leaky gut

The top 5 questions I get asked about gluten

Due to the abundance of information available and our habit of asking Dr Google for answers, there is a lot of confusion around gluten and if it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for you. I’d like to give you some evidence-based information that may help you decide the role of gluten in your diet by answering five of the most frequently asked questions I receive. 

1. What is gluten and where is it found?

Gluten is a structure that is made up of hundreds of proteins, notably gliadin and glutenin, and is found in grains like barley, durum, semolina, wheat, farina, kamut, rye and spelt grains(1). Many of these grains are used to make breads, pasta, cakes, pastries, and biscuits to give them their fluffy or stretchy texture. Gluten is used as an additive in processed foods to improve texture, flavour and moisture retention. Some foods where gluten may be hiding include vegetarian meat substitutes, confectionary, ice -cream, butter, seasonings, sauces, marinades and dressings(2). All in all, gluten plays a large role in the standard Australia diet and is delicious!

2.What’s the difference between Coeliac Disease and Non-Coeliac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)?

Coeliac disease (CD) is an autoimmune disease in genetically susceptible individuals that is caused by eating gluten(3). Classic symptoms include diarrhoea and failure to thrive within the first couple of years of life. You may experience other symptoms or no symptoms at all and can still have CD. CD is diagnosed through a biopsy of the small intestine but may be detected in blood tests that look for specific immune markers(4).

Non-coeliac Gluten sensitivity (NCGS) occurs in people who are not affected by CD or a wheat allergy. The biggest difference between NCGS and CD is that there is a different immune response to gluten and there isn't the complete destruction of your gut villi (finger like projections important for nutrient absorption)(5,6). NCGS symptoms occur hours to days after eating gluten and can disappear when gluten is removed. Classic symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, bowel habit abnormalities, foggy head, headache, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, dermatitis, depression and anaemia(7). Clinically we see increased intestinal permeability aka ‘leaky gut’ confirmed on blood or urine testing underlying NCGS.

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3.Does gluten cause leaky gut?

In short, yes.

In susceptible individuals, when you eat gluten, the tight junctions (gate-like structures in your gut wall) are told to open-up as a result of an increased release of zonulin. Zonulin acts as a signal that says ‘open up please!’ to your gut wall. When gluten is removed from the diet, zonulin levels decrease which causes the immune system to calm down and healing to begin. It’s very important when healing leaky gut to follow a strict gluten-free diet, as the smallest amount of gluten will trigger a zonulin release(8).

4. What are some gluten-free alternatives?

There are many grains that are gluten-free including amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, rice, sesame, sorghum and teff. Products like arrowroot, lentils, rice and tapioca can produce gluten-free flour and thus to some extent replace wheat flour(1). Luckily in 2018 there is much more awareness around the need, desire or demand for gluten-free products so there are many delicious alternatives available. It is worth noting that there is great variation the quality of the gluten-free alternatives in regards to nutrient, protein and fat content and glycaemic index (how much they impact your blood sugar levels)(9). My advice is to go wholegrain where you can or at the very least, have them with nutrient dense, protein and fat rich toppings, fillings or sauces.

5.What about oats are they gluten free and can I have them?

Gluten is a complex mixture of hundreds of proteins (called prolamins), notably gliadin and glutenin. Similar prolamins exist as secalin in rye, hordein in barley, and avenins in oats and are collectively referred to as “gluten”(10).

Avenin in oats contain a smaller amount of an amino acid called proline, which is higher in some of the other proteins mentioned in wheat, barly and rye. Lower proline content may be why oats are less immune reactive compared to wheat, but may still be a problem in large quantities. Oats may still activate specific immune cells in 10% of CD patients so it may be wise to avoid oats as part of your gluten free diet (11).

Furthermore, it is common for oats to be farmed and milled with wheat and are therefore contaminated with gluten. It is possible that pure, uncontaminated oats, can be made into products that contain less than 20mg of gluten per kg, making it potentially safe in a gluten free diet (12).  One commonly recommended brans of gluten-free oats is Bob’s Red Mill.

