As many of you know, gut health is becoming a hot topic, and for good reason. There’s more and more information coming out about it all the time. Just search PubMed for terms like “gut permeability” and “gut bacteria”. You’ll come up with thousands of results for each search term. We’ve been talking for years about how important gut health is, and how it can be implicated in so many health issues that it almost sounds crazy. If you’ve read The Paleo Solution, listened to the podcast, or read our blog, you’ve probably heard us stress the importance of gut health numerous times.
Well we’re happy to welcome Jordan Reasoner of SCDLifestyle with this guest post on the oh-so-important topic. He and Steve Wright (who you have probably heard as the co-host of Chris Kresser’s podcast) run SCDLifestyle.com, and have been helping many people with digestive and gut problems for a long time. They even recently created a great program to help guide people in finding out if they have leaky gut issues and what to do about it. Lets face it, it can be confusing, and sometimes you need help. If you think you have health issues that could be related to leaky gut and gut health, check out this post and their free questionnaire and webinar in the links. If you’re one the many people who does have leaky gut and health issues, you may even want to check out their program. It’s good stuff!
Guest post by: Jordan Reasoner
I’ll never forget reading Robb’s book, “The Paleo Solution” a few years ago. I was casually sitting in my office sipping some coffee when I turned over page 81 and snorted hot brew out my nose!
Right there at the top of the page, chapter six was titled “Grains and Leaky Gut – or – Keep Your Poop Where it Belongs.” When I read it I couldn’t stop laughing (and blowing my nose).
Best. Title. Ever.
The genius of the title isn’t that it made me laugh… but that it was gross enough to get the average reader to keep reading, even if they’ve never heard of leaky gut. Anyone who reads “Keep Your Poop Where it Belongs” HAS TO find out what this dude is talking about. To this day, I still can’t believe the publisher let him slip that title into the book and I know it singlehandedly saved a lot of people’s lives.
Because untreated leaky gut is making TONS of people sick
Later on in the poop chapter, Robb shared a ‘short’ list of the problems associated with leaky gut and autoimmune response:
- Type 1 diabetes
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
I love that he said ‘short list’ – because it’s the truth. Nowadays, you can put just about any condition into Google along with “Intestinal Permeability” and find hours of research papers associating the two.
Here’s a few examples (link will open a Google search in a new window):
- “Intestinal Permeability and Heart Disease”
- “Intestinal Permeability and Autoimmune Disease”
- “Intestinal Permeability and Irritable Bowel Syndrome”
- “Intestinal Permeability and Inflammatory Bowel Disease”
- “Intestinal Permeability and Acne”
Then there’s Dr. Alessio Fasano’s groundbreaking “Leaky Gut Theory of Autoimmunity” – which suggests that the 100+ Autoimmune Diseases begin with leaky gut. With over 10,000+ published research papers on intestinal permeability, you’d think modern medicine would be talking about it like Robb did in his book 4 years ago, but they’re not. If you ask the average Doctor, very few have heard about it and those that have still think it’s “quackery.”
How do you know if Poop is leaking into your body?
Leaky gut is a tricky condition. It can masquerade as fatigue, anxiety, depression, digestive symptoms, weight problems, and other serious conditions… and it’s still nicknamed the “Disease Your Doctor Can’t Diagnose.”
It’s not obvious. In fact, only 70% of people with leaky gut have digestive problems. You can even find it in people that “look” healthy.
To put it simply: if you’re struggling with chronic health complaints, you’re at risk for leaky gut.
As you can see in the research above, gut health is important for just about every system in the body, and in turn, it can create symptoms and problems in just about every system in the body. So how do you know if you have it?
There are two common ways to test for Leaky Gut:
1) The Lactulose-mannitol intestinal permeability test
2) Cyrex labs “Array #2”
Both tests have their benefits, for example the Lactulose-mannitol test is commonly used as the gold standard in research settings. The Cyrex panel is possibly a better option to measure the immune response from leaky gut, but both of these tests have inherent unreliability.
It’s like Chris Kresser always says: “Will the test result change the outcome of the treatment?”
In the case of testing for leaky gut, not necessarily. Personally, I think you can save money by instead focusing on your risk factors for leaky gut, which is why we put together a leaky gut risk analysis in this free leaky gut quiz.
Of course, an interactive quiz like this can’t diagnosis anything, but it can help you screen for the most important leaky gut risk factors in your life. Education is the best prevention and with this quiz, instead of knowing whether or not you have leaky gut, knowing WHAT risk factors are damaging your gut can help you take the next steps to start fixing it.
The Pink Elephant in the Room…
I learned this lesson the hard way in my life: Sometimes diet isn’t enough.
