London Calling – Foodie Favourite: VANTRA!

The first time I walked into Vantra on Oxford St, London, I almost cried. Tears of blissful joy! On the walls were written the words: “Tasty and Nutritious – all foods are free from animal products, sugar, GMOs, microwave, vinegar, gluten, garlic and onion”.

Hello new favourite place!

It was my first experience where I could walk into a restaurant and eat most of their dishes without having to worry. I could drink the smoothies knowing they weren’t made with cow’s milk (they usually use coconut milk); I could eat the raw cheesecakes knowing there was no gluten or dairy; and I could have the salads and curries without fear of onions!

Vantra Menu

I DID get caught out once. I started eating a salad and it took me a minute or so to realise there was apple throughout it. In that moment my sense of security turned around and laughed in my face. Just because there was no onion and garlic didn’t mean there were no fructans. And as it’s vegan it also means a lot of legumes are used in the dishes. There are a LOT of lentils and chickpeas, so you have to be mindful about what you choose and don’t be afraid to ask for the ingredients. Just because it’s free from so many ingredients doesn’t mean its FODMAP friendly. Silly Sam!

It’s still a favourite place of mine, I’ve just had to alter my expectations from thinking it was a safe haven to remembering I still needed to be mindful.

Vantra is buffet style dining and you choose between dining from a plate or a box. I recommend the box as it is a set price whereas the plate is charged by weight. You can fit the same amount into a box as you would on a plate and it works out cheaper. Then you hit the buffet, load up your box, and enjoy! I also recommend the chocolate-raspberry cheesecake and their obscenely delicious chocolate-banana smoothies.

Vantra Buffet

If you find yourself in London and are looking for some gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, vegan or raw food, I’d seriously recommend Vantra. They also have an evening menu, which I recommend you book a table for as the restaurant is a tad on the small side, and popular!

I tried the evening menu for the first time a few weeks ago, never managing to be in town for dinner before, so always having gone for their lunchtime buffet. The evening is a great time to check out Vantra as you can do the normal buffet or you can order off the à la carte menu.

The menu is vast with plenty of different options to suit all tastes, even my dad who I took along and who is a solid ‘meat and veg’ type guy (meaning he will drag his feet to any sort of vegetarian restaurant). To my surprise he actually enjoyed it!

I had the butternut lasagna which was thinly sliced layers of butternut squash layered with tomato, pesto and seed cheese and it was utterly delicious. In fact I’m going to try and recreate it at some point. Yum yum yum!

Vantra Drink

They also have amazing raw vegan desserts and lots of delicious drinks. I had a virgin pina colda made from pineapple juice, coconut milk, coconut nectar and vanilla. It was a dream! Oh and their coconut milk hot chocolate is way better than I ever thought a coconut milk hot chocolate could be! I can’t wait to go back for dinner and try more on their à la carte menu!

Vantra is located at 25 – 27 Oxford Street in London. The best tube station to get there would be Tottenham Court Road.

Check it out, at least once. You won’t be disappointed.

Dining Anxiety + Foodie Favourite: Wagamama!

20140815_133913Every time the suggestion of going out for lunch or dinner comes up, I feel my stomach tighten. Despite all my mindfulness training and despite trying to calm my mind and body, I become overrun with panic and anxiety. I end up running through various solutions in my head of ways around it:

  • I could eat before and/or after the outing, then sit there with a glass of still water while everyone else tucks into their meal.
  • I could eat something that could almost pass as something I can eat and then suffer the consequences later.
  • I can hope we go somewhere that lists baked potato, roast potato, or fries on their menu as I know that 95% of the time they will be safe to eat (unless they’re coated in flour and goodness knows what else).

I spent years not telling people about my issues with food. I’d dodge their questions about why I was only eating fries and ignore their jibes about my constant refusal of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Eventually I decided I was sick of doing that. ‘Just come clean,’ I told myself. Explain what my situation was.

