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The Best Foods For Gut Health

Poor gut health can lead to a myriad of unpleasant symptoms: bloating, gas, diarrhoea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and more. If not treated, these symptoms can progress into systemic issues such as food sensitivities, skin disorders, hormonal imbalances, or even autoimmune diseases such as coeliac disease.

You’ve probably heard that a healthy, high-fibre diet is vital for maintaining good digestion and regular bowel movements. But did you know that certain foods can actually improve your gut health?

Here are some of the best (and most delicious) foods for improving gut health. You can even make them at home!

Bone broth

Bone broth is one of the most nourishing foods for an inflamed gut. Bone broth is made by boiling and simmering animal bones over several days. This allows the bones and connective tissues to release nourishing compounds into the broth, such as collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine. And because we humans are made of the same ‘stuff’ as animals, these compounds are exactly what our bodies need to heal.

Bone broth is especially rich in glutamine, which is an important amino acid involved in restoring damaged intestinal cells. It’s also an excellent source of minerals, including calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and much more.

The gelatin in bone broth is also highly beneficial for restoring the integrity of the gut lining, and also for supporting a healthy gut microbiome, and maintaining proper balance of gut bacteria.

You can make your own bone broth by boiling bones into a large stockpot. There are lots of recipes online! 

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut’s gut-healing benefits begin with its fibre content. It’s an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, which are both very useful for bowel regularity. Insoluble fibre is helpful for adding ‘bulk’ to your stools, while soluble fibre is a prebiotic that ‘feeds’ the healthy bacteria in your gut.  

Sauerkraut juice is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that can inhibit H. pylori. Cabbage also contains powerful phytochemicals that soothe gut inflammation. 

Sauerkraut is made with a special fermentation process that allows beneficial microorganisms to develop. These microorganisms are then delivered to your gut like a natural probiotic. It’s particularly rich in Lactobacillus plantarum, which has been shown to help improve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This and other strains of bacteria in sauerkraut also help with digestion and bowel transit time. Better bowel transit time means less irritation and gas!  

It’s fairly simple to make your own sauerkraut but it’s readily available in most supermarkets, too. Be sure to choose organic, not the pasteurized canned version! 

Kefir

Kefir is another powerful gut-healing food that originates in Europe. It’s a type of fermented milk created with special starter grains. These grains are a combination of bacteria and yeast that break down the proteins in the milk to make a nutritious beverage.  And because the lactose has been broken down, even those who are lactose intolerant can drink it! 

Kefir’s complex ecology of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts can help to reduce dysbiosis and gut inflammation. It’s been shown to help rebalance the colonies of friendly bacteria in the gut, which makes it particularly helpful after a course of antibiotics.

Kefir can be made with milk, water, or coconut grains. It has a thick consistency and a pleasant smell. 

Fatty fish

Sardines, salmon, herring, mackerel, and anchovies are a rich source of protein and important long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These omega-3 acids harbour powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can help to heal damaged gut tissues. 

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids have been found to reduce the inflammatory responses in the gut. Research has shown that these fatty acids can reduce both oxidative stress and the production of proinflammatory cytokines. 

Taking omega-3 along with probiotics and a fibre-rich diet can also improve the diversity of the gut microbiome. Specific bacteria are linked to lower inflammation in people who have a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Eating oily fish can help boost levels of omega-3 in the blood, which in turn increases a compound called N-carbamylglutamate (NCG). This compound has been found to reduce oxidative stress in the gut. 

Oily fish are readily available in supermarkets and fish markets! Try to eat 2-3 servings each week. 

Yoghurt

Yoghurt is one of the best-known probiotic foods on earth, and also one of the most readily available. Technically speaking, yoghurt is milk fermented by bacterial strains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. 

Numerous studies have proven yoghurt’s benefits for gut health. These are mostly related to improving microflora and bowel transit time. It’s even been shown to enhance the innate and adaptive immune responses of the gastrointestinal system.

The trick to choosing a ‘beneficial’ yoghurt is to avoid the ones with added sugars and flavours. These may taste great, but they won’t help your gut! Choose only natural, unsweetened yoghurts with no added ingredients. 

What next?

If all this makes you feel overwhelmed, just reach out to me for help. I can help you find a way to include these foods for gut health in your every day life. As well as being a Nutritionist and Naturopath, I am also a Food Scientist, and I can help you make sense of all this! Get in touch today.

