Ah, food as medicine. The beginning, most of the middle, and the end, for oh so many in the holistic health world. And you know what, while food is not the be all end all for me, I can’t blame them. Food is powerful, important, and can absolutely be medicine.
Antibiotics wreak havoc on our gut biome. Which we want to be diverse and healthy. You can find articles on the gut microbiome all over the internet. It’s a huge topic in holistic health these days. Book’s like Dr. Axe’s Eat Dirt are all about this.
For the healthiest gut you want a microbiome that is plentiful and diverse. Which today’s sanitary capabilities, germ phobia, and the overuse of antibiotics in the healthcare system and in the food we eat, our gut microbiomes don’t get the diversity they used to get. This often leads to food sensitivities, allergies, and is a big contributor of the problem of a leaky gut (meaning your gut barrier has become permeable and allows food molecules into the bloodstream that shouldn’t normally be there). Leaky gut can lead to gastric problems, autoimmune conditions, and in my opinion it is likely everyone with a chronic disease has a leaky gut.
Gut health is vital to the health of the overall body. It is certainly not separate and shouldn’t be treated as such. Among other things, the gut flora promotes normal gastrointestinal function, provides protection from infection, regulates metabolism and comprises more than 75% of our immune system. (1)
What Leads To an Unhealthy Gut?
- Antibiotics, and the lack of concerted effort to repopulate the gut after taking them, are a huge contributor of poor gut health.
- Chronic stress, in the form of mental or emotional stress, toxins, certain dental work
- Consistent poor eating habits can also lead to the eventual imbalance and poor health of the gut.
- Stress can lead to poor gut health or disease in any part of the body
Pleomorphism – Another Reason To Have A Healthy Gut??
I recently learned, from the book PEMF by Bryant Meyers, something else that also demonstrates the importance of a healthy gut microbiome. It begins with the concept of pleomorphism. The idea of pleomorphism is that bacteria and viruses change depending on the environment. This goes against Louis Pasteur’s germ theory of disease, which is a theory still prominent in modern western medicine. (please direct all pitchforks away from me, I did not come up with theory, I just like, and think it is powerful and worth sharing)
According to this germ theory of disease, we are victims of germs and these bugs can strike anyone unknowingly. Modern medicine then tells us to use antibiotics or vaccines to destroy or prevent these buggers. Pasteur also describes germs as non-changeable, in both form and function.
But there is also another concept that opposes Pasteur’s theory. The theory that microorganisms are pleomorphic (from latin pleo = “many”; morph = “form”) that they can often change forms. A virus can become a bacterium, which can mutate into a yeast or fungus. And we now know through the use of darkfield microscopes, that this is true of at least some bacterium. To understand how pleomorphism works, look at the pioneering research of Antoine Bechamp and Claude Bernard.
Bechamp discovered little organisms, which he called microzyma; they are seed bacteria that morph into beneficial or malevolent organisms depending on the environment or terrain. Much like a stem cell can differentiate into all the organs and tissues in your body, a microzyma can morph into any type of bacteria, virus or parasite depending on the terrain; hence the term pleomorphism. The idea of pleomorphism is that bacteria and viruses change depending on the environment. The type of organism is a result of the chemical environment in which it lives, and it can change both its form and function. It was Bechamp who discovered the pleomorphic nature of germs, but it was Claude Bernard who further developed the idea of the “biological terrain” and more clearly explained how pleomorphism works. A healthy terrain or environment in the body creates healthy and beneficial organisms (like acidophilus for example); an unhealthy terrain creates pathogenic organisms.
Meyers, Bryant A. (2013-08-19). PEMF – The Fifth Element of Health: Learn Why Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Therapy Supercharges Your Health Like Nothing Else! (p. 68). BalboaPress. Kindle Edition.
A healthy gut biome is just one aspect of a healthy terrain. Meyers goes on to explain, the terrain includes homeostatic levels of glucose, blood pressure, temperature, oxygen level, and pH. And I will argue all are highly affected by the things in this wellness success and vitality roadmap series.
