A Leaky Gut Diagnosis and How I Plan to Heal From It

In past posts, I've briefly mentioned how I started seeing a new functional medicine doctor. I had my first visit with her in February. During that visit, we spent an entire hour reviewing my health history. We talked about what I've experienced, what I've done so far to address the symptoms, and possible causes. 

What I Was Experiencing

The very first diagnosis I received in relation to my gut was IBS. And three years later I was still experiencing the same symptoms: gas, bloating, distention, and loose stools were my main symptoms. Relatedly I also had periodic night sweats and insomnia.

What I'd Done So Far

For the past year, I've followed a Low FODMAPs diet. I had eliminated Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyolsgluten carbohydrates - that's a mouthful isn't it? What that means is that I stopped eating fructose (fruits, honey, high fructose corn syrup, etc), lactose (dairy), fructans (wheat, garlic, onion, etc), galactans (legumes such as beans, and soybeans, etc), and polyols (stone fruits such as avocado, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, etc).

I also cut out gluten, grains, nightshades and refined sugar (about 85% of the time) because my stomach had a history of not reacting well to them.

I had also significantly cut back on working out. It had been a year and a half since I trained for a marathon, and I no longer ran long distances. In fact, I haven't run longer than 6 miles in a year. Instead, I now take daily long walks with my pup, do reformer Pilates once a week with my trainer, run short distances 2-3 times a week and incorporate other workouts like strength training, HIIT workouts, swimming and yoga.

Despite eating clean, cutting back on intense workouts, but still maintaining a regular workout schedule, my body is being resistant to weight loss or even maintaining my weight that I was at for years. In fact, I'm gaining weight - 15 lbs since last June. I've also felt extremely fatigued, more than I can ever remember, and tested positive for SIBO - twice.

I went into my doctors appointment feeling very down and frustrated. So it was a huge relief to be able to speak with a doctor who showed empathy, listened to my whole story and was a willing partner to help uncover the root cause of what's going on.

The first course of action was lab work. I had eight (8!) vials of blood drawn, then had to do a stool test on my own at home (I know...). 

Some of the results came back within a few days. The two that were abnormal were the Vitamin D test and one of the thyroid tests.

Apparently I was extremely low in Vitamin D. So much so that my doctor said I had to start taking a supplement for it "immediately." I was surprised by this result because I spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun. 

It also showed that my t3 (thyroid) levels are low and sluggish. This explained a lot, given my health history.

I had to wait another five weeks for the rest of the test results. Last week I finally met with my doctor to review them. 

And it came as no surprise to me that I have Leaky Gut Syndrome.

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Leaky Gut happens when the digestive tract is so damaged that holes are created in the protective barriers. This allows proteins, bad bacteria, toxic waste and undigested foods to pass through. Those foreign particles then get into the bloodstream and autoimmune reactions can take place.

What Causes Leaky Gut Syndrome?

This diagnosis came as no surprise to me because the causes are stress, toxins, bacteria and poor diet. While I don't have a poor diet, I was eating foods that I now know I am intolerant of.

Food Sensitivities

This is because the other tests results I received were a IgG and IgE Food Antibody and environmental tests. These are the tests to find out what foods and environmental factors you are intolerant of.

This is the part of the results that shocked me. Why? Because I learned that the foods that I am highly reactive to and must avoid are:

  • Allspice
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Black Pepper
  • Clams
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Fennel
  • Mustard
  • Nutmeg
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Peanuts
  • Sage
  • Sesame
  • Soy

Do you know how sad I was to see nutmeg and peanuts on this list? And do you know how hard it is to avoid black pepper?! I feel like I cannot eat any foods that I do not prepare myself. 

There is are also 35 other foods that I am less reactive to:

  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Basil
  • Buckwheat
  • Casein
  • Cayenne
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon
  • Coconut
  • Cod
  • Coffee
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cranberry
  • Dill
  • Ginger
  • Kidney Bean
  • Marjoram
  • Mung Bean
  • Oat
  • Oregano
  • Oyster
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Pear
  • Peppermint
  • Pinto Bean
  • Pistachio
  • Rice
  • String Bean
  • Sunflower Seed
  • Thyme
  • Walnut
  • Watermelon
  • Yeast

While my reaction to these foods isn't as high as my "must avoid" list, I was still advised to rotate eating these every four days. 

I thought following the low FODMAP diet was hard, but this is proving to be harder because the foods are so specific. Some of them I don't eat at all while others I eat on a daily basis. I've had to print them out in a chart to track my rotation schedule.

How Did I Get Leaky Gut Syndrome?

So you might be wondering, "Well how did you get leaky gut?" Being the Type A person that I am (and yes, I know I need to work on this), I mind-mapped it out:

While probably not complete, these are the obvious ways that come to mind.

Plan for Healing

My doctor has me on the 4R Program, meaning that I'm: 

1. Removing the toxins, gastric irritants, food reactors, and any infections. I'm taking an herbal anti-microbial to help with this.

2. Replacing stomach acid and digestive enzymes with more herbal supplements.

3. Reincoulating and restoring good bacteria to reestablish a healthy balance of microflora in my gut. I'm doing this through probiotics and fermented foods.

{Oh yeah, I also had a third SIBO test done and the results were negative! No more SIBO so now I can eat FODMAPS and fermented foods like kim chi and sauerkraut now.}

4. Repairing to heal the gut wall (the protective lining). I'm doing this by taking an L-glutamine.

I'm also eating foods that support thyroid hormone production.

I've been only been on this protocol for a week so it's hard to say if I'm feeling better just yet. It took a long time for me to get here and I don't expect overnight healing.

The one area that is proving to be the hardest for me to "fix" is the chronic stress. Like I mentioned, I'm a Type A person so my mind is always moving. It's really hard for me to "relax." I often joke about having "fat dog" (couch potato) days, but the truth is, even if I'm fat dogging, I'm usually still doing *something.*

This is my biggest challenge right now - to learn how to relax. It's hard but I'm taking baby steps and trying to indulge in things that bring me joy and pleasure. 

This may seem strange, but I can't begin to express how happy I am to finally have my test results. We're peeling back the layers and finding out what the root causes of my symptoms are, and that alone is a big step in relieving some of my stress!