Why avoiding gluten is a must for autoimmune thyroid

Avoiding gluten has become something of a ‘trend’ in recent years.

If you have an autoimmune thyroid condition, avoiding gluten isn’t just about being trendy: it’s crucial to your wellbeing. 

Your thyroid is an essential part of your endocrine system, involved in producing many important hormones that allow your body to function. 

About 50-90 percent of thyroid disorders are caused by an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Hashimoto’s is a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid, often leading to hypothyroidism (underproduction of thyroid hormone).

Symptoms of autoimmune thyroid include:

  • Exhaustion, fatigue, sluggishness
  • High sensitivity to cold
  • Constipation
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Muscle aches, tenderness, stiffness
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding
  • Depression
  • Memory lapses

The link between gluten, genetics, and autoimmune disease

Research has shown that some people have a predisposition to autoimmune disease, and gluten is one of the key triggers. This is all to do with the way gluten is digested by the body. 

When we eat, our body recognizes that food is on its way to the stomach and starts making the enzymes needed to digest it. 

If the immune cells in the gut recognise that gluten is in the food, they react by triggering the transcription of DNA required to produce the enzymes for gluten digestion.

However, gluten contains a protein called gliadin, which has a molecular structure very similar to that of the thyroid gland. If gliadin passes through the gut lining (as in the case of Leaky Gut), it enters the bloodstream. The body’s immune cells recognize gliadin as an ‘invader’ and set out to destroy it. 

However, instead of just attacking gliadin, the antibodies will also tell your body to attack thyroid tissue. This is basically a case of mistaken identity

It also means that if you are predisposed to autoimmune conditions, your body is more likely to make the mistake of activating macrophages (your inflammatory immune cells) every time you eat gluten.

In a nutshell, gluten causes your immune system to attack your thyroid.

Having a genetic predisposition to an autoimmune condition is like a switch turned to the ‘on’ position. Your body is simply primed for certain conditions, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Even though some people can eat gluten without any problems, someone with an ‘on’ switch for Hashimoto’s cannot eat gluten without causing a cascade of inflammation. 

Unfortunately, even a small amount of gluten is off-limits.

Your immune system ‘remembers’ the response to gliadin for up to six months each time you eat it. So, if you have an autoimmune thyroid condition, it’s crucial to avoid gluten completely.

Identifying gluten intolerance

Doctors will usually suggest a lab test to check for gluten intolerance.

However, these tests will only detect antibodies to gluten if they are present in the bloodstream, and this will only happen if gluten has passed through the gut lining.

In many people, this doesn’t occur until the gut lining has become extremely damaged.

Obviously, it would be better to diagnose gluten intolerance before you reach this stage! 

It’s also important to note that Hashimoto’s is primarily a Th1 dominant condition, which means your Th2 system is suppressed. The Th2 system is the part of the immune system responsible for producing antibodies. 

A suppressed Th2 system impairs your body’s ability to produce antibodies, which means they won’t show up on a test. A test for gluten antibodies may not correctly identify Th1-dominant Hashimoto’s.

Stool analysis detects antibodies in waste, which can provide a much earlier diagnosis. A cheek swab test is even more effective as it can detect the genes associated with gluten intolerance and celiac disease. 

Specific genes called HLA-DQ genes are now known to be necessary factors for the development of Celiac Disease (CD). People with these genes are much more likely to have an autoimmune disease, celiac disease and gluten intolerance than the rest of the population. 

Managing autoimmune thyroid

The symptoms of an autoimmune thyroid disorder are very broad in nature, which makes the disorder difficult to treat. Those who do receive a diagnosis are often uncertain about how to manage their condition. 

Autoimmune conditions cannot be reversed or cured. However, with proper diet and lifestyle interventions, symptoms can be managed. That’s where I come in. 

First things first: you must cut out every trace of gluten.

This is essential for preventing your thyroid from being destroyed. There’s also a lot of evidence to show that gluten-containing foods can prevent your body from absorbing nutrients properly and cause all sorts of inflammation in the gut, whether you have an autoimmune condition or not. 

Avoiding gluten isn’t as difficult or as scary as it sounds! I can help you create a nutritious, gluten-free diet to suit your specific needs. We will also discuss how to manage your condition with the right supplements and lifestyle changes.

