and to not drink with meals will also help the healing process and aid in optimal digestion.
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