Final thoughts

There is so much more to be said about gluten and how it may affect your health, so if you still feel unsure about gluten in your diet, please reach out to us at Narayani Wellness to receive some personalised guidance. Our support can help a potentially confusing path be more simple and accurate for you!

By Rachel Larsson, Naturopath

Gut Loving Banana Bread

Gluten free. Dairy free.

After more than four years of experimenting with a gluten free diet, and three years of adhering to it strictly, I am so excited to be sharing with you one of my favourite gluten free go-to recipes. No gluten means it is kind on your intestinal lining, which can become “leaky” with exposure to gluten (see our other blogs for more info). This bread is moist, it’s filling and it’s packed full of goodness. The almond and linseeds offer a great source prebiotic fibres to keep our gut bugs happy, as well as being rich in minerals and healthy oils (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9).

If you’re going gluten free there a few staple flours you will need to have in your pantry for baking. Almond meal, tapioca flour and brown rice flour are all great to have on hand, which can be bought by weight from whole-food stores such as The Source or packaged from health food stores, or the health section of the supermarket. Be sure to keep your almond and linseeds stored in a cool place during the summer, to avoid oxidation and spoilage of the healthy oils within. Note that some of the healthy oils within nuts and seeds are lost in the baking process, but cooking will not cause them to go rancid and spoil in the way that improper storage can.

I hope you enjoy this bread as much as I do!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 large banana (ripe or overripe)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tbsp honey (optional)
  • 1 cup nut milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 tsp gluten free baking powder
  • ½ cup almond meal
  • ½ cup ground linseeds/flaxseeds
  • ½ cup rice flour (brown or white)
  • ½ cup tapioca flour

Method:

  1. Mash the bananas in a large bowl
  2. With a fork whisk in the eggs, coconut oil, honey and nut milk
  3. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients
  4. Pour into a lined rectangular bread/cake tin
  5. Bake in the oven (175 degrees C) for approx 50 minutes, or until cooked through.

By Lucy Mason, Naturopath

Coconut and Buckwheat Toasted Muesli

Gluten free. Oat free. High protein. High healthy fats.

Your body will love you for starting your day with this well balanced breakfast. Many typical breakfasts are high in carbohydrate and sugar - a nightmare for your pancreas and adrenals. Nuts, buckwheat and coconut form the core of this recipe, providing the right macronutrients (protein and healthy fat) that prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking, keeping your hormones (insulin and cortisol) happy. It is my go to on the days where I don’t feel like eggs and avocado or I need a breakfast with minimal preparation - it’s quick, filling and tasty.  

Shop bought muesli is often loaded up with oats (not so great for those of us avoiding gluten) and can contain high amounts of sugar. It only takes 30 minutes to put together a homemade toasted muesli that lasts a couple of weeks, and you can personalise it to your taste and needs!

I love to serve it with fresh berries and a blob of natural pot set yoghurt or a drizzle of almond milk. It’s also great to nibble on by itself as a snack throughout the day.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole buckwheat kernels/groats
  • 2 cups roughly chopped nuts and seeds of your choice
  • (I like almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, pepitas and sunflower seeds)
  • 1.5 cups coconut flakes
  • 1.5 cups puffed millet (I have also used puffed rice or amaranth in the past with success)
  • 3 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3-4 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp rice malt syrup

  Method

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Melt the coconut oil in a small pan and add rice malt syrup. Stir until combined then remove from the heat.
  3. Mix the oil mixture through the dry mixture until everything is coated.
  4. Spread the mixture out on lined baking trays, so that it is no thicker than 1cm.
  5. Bake in the oven on 120 degrees C for 20 minutes, turning once, or until the mixture is lightly golden in colour.
  6. Wait until the mixture is completely cool before packing it away for storage in the pantry.

Created by Lucy Mason, Naturopath

Join us in finding the right diet for you - food chemical sensitivity and healing leaking gut

Hi there,
I’m excited to announce that we are launching our first ever comprehensive food intolerance & gut healing program to help you, our patients, to truly find the right diet for your unique circumstance.

