When I got told I had a leaky gut by my naturopath, I knew the standard processes she was going to suggest I follow (if you're not sure what leaky gut is or want to know what the symptoms are, read my previous blog post here).
All gut healing programs follow the standard 4 steps:
- Remove damaging factors that cause leaky gut
- Replace with healing foods
- Repair the gut with specific supplements
- Rebalance the guts bacteria
Now a long with these 4 steps a lot of the 'healing' foods suggested are not vegan! They include bone broth, oily fish, chicken and eggs, plus the supplements include fish oils to get in extra omega 3.
I knew from the get go, that I didn't want to go down this path and wanted to heal my gut with healing plant foods. When I tried to research how to do this, I found it incredibly difficult to get any real advice. I got a lot of statements saying this diet healed my leaky gut e.g. 80/10/10 or starch solution, but I never got the information as to how or why it healed it.
So here is how I've been healing my leaky gut on a plant-based diet.
1. Remove all the damaging factors
So this includes foods, reducing stress and toxins as much as possible.
The foods to avoid initially are:
- Soy products
- Refined sugar
- High fructose fruits, including dried fruit
- Dairy (if you eat it)
After about a month of avoiding those food you can trial them back in your diet and see how you react, except for the refined sugar (and the dairy if you eat it) that's best just to eliminate completely.
For me I found gluten, alcohol, caffeine, soy products and bananas all played havoc with my digestion, but all other fruits were ok. Now my gut has healed slightly I can tolerate the occasional bit of these foods but I still mainly avoid them.
I also invested in a reverse osmosis water filter to remove all the toxins like chlorine, fluoride and heavy metals from the water.
2. Replace with healing foods
So the reason bone broth and meats are suggested for gut healing is because they contains Glutamine. Glutamine is an essential amino acid that helps to repair the gut lining.
You can however find glutamine in plant foods such as:
- Legumes - particularly lentils
To get the best levels of Glutamine eat the cabbage, spinach and beetroot raw! I drank a lot of cold-pressed beetroot juice, and ate a lot of home-made cabbage slaw and dahl.
Eating fermented foods gives your gut a beautiful big hit of probiotics.
My best suggestion is to eat 2 big tablespoons of raw vegan sauerkraut a day. Not only is raw sauerkraut packed with probiotics, it's also packed with Glutamine and pre-biotics to help feed the healthy bacteria once it reaches your gut.
Sprouted grains and seed
Once you've removed gluten containing grains from your diet you can still eat a few grains and pseudo-grains (rice, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, millet, soregum). I just made sure that I soaked grains over night so they were easier on my digestive system.
The same applied for any nuts or seeds I ate.
3. Repair with specific supplements
A really good high dose (10 billion plus) probiotic tablet is going to restore all the good bacteria in your gut and reduce the damage causing bad bacteria. The more probiotics you can get the better, so I highly recommend this supplement along with eating foods high in probiotics.
These will help make sure your food is fully broken down, allowing for better nutrient absorption, but also for preventing undigested food particles slipping through your leaky gut and into your blood.
L- Glutamine powder
Along with eating foods rich in Glutamine taking an L-Glutamine powder is going to help heal and protect your gut lining from potential gut damaging foods.
I either drank this powder with some water or added it to a smoothie.
Now usually people would suggest fish oil tablets here as the omega 3 is supposed to reduce inflammation in the body, but obviously I wasn't going to take those.
I opted for plant based food naturally rich in omega 3 e.g. chia seeds and flax seeds. You can also consume cold-pressed chia seed and flax seed oils, but my body doesn't react well to oils so I opted for the whole plant food instead.
I ate about 1 tablespoon a day in a smoothie.
4. Rebalance with good bacteria
As I've already said a good high quality probiotic (one that you have to refrigerate) that you can get from your health store, along with raw vegan sauerkraut are going to help rebalance your guts good bacteria.
Remember to avoid the foods that destroy the healthy bacteria e.g. caffeine and alcohol.
I really hope this helps any of you struggling with a leaky gut. Just remember to give your body time and lots of self-care so it can rapid itself. Flick me an email if you want to talk about things further. x