Are you Gut Saavy? Insight to healing the CF gut.

Updated: Aug 11

Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it.

- Heather Morgan MS



Let Food be thy Medicine:

Hippocrates the ' Father of Medicine" once said, that " All dis-ease starts in the gut." I have come to find that I believe this is most definitely true. For the past year I have been on a journey to better health and inner beauty. On this path I have learned a great many things, but one that I have experienced first hand is that food and gut health go hand in hand. They are the ultimate life force, either providing health and vitality or causing damage and disease in the body. The point of the whole journey is to learn and understand how different foods can either feed us and make us thrive or make us suffer.

I didn't completely understand this until I started experimenting with my diet and learning to listen to what my body was trying to tell me. Our bodies speak to us softly at first and then they end up getting louder and louder which is usually when disease has set in, you experience it in many different ways like that sudden headache, feeling tired after eating, feeling weighted down, brain fog, mood swings, pain in your body, indigestion, and yep even constipation and diarrhea. Most of us don't realize how much food can impact the way we feel. I didn't notice until I changed my diet, as I wanted to see if dairy and gluten had an effect on how my daily CF congestion and energy were. It was a difficult change to make, but removing these from my diet instantly made my body feel lighter and less congested. It wasn't until later that I realized these foods were also a big part of my diet because I grew up in the midwest were agriculture grains and dairy are a big part of the staple foods. So, I had to replace them with gluten free items and more vegetables to make sure I got my calories in for the day.

Through out this journey I learned a valuable lesson as well, drastic change in your internal environment causes drastic effects as well. Each one of us is made up of a specific microbiome in our gut that plays a crucial role in how we absorb nutrients, fight infection, and metabolize correctly. Although this diet change I believe is one of the best things I have ever done for myself it was also not a easy journey to transition into as I was drastically changing my internal terrain and the way my microbiome bacteria communicated. Since dairy and grains were a big part of my life before taking them out cold turkey, instead of gradually removing them, I created a chain reaction that caused me to loose about fifteen pounds which affected greatly affects my Cystic fibrosis. For a normal healthy individual this would have been no problem, maybe some moderate adjustments to overcome, but for a individual who depends on extra calories and weight to keep their immunity strong and lung function up it was a bit too drastic of a change. I changed the internal terrain and therefore the colonized pathogenic bacteria in my body from CF was able to overtake my immune system and my good bacteria in my body which caused several antibiotic treatments in the hospital for CF exacerbations.

Although I had a difficult journey, without it I would not have learned the valuable lessons or gained the knowledge I now know on how to create balance again in my body through nutrition and alternative medicine. The hours of researching, experimenting, and learning how to heal my gut from leaky gut syndrome and yeast overgrowth from months of high doses of antibiotics has not gone unnoticed on how I feel everyday. The increase in my immunity, mental clarity, and energy is fantastic. This knowledge will benefit me for the rest of my life as I now know how to care for my gut when I get sick, so I don't cause more damage that will affect my health in the long run causing leaky gut syndrome again which leads to reduced immunity, adrenal fatigue, and further disease.


The Beautiful Gut: The second Brain

I have learned that the gut is the path to finding balance within my bodies unbalance from CF and that food can be the best medicine to help with this if you know how to use it. The gut's health is one of the main driving forces to how our body reacts, feels, and grows. The gut is a very complex organ and is often thought of as the second brain in our bodies because it has over 100 million neurons; with the small intestine alone housing as many neurons as your spinal chord. The gut is connected to the brain through the blood-brain barrier, the lungs via the Vegas nerve, the external world through digestion, and to our immune system via cells within the gut lining. The gut is connected to every part of your body, which would make sense why when we are hungry we get angry or irritated, when we eat something we shouldn't we feel it in our body or in my case the lungs, why we have mood swings, and why certain foods can make us happy or sad. So, I ask you one question, if the gut is connected to every other body system in some way, how is it that western doctors and most of the general public don't believe that the gut's health is not a key factor in how the rest of our body feels, operates, and determines our overall health. All of which would mean the food we consume can either be thy medicine or thy poison to our guts and our long term health. (1)

