So your naturopath said…”no gluten”!

Why do we ask you not to eat gluten even if you don’t have Celiac’s Disease?

The main reason is that your gut is so very important to your overall health. The lining of your gut is the largest surface that provides a barrier between the environment and your body, thus it is crucial that the gut lining has the ability to critically select out what may enter and what shall not pass!

Leaky gut refers to an alteration in what your digestive tract allows to enter your body, compared to what it eliminates as waste. A large number of chronic inflammatory diseases including irritable bowel syndrome, Chron’s disease, asthma, arthritis, autoimmune diseases and autistic spectrum disorders have been associated with leaky gut.  Current research tells us that leaky gut increases after exposure to gluten in all individuals whether you have a predisposition to coeliac disease or not. If you have any kind of inflammation occurring in your body, removing gluten is a simple, dietary way to address one of the key underlying drivers or causes of that inflammation and work towards having the best gut health and therefore overall health outcomes.

 

Why is gluten so rough on our digestive system?

Gluten Triggers Inflammation

Gliadins and glutanins are two main components of the gluten protein occurring in wheat, barley, rye and oat seeds or grain. It is thought that gliadins are most implicated in the immune reaction that occurs in celiac disease, but glutanins and gliadins are so similar in structure that they are both considered to be inflammatory and can trigger an immune system reaction.

Zonulin

It sound’s like an alien planet, but it’s in your gut and opens up “doorways” in your intestinal lining to allow nutrients and other molecules to get in and out of your gut. Too much zonulin, opens these “doorways” too far, allowing toxins, large immune- reactive protein molecules, intestinal contents and bacterial waste to enter your bloodstream. This not only triggers inflammation and immune response but also increases the workload on the liver to filter out “garbage” for disposal. In other words, too much Zonulin equals leaky gut.  

The triggers for too much Zonulin include overgrowth of harmful bacteria or yeasts in the gut, parasitic infections and the consumption of gluten.  

Regardless of whether you have the genes for celiacs or not, the gliadin in gluten has been shown to significantly increase Zonulin in the gut.

 

But what about all the B vitamins and fibre I’ll miss out on?

B Vitamins are abundant in many foods, not just those containing gluten. Unprocessed gluten-free grains such as brown rice, quinoa, teff, legumes, vegetables and meats and offal are all great sources of B vitamins.   Eating a variety of foods from the various food groups is the key to balanced nutrition, and is completely doable without touching gluten.

Just because it’s gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s good for you:

The mistake many make when going gluten-free is to look for replacements in the supermarket which are labelled gluten-free. The problem with this is that the usual substitutes most sort after are bread, pasta, biscuits and crackers.  The market has portrayed gluten-free to be a healthier option, but in many cases, this is not true. Often, gluten-free products contain more refined grains, additives and sugars to maintain a similar appearance, taste and texture of the original product attempting to be cloned.  For example, a gluten-free brownie doesn’t automatically become a healthy option and some gluten-free bread are higher in sugar, white flours and food additives than regular bread.

A gluten-free sweet still remains a treat or sometimes food.  In order to improve your overall health, the fundamental key is to eat less processed, packaged food overall. Your practitioner will help you with this.

 

What foods contain gluten?

If your practitioner has asked you to avoid gluten, this means any product that is derived from :

  • Wheat
  • Spelt
  • Kamut/Khorasan
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale
  • Khorasan
  • Oats

This may include cous cous, semolina, bourghal, bulgar.

Also remember to check the labels on foods which you may not have thought contain gluten grain products such as wraps, condiments, muesli bars, ice-creams, vinegar, some supplements.

Common foods misinterpreted as gluten-free are: mountain bread, sauces, cous cous, bourghul or tabbouli, noodles, ice-creams, yoghurts, milk containing malt. Always check the ingredients list!

 

How strict do I need to be?