Does this mean the germs/bacteria/viruses have no place in disease. Not at all. Again Pasteur’s germ theory did win out over pleomorphism, but I think there is probably a place for both theories to be correct. And, I think it just means if you are healthy and have a healthy system that those germs are far less likely to cause disease. Your body is better able to adapt and heal.
So with our gut being so vital to our health what do we do to keep a healthy gut?
Well essentially you follow this roadmap. Lower and control stress, sleep well and keep your circadian rhythm right, connect with the Earth, avoid toxins, and eat a diverse diet of whole organic foods. Things everyone should be doing, currently healthy or not.
But if you are among the vast number that currently have gut problems, how do you fix those gut problems?
You do all of the previous paragraph mentions, but with some more specifics and effort.
The idea behind many gut healing diets is to eliminate all the foods you are sensitive too. The ones your body is reacting too when the large food molecules are getting through the gut barrier and into the bloodstream. This makes a ton of sense, and definitely works for many many people, but these eliminations diets are also pretty darn difficult, because it’s not uncommon to have a ton of food sensitivities. It’s also not uncommon to be highly sensitive to something that you supposed to be eating on a healthy diet such a coconut. You can get a food sensitivity test but those should really only be treated as a guideline and not hard and fast. I got one and was for instance highly sensitive to olives. Olive oil generally being considered ok on many of these gut healing diets.
While removing all of the foods you’re sensitive to from your diet is a great idea, and can possibly heal your gut, I would argue that can take a freakishly long time and it doesn’t necessarily heal your gut. If you are still under chronic stress or exposed to certain toxins or aren’t also focusing on fixing your energy production then it might all be what could certainly feel like “a waste of time” (though you would really be quite healthier just not necessarily healed).
Food can be both incredibly simple and incredibly complex, just like pretty much everything else when it comes to the body and health and healing. So I say unless you need to do the mentally difficult complex way (i.e. full on eliminations) or are really that interested in and prefer the that, why not start with something a little more simple, a little easier on the stress, emotions, and cravings.
Going back to what my mom always says “you’re making it too complicated, maybe you need to stop trying so hard.” (Seriously listen to you mom. They are so smart).
So might you be one of those people that needs to go on a full elimination diet, and introduce foods back in one at a time slowly. Maybe. But you know what, elimination diets suck. I’ve tried them, more than once. Different kinds, and the full on. Nothing is worse than cutting out practically all food and a week, two, three weeks later still feeling basically the same. “I DON’T FEEL ANY BETTER!” Or cutting out sugar for 2 weeks and “I STILL FEEL THE SAME” Well relatively. Both in my case did give me a bit more energy and a bit less tummy trouble, but essentially I felt the same and it was very frustrating. And I know what you are thinking – “You have to give it more time.” Well, agreed, but when you hear story after story of feeling so great after just 1 week of eliminating xyz and you don’t feel any significance difference yourself after 2 or 3 and you’re still burping up a storm, it’s very defeating. Any of you that have tried an elimination know, they can be very difficult mentally and socially.
So what I have come to realize is that elimination diets suck, and they are the harder way. Yes, I still am a fan of the food as medicine route, and in that route you still have to cut out a lot of foods in particular gluten, dairy, and sugar to the very best of your ability. It’s actually pretty easy to do gluten and dairy these days (though I would recommend not replacing gluten with a whole lot of processed junk gf goodies). Anything more then that, it begins to be the complex way. And again, I should probably clarify that by complex I mean the more stressful (for most of us) way. Also again, I want to say that a diet like the GAPS diet is probably never the wrong choice, and will almost certainly help in your healing. But if you are like me, and the idea of the GAPS diet hurts your brain and depresses the hell out you, you might want to try something else first. There is a good shot it’ll really help you, and is kind of a good transition into making the fuller elimination diet mentally easier should you end up finding it necessary.
So you’re asking yourself what is the “simple” way.