I was really reluctant to do that. Usually people will pick up on it over time but it really does create some awkward situations when having to drip feed facts to them. On the other hand, spilling it all out can sometimes freak people out. When I started my current job I just decided to come clean right from the start. I was tired of hiding it. I was tired of the awkward situations, and if they freaked, well, that was their problem.

I told the team over my lonely bowl of pub chips at a classic British pub, while they all tucked into their burgers and gluten filled marinated roast chicken. The question came — as I knew it would — “Why just a bowl of chips?”. I revealed my dietary restrictions, warily at first, but then gaining a little confidence as I delved into my dietary needs. It was incredible. They didn’t freak at all. They had a few questions and were generally just interested in the how’s and why’s of my food choices.

A week later we had a leaving lunch for one of the girls in the office. They chose Wagamama with the hope there would be something other than chips that I could eat there (you’d hope so, considering Wagamama doesn’t serve chips!). I had been to Wagamama in the past at other locations around the world, and I knew they were reasonably good with food allergies. I suspected it would be fine but I Googled the menu anyway. I was focusing primarily on gluten and I couldn’t find a lot on the website other than a couple of drinks.

When we entered the restaurant I was still a little nervous, but I figured if worst came to worst I could just order a side of rice. I scoured the menu once we were seated at the table and though the vegetarian options were clearly listed, there was no sign of anything regarding gluten. Eventually I got up to find a member of staff.

“Uh, I can’t eat gluten and onion,” I said, listing the ingredients that set me off the most, not wanting to cause too much of a fuss.

“Oh! Not a problem,” he replied enthusiastically.

He quickly ushered me back to my table then bustled over with an allergy menu. It detailed each item and provided a checklist as to what allergens may be in that dish. Then, if you flip the menu around, you can find items that can be modified to exclude certain allergens. Pretty awesome right?!

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They make everything from scratch, so I was easily able to omit onions and mushrooms. However, my dish was still filled with bean sprouts and was super spicy which left me pretty delicate for the rest of the day, but I wasn’t doubled over in unbearable pain so that’s a pretty epic success.

The best part? My workmates were absolutely thrilled there were dishes on the menu other than a bowl of rice that I could indulge in. And to be honest, it was really nice to feel so included like that. To be able to share an actual legit meal and not get (too) unwell after!

So if you have food allergies and you’re near a Wagamama in the UK, I do recommend them. They’re really good at being able to customise your dish and have lots of options for those of us who have that constant battle with eating out.

IBS : The Syndrome That Makes Your Cheeks Go Red

IBS: awful, embarrassing, painful. It’s not fun and I’m sure many of you reading this post know all about what it’s like to be plagued by IBS symptoms.

The Basics

For those that aren’t familiar with IBS, let’s take a little moment to crack the basics. IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and is a common condition of the digestive system. IBS is a functional disorder which means there is a problem with the function of the gut, yet on medical inspection all parts of the gut look normal. IBS causes a number of symptoms and can affect anyone, at any age, but most commonly first announces itself in young adults and teenagers.

Your gut has the job of processing food from the stomach. Your small intestine has the task of absorbing nutrients from food and passing undigested food onto the large intestine. Your large intestine then turns the waste products into faeces and well … you know the rest.

When the bowel is working normally, food is moved along the intestines through muscular contractions (known as peristalsis). But when someone has IBS, it usually means his or her body has lost control over the coordination of these muscular contractions.

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Many people with IBS have increased sensitivity to external factors such as stress, affecting the gut, which indicates that IBS is often the complex product of both psychological and physical factors. Digestive disorders often have a diverse range of symptoms, because a digestive disorder can affect the gut anywhere from the mouth right down to, well, the bottom! You can see why I have no qualms talking about stool quality and other such topics considered unbecoming — ha!

Causes and Symptoms

Like endometriosis and PCOS, the exact cause of IBS is unknown (isn’t that great, the cause of the three big disorders I’ve lived with for the past 10+ years is still not known — medical mystery!). However, most experts agree it is related to an increased sensitivity of the entire gut. Occasionally this can be linked to a prior food-related issue, however, it also may be caused by a change in your body’s ability to move food through your digestive system or from an increased sensitivity to pain that stems from your gut. Another common theory is that sufferers of IBS have abnormalities in their gut flora resulting in inflammation and altered bowel function. I guess the jury is still out on the causes.

