When the Perfect Diet Isn’t Enough to Heal Your Gut
If you’re the type of person who tries to maintain a perfectly healthy diet and regularly exercises but still struggles with digestive issues, then this post is for you. What we eat and how it makes us feel can be huge indicators for our underlying level of health. And it’s not just junk food that might make you feel terrible. For anyone with a gut infection, foods we all think of as ‘healthy’ can exacerbate symptoms, letting you know your digestive system is out of balance and that something more is required to heal your gut.
Your story might sound a lot like mine
For a long time, I was the healthiest sick person I knew. That is, I cut out all processed foods, was eating clean and drinking kombucha and green juices, going to the gym 5 times a week, meditating, the whole deal. And yet, unable to get any formal diagnosis from my doctors, I was suffering from digestive issues, extreme fatigue and weight gain that made absolutely no sense. I’m sure many of my friends and family probably thought I was telling stories about my daily health routine, given how sick I was becoming.
But, being a science graduate, I knew there had to be a reason my body was falling apart. Cause and effect, it’s science 101. So, I went searching and this is what I found, backing up my hypothesis that the perfect diet isn’t always enough to heal IBS issues.
Gut infections of all varieties
After finding a functional nutritionist (who inspired me to become one myself), I was finally recommended tests that uncovered what was going on. I had a gut infection. Not one, but a whole host; SIBO, multiple parasites, Citrobacter and Candida, amongst other resulting imbalances. It was only after treating these gut infections that I started to feel like me again. And now, my story is one that I see over and over again in my clinical practice. Clients who are doing all the ‘right’ things, but aren’t getting the results they deserve.
This is especially true when it comes to diet. I regularly get asked “if I’m eating all these healthy foods, why am I still struggling with symptoms?” The most common reason is usually a gut infection, and here’s a few ways to know that it might be one of your underlying imbalances.
1. Fermented foods make you look pregnant
Fermented foods are generally good for your gut health. I don’t think anyone can seriously tell you otherwise. But, if eating fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi give you extreme bloating and/or gas, then you know something is off. Fermented foods are designed to feed bacteria, so anyone struggling with an overgrowth of bacteria in the wrong place or yeast (like SIBO or Candida) can experience unwanted symptoms.
I experienced this personally and see it often in some of my SIBO clients. They are eating fermented foods to heal their gut, but look like they’re six months pregnant after a healthy dose of their ferment of choice. I even got offered a seat on the subway in Barcelona by a lady that looked over 90 years old because she thought I was pregnant. It brought a whole new meaning to the term ‘food baby’.
2. Raw foods are hard to digest
Raw foods, like salad bowls and nut-based raw treats, are often the healthiest option on the menu when you eat out. And for anyone trying to clean up their diet, this is the first place you start. The only problem is that uncooked foods are generally more difficult to break down and digest. A gut infection can lead to a lack of enzymes and good bacteria necessary to breakdown raw foods, leading to undigested food particles sitting in your digestive tract.
This can lead to increased fermentation (gas and bloating) as well as nutrient deficiencies from not being able to absorb the goodness in these foods. If raw salads make your digestive symptoms worse and you notice undigested food particles in your stool, then you're not digesting your foods properly and this may very well be the result of a hidden gut infection.
3. Vegan isn’t the detox you were hoping for
While embracing veganism is often seen as a way to detox and eat cleaner, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows for anyone with underlying gut dysfunction. I know because I tried for a good six months. An extension on the fermented and raw food challenges discussed above, a vegan diet tends to be higher in carbohydrates because animal products which are mostly sources of fat and protein are removed.
And while there’s nothing wrong with carbohydrates per se, for those with a gut infection or overgrowth, they are the kind of food likely to ferment in the digestive tract and causes bloating, gas, constipation and/or diarrhoea.
4. Low carbohydrate diets reduce your symptoms for a while
People swear by low carb diets like SCD and Low FODMAP for managing IBS symptoms. They’re backed by scientific research and I often use them myself for clients in the early stages for treatment of a gut infection. These diets are designed to reduce the amount of fermentable carbohydrates that can cause digestive distress.
For this exact reason, anyone who notices an improvement in their symptoms when on a low-carb diet should consider their underlying cause might actually be a gut infection. And while these diets can be great at managing symptoms, they are generally not going to be enough to treat the infection and heal the gut. What I often see with clients who have previously self-diagnosed and put themselves on a restrictive diet, is that over time as their microbiome becomes less diverse, symptoms begin to progressively return.
As such, I often use client’s previous experience with low carb diets when deciding to test for a gut infection. If you’ve seen a big reduction in symptoms but only while eating low carb, then it’s probably time you got some functional lab tests done to uncover the root cause.
Where to look beyond diet to heal your gut
So if you have recently (or for a long time) been eating healthy and you’re still experiencing all of the hideous symptoms that come with having gut dysfunction, or they keep coming back, then it’s time to take the next step. Get tested and figure out the root cause of your symptoms so you can heal and get back to living that vibrantly healthy life you deserve.
If you want to learn more about testing, or how we can help, please head to the Work With Us page to learn more about how we work online with clients in many countries to test for and treat the various root causes of IBS symptoms and other GI conditions.