In this article we are going to look at a few different things that can cause your digestion to be off enough that it can lead to fatigue and brain fog. The most common problems are leaky gut (ewww), food intolerances, infections, medications, and dietary eating habits. Since about 70% of your immune system is found in the gut, it’s pretty important that we take good care of it so we can live a long healthy and happy life.
You may have heard the term Leaky Gut and thought to yourself, well that sounds gross…. It kinda is. It's also called Increased Intestinal Permeability but somehow Leaky gut is the term that most people use. It occurs when there are small holes or gaps in the lining of the intestine and things that you're eating or pathogens can actually pass through the gaps and slip into the bloodstream. Your body recognizes this is something foreign that should not be there and attacks it. This sets off an inflammatory response in the body and can lead to issues like fatigue, increased sugar cravings, weight gain, hormonal imbalances, increased food intolerances and autoimmune disease.
So how do I know if I have Leaky Gut?
Glad you asked! If you suffer from any autoimmune disease, IBS, have food allergies, skin conditions that are inflammatory like eczema or psoriasis, thyroid problems or other hormonal imbalances etc, it is highly highly likely that you are dealing with leaky gut problems. In fact it’s super rare that anyone these days has no issues in the gut at all. There is a lab test that can be done that looks at Zonulin which is a way to check the size of the gaps in the intestinal wall. If you have high levels of Zonulin you are dealing with leaky gut.
How did it get that way?
You know all those things we mentioned above that can be causes of compromised digestion?? ( toxins, diet, food intolerances, infections, medicines) That’s because those are the common contributors to leaky gut. Let’s look a smidge more in depth at a few of them. Unfortunately, many of the foods that we commonly eat in this country are big contributors to leaky gut and they cause damage to the cell wall of the gut. Foods like corn, soy, gluten and wheat, sugar, and other things that are added to foods like preservatives and chemicals. Things like glyphosate in roundup and food dyes are very damaging to the intestines. Often we will have a patient who comes to us with all kinds of food intolerances and once we repair the gut, they go away.
Stress can also affect it and cause inflammation in the body so you have to learn how to keep that in check which is very hard in our world today.
There are also medications like over the counter NSAIDS (Advil, Tylenol etc), antibiotics and opioids that damage the lining of the intestine and cause leaky gut.
So how do I fix it??
Obviously we need to start by not putting in the stuff that causes the inflammation and destroys the gut in the first place! In our practice we often put people on an anti-inflammatory diet and really focus on eliminating the foods that are known to lead to issues. By staying away from these foods you are giving the gut a break while we use targeted nutrition aimed at repair. Many foods like bone broth, sauerkraut, unsweetened coconut milk yogurt, coconut oil, organic meats and fatty fish can help support the gut. There are also a host of supplements that are beneficial for healing the gut and include L- Glutamine, Deglycerized Licorice, Aloe Vera and others. One of our favorite products to use with our patients is Glutegenics which contains an awesome combination of gut healing nutrients. Click here to purchase.
Another issue that can lead to digestive issues and ultimately fatigue is chronic infections or some kind of toxin that you have been exposed to. With our patients that present with fatigue along with a host of digestive issues this is something we take a look at. There are all kinds of parasite, bacterial , viral and fungal pathogens that can cause havoc in the digestive system if left untreated for any length of time. If we do suspect an infection we often recommend the GI Effects panel by Genova Diagnostics. This test gives an important look at what is going on in the gut and allows us to customize a program that is laser focused on exactly what your body needs to heal. There are so many natural herbal options for dealing with any pathogens that may be hidden in the gut. Sometimes this is the main issue causing fatigue. In fact, it was a parasite that made me (April) so run down in high school that doctors first thought was mono, then Addison’s disease. It wasn’t until I saw a holistic practitioner that I found out that I had picked up a parasite while on vacation in Hawaii. Finally I had an answer to what was causing my unrelenting fatigue. A few weeks of some herbal and homeopathic medicines and I was healed!
If you are experiencing a lot of digestive issues along with your fatigue it is super important that you address the digestive system as the potential root cause of it. Here are a few things you can do to get started but please remember it’s always a good idea to work with a Qualified Functional Medicine Practitioner to get optimal results.
Start with an Elimination Diet as soon as possible. This will help give your gut a break from foods that are harmful and can help you identify which foods may be triggering an allergic response in your body.
Take a good quality probiotic like Ther-biotic Complete from Klaire Labs. Get 5% off and free shipping here.
Supplement with things like L-Glutamine and DGL to begin to repair the leaky gut. We love Glutagenics from Metagenics. Get 5% off and free shipping here.
Eat organic as much as possible and avoid taking in toxins like plastics and aluminum in your food.
Remember, this is just a jumping off place, there are many many things that can help with leaky gut and everyone is different. It often takes several months to repair the damage so be patient and persistent!
If you are dealing with fatigue issues and digestive issues we really encourage you to have a Stool test done like the GI Effects to find out what is going on. Click here if you would like to schedule a free 20 minute consultation to find out how we can help!
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