You may not have to avoid gluten 100% forever. Unless you are a celiac, you are not allergic to gluten and the occasional indiscretion may not be critical to your health. Your naturopath will advise you on whether any forms of gluten can be introduced along the way or at a later date, and what to look for to avoid inflammation and optimise nutrition.

 

References:

Leaky Gut & Autoimmune Disease https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22109896

Zonulin, a regulator of epithelial and endothelial barrier functions, and its involvement in chronic inflammatory diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25734566

 


Prevent Energy Crashes by Eating this Breakfast!

Now, you may ask: How important is breakfast for starting the day with good energy? The answer? Very important! Breakfast often refers to “breaking the fast”. Overnight, the body essentially fasts and undergoes important systemic repair-work during sleep. Breakfast has been shown to blood sugar regulation, food cravings, concentration and more(just to name a few!). Eating a nutritious breakfast allows for glucose (our body’s main energy source for cells) to restore brain functioning so that you can have the energy to focus for the day. In addition, having a hunger signal is a wonderful sign of a well-functioning digestive system.

Here’s an easy and nutritious breakfast recipe for you to follow:

Smoothie Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana (or frozen zucchini for a low sugar option)
  • 1 handful of frozen blueberries
  • 1 Medjool date
  • 1 tsp of cacao powder
  • 1 tsp of maca powder
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 250mL of ‘mylk’ (e.g. almond, coconut, or oat) or water

Blend all these ingredients together and pour into a bowl.

Toppings: 

  • 1 tsp hemp seeds
  • 1 tsp ground flaxseed
  • Half a handful of mixed sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds & cashews
  • A sprinkle of cinnamon powder

Add these toppings to the smoothie bowl and ta-da, breakfast is served!

Enjoy (and be energised)!

Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Crohn’s & Ulcerative Colitis

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are 2 types of autoimmune inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) that affect various parts of the gastrointestinal system. Alongside with mainstream medical treatment, both these conditions can be co-managed with naturopathic treatment to bring about a reduction in symptoms and better health outcomes for people suffering with IBD.  

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease generally affects the distal ileum (last part of the small intestine) or the colon. Common symptoms that people with Crohn’s may experience include chronic diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fever and weight loss. Remissions are common with Crohn’s disease and surgery may be required at times, if obstruction occurs. 

Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis usually begins in the rectum and as it develops, it affects the mucosa of the colon, sometimes spreading to the entire colon. Symptoms of ulcerative colitis may include attacks of bloody diarrhoea with mucus present, strong defecation urgency and lower abdominal cramping. Other symptoms that may occur include fatigue, fever and weight loss. As with Crohn’s disease, remissions are common.     

Naturopathic management of IBD

Although naturopathic treatment can be used to successfully manage IBD, it must be noted that as with other autoimmune conditions, naturopathic treatment may take up to 12 months or more with ongoing naturopathic care and flare ups may still occur from time to time. Naturopathic treatment of IBD addresses these conditions from various angles in order to treat the whole person. 

Firstly, intestinal inflammation needs to be reduced and the microbiome balance restored, as well as intestinal permeability corrected. This may be achieved through the use of specific herbal medicine, nutritional supplements and probiotics, as well as dietary modification to support the healing process. This step also ensures that the digestive function is improved in order to aid the body to more effectively break down and absorb nutrients from our diet. Secondly, the nervous system must be supported in order to reduce stress, fatigue and to increase psychological resilience. This can be achieved with a combination of herbal medicine and lifestyle modification such as exercise, meditation, or hypnotherapy/counselling. Finally, ensuring continuity of treatment and compliance with prescriptions will help to ensure that patients are giving their bodies the best chance to heal.     

 

Through the use of an integrative approach alongside your mainstream medical treatment, naturopathic treatment can yield effective results for patients with IBD.

If you would like to find out more about naturopathic treatment at Shift Clinic, or if you would like to book an initial diagnostic and assessment session with one of our naturopath, please call Shift Clinic on 07 3367 0337.