If you’re like me, you started the Paleo diet because of chronic illness. Celiac Disease almost killed me years ago… I was having diarrhea 10-15X a day. I was definitely a “tough case.”
I got better when I changed my diet. The diarrhea finally stopped. But I was still very sick.
Diet was the first step. I would argue it’s the most important step. But a common problem I see is that many people stop at changing their diet and don’t take the next step.
At my recent Paleo f(x) talk, I asked people to raise their hand if they started eating Paleo because of digestive problems and about 75% of the room raised their hand. Next, I asked them to keep their hands up if they STILL have digestive problems on Paleo. 50% of the room still had their hand raised.
So if you’re reading this and you’re still having chronic health problems even after eating a Paleo Diet, you’re not alone. The first place to start is to address your gut health and common mistakes that can keep your gut leaking.
How to Keep Your Poop Where it Belongs
There are three really common mistakes I’ve seen over the years when people switch to eating real food, but still struggle with chronic health problems.
I’m not talking about your average athlete that eats Paleo for better performance.
I’m talking to those “tough cases” like me struggling with chronic conditions like: autoimmunity, asthma, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel, kidney disease, psoriasis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and heart failure…
If that’s you, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with leaky gut and these three mistakes could be making things worse for you.
Mistake 1: Eating Holes in Your Gut
If you have leaky gut and you’re still struggling with chronic illness, the 80/20 rule doesn’t fly. Eat gluten on the weekends? Stop it. Occasional beer with your friends? Stop it. The research is very clear that gluten contributes to leaky gut and when it comes to dealing with serious health problems, there’s no room for “Cheat Day.”
I get it. I understand it has its place… for healthy people. One day you too might be able to live a happy healthy life with 80/20 Paleo. But not today.
If you haven’t yet, the very first step is to switch to the Paleo Autoimmune protocol.
With leaky gut, there are un-digested food particles sneaking right into your bloodstream, which causes the immune system to attack them as foreign invaders. That starts a cascade of inflammation. The autoimmune protocol removes many of the most problematic foods for people with leaky gut, things like eggs, tomatoes & eggplants, peppers including bell peppers and hot peppers, spices such as curries, paprika, and chili powder, and nuts and seeds.
For the majority of us, if we just remove certain classes of foods that are harder to digest and follow the autoimmune protocol, we can begin to reverse leaky gut and hopefully get some relief in the process.
Mistake 2: Popping Pills that Poke Holes in Your Gut
Who hasn’t reached for an Advil or Motrin in times of pain? I used to get 2-3 headaches a week and carried them around in my wallet. Then there’s all those aches and pains that follow you home from sports and the gym. Those mornings when you wake up and your body is locked up and screaming at you.
The inconvenient truth is: Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) cause your gut to leak.
The worst part is MANY doctors prescribe these meds and NEVER tell people what it’s doing to their gut.
Research shows that 50%-70% of long-term NSAID users have increased leaky gut and 5 days of prescription use can cause 3x increase in permeability.
If you take NSAIDS, especially the stronger kind that are used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, you’ll be putting your gut barrier at risk. Immediately talk with your primary care doctor to explore other solutions.
Mistake 3: Stressing Your Gut Apart
If we discovered that sleeping more and reducing our stress would make us live forever, I think we’d all still die. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing from Robb and everyone else telling you that you need to get 8 hours of sleep and take a breath, so let’s not beat a dead horse. But here’s the problem: not many people ACTUALLY do it. I’ve struggled with it too and it’s still a focus of mine.
But when you’re sick, it’s the same as the 80/20 diet rule… there’s no room for stress and sleep deprivation if you want to keep your poop where it belongs.
Studies like this are very clear that stress wrecks your gut and makes it leaky. You WILL not heal your gut if it’s experiencing chronic stress. Think about it like having a broken bone… we put it in a cast for a reason. So it stays protected and can heal.
But here’s the rub: sometimes stress isn’t what you think. Sure, stress can be emotional, like a crappy job or a bad relationship. But it can also be physical stress, like overtraining. Working out too hard can be extremely stressful on your body if you’re struggling with chronic illness.
If you’re still sick and doing CrossFit more than 2x a week, stop for a while.
There’s another hidden stressor we’ve seen in about 80% of our consulting clients: gut infections. Those parasite and bacterial infections are a constant stressor on your body, sometimes just as powerful as guzzling gluten flavored shakes every day.
So if you’re still sick and haven’t had a stool test yet, do it. I know pooping in a plastic tube doesn’t sound like a party, but trust me: its way better than letting a nasty infection live on in your body.