For some of you green smoothies or blueberry treats, and many other foods that we think are healthy for us, could actually be making things worse.

Spinach, cacao and sweet potato can be causing you to feel lousy.

Confused?
Yep. I get it. Up until recently I was too.

Many of you know snippets about my son Jarvis and his health concerns that we’ve been faced with over the past 12 months. It’s been a challenging time for my husband, Jarvis and myself. We have trialed many different diets, spent a lot of money on testing, therapies and supplements, had some wins and made some errors, not to mention had many sleepless nights and invested a tonne of energy to make sense of it all.

But like all good challenges, it has brought forward something truly magical.

This program has come about through my personal experience to help others navigate food chemical sensitivities and healing leaky gut. My aim with this program is that we find what food chemicals may be problematic in a structured way to provide symptom relief and simultaneously focus on our gut bugs & treating the underlying cause.

What is food chemical sensitivity?
In our foods there are many natural chemicals that vary in concentration. Some serve to protect the plant against insects and others come about through protein degradation. In many circumstances these chemicals are of benefit – they are antioxidants and act against cancer, inflammation and chronic disease. But for some people, they can reap havoc and be the cause of your symptoms.
Think fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, insomnia, depression, anxiety, irritability or skin rashes. Or hay fever, hives, foggy head, weight gain, hair loss… the list goes on!
The RPAH elimination diet or FAILsafe diet is a wonderful diet that helps people navigate salicylate and histamine intolerance. You can read more about this on www.fedup.com.au
However missing from this diet is oxalate intolerance. Oxalates are high in chocolate, nuts, spinach and sweet potato. They are crystals that normally are digested by our gut bugs, but if we have a problem there, they then accumulate and can cause prostatitis, vaginitis, thrush, painful red or itchy bottom, painful sex, Fibromyalgia, CFS and more.

Why not just follow the RPAH elimination diet?
This diet gets results for many people. It looks not only at food chemicals but also avoiding preservatives in our foods and other products that may be causing us problems.
Yet the suggested foods are high in sugar and well, in my mind, a bit crappy overall.
It doesn’t take into account oxalates, the gut microbiome (the world of bacteria) and supplements that can support the food chemical intolerances.  
It is a case of eliminating the troublesome food, and living this way ongoing.

Why not GAPS diet?
Again the GAPs diet has helped countless of people around the world, especially children suffering from behavioural issues.
But for us it didn’t work. In the end we were on a gluten free, dairy free, low salicylate, low oxalate, low histamine, low FODMAP, GAPs diet. Which really equates to living on air! And dealing with a huge amount of overwhelm.
My experience with the GAPS diet left me asking “what parts of the GAPs diet is beneficial?” Clearly it works and I’ve been sifting through the different principles to see what is essential and what is well, based on a “gut feeling” rather than evidence.

Introducing our program….
This program incorporates the RPAH elimination diet, selective  principles behind the GAPS diet, and the low oxalate diet.
There are three phases to the program:

  1. Preparation (3 weeks)
  2. Elimination (3 weeks)
  3. Challenge (4 weeks)

The preparation phase is essential for the success of the elimination diet. The challenge phase is structured so that you have the best chance of determining what category of foods you are reacting to. It helps us to make sense of what we need to avoid while we are working on the underlying cause, which is where this program leads you.
It recognises that whilst we may feel better on a restricted diet, we are at risk of starving our good bugs. For instance, a high fat diet can help us to feel better with less bloating (as our bugs can’t ferment fat) however our good bugs start to decline in numbers and can even become extinct. Once they’re gone it becomes very difficult to re-establish a healthy gut microbiome.
This program also challenges many assumptions about gut healing and what foods we should & shouldn’t have, using evidence to back up our recommendations.
We hope to identify what your main issues are in relating to food and gut health. Following the program, you then work with our naturopaths or myself to then focus on these, with initiation of specific supplements. It is important to follow these steps to minimise any adverse effects from the treatments. For instance, if you are salicylate intolerant, you cannot tolerate certain herbs and we can modify our approach to better help you.