Jump online and cook a free 20 minute chat with me, and you can see if this approach is right for you.

Why does autoimmune disease start in the gut?

Your immune system is pretty powerful.

It’s your body’s main defence against everything you face in daily life:

  • toxins,
  • bacteria
  • viruses
  • fungi
  • pollutants
  • and many more harmful organisms. 

No matter where you are, your immune system must be on guard at all times. It also has to distinguish the good from the bad.

Unfortunately, it can sometimes get this wrong.

And when that happens, your immune system can attack your own cells.

This can spell the beginning of a huge range of autoimmune diseases, from coeliac disease to rheumatoid arthritis.

Researchers still aren’t completely clear on why your immune system makes these errors. However, numerous studies have suggested that it could be to do with the trillions of microbes in your gut. 

Your gut and your immune system

One of the most interesting findings in recent years is the link between autoimmunity and gut health. Research has shown that autoimmune diseases may have several causes, and many of these are to do with what’s going on in your gut. 

As I’ve explained before, your gut microbiota is a complex community of microbes that affect many aspects of your health. The lining of your gut works like a defence barrier; it allows the “good stuff” (vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients) into your bloodstream while keeping out the bad stuff (toxins, pathogens). 

But if the gut lining is faulty – as in the case of Leaky Gut Syndrome – all sorts of microbes and other harmful substances can get into your bloodstream. This causes your immune system to panic and mistakenly attack your own tissues. That’s often the ‘trigger point’ for autoimmune disease. 

Gut bacteria and autoimmune disease

Many people who have already been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease also have other autoimmune diseases. This appears to be linked to the type of bacteria in their gut. 

An imbalance of bad bacteria in your gut could predispose you to autoimmune diseases. 

This is because your gut microbiota can influence or interfere with the way your immune cells detect what is foreign (and therefore harmful) and what isn’t. 

People with autoimmune diseases are often found to have poorly-functioning gut barriers, such as Leaky Gut. This can result in your immune system being exposed to certain harmful gut bacteria. This can lead to “overreactions” of your immune system toward the gut microbiota, which further contributes to the severity of their condition.

The type of bacteria in your gut is also linked to autoimmune disease. Patients with Crohn’s disease are found to have excess numbers of a bacteria called adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC). This bacteria causes an inflammatory reaction in the intestine.

More research has even found that a certain protein produced by common gut bacteria may trigger the onset of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcerative colitis. This protein – produced by a bacterial strain called Bacteroides fragilis – is found in higher amounts in patients with autoimmune disorders. The problem with this specific microbe is that it produces molecules that look like a human protein, “tricking” the immune system into attacking its own cells. 

Any time your body attacks itself, an autoimmune disease can develop.

Autoimmune disease and zonulin

As well as gut bacteria, certain proteins in the gut lining can affect your susceptibility to immune-related disorders. Both human and animal studies show that higher amounts of zonulin are integrally involved in the development of autoimmune diseases.

Zonulin is a protein made by the liver cells and it’s thought to be a big part of the lead-up to an autoimmune disease. Zonulin works by closing the spaces or “junctions” between cells in the lining of the digestive tract, so it plays a major role in tolerance and immune response.

Zonulin is actually designed to protect you from harmful bacteria. If you eat something that gives you salmonella, it’s zonulin that will trigger diarrhea and flush the bad bugs out of your body.  

But it’s also been found that levels of zonulin are much higher in people who are gluten-sensitive. Gluten contains gliadin, which is a major trigger of zonulin release.

Zonulin is also higher in those with other autoimmune conditions associated with tight junction dysfunction, including type 1 diabetes

Reduce your risk of developing an autoimmune disease 

Looking after your gut health is a priority for any age and stage of life. The earlier we can identify a condition such as Leaky Gut or gut dysbiosis, the earlier we can treat it. That’s why a comprehensive consultation with a natural health practitioner – like me – is a crucial step in managing your lifelong health. 

There is good evidence to suggest that treating the gut with probiotics and gut-healing nutrients can manage or even reverse some autoimmune conditions. But prevention is even better! 

If you’ve been struggling with digestive issues or inflammatory reactions, it’s time to get in touch with me

Leaky Gut Syndrome symptoms: Does this sound like you?

Leaky Gut Syndrome is getting a lot of attention these days – and for good reason. It’s been linked to a range of health issues, from digestive disorders to severe autoimmune conditions.