Several other conditions may present themselves as IBS, such as coeliac disease, fructose malabsorption, infections including parasitic infections (such as giardia), inflammatory bowel diseases, bile acid malabsorption, chronic functional abdominal pain, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and functional chronic constipation.

There is no specific lab or imaging test that will diagnose IBS. It simply involves excluding conditions that produce IBS-like symptoms, and then following a procedure to categorize the patient’s symptoms. I remember this well, going through all those painful camera tests to rule out one thing or another. I was lucky my doctors were on to it though, as IBS patients are at risk of being given unnecessary and inappropriate surgeries such as appendectomy, cholecystectomy and hysterectomy (!!) due to misdiagnosis of their IBS.

The symptoms of IBS come and go and are usually worse after eating. When symptoms flare up, they tend to stick around for two to four days, at which point the symptoms will improve but not disappear completely. The most common symptoms are:

  • abdominal pain and cramping
  • constipation, diarrhoea or sometimes both
  • bloating and swelling of your abdomen
  • flatulence
  • an urgent need for the toilet (as in, I need a toilet now now NOW!)
  • feeling that you need to go again — even though you’ve just been
  • feeling like you haven’t fully emptied your bowels
  • passing mucus
  • depression and anxiety, due to the embarrassment, pain, and discomfort this condition brings

There are three main patterns of bowel symptoms associated with IBS:

  • IBS with diarrhoea – repeated periods of diarrhoea
  • IBS with constipation – repeated periods of constipation
  • IBS mixed – repeated periods of both diarrhoea and constipation

You can switch from one to the other, or go long periods with few or no symptoms at all, which can become very difficult when trying to make a diagnosis!

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Treatment

Similar again to PCOS and Endometriosis (still think they’re not all connected? Eh?) there is no cure for IBS. You literally have to manage the syndrome and the subsequent symptoms via your diet and lifestyle.

Medications can occasionally be prescribed. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I was prescribed Movicol — a laxative which I then developed a dependency on for the next ten years. It helped me — at least I think it did — but by the end of it all, I can’t really say. My body became dependent on its assistance to do what it was supposed to do. So I’m relieved I broke that cycle — though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a box of the stuff stashed under my bed… just in case, you know? (Gosh, I sound like an addict!)

Living With It

While the symptoms of IBS are a pain in the ass (ha punny!!), the condition itself doesn’t actually pose a serious threat to your health. It doesn’t increase your chance of developing cancer or anything like that, it’s just something you have to live with. You may go many months, or even years, with no symptoms, and then suddenly — BOOM… unexpected flare up. It can then take months for the symptoms to settle down again, meanwhile you sit around feeling sorry for yourself and wondering what you did differently to cause it. It’s just the nature of the condition I’m afraid.

I know IBS can make you feel very negative about the whole situation. It can be painful, embarrassing and stressful, and can really impact on your quality of life (I couldn’t possibly go camping, I need to be within a few meters of a flushing toilet day and night — sound familiar?). However, with appropriate lifestyle and diet changes you should be able to live a reasonably symptom free life.

Focus on Diet

Start with your diet. If you’re on this blog you’ll know how much I believe that what you put in your mouth contributes significantly to your overall health and wellbeing. Changing your diet will be a huge part of controlling your IBS symptoms, however, like in my other posts, I must stress: everyone is different. You must find the diet that works for you. There is no ‘one size fits all’ diet. Sorry!

Your best diet will depend on your symptoms and how you react to different foods. I highly recommend you check out the low-FODMAP diet, SCD diet, or Paleo. I truly believe these diets can be very beneficial in assisting with digestive distress, it’s just a matter of finding the right one for you and tweaking it to your needs. It’s helpful to keep a food diary and record what you notice makes your symptoms better or worse. If a food makes your symptoms worse, avoid it for a while. You don’t need to avoid it for life, but if it’s causing you problems you do need to avoid it until you’ve restored good gut health once again.