Well truthfully it’s not exactly simple. It’s kind of far from it, depending on how you already eat. For me though, I’ve found it to get easier and easier, and now I truly enjoy eating this way as a lifestyle, and my gut is pretty darn happy with it.
The following is the alternative to elimination diets that I eat for optimizing the gut:
Digestive Enzymes and/or bitters
High quality Probiotics
Supplements that help rebuild the gut lining
MSM and Chondroitin
Gluten and dairy free (unless you’re doing raw dairy or high quality fermented dairy, maybe some goat cheese occasionally). One of the main reasons we don’t want to eat wheat and other gluten-containing grains is that they contain a protein called gliadin, which has been shown to increase zonulin production and thus directly contribute to leaky gut. (1) And why no dairy, it’s common to have poor reactions to the caseins in dairy.
Far, far less
Organic whole foods
Collagen and bone broth
High quality fats
Grass-fed and ideally organic meats
Low toxin – cold water fish
Eating seasonally for your zip code
Fermented foods – Fermenting foods to store them for eating in winter has been done for ever. It’s a quality source of getting healthy bacteria to your gut. However each batch is so unique, and therefore will work differently for you. Some batches of whatever you try (kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, etc.) might have bacteria that doesn’t sit as well with you as a previous batch. I like making my own fermented veggie slaw with Dr. Mercola’s starter culture .
Raw foods – pasteurization kills all the potentially good bacteria we can get from raw foods. I recommend not being scared of things like raw almonds and raw milk as long as you know who you’re buying from. Make it a good source. Some states sell raw milk legally in stores and others you can get it if you do buy a cow. Where it is legal the standards of safety are super high.
Hell, even eat food with some dirt on it – Especially if that dirts from your own gardening or from the organic local farmer at the farmer’s market that you’ve chatted with and trust their soil isn’t junk. The probiotics in soil are great for getting quality gut biome diversity.
And follow the rest of the roadmap.
This is essentially the outline of a healthy diet for everyone, both in need of healing and not. Like I said food is complex. Where you live, genetics, and ancestry can play a big part in whether or not certain foods are optimal for you. Living along the equator you probably do a lot better with all sorts of fruits year round. Others do better with certain meats or grains. Everyone is sensitive to different foods. This is why I personally find it difficult to solely focus on general gut healing diets Food is medicine, it’s just super personalized medicine. That’s why it’s also a great idea to work with a professional or coach to help you personalize your food approach. I myself am a Bulletproof® certified coach (in training thru 2016), and truly believe in it. One of the reasons I like it and teach it, is because it is based in science and focused on essentially the outline above, but also finding what works and doesn’t work for you. It’s about optimizing your environment.
Here’s the kicker – the gut microbiome – rebalancing and restoring
As I mentioned earlier antibiotics have the ability to give our gut microbiome, which is essential to our health, a major ass whooping. Your gut houses more bacteria than there are human cells in the body, and they are there for a reason. They help with digestion and absorption of food. They help your gut function properly. They talk to our nervous system, and likely so much more that we don’t even know about.
About 75% of the cells that make up your immune system are gut related. (3) Further 90% of the neurotransmitter serotonin which helps in regulation of mood, appetite, and sleep is located in the gut, and your gut bacteria can affect this amount. (8) Bacteria not only interact with neurotransmitters, they can also produce their own. Some beneficial bacteria can influence GABA (another neurotransmitter) receptors in the brain. Other bacteria in the gut can prompt or inhibit inflammation in the gut and also elsewhere in the body, and some gut bacteria will actually produce neurotransmitters themselves. (9)
Gut dysbiosis (unbalanced good gut bacteria) is linked to a whole host of health conditions from allergies to autoimmune conditions, and some could argue nearly all chronic health conditions. A healthy gut is vital to a healthy immune system, and proper digestion and why healing your gut is the cornerstone to so many autoimmune healing protocols. (4)
To have a healthy gut, evidence is pointing to the need to have a healthy, diverse, and balanced microbiome. The diet outlined above with low sugar and addition of fermented and raw foods has shown to help people begin to balance their microbiomes.
