organic

Leaky Gut. Do you have it and what to do about it?

Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is linked to a whole bunch of common health complaints that we tend to just put up with or accept as being normal for my body. It has been linked to food intolerance's, acne and skin conditions, allergies and hay fever, asthma, fatigue and thyroid conditions. In addition to this, it can be associated with digestive symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndrome(1). Clearly, it is very possible that you, or someone close to you, is suffering from leaky gut.

How is this possible?

To understand how leaky gut may be at the root of your symptoms, you need to know a bit about the gut. Our gut has many roles including digestion and nutrient absorption, and is an important protective barrier that monitors our internal and external environment. It also plays a massive part in the function of our immune system. For example, did you know that about 75% of our immune cells live there(2)? It also has an intimate relationship with our nervous system. Have your ever noticed that when you feel stressed or anxious, you may experience a change in bowel movements? Nervous tummy anyone?

Why do we get leaky gut?

In a healthy gut, our gut wall cells are triggered to open up and absorb good things like nutrients and keep our bad bugs and toxins out. Our digestive system is always getting triggered to open up and close but can usually keep a happy balance and recover from any minor insults. When the gut is in contact with nasty triggers like medications, parasites, chemicals and certain foods, it’s ability to close up starts to struggle. If exposure is for a short time, the barrier can return to normal, however if these stressors continue, this barrier is strained. Then the immune system, which lies beneath the gut lining, becomes overwhelmed. It loses sense of what is self and what is a potential allergen, toxin or baddie. This dysfunction starts to cause trouble to the point of developing autoimmune conditions. Remember all the conditions mentioned at the start? Yes, the gut connection is real(3)!

Nutrient diet about leaky gut

What can I do about leaky gut?

Gut health and gut healing can be a tricky, especially if other conditions are present. A great place start would be:

1.     Probiotics

Probiotics help with leaky gut because of their beneficial role in supporting the immune system in the gut wall. This is evidence of their support in a vast array of health conditions. It’s so important to understand that not all probiotics are the same and this is where clinical expertise can really help. If you react to fermented foods (a good source of probiotics) or probiotic supplements something else maybe going on including histamine intolerance. This is why it is helpful to work with someone experienced in treating gut issues(4).  

2.     High fibre foods

After putting in all the good bugs into our system, we need to feed them. High fibre foods really means a vegetable rich diet. Great fermentable foods include sweet potato, lentils, pumpkin leek, garlic, asparagus, onion. Think high FODMAP foods. Delicious(5)!

3.     Reduce aggravating factors

We don’t want to keep giving our gut triggers that upset inflammation and immune function. Our body needs the time and environment to heal. This means limit alcohol, gluten, eat organic where possible and get rid of refined carbohydrates and sugar… put down the donut(6)

4.     Manage stress – yes this can be the hardest thing to do.

We live a lifestyle that fuels the fight and flight response and neglects our rest and digest nervous system – which is hugely important for our digestive ability.  Ever experience diarrhoea when you feel anxious or constipation when feeling stressed? Whether it is journalling, deep breathing, yoga or walking, it is important to find a way to manage your emotional and mental health(7).

5.     Eat a colourful, nutrient rich diet.

For our body to function at its best, it needs good sources of nutrients from a wide range of fresh, unprocessed foods. Fill your diet with good quality protein sources, a colourful variety of vegetables and fruits and you are on your way from getting all the nutrients and antioxidants you need for a healthy gut. We give a special shout out to amino acids like glutamine and nutrients like zinc and vitamin A, which the gut just loves.

How can I find out if I have leaky gut?

If you or someone you know suffer from the above mentioned conditions, then you should be considering the health of your gut and determining if you have leaky gut. As a practitioner who just loves all things gut health related, one of the first steps I take with my patients is testing for leaky gut. My inner nerd is thrilled by this test as it a brilliant way to measure how much healing needs to be done and can be tested again to assess progress. Once we identify if you have leaky gut, it is important to determine how to treat it holistically. Not only can you experience a positive shift in your current symptoms, but also prevent complications such as autoimmunity and chronic disease in the future. Isn’t that great?

If you are interested in finding out more about this or would like to be assessed, please get in touch. Let's get to the bottom of this!

Rachel Larsson

BHSc (Naturopathy), BPH (Nutrition)

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.