One factor that often comes into play with IBS, that doesn’t come into play with Endometriosis, Leaky Gut, or PCOS, is that patients with IBS are often advised to modify the amount of fibre in their diet. There are two main types of fibre: soluble (body can digest) and insoluble (body cannot digest).  IBS with diarrhea patients are often recommended to cut down on the insoluble fibre (wholegrain bread, bran, cereals, nuts and seeds) they eat as well as avoiding the skin, pith and pips of fruit and vegetables. Meanwhile those who have IBS with constipation are encouraged to increase the amount of soluble fibre (oats, barley, rye, fruits such as bananas and apples, root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes) and increase their water consumption.

flickr-3674894595_637c6cd077_bChanging the way you eat can also significantly improve your symptoms. For example have regular meals and eat slowly. Don’t rush through that food! Avoid missing meals or leaving long gaps between eating. Drink plenty of fluid throughout the day but restrict your tea and coffee intake to three cups a day (that’s maximum… not a rough guide, sorry coffee addicts!). Lower the amount of alcohol and fizzy drinks you consume…. It would be even better if you could eliminate these drinks entirely. Reduce your intake of resistant starch – this is a type of starch that resists digestion in the small intestine and reaches the large intestine fully intact. It’s usually found in processed or re-cooked foods… nasty huh! Limit your fresh fruit intake to three portions a day. If you have diarrhoea avoid sorbitol and if you have bloating and wind avoid cereal for at least six weeks and/or increase your intake of linseeds. Have a routine. Eat within an hour of the same time every day. It helps, trust me.

If you’re planning on trying an exclusion diet I would recommend speaking to a registered dietician who is aware of your health battles.

Exercise

Hey, don’t roll those eyes at me! Exercise is legendary at relieving the symptoms of IBS. I know it doesn’t feel like it at the time but I promise it helps. Do at least 30 minutes of some kind of activity at least three times a week — more if possible. It should be strenuous enough to get your heart rate up and to get a bit of a puff going. You don’t have to join a gym, just find a whole lot of steps to climb or a hill to walk up briskly — it’s a great way to get some fresh air, too!

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Alternative Methods

I’ve mentioned before the benefits of probiotics and when it comes to IBS I really would recommend them. However, that is just my personal opinion and there is no existing scientific evidence to suggest that probiotics work and have beneficial health effects. I just know based on what I’ve felt and experienced. Probiotics contain ‘good bacteria’ which is supposed to jump in there and destroy the ‘bad bacteria’ which theoretically help keep your gut and digestive system smiling their creepy gut smile. It also promotes overall good gut flora which is ideally what you want to keep digestive distress at bay.

Finally, if you can reduce the stress in your life you may see significant improvement in your IBS symptoms. Good ways of reducing stress include relaxation techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises, and mindfulness (I’m very pro-mindfulness!); physical activities such as yoga, pilates, or tai chi; and regular exercise such as running, walking or swimming. Personally for IBS I recommend swimming or aqua jogging. For me it was something about being in the water, not having to bear the weight of the pain and the feeling of weightlessness really seemed to help.

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If you’ve tried these more natural approaches and nothing seems to be working, I would approach your GP or your ‘Gut Doctor’ about medicinal options — laxatives, anti-depressants, pain medication, etc — to see if they help. Alternatively, you could seek psychological help and look into hypnotherapy, psychodynamic interpersonal therapy, and cognitive behaviour therapy.

No matter what you choose, you can beat those symptoms. You can beat the negativity that threatens to consume you. And you can reclaim your life. Believe that!

Love to you all  

My New Love Affair with Planet Organic

New. Favourite. Store. Oh my gosh I’m kicking myself for taking SO LONG to go and check this place out. Planet Organic in London is AMAZING. They have everything you could possibly wish for! I walked around the shop honestly feeling like I had found my haven in the middle of this big city. Not only do they have an entire organic grocery store, but they have an amazing café and juice bar as well!