But there is more you can do as well – beyond food:
- Prebiotic foods – like jicama, artichoke, onions and garlic
- Whipworm or beetle guts/HDC
- Fecal transplants
- Probiotic enemas
I know what you may be thinking. Whipworm? Beetle guts? Fecal transplants? This girl is nuts. Well for starters, talk to your doc. Make it a functional medicine doc, and these shouldn’t be foreign concepts to them. Fecal transplants are only legal in the US for certain conditions mainly C. difficile colitis, (5) but if you are reading this from out of the US or looking to do health treatments out of the US, fecal transplants can be a way to change your gut environment, if your condition is serious enough and the things you’ve tried haven’t been working. Essentially you are using a healthy donor’s fecal matter to repopulate your digestive tract with the donor’s healthy bacteria via an enema. It has been used for metabolic diseases, neuropsychiatric disorders, autoimmune diseases, allergic disorders, tumors and weight loss. (6)
Ok, so what about the worms and beetles? These are actually slightly easier to do within the US. While I had heard of taking pig whipworm a while back I recently learned of taking HDC (beetle guts) for the same reason on a Bulletproof podcast with Dr. Sid Baker. Dr. Baker was looking for ways to treat immune intolerances. In order to do so he looked at cultures and communities where there is no instances of auto-immunity. What he found was that these people have a different kind of microbiome which somewhat larger germs in them than bacteria. And there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that this is very true, and has helped many people heal their guts. Whipworm (aka helminthic therapy) or HDC (Hymenolepis diminuta cysticercoids found in the guts of grain beetles) are currently the options for larger germs that you can find and try for yourself. Doctors like Sid Baker cultivate HDC and use them with his patients or patients of other doctors he works with, but you can also learn more and get some via Biome Restoration. Whipworm is a bit more expensive and harder to find, but you will likely find more doctors familiar with helminthic therapy, which it is also known as than HDC. In a controlled clinical trial published in 2005 in Gastroenterology, 52 participants with colitis were given 2,500 pig whipworm eggs or a placebo every two weeks for three months. Thirteen of the 29 patients (44.8 percent) who received whipworm eggs improved, compared with only four of the 23 participants (17.4 percent) who received the placebo. (7)
So while it may seem extreme. I believe it’s worth knowing about these therapies and options and talking to your doctor about it.
This can be all be overwhelming and hard to start, but is really quite easy once you get into the gluten dairy free (except raw if you are trying it) groove. And what if it doesn’t work? Truth is, it might not. If it doesn’t, going more complex with food allergy panels, GAPs diet, full on eliminations, SCD, FODMAPs etc. may be your route. Or if your need and will is strong enough going on a diet like GAPs right away has shown to help heal your gut, especially if you take into consideration the rest of this wellness roadmap, because unfortunately for some it’s not just one thing. You need to be doing all these things at once. If you are eating the healthiest diet and working diligently to repopulate your gut but are still under massive stress there is unfortunately a good chance you will have less than optimal results.
The Energy Takeaway:
Eating a diet similar to the above can help you normalize insulin, lose or keep weight off, and optimize fat metabolism – all of which will help with optimal energy production.
Check out my free webinar: The 5 Keys to Optimal Energy for my biggest and best tips to shortcut getting back and sustaining optimal energy.
The Short of It:
I am not capable of diagnosing or treating diseases. Nor is that my intention. These statements have not been FDA approved. I’m a girl that has been studying holistic wellness for over 10 years, working on my own health, and feel compelled to share the information I have learned, that I believe in, and that has changed my vitality, performance, resilience, and health for the better. I of course can not guarantee its accuracy, though most has supporting scientific studies, it is always important to note that scientific studies are fallible and some are completed much more stringently than others. Again I’m only sharing information that I believe has improved my life. Further this article contains affiliate links (TOS) and I truly appreciate your support.