Who are we looking for?
You are motivated and committed to finding answers.
You have symptoms (unexplained or listed above) and are concerned they may relate to your diet/gut.
You are willing to share this experience with others (small group) in a similar circumstance.
You are a type A personality – you like to be on time, thorough with your note taking and following instructions and are reliable.
You are happy to share what you learn with us. For instance, we will be providing recipes but hope to get your input in tweaking these or creating something new, so that our resources expand to benefit others.
You understand that nothing is guaranteed and take responsibility for your own health. 
You can attend all sessions - if a class is missed, you are happy to have a quick 1:1 consult with our naturopaths to ‘catch up’.
You can afford testing for leaky gut, +/- SIBO +/- stool culture.

A little more detail about the program: 
We have only 8 spaces available (6 are already filled) and want our first time to be as successful & enjoyable as it can be.
Starts: 17th May, runs for 10 weeks (ends 19th July).
Time: 0900-1100 every Wednesday morning.
It will be run by myself and you will also have the support of Rachel and Lucy (my naturopaths)
Each structured session will allow us to address your specific concerns as they relate to the diet and related symptoms.
You will be provided with resources, recipes, meal plans, shopping lists and strategies to help with the entire process. I am sharing everything I have learnt with you.
It will not cover 1:1 consultations required to address your other health complaints or more detailed assessment if anything unexpected arises.
Cost: 
For 10 weeks I will be running a 2 hour session to support you every step of the way.
As this is our first time running the program, I have allocated the money that Narayani Wellness tithes (yes, we normally tithe 5% profits to charity) to subsidise this.
The out of pocket fee is $50 each session, totalling $500 for the 10 week program. This will need to be paid up front to confirm your position.
Interested? 
We have two positions left to fill so get in touch with us by this Friday 5th May to let us know your interested. Lucy or Rachel will schedule a call with me so we can have a chat about your suitability.
 

Fermented Beet Kvass

One of our favourite gut loving recipes is beet kvass. Beet kvass is type of fermented drink, you know, similar to kefir or kombucha. Kvass has so many health benefits and is great for your gut. Due to it's fermentation process it is a wonderful source of probiotics which can help the health of your gut and immune system, it is also rich in antioxidants with is excellent for your liver. Using beetroot is traditionally known for it's blood cleansing properties, in addition to being a great source of nutrients.

Kvass typically has a tangy, salty flavour which can be an acquired taste. Using beetroot also gives it a wonderful earthy flavour. If beetroot isn't your thing, you can use other foods to ferment like fruits (strawberries and raisins) and herbs (mint). 

 Ingredients        

  • 2-4 organic beetroot
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt or Himalayan salt
  • Filtered water
  • A few tablespoons whey, dripped from yoghurt or milk kefir (optional)
  • 1-1.5 litre glass jar

Directions

1. Wash unpeeled beets and chop into large cubes

2. Place beets in a jar and add salt and optional whey (if not using whey add an extra tsp of salt)

3. Fill jar with filtered water, you want to cover the beetroot by at least two inches

4. Seal with lid and leave on the counter at room temperature for 4-7 days to ferment (4-5 days in summer)

5. Transfer to fridge

6. Have about ¼ cup daily on own or dilute with water

Image: Courtesy of CERES Fair Food.

Image: Courtesy of CERES Fair Food.

How your gut is connected to hay fever and allergies

I bet you are wondering, ‘how can my water eyes, running nose and sneezing be connected to my gut?’. As you may have noticed today, there are studies coming out linking all sorts of conditions and diseases to the health of your gut. Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is no different. 

For starters our digestive system plays a huge role in the balance of our immune system. Almost 70% of our entire immune system is located in our gut(1). For hay fever and other allergic diseases the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ was thought to have a role in the increase in allergies, with the lack of exposure to microbes in early life increasing the risk of allergies in later life(2). Now something called the 'microbiota hypothesis' is thought to play a role, meaning a change in our gut bugs influence the development of our immune system(3). Although allergies are also influenced by genetics, some of the environmental and lifestyle factors that change your gut bacteria and increase your risk for allergies include infant use of antibiotics, formula feeding and being born by caesarean section(4,5). Oppositely, growing up with pets(6), growing up on a farm(7), being born through vaginal delivery and being breast fed has been linked to positively influencing your gut’s flora to include more ‘protective strains’(4,5).