I may have gone a little crazy buying up half their stock, so I have to tell you about some awesome products I came across. I was a little naughty, I admit, and ditched all ‘plain eating’ on this occasion so I could indulge in these treats, but it was just too exciting. And I want to start by saying NO, I have not been endorsed or compensated to write this. It’s entirely my own opinion and I just wanted to share with you this gem of a find that got me all excited!

 

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Simply Sprouted Way Better Snacks

They’re basically corn/tortilla chips. Oh my goodness they’re just too good. Nachos anyone? So I’ll start out by saying these are DEFINITELY not paleo. They’re pretty much made of whole grains so if you’re on paleo I’d look away now while I gush about the deliciousness.

These chips are made up of sprouted whole grains and seeds and are entirely unprocessed so they’re bursting with goodness. The company work on the belief that sprouting unlocks the all the ‘good’ that is inherent in grains, seeds and beans and nutritionally speaking, brings them back to life. They’re crunchy and full of flavour plus they’re high in omega 3’s, antioxidants and low in sodium and saturated fat. They’re entirely gluten free, non-GMO project verified, kosher and vegan! YAY! If you’re going to eat crisps or nachos, these are the chips to do it with!

GALLERY_WayBetterThey have lots of flavours but my favourite is hands down the Corn Tortilla Sweet Potato. It’s made from sprouted chia seeds, quinoa, sweet potato, sea salt, ground corn and sunflower oil. I’m too addicted to these ones to try the other flavours just yet but I know other flavours include; Sriracha with Kale Seeds, Mustard and Onion (obviously not for low FODMAP), Naked Blue, Black Bean and Multi-Grain. They also have pita chips as well but as far as I know they’re not gluten free so I haven’t tried those….

 

raw-butters

Raw Ecstasy

The other brand I found that I enjoyed far too much was a whole bunch of products from the Raw Ecstasy line. I can’t decide if I liked the Stone-Ground Raw Chocolate and Activated Almond Spread or the Raw Chocolate Coated Activated Almonds. They were both too good. We ended up buying strawberries to go with it and used the spread as a chocolate dip for the strawberries. Hello heaven. It was delicious and I seriously recommend! The chocolate coated almonds melted a bit in the sun and it almost tasted like the centre was filled with chocolate. DELICIOUS!!!!

 

Organic Whole Milk Kefir

planet organic postThe other thing I bought at Planet Organic was an Organic Whole Milk Kefir drink – an attempt to get some more natural probiotics into my system. Unfortunately, my stomach reacted pretty violently to the kefir so I won’t be trying that again for a while. Such a shame, as I used to drink kefir like crazy when I lived in the USA!

As a little naughty treat we also bought an organic, vegan, gluten and wheat free half-baked chocolate cake. We had half each and it was mind-blowingly delicious, but I still had my awful sugar headache around half an hour later — so I guess it wasn’t worth it.

Anyway, if you live in London and you haven’t checked out Planet Organic yet, I seriously recommend you stop by. It’s your one stop shop for your raw, vegan, organic, and paleo needs. Prices aren’t as cheap as you may find online but they do have a huge range of foods and it’s all yummy yummy yummy!

 

I’ll certainly be visiting again soon!

Spiced Almond Smoothie Goodness

I love smoothies and this has been a favourite of mine for well over a year now. I had it for breakfast almost every day for months (and sometimes for dinner, too!). I’m on a slight hiatus from this delicious smoothie for the time being because I’m desperately trying to avoid nuts (sob!) but I thought I’d share it with you all anyway so you can enjoy this spiced nutty goodness!

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Spiced Almond Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 can coconut milk (almond milk works really well too)
  • 2 Tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • A few cubes ice (optional)

Method

Chuck all the ingredients into a blender and blend to perfection. Pour into a tall glass and drink with a straw (because straws are way more fun, let’s face it).

Enjoy!

spiced smoothie

My Gut is Leaking…

Ooohh Leaky Gut Syndrome … you will be the misery of me. So! Funny story: when I was 14, I was going through a whole lot of health problems. Seriously. In the same year I managed to get diagnosed with Endometriosis, PCOS, IBS, Leaky Gut and then to top it all off I got a stress fracture in my L5 vertebrae. Things were peachy.