But is Leaky Gut even a real thing? And if it is, how do you know if you have it?

Let me explain……

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Leaky Gut is medically known as ‘increased intestinal permeability’. It occurs when the walls of your intestine become weak and, well, leaky. This usually happens following inflammation caused by infections or other reactions. 

The lining of your gut is designed to be naturally permeable. If you’ve ever strained liquid through a piece of muslin, you’ll know that the bulk of the liquid passes through the muslin while the solid stuff is left behind. This is similar to how your intestines work. 

Your intestines are lined with a layer of cells joined together by proteins called tight junctions. Tight junctions are like the ‘glue’ holding your intestinal cells together. They act as a gateway between your gut and your bloodstream. Nutrients are broken down (by your gut microbes) into pieces small enough to pass through your intestinal walls and into your bloodstream. This is how your gut allows essential nutrients to be utilised by your body. Anything that isn’t broken down – or isn’t useful to your body – is kept out. 

However, if the ‘glue’ holding your intestinal cells together becomes weak, gaps can form. This allows large pieces of food or other substances to pass straight through into your bloodstream. In fact, anything that enters your body – toxins, antigens, bacteria, fungi – can get into your bloodstream through these gaps. 

And that’s where problems can begin!

How Leaky Gut Syndrome progresses

When Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut”, he may have been talking about Leaky Gut Syndrome. This is because many health conditions that affect your whole body can be traced back to your gut. 

When your gut lining allows harmful particles to pass into your bloodstream, the consequences can be serious. Most of your immune system resides in your gut, so your immune cells will be the first to see these ‘invaders’ making their way through your body. Your immune cells are programmed to attack anything it doesn’t recognise, so it will launch an attack on these foreign particles. 

This attack involves acute inflammation, which can become chronic inflammation if the foreign particles can’t be removed. And chronic inflammation is the root cause of most diseases.

Early signs of Leaky Gut

An unstable or highly permeable gut lining can lead to…

Food allergies and/or sensitivities

Numerous studies have shown that Leaky Gut is a major contributor to food allergies. These reactions are actually your immune system producing a huge amount of antibodies to ‘attack’ the foreign particles entering your bloodstream. 

Some of the biggest triggers are antigens in gluten and dairy. In fact, the proteins gluten and gliadin (found in wheat) have been shown to trigger the release of zonulin, a protein made in the body. Because zonulin modulates the tight junctions in the gut lining, higher levels have linked to greater intestinal permeability. 

As if this wasn’t bad enough, the resulting inflammation can actually worsen your Leaky Gut.

Nutrient deficiencies

Chronic inflammation and damage to carrier proteins in your gut can lead to deficiencies in a range of vitamins and minerals. The most common deficiencies include iron deficiency, vitamin B12, magnesium, and zinc. 


Inflammatory Skin Conditions

Your gut and skin are intimately connected, and any problems with your gut health will usually show up on your skin. Acne, eczema, and psoriasis have all been shown to result from increased intestinal permeability. This is thought to be due to higher penetration of allergens through the skin and to greater sensitivity to allergens.

Digestive disorders

A malfunctioning gut barrier has been implicated in the development of both irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel diseases.  The risk of developing Crohn’s disease is also shown to be higher in those with Leaky Gut.

Chronic conditions linked to Leaky Gut


If left untreated, the above issues can lead to much more serious conditions, including: 

  • Gastric ulcers
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis)
  • Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Coeliac disease
  • Certain cancers 
  • Frequent infections
  • Chronic joint conditions (such as arthritis)
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Metabolic diseases (fatty liver, Type II diabetes, heart disease)
  • Autoimmune disease (lupus, multiple sclerosis, Type I diabetes, Hashimoto’s)
  • Parkinson’s disease 
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome 

How to test for Leaky Gut

Testing involves drinking a solution made of sugar, then providing a urine sample. Your urine will then be analysed to show the efficacy of your intestinal absorption. The amount of sugar present in your urine will indicate that molecules are escaping through your gut lining, which will give us an idea of how severe your intestinal permeability is. 

If you believe you have the signs and symptoms of Leaky Gut, your best course of action is to see a qualified naturopath – like me. Contact me to discuss how I can help you! In my next blog, I’ll discuss how I treat Leaky Gut Syndrome.