What your body does in an allergic reaction

For an allergy to exist, allergen sensitisation must first occur. Special immune cells present in the mucosal surfaces of the body such as nose, lungs and gastrointestinal tract, detect the allergen. One type of immune cells comes into contact with the allergen which are then displayed on the cell's surface. This cell then lets other immune cells know to produce antibodies (IgE) specific to the allergen. From then on, if you are exposed to that allergen, an allergic response is triggered. The allergen is identified by antibodies (IgE) causing immune cells to release inflammatory mediators, such as histamine (8). Histamine is responsible for the itchy nose and runny nose, red watery eyes and dry cough.

The gut-lung connection

The lining of your gut is structurally very similar to lining of your lungs. If you are someone with allergies, inflammation will tend to happen in both areas, as it is thought that leaky gut may have a role in 'leaky lungs'. Our gut flora are also likely have a major impact on the integrity of the lung tissue(9).

Histamine and your gut

You may think histamine is the bad guy because it is linked to your allergies, but in fact is extremely important for mood, stomach acid, blood vessels, and muscle functions (10). The problem with histamine is for some people they can be suffering from histamine intolerance. This means they produce excess histamine and/or have a deficiency in the enzyme that breaks it down. When it comes to our gut, some of our microbes are capable of producing histamine. These microbes produce an enzyme, which converts histidine into histamine. The more of these microbes you have, and the more histidine you consume, the higher the amount of histamine you can produce. Histamine can be then be absorbed and taken around the body, exacerbating allergic symptoms (11).

Balance Immune System

How to improve your allergy symptoms

1. Heal your gut. Gut health and healing isn't straight forward and may require a professional to guide you. There may be other gut issues at play, like Small Intestinal Bowel Overgrowth (SIBO) driving gut inflammation and increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), which will also need to be addressed.

2. Balancing gut flora can balance your immune system. This means probiotics from capsules or fermented foods. Be careful with fermented foods if you are histamine sensitive though, as they are a source of histamine. If you feel worse on bone broths or foods like sauerkraut then get in touch with a trained professional to help you refine your diet and introduce these gut healing foods slowly. Some strains that can help reduce histamine include Bifidobacteria infantis and Lactobacillus plantarum (12, 13).

3. Eat fermentable fibre. Eat a diet full of complex, fermentable fibre as it helps intestinal microbiota make short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs help regulate the immune system and decrease allergic airway inflammation (14). 

4. Try eating low-histamine diet. Following a low-histamine diet can help reduce the severity of allergy symptoms. Foods to avoids that are high in histamines include canned and ready meals, fermented foods, aged and matured foods like cheese, fish, shellfish, avocados, spinach, cocoa and leftover meat (15).

5. Eat foods high in quercetin or take a supplement. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine and can be found in foods like grapefruit, onions, apples, black tea, leafy green vegetables and beans. Some herbs like Ginkgo biloba and Sambucus spp. are also sources.

6. Zinc. Zinc is a key nutrient involved in maintaining a healthy immune system. It is also necessary in healing and maintaining a healthy gut wall. Supplementing with zinc could significantly help in the healing of leaky gut(16). To find out your zinc levels and get the safest, and get most appropriate zinc supplement, see one of our professionals. Eating foods rich in zinc can also help including grass-fed beef, oysters, lamb, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chicken, spinach and mushrooms.

7. Eat local, raw honey. Raw honey contains both beneficial bacteria and trace amounts of pollen picked up by the bees from local plants. By eating raw honey, you can 'educate' your immune system to tolerate these local pollens (16). By local we mean the neighbouring suburbs, postcode or city. Australian honey isn't considered 'local' as the plants in Perth are very different to that in Melbourne, for example. 

8. For symptom relief try clearing your nasal passage using a neti pot. If any allergens are stuck in the passage this can clear them out and give some temporary relief.