As you can imagine, I was a really fun teenager. After school (or sometimes during school) I was dragged to multiple doctors, physios, specialists, MRI scans, nutritionists — everything you can imagine. On weekends I was too sick to do much of anything. While my friends went out, started to meet boys and have flings with alcohol, I sat at home wallowing in my shitty misfortune. It took me around a year to realise that wallowing in negativity was going nowhere so I worked hard to develop a positive attitude (which 99% of the time I manage to maintain when it comes to my health).

Mums Know Everything

My mum dragged me around to all these appointments and sat next to me as I was poked and prodded and tested. Litres of my blood were collected, urine tests were conducted. Yet despite being a constant, helpless test subject, I was given a different super-power: now I simply did not care when speaking about topics people think are ‘yucky’, ‘taboo’ or ‘shouldn’t be talked about in public’. I’ve spent most of my life around it and it’s part of all of our lives — so why bother hiding it, especially if it’s causing us misery? But, I digress…

Thanks for the photo Stephen @ Roscoe Vision Photography!

My mama is totally my hero!

Back to my mum sitting in on these appointments — she would stay next to me for the duration of all my tests and then we’d sit with the medical professional while s/he would talk through their findings. After a couple of months my attention span was sick of all the med-speak (not trying to be funny!). I wanted to be a normal teenager. I didn’t ask for these health problems and quite frankly I had no interest in getting to know them better. Give me the medications — I’ll take them; put me on an operating table — do your worst; but don’t ask me to understand what is going on because I don’t want to know. That was pretty much my attitude during these consults.

Mum, however, absorbed everything that was being said and to this day she knows more about my medical history than I do. When I was sick recently, I was reading extensively trying to find the cause of my problems. Leaky gut was coming up everywhere — the symptoms fit right down to the weight gain.I mentioned this one day while skyping home:

Me: “I seem to fit all the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome.”
Mum: “Well you know you were diagnosed with that ten years ago right?”
Me (jaw hanging): “Uh… NO. I didn’t know that!”
Mum (incredulous): “How could you not know that, Sam? That’s why we took you off gluten and dairy in the first place.”
Me (world spinning): “I thought that was for the endo!”
Mum: “No, it was mostly for the leaky gut.”
Me: “So? What happened?”
Mum: “Well, you managed to heal the gut for the most part and you’ve been battling it ever since.”

My eyes went wide. This made so much sense. So — turns out I’ve had leaky gut before, managed to get it under control, and now I’ve gone and destroyed it all again. AND it can take 6 – 24 months to heal leaky gut. FACEPALM!

Opps

Just What is Leaky Gut?

Basically, leaky gut is a condition affecting the lining of the intestines, creating an environment that hinders proper digestion. The gut is actually supposed to be a little (read: very little) bit leaky, allowing very small molecules to leak in order to absorb vital nutrients. In fact, letting those little nutrients through is one of the basic functions of the cells that line the intestinal wall.

However, in people with leaky gut syndrome, the intestine loses some of its ability to filter what is and isn’t allowed to get through. When this happens, particles of foods, bacteria and other waste by-products that haven’t been completely digested may leak through the intestines and into the blood stream or the lymphatic system, and then move freely throughout the body. Pretty gross, huh?

When your immune system comes across these toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles, it identifies them as foreign invaders, marks them as pathogens, and launches an attack (our bodies are fiercely smart!). The immune response to the invaders will then present themselves as awful leaky gut symptoms.

Here’s a few of the typical symptoms ….

  • Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Seasonal allergies or asthma (sneezing, runny nose, itchy skin)
  • Hormonal imbalances such as PMS or PCOS.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease.
  • Insomnia
  • Heartburn
  • Brain fatigue
  • Sluggishness
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling really tired or a diagnosis of chronic fatigue
  • Constant hunger pains
  • Mood and mind issues such as depression, anxiety, ADD or ADHD.
  • Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema.
  • Diagnosis of candida overgrowth.
  • Muscle cramps
  • Poor memory
  • Food allergies or food intolerances

While I didn’t have all of these symptoms, I had enough to know I was looking at the right culprit.