Why IBS is Not A Real Diagnosis

So, you’ve been suffering from gut issues for a few years or longer and you finally get along to your GP who may or may not have referred you for some testing or sent you off to see a gastroenterologist. After some poking and prodding, and maybe pooing into a cup so your poo and can be tested for nasty things, you are told that you have a condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. Yahoo! You have a diagnosis. But what does this really mean and what can you do about it? You may be prescribed a medication or you may be told that there is not much that can be done for IBS. Either way, often, a path to recovery is not part of the discussion, or most importantly, a chat about WHY the bowel might be irritated in the first place. 

Let’s start with a discussion about what a syndrome is. A syndrome (as opposed to disease) is a cluster of symptoms – to be diagnosed with a syndrome, you have to meet the criteria of X number of symptoms from a list of many.  What this means is that although a lot of people suffer from this same group of symptoms (and therefore must be recognised medically – or else we are all crazy), there is no one test that can diagnose the issue as there is no one single process in the body that can be considered aberrant.  So why then are these symptoms arising? Well, sometimes in human health, there are multiple reasons for symptoms to occur. This means that there might need to be several events happening at the same time for the condition to show up. In addition, your body might be reacting to the environment in a way that the next person’s body does not react, so what may cause IBS in one person may not cause any discernible issues for the next. Essentially what this means is that in order for recovery to occur, each patient needs to be assessed on an individual basis and the underlying cause for them be identified. From here, a healing process can occur. 

What can be causing IBS? 

There are so many different elements influencing our gut function every day – it is important to consider them all. The first is always the food that we eat as this comes in direct contact with the lining of the gut and is often a source of irritation. Many of the foods that we eat today were just not made for processing by the human gastrointestinal tract, and although some seem to handle them better than others, for the patient with IBS, they need to be considered as part of the problem as a first approach. If I was to put a bunch of lotions on my skin every day and I developed a rash that was red, painful and caused my skin to peel off, it would be silly to disregard the lotions as potential irritants. The same applies to the food that we eat – this is essentially ‘applied’ to the skin of the gastrointestinal tract and therefore must be considered as a potential irritant. 

The microbiome (or gut flora) is another area that should always be looked at in IBS cases. The microbiome is a couple of kilograms of bacteria, yeasts, viruses and archaea that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract.  These ‘bugs’ should ideally be in balance to support our gastrointestinal health, immune system, brain function and hormones (probably every physiological function really). If they become damaged through the use of antibiotics, pesticides in foods, stress, improper dietary habits or the use of medications, then we get an imbalance and this can lead to the symptoms associated with IBS. Sometimes there are parasites, bacteria or yeasts growing in the gut that just don’t belong there, and sometimes it is bugs that should be part of a healthy ecosystem, but have started to take over and cause problems in the ecosystem. Either way, comprehensive stool testing can uncover these imbalances or infestations and assist your practitioner in guiding you through rebalancing the gut flora and resolving symptoms.

Finally, the nervous system can be a contributing factor in the irritation of IBS and it is recognised that stress and anxiety are often part of the IBS symptomatology. Stress, anxiety and depression can all cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea and bloating. In turn, an imbalance in the microbiome or consumption of the wrong foods can cause neurological symptoms such as anxiety and depression. This is called a bi-directional relationship which means that a gut issue can cause brain symptoms and brain issues can cause gut symptoms. Sometimes it is important to tackle both issues at the same time to get lasting relief for both areas of health. 

The good news is that whatever the underlying cause of your symptoms is, they are fixable! A comprehensive stool analysis is a great start to assess your microbiome and figure out imbalances there. Your naturopath can help guide you through foods that might be irritating your gut and support your nervous system too. Healing IBS symptoms is not something that will happen in an instant, but with the right conditions, and a little bit of time, your gut can certainly heal and you can look forward to a symptom-free future.

To chat with a naturopath about how we might be able to help you, please call 07 3367 0337 and book a complimentary 15-minute assessment. We hope to help you soon ☺