Our top 23 recommendations to avoid the hidden toxins in your diet

We had such a great response to our part one blog series looking at the hidden toxins you may be putting IN your body. We left you with some healthier alternatives to help you reduce your exposure. The post had us all brainstorming, sharing and discussing what we do in our own homes that help keep our toxin consumption to a minimum. We were so excited about our new learnings that we thought "why not share this with everyone?!" So here you are. These are some of our favourite brands, products and places we shop that will help you get through this modern day chemical maze.  

1. Additive free foods. For a lot of us this is particularly hard to find alternatives in the snack department, as it's so easy to grab a packet of something and run out the door. Try these instead:

  • You have probably heard of bliss/energy/protein balls and have been handed several DIY recipes, but what if you don't have the time or creativity? Funch has made it so much easier. All you need to do is add one or two ingredients and you are done.
  • If you want the most delicious nuts and seeds, try 2die4. Based in Byron Bay, these guys have a wide range to choose from single types, mixed, paleo and tamari. Yum! 
  • Botanical Cuisine, a Melbourne company, has nailed the market of raw, vegan, preservative free dips that are perfect for veggie sticks. Some of their dips can also be used as a dressing, spread or added to scrambled eggs! 

2. Clean cooking with perfluorochemical free cookware.

  • Le Creuset has a massive range of cookware from pots, pans and bakeware in a variety of materials.
  • If you are after a slow cooker for soups, stews or bone broths try this one by Breville.

3. Glass containers and jars to store and reheat food.

  • Buying things in jars mean you have jars to re-use for storage. Looking in our pantries, we all laughed about the over-abundance of glass jars we have in our homes!
  • Alternatively, IKEA and Kmart have affordable options.

4. To avoid trans fat you need to throw out the margarine and anything called a 'vegetable spread', think Nuttelex and Flora. Store bought and packaged baked goods are also hidden sources. Alternative products include:

  • Butter from Organic Dairy Farmers as it is certified organic and supports local farmers. Other alternatives for spreads we love are avocado, Spiral's unhulled tahini, or Artisana's deliciously creamy cashew butter.
  • For those times you want to treat yourself, get inspired by one of the many margarine free recipes by The Healthy Chef!   

5. Healthy cooking oils we are a fan of:

  • SOL Ghee is made from 100% certified organic unsalted butter from Australian and New Zealand grass fed cows.
  • Coconut oil options are endless! You want to buy the least modified oil, look for these words on the packaging: certified organic, virgin, extra-virgin or unrefined, unbleached, expeller, centrifuge or cold pressed. We also prefer glass packaging to avoid BPA. Brands that tick all these boxes include Loving Earth and Niugini Organics.

6. Our go-to fish and sea vegetable products are:

  • This Fish is a health and environmentally conscious brand. They are organic and use sustainable source for their products. 
  • Power Super Foods have a great range organic sea vegetables including dulse, wakame and nori.
  • If you like making your own sushi Gold Mine have excellent nori sheets!

7.  The best organic whole food stores in Melbourne. They are stockists for so many of the products we have mentioned.

  • Visit Apples and Sage Organic Wholefoods, this is an amazing, certified organic, family owned business located in Balwyn. Known in the area as a friendly, affordable, one stop shop destination.
  • Terra Madre Organics is a local favourite and organic institution, known for its huge bulk range at bulk prices.
  • Wild Things in Fitzroy values everything we do; community, local, organics and the environment. 

BONUS TIPS

  • Looking for a great water filter? Southern Cross Pottery have filters of all shapes and sizes to remove some of the nasties in your water. Waters Co Bio Mineral offer great compact, portable water filter jugs too. 

If have any products, shops and brands you passionate about we would love you to share it with us!

The hidden toxins in your life and how to avoid them

With the arrival of Holistic Skin Naturopathy at Narayani Wellness, we have been thinking about all the products we commonly put on our skin. As holistic practitioners, we also start thinking about the bigger picture, and consider what we put in and around our bodies that affects not only our skin, but also our overall health. Due to the industrial age we live in, our exposure to toxins has increased exponentially over the past decades. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the chemicals present in air, water, soil, food, building materials and household products are toxicants that contribute to many chronic diseases we see in clinical practice (1).

Fortunately, you do have some say in the amount of toxins you are exposed to, especially within your home. To help you out and give your spring clean a bit of a kick-start we have broken this HUGE topic into a three part blog series: in, on and around.

 

Part one 'in'

Of the large list of things we could discuss, here are some common toxins you may be unknowingly putting IN your body. 

1. Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical product used in plastics and resins of food and drink packaging e.g. drink/water bottles and the lining of canned foods. BPA leaches toxins into our food and is worse when heated (2). It is an endocrine disruptor, which means it has a nasty effect on your hormone levels. For men it is linked to lower sexual function, semen quality (3), prostate disease and prostate cancer (4). In women it has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive difficulties (5). Exposure has also been associated with obesity, heart disease and behavioural problems (3,6)

2. Phalates are synthetic chemicals found in plastics commonly, and are additives for various other applications (7,8). The main concern with phalates is that they are endocrine disruptors that interfere with the hormones that regulate our reproductive and nervous system (9). Exposure during pregnancy is concerning, as it has been associated with shorter pregnancy duration, smaller babies and lower birth weight (10). Other negative effects include poor thyroid function and respiratory problems including asthma (11).

3. Perfluoro chemicals are used to make products stable and durable. They can be found in the coatings of cookware and in products where fats and oils are prevented from soaking through, such as popcorn bags and greaseproof paper (12). Animal studies suggest it is toxic to the immune system and liver, and has a negative impact on blood lipids, thyroid hormones and sex hormone production (13). Human exposure is connected to lower birth weight and birth length and obesity later in life. Like BPA, these chemicals impact our reproductive system and are linked to poor sperm quality in men, and problems with conceiving and irregular menstrual cycles for women (14).

4. Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat produced by vegetable oils being hydrogenated (combined with hydrogen). They are used to improve food texture and stability (15) in products like deep-fried fast foods, bakery products, packaged snack foods and margarines. Trans fats have a terrible effect on our blood lipids and cholesterol, inflammation and blood vessel health. It also increases the risk of many cardiovascular diseases as well as diabetes and insulin resistance (16).

5. Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements, however arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury are a concern as they have a high degree of toxicity. Heavy metals are everywhere, but become problematic when we consume contaminated water and food such as seafood, non-organic and canned foods. Health impacts, depend on many factors and include negative effects on our nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems. They are also linked to kidney damage, diabetes, osteoporosis, mental illnesses like depression, hearing loss and various types of cancer. These metals can also interfere our metabolism of iron, calcium, copper and zinc (17).

6. Non-organic food deserves a whole discussion! However, to demonstrate our point, the following example is how only ONE chemical used on non-organic food can impact your health (brace yourselves).

Glyphosate-based herbicides, such as Roundup®, are the most widely used across the world (18, 19). Consuming non-organic foods is our main source of exposure (20). This herbicide negatively affects our gut flora and gut lining and is linked to irritable bowel disease. Its health effects are wide and varied as it is also linked to cancer, unhealthy liver function, obesity, anaemia, infertility, mental illnesses like depression, ADHD and autism, nervous system conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (21)

7. Food additives are substances that are added into or onto food and to effect its keeping quality, texture, consistency, taste and colour (22). Processed and packaged foods (23) e.g. canned, jarred, boxed and wrapped, are commonly full of additives. Consumption has been linked to severe allergic reactions, asthma, eczema, dermatitis, irritable bowel syndrome, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, migraines, behavioural disorders and hyperactivity (24).

Hidden toxins

Safer alternatives

Thankfully, we have some solid take home messages and safer alternatives to get you through our modern day toxic maze.

1. Minimise / remove packaged and processed foods.

  • Simple changes like swapping a muesli/snack bar for a small handful of nuts or store bought salad dressing for extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

2. Invest in cookware that is ceramic, cast iron, stone, glass or stainless steel. If you are after non-stick ensure it is perfluorochemical free.

3. Use glass: glass jars and containers to store and reheat food.

4. Throw out the margarine and avoid store bought and packaged baked goods. Healthier options include butter or coconut oil for cooking and avocado, cashew butter or tahini as a spread.

5. When using fats or oils in cooking, opt for duck fat, ghee and coconut oil as they have higher temperature of resistance before they oxide and go rancid. The higher the saturated and monounsaturated fats are better. Avoid cooking with high polyunsaturated fats.

6. Eat deep-sea small fish to minimise heavy metal consumption. If you eat sea products like kelp and nori, ensure they are organic. 

  • Consume anchovies, cod, crab, flounder, haddock, hake, mackerel, perch, salmon, sardine, trout and whiting.
  • Avoid bluefish, bassa, grouper, marlin, shark, swordfish and tuna.

7. Eat organic foods when possible.

 

Until part two of this series, we will leave you with a final question. What changes will you implement this week?