Just reflect on that a moment... maybe you can think of a time you ate something and afterwards you felt alive and energized and then you ate something else and you felt awful afterwards, weighted down and sluggish. Your metabolism, is a reflection of how your bodies gut microbiome breaks down your food and how it uses the nutrients to produce energy for all your cells. If it is not functioning well, as with leaky gut syndrome, it will not absorb nutrients well and can leave toxins and particles of food entering the blood stream. The guts walls health and the diversity of beneficial bacteria in our guts our what make up our microbiome. Each individual has a unique microbiome that helps them metabolize food and break down different macronutrients of carbs, fats, and protein to be turned into energy for the cell. This is why most people can't thrive on the same diets or portion size of these macronutrients. Some people need more protein and some people can thrive on lots of carbs; it is the individual who must find the nutritious foods and proportions that create the harmony and balance within their bodies and mind to produce lasting health.

The gut is a sophisticated organ made up of more bacteria than cells and spans about 25 feet long in all. The small intestine being 20 feet long and consisting of the (jejunum and ilium) and the large intestine or colon being about 5 feet long if you stretched it out. (2)

The gut houses 70% of the cells that make up your immune system along with a direct link to the blood brain barrier via the Vegas nerve and lymph system. The small intestine and large intestine are lined with a mucosal gut lining made up of villi or finger like projections that increase the surface area of the gut allowing for increased food and mineral absorption. (3) The surface area of just the small intestines would span the square footage of a small studio apartment. (2)

Each villi are lined with a mucousal lining of tiny enterocyte cells or micro villi with hair like projections that help move the food particles along and contain digestive enzymes that work to break down and absorb the nutrients from your food into the bloodstream. Each villi is connected together by tight junctions that if digestion is functioning properly remain closed, so that only the enterocytes can perform the proper screening of nutrients and absorption into the bloodstream. With out properly functioning enterocytes, the gut is susceptible to losing it's protective barrier and these cells can become sick due to continuous inflammation of the gut. When this occurs the tight junctions begin to remain "open," so undigested food particles, bacteria wastes, and other toxins are not properly screened by the enterocyte cells, and these particles are then directly absorbed into the blood which is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome or increased intestinal permeability. If these junctions remain open for a long period of time, the immune system will begin to respond to these foreign particles in the blood that have been sent to the rest of the body causing a systemically wide inflammatory response which can lead to a diseased state. There have been many studies that have linked Leaky Gut syndrome and decreased microbiome health to a wide range of chronic diseases; such as Crohn's, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Eczyma and other skin issues, Autism, Depression, Diabetes, and certain Auto immune diseases. (4)


Disease State: Leaky Gut

Leaky gut can be caused by many different factors and according to Dr. Jack Tips from the Whole journey Gut Thrive Program "most westernized individuals have Leaky gut already, the question is how much do they have." (6) The following are the largest impact on causing leaky gut.

  • Overuse of antibiotics: There is evidence that repeated antibiotic use can change gut bacteria and make leaky gut more likely.

  • Chronic Stress

  • Chronic inflammation and illness

  • Eating too many processed and refined foods, especially carbohydrates

  • Consumption of gut irritating foods like grains, some dairy, and vegetable oils

  • Improper digestion due to the decrease in HCL in the stomach, digestive enzymes, and good microbiome flora and diversity. (5)

I am sure everyone can relate to it least one of these factors or multiple ones that they have done or had in their lifetime at least once and probably more than once.

When looking at this from a CF individuals perspective, I can tell you I have gone at least 30 years of my life having all of those factors as a part of my lifestyle and I'm only 37. As a CF patient we are constantly on antibiotics, whether it is oral, IV, or inhaled just to keep the pathogenic bacteria that is colonized in our lungs under control, so further lung damage does not occur. Our body is constantly under physical stress and chronic inflammation just due to the genetic effects of the disease, let alone the daily stress of life on top of it.


Our CF doctors tell our parents from a young age to feed us high calorie diets, all of which usually consist of lots of carbs, refined and processed foods full of sugar and lots of dairy and gluten. They were not taught the difference between good high calorie diets and bad high calorie diets because it wasn't part of the culture at the time. The knowledge of nutritious diets full of high quality fats, organic vegetables, and good quality meats are things we are just now realizing in the CF community. As individuals with CF begin to live longer and become adults there is more of us getting CF related diabetes because we grew up on these types of diets. The sugar epidemic is taking over our food and the lives of millions of people worldwide who deal with insulin deficiency either with Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes besides those with CF.

