One of the health questions on everyone’s lips these days is “why have so many people become gluten and lactose intolerant?”
People find it difficult to understand why foods that everyone used to eat, seemingly without an issue for generations, have become so problematic.
The reason is twofold.
Firstly, grains and dairy while looking the same are vastly different from what people consumed only a few generations back. In the case of grains, particularly wheat, they have been extensively hybridised (this is separate from the issue of genetic modification).
Wheat now grows faster, is higher yielding, has higher protein content (gluten is a protein), is drought resistant, pest resistant and disease resistant. To accomplish these wheat plants have been selectively bred to have higher levels of certain natural plant compounds. And the crazy thing is some of these compounds were selectively bred down by our ancestors to make them more tolerable.
An example is lectins. Lectins are compounds in grains and legumes that cause inflammation and damage to the gut lining. When our ancestors first tried grains and legumes they found they gave them stomach aches. So to get around this issue our ancestors developed ways to prepare foods like soaking, sprouting and fermenting to reduce the lectin levels. Plus over generations, farmers bred species grains and legumes with lower lectin levels.
But in modern times, as pests have become immune to synthetic pesticides and people become increasingly worried about pesticides, agricultural scientists have been strived to find ‘natural’ ways to ward off pests. And this is where lectins came back into the picture. Lectins are a natural pest repellent because they give bugs gut aches just like us. So by increasing lectin levels in the grains, it stops the bugs from wanting to eat the plant. Which is a great natural solution to the problem…
But if the bugs can’t eat the plant neither can we!
Now in regards to dairy, the increasing intolerance can mostly be put down to the change in cow varieties. Back in the day, Jersey cows were the main milking cow. They produced high-fat milk with A2 beta-casein protein. However, they weren’t high milk-producing cows. So as demand for milk, and more recently low-fat milk, increased the Jersey cow fell out of favour and was replaced by the Friesian cow.
Friesian cows produce more milk and lower fat milk (which means more lactose). But the milk is predominantly A1 beta-casein protein. And A1 protein can have an irritating effect on the gut lining for many people which causes bloating, pain and bowel problems.
Then on top of this change, you need to add in pasteurisation and homogenisation.
So while milk looks the same it’s vastly different from what was consumed in the past. And these changes are what’s making milk harder to digest.
The second part of the food intolerance story is the gut. Our poor old digestive systems have taken a beating. Unlike in the past, your gut has to now deal with antibiotics, sugar, processed food, food additives and many other gut damaging chemicals. And as your gut becomes more damaged your ability to efficiently and completely break down foods declines.
And when this happens poorly digested food particles become another irritant to your gut lining. Damaging it further and further. An example is carbohydrate maldigestion (poor digestion) and malabsorption (poor absorption). This is when the cells that line your gut become so damaged that their ability to make and release digestive juices is reduced.
So then when you eat carbohydrate (sugar) containing foods like grains (starch) and milk (lactose) the sugars aren’t completely broken. You get a build-up of double sugar molecules (lactose is one of these) that can’t be absorbed instead of single sugar molecules that can.
This then causes a couple of nasty flow-on problems. In some cases the high concentration of double sugar molecules causes water to be pulled into the bowel as the body tries and dilutes the build-up. And the result is watery diarrhoea. In other cases, the double sugar molecules are excitedly eaten up by gut organisms like bacteria and yeasts (candida) which create lots of gas.
Just like what happens in beer and wine production.
Plus as the unfriendly gut bugs flourish they release lots of toxic chemicals that further damage the gut lining. And in some cases, the toxic chemicals paralyse the bowel muscles resulting in constipation.
So curing your food intolerances is a combination of diet modification, removal of damaging foods, enhancing food digestion, healing your gut lining and microbial rebalancing.
Modifying your diet – obviously, the first thing you need to do for curing your food intolerances is eliminated foods that you’re knowingly intolerant to. However what if you can’t work out what foods trigger your problems? I get a lot of patients to tell me that everything makes them bloated.
So when you don’t know what your triggers are you need to strip your diet back to its most basic level.
And to do this I use a very specific diet plan. It only contains foods that don’t break down into sugar (fats and proteins), starving the nasty gut bugs of the sugar they thrive off. And carbohydrates that easily break down into single sugar molecules that you absorb not ferment.
By doing this your gut lining starts to heal because it’s not continually being damaged. And as your gut lining heals your enzyme productions start to recover and your sensitivity to foods starts to improve.
Enhancing Food Digestion – while your natural enzyme production is recovering it can be extremely beneficial to use supplemental digestive enzymes. These come in capsules which you take with every meal.
The purpose of these is to boost up enzyme levels so that you completely, not partially, digest your food. Carbohydrates are broken down into single sugar molecules so that you absorb them better and thus there are fewer free double sugar molecules that can be fermented. Plus because there are less double sugar molecules you starve the nasty microbes of food so they start to die off.
Over time you can wean off the supplemental digestive enzymes because your gut heals and your own digestive enzyme production increases. But in the meantime optimizing your digestive enzyme levels with a supplement is a crucial step in curing your food intolerances.
Gut Healing – as I’ve already highlighted modifying your diet and supplementing with digestive enzymes helps heal your gut lining. But there is a nutrient you can take that speeds up the healing process. It’s an amino acid called L-Glutamine.
L-Glutamine is used as fuel by the cells that line your intestinal tract. But it’s a fuel that works differently from sugar and fat. Research has shown that L-Glutamine speeds up muscle repair. And seeing your gastrointestinal tract is a big muscle this is exactly what you want.
For a therapeutic effect, you need to use a good dose of L-Glutamine. But you don’t want to start dosing up with tablespoons straight off the bat because your digestive system might not be up to it. You need to start low and go slow. I use a specific dosing protocol to minimise the chance of adverse reactions which can slow the process of curing your food intolerances.
Microbial Rebalancing – if you’ve already tried curing your food intolerances then you’ve probably already tried probiotics. For some, this might solve their problems but for most people getting your gut bugs rebalanced is not this simple.
If you’ve had gut problems and food sensitivities for a while then you’ve got pretty unbalanced ‘good’ and ‘bad’ gut bugs. So not only do you need to boost your ‘good’ gut bug levels you need to kill off the bad guys.
And as I’ve already mentioned this first starts with modifying your diet and improving digestion. But to really make a difference you’ll need to use antimicrobial herbs. These work similarly to antibiotics and antifungals but they don’t obliterate the gut bugs you want to keep.
To do this effectively takes at least 8 weeks but if you’ve got a serious imbalance, or some sort of parasite as well, then you may need to do a couple of ‘killing off’ cycles.
At the end of killing off-cycle and at the end of the whole process, you switch to a re-inoculation phase. This is where you dose up on probiotics to boost your good gut bug levels. When it’s between ‘killing off’ cycles this phase lasts for a month.
Once you’ve completed your ‘killing off’ process your re-inoculation phase needs to be at least 3 months long. As the levels of the bad bugs go down and the levels of good gut bugs go up so to your food sensitivities/intolerances go down and your food tolerance goes up.
Now if you’ve got an unhappy belly the Good News is you can make it happy again with my Happy Belly Program.
Contact Us today and start enjoying food again. Call Happy & Healthy Wellbeing Centre on 9524 2471.
If you are not local we offer phone and Skype consultations.