Causes

So what causes leaky gut? Typically food, infections and toxins. Gluten is the number one cause of leaky gut, but other inflammatory foods such as dairy, sugar, or excessive alcohol are all suspected as well. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one of these things, though. For instance, I’m convinced my over-consumption of nuts these past few months was the cause of mine.

Common infections that may cause leaky gut are candida overgrowth, intestinal parasites and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SICO). Toxins you’ll find in medications like Mortin, Advil, steroids, antibiotics, and acid reducing drugs. They can also be found in your environment like mercury, pesticides (time to switch to organic!) and BPA from plastics. Stress and age can also contribute (wonderful., how are we supposed to fight age!?)

When the body is trying desperately to heal itself from the effects of leaky gut, you can get caught in a never-ending cycle, particularly if you’re unaware what’s causing your problems and continue eating the same problematic foods over and over. It triggers a self-perpetuating inflammatory cycle and the intestinal lining really struggles to heal.

The Solution

If only fixing the gut were as easy as that simple heading implies… It’s a long process to heal the gut and it’s not necessarily easy, I’m afraid. No quick fixes here!

The first thing to do is reasonably obvious — and I touch on it in almost every diet related post — undertake an elimination diet. That means removing harmful foods and toxins to stabilise and soothe that poor, damaged gut! I recommend taking 2 – 4 weeks to completely avoid all foods that might flare your gut up: dairy, soy, gluten, nuts, yeast, and alcohol.

I personally went really plain. I ate eggs, chicken, brown bananas (they’re easier to digest as the starch of the unripe banana has been converted to simple sugars), tomatoes (this won’t work for everyone as they’re nightshades) and carrots. Occasionally I’d add a potato in there and as long as I didn’t overdo it I was totally fine. This elimination process may help determine what foods are contributing to your symptoms.

You might also wish to begin using soothing digestive herb enzymes, or other digestive support, which can help protect the lining from further damage. Then re-inoculate your gut! Friendly bacteria are so important and a well-colonized gut is vital for good digestive health. I would recommend investing in some good probiotics to restore healthy gut flora. It took me a while to introduce probiotics, but I’m glad I did. I use Bio-Kult (UK) or Inner Health Plus (New Zealand) and so far they seem to be working.

Another thing that helped me was to stop drinking the tap water in the London. Growing up in New Zealand the tap water is near pure and delicious, I never had a problem and completely took our tap water for granted. It’s a little different here in London. It’s sourced from the Thames, undergoes intense filtering systems, has a huge amount of added chemicals, and it makes me feel awful! It took me a long time to realise that tap water was making me sick and it was only because a fellow kiwi said London tap water made her feel terrible that I stopped and realised maybe that was part of my problem too. I started buying bottled water and I dug out the water filtering bottle that I used in Africa. It’s great! It filters as you drink so you can fill it up from the tap and not worry about waiting a certain amount of time before it removes 99.9% of water contaminants. It’s called Fill2Pure if you’re interested!

The final step in restoring good gut health is to pay attention to your reactions to food. Monitor how you feel when you eat, where and how you eat (do you eat slowly or quickly, standing up or sitting down, do you rush off as soon as you’ve eaten or ‘rest and digest’ for a while?), and of course monitor what you eat. Avoid anything you know that will cause digestive upset. Eat in a relaxed setting, sitting down, eating slowly and chewing your food thoroughly. Take your time. Don’t jump up as soon as you’ve eaten; sit, relax and allow your food to digest. I know that’s not easy — especially in today’s world — but do your best, practice as often as you can, and I’m sure you’ll notice a difference.

Leaky gut isn’t fun but if you’re struggling with it, I promise you, you’re not struggling alone. It takes time to restore good gut health but it’s worth it. A little sacrifice is worth living without the pain and misery this syndrome can cause. Good luck!

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