This week's guest blog is brought to you by Dr. Liang Dai, who just recently came back from a functional medicine conference. I asked him to share with us some of what he learned about the gut and the digestive system.
Following the article, I've included a squash and lentil soup recipe for you to try. We recently harvested our squash from the garden and the soup turned out delicious. Enjoy!
Your Digestive Tract is A Sieve
Author: Dr. Liang Dai, B.Sc, DC
The immune system plays an important role in keeping foreign objects and substances outside of our bodies. There is however, a process occurring multiple times a day where we actively put foreign objects into our bodies. This process is better known as eating.
We eat to replenish our bodies of nutrients and proteins and all the good stuff that powers our bodies. Because nutrients are absorbed in the intestine, both the small and large intestine must be able to let these very small molecules through the intestinal walls via tight junctions. The process of how our intestinal cells allow small molecules through is called intestinal permeability. But what happens when the intestine lets in something that it shouldn’t? That’s when a foreign substance can enter the bloodstream and cause in inflammatory response.
As an example, a person who is sensitive to gluten is susceptible to their intestinal cells releasing a protein called zonulin when gluten is in their system. This zonulin protein can break apart tight junctions in the intestine. The moment the tight junctions are broken apart, the intestinal wall is now considered to be leaky. Once at this point, undigested food particles and other substances can now leak into the bloodstream.
Other culprits of causing leaky gut include inflammatory foods like dairy, sugar and excessive alcohol. Infections can also cause this type of dysfunction and they can include candida overgrowth, parasites and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
Some of the signs and symptoms of a leaky gut can include the following:
Digestive disturbances such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, IBS.
Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac’s disease.
Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia.
Food allergies and intolerances. Acne, rosacea, and eczema.
Diagnosis of candida overgrowth.
So if you suspect an issue with a leaky gut, how does one go about fixing the issue?
A good place to start is by seeing a naturopathic doctor or a functional medicine practitioner for your concerns. As a functional medicine student on his way to becoming a certified practitioner, one of the tenets that you learn is what can be termed the 4R’s
Remove the bad substances. The implementation of an elimination diet is integral to take out the inflammatory, toxic foods and removal of any infections.
Replace with the good stuff. Add or aid proper digestion and absorption by properly chewing your foods, use of digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acids and bile salts if they have been lacking.
Re-inoculate with good bacteria. If antibiotics have been used in the past, it is so important to replenish your gut with proper good bacteria. Eating prebiotics and taking probiotics are essential in this phase.
Repair the gut lining. L-glutamine is an amino acid that is essential in repair for the gut lining. Other supplements may include slippery elm, marshmallow root and caprylic acid.
It’s always best to consult your naturopathic doctor or functional medicine practitioner before starting a regimen because every case is so individualized. A standard approach isn’t going to help every person with digestive issues. As I continue with my functional medicine studies, I will pass along what I have learned with you the readers and patients.
Gluten-Free Squash and Lentil Soup
2 Tbsp. olive oil or ghee
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp. each of turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups red lentils, (soaked overnight)
1/2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
5 cups stock or broth
1. In a large pot, heat the oil or ghee and stir in onion, garlic and ginger. Let cook over medium-high till softened and just light browned.
2. Add spices and bay leaf, stirring in. Add lentils, squash and stock and stir over high heat until boiling. Spoon off any froth that rises to the surface. Lower heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
3. When squash is soft and lentils are fully cooked (about 20-25 minutes), remove bay leaf and purée the soup till silky smooth, or leave as-is. Serve into soup bowls. Top with hemp seeds, fresh chopped cilantro, or stir in fresh baby spinach leaves. Serves 4.
Have a happy belly!
Dr. Amanda is a non-traditional chiropractor who focuses on Neuro-Optimization in Ottawa, Canada.