How to Fix Leaky Gut
Rome wasn’t built in a day… so let’s stick with the clichés – your gut isn’t going to heal in a day. If you’re already on the autoimmune protocol, avoiding NSAIDs, and reducing your stress… but still suspect your poop isn’t staying where it belongs, there’s more work to do.
Like I said, many of us are “tough cases” and we need more than just the Paleo Diet to heal. Complex problems rarely ever have simple answers. But as humans we like simple ideas. Single causes. Magic pills and smoking guns. When it comes to leaky gut, there’s at least 19 common triggers in the research that can be contributing to your problems.
We’re going to be covering these triggers and how to fix leaky gut in a free webinar coming up on May 8th called, “How to Solve Leaky Gut and Reverse Chronic Disease.”
If you need more help healing your gut, click here to register.
Hope to see you there,
– Jordan Reasoner
BIO: Jordan Reasoner is a mechanical engineer turned health engineer. Celiac Disease almost killed him in 2007, but he transformed his health using real food and saved his life. Since then, he’s known for starting SCDLifestyle.com with Steve Wright to help others naturally overcome chronic digestive problems and enjoy perfect poops. He lives in Bozeman, MT with his two children, two mutts, and loves hiking in the mountains.
Evan Brand says
Great Article Jordan.
The whole “I’m mostly Paleo” thing is detrimental to many people I help.. some people don’t like when I point the finger and say that gluten should be “gluten zero” as opposed to just somewhat.
The truth hurts, but that’s what we all need sometimes.
Keep up the good work.
Mark Fuller says
When I was carb dependent I used grains (mostly oat meal) to , what I thought was, cleanse. Now I know I just feededing the wrong bacteria and opening up my intestines. Feeling like dirt and beening sick way to much, was why I tried a paleo lifestyle. One of the questions I will get is “don’t you get backed up?”
Now that I didn’t have oatmeal to “get things going” what did i do? vegetable helped to some degree but it was too fast or not fafast enough. It got me to think of the carrying function of fiber. Having a new carrier is the new challenge. One that doesn’t give me a low grade peritonitis like the oat meal. But leaves some prebiotic for the bacteria to feed on and help move the protein down the line. I am wondering which foods feed mostly beneficial bacteria. Chris Kresser said sources are found in dirt. Is this why bentonite clay is suggested?
My poops feel more powerful already. I’m going to poop like a maniac now. I’m going to poop all over the place. Strong, slowly, thick and lustrous poops of iron.
Thanks for the laugh!
I have ppms and have been doing the Paleo for over a year, the weight came off but the symptoms have not subsided I do eat alot of blueberries and sweet potatoes are these a problem? thanks Gary
AD Winters says
Sweet potatoes albeit legal for SCD do contain a lot of carbohydrates as do butternut squash, spaghetti squash etc. These can be problematic.
Blueberries (and all other berries) contain high amounts of salicylates. Please go to http://www.salicylatesensitivity.com It is a great website for people with multiple chemical sensitivities.
Perhaps a hair analysis for potential heavy metal or other toxins may be of benefit. This must be ruled out in order that it can be addressed if necessary to get your health back. (www.gracefulearth.com)
Great article and I too am trying to work out the cause of my leaky gut. I think Parasites or bacterial infection might be an issue for me with being tested and having dientamobia fragillis. The doctor I see wants to put me on a triple therapy antibiotic course but I worry this will further wreak havoc with gut. When you get patients with this parasite do you put them on antibiotics or a natural therapy.
^^^Hope someone can answer the above question- but also wondering certain foods can help rid of parasites rather than a full load of AB therapy? Can Iodine therapy can help with the D fragilis parasite? Your article is really great.. I sent it to many who can use it to get the basic idea.
One question: my doctor put me on Sulfasalazine. Doing that + paleo enough to heal a colitis?(a very early stage one, he’s not sure if he’s even going to call what I have colitis). Should I do the sulfa at all?
I’ve been suffering from bloating, gas, pain, etc for many years. I had a couple of colonics done recently and observed a lot of undigested vegetable matter (salads) coming out.
Recently I’ve been taking amino acids to help me produce more dopamine. Dopamine has a big role in regulating the speed that food travels through your intestines. More dopamine means a slower transit. Since I’ve started the supplements I notice a strong reduction in my symptoms. I’m thinking (as a layman) that slowing the transit of food through my system is allowing me to digest my food more thoroughly. I feel better than a long time.
I’m also doing a paleo diet but I’ve done that before without such a complete result.
Just saying it might be something to look into.
After reading your post, I am wonder if this could possibly be some of my issue do to the fact my dopamine level is low.
Can’t seem to get my diarrhea under control. Could you please share some info about this and what supplements you take for this. Been searching so hard to find relief. Would Really appreciate , Sheila ([email protected])