Therefore, we grow up automatically depleting our good bacteria that keeps our immunity up and feeding the bad pathogens in our body with all the sugar, carbs, and grains; and to top it all off, we already have problems with digestion and absorption of nutrients as part of cystic fibrosis pancreatic insufficiency. All of which are creating a viscous cycle of chronic CF exacerbations and gut disease that is depleting our immunity to fight off infection. Gut health is not only a CF issue, but a global issue of disease states; and one that is starting to gain exposure in the media, online, and throughout the scientific world with many studies being done on the affects of a healthy microbiome/gut and how it pertains to a person's overall health.



Back to the Roots: The Natural Ways

I have found the importance of maintaining a healthy diet, gut health, and reducing overall stress has dramatically helped change my daily symptoms of CF inflammation and fatigue. I have began healing my gut from several years hospitalizations, so my immune system can finally rest restoring balance and health.

There are several blogs, books, and information out there on the natural ways to heal the gut. Some may work for you and some may not. The thing with herbs is it's just like antibiotics one may work better than the other when it comes to treating certain symptoms or problems in the body. Everyone has their own unique genome of microbiome and genes, so each individual will react differently to different remedies. It really is a research, learn, and experiment kind of practice, but there are plenty of valuable places to find proven remedies that are highly effective.


For me, I began meeting with a naturopath doctor, speaking with my herbalist friends, and acupuncturist who had a better understanding of how botanicals worked with my Cystic fibrosis prescriptions than I did. I took their recommendations for the items that I wanted to address and started gradually introducing each herb over time. I did research on leaky gut, by visiting online sites and reading books like:

All of which gave me a wealth of knowledge on diet, the body, and how pathogens, viruses work in the body. Currently, I am taking the whole journey's gut thrive program and the results, so far are more than fantastic. I am only three weeks in, but I already feel a dramatic change with my daily energy, focus, my chest congestion, and my coughing has reduced.

Below is a list of the most common natural remedies to heal and support gut health and ones that I have found work best towards CF for me.

Increase your HCL or stomach acid:

One of the first ways you can begin to make changes in healing your gut are by starting each day with either hot lemon water or apple cidar vinegar. The teaspoon of lemon or apple cidar vinegar in hot water in the morning before anything else allows the stomach to wake up and start making hydrocloric acid (HCL) and your body starts to get things moving. It also increases the HCL production in your stomach, which begins to deplete as we get older and it is the HCL that is the first line of defense against pathogens as most can't thrive in a acidic environment. (5)

Experiment with Diet:

Research different gut healing diets, such as Gaps, Paleo, or Fodmaps depending on what symptoms you have like bloating, constipation, certain food sensitivities, constant yeast infections, diarrhea, skin issues, etc. See what programs you think might help you and the ones that you believe you can implement into your lifestyle. Keep a food journal for two weeks or a month with the foods you are eating and how you felt afterwards. This is a great way to learn to pay attention to your body, see what foods may be causing problems, and identify food sensitivities. You can also have a food sensitivity test done to see what foods your body is making antibodies too, check with your primary doctor or naturopath.

The best diet I have found for me is to use a Paleo diet 90% of the time and the other 20% having grains and high sugar fruits/foods in moderation. Lots of resistant starches, non-starchy vegetables, and good omega 3 & 6 fats are a must. Don't forget the extra serving of greens a day making it 3!!

Start taking Probiotics:

Probiotics help to increase the good bacteria in your gut to help fight off bad pathogens and maintain gut health. Look for brands that have multiple strains of bacteria and not just one, examples would be Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus, and Saccharomyces Boulardi. Start with a small dose and work your way up to at least a therapeutic dose for adults of 15-20 billion bacteria cells a day (5). If you have die-off symptoms or feel sick then reduce the dose. Depending on severity of gut health you may just need a month or two of probiotics or you may need a on going dose if you have a chronic disease like CF. For me, I found that taking probiotics while on antibiotics helped tremendously on keeping my gut healthy and maintaining my immunity longer. I take them four hours after every oral antibiotic dose and when not on oral antibiotics, I take a 30 day course every other month.

Introduce Prebiotics and Resistant Starch:

These are the soluble fibers and starches that will feed the good bacteria and not the bad bacteria in the gut. These include potato starch, taro root, yuca or tapioca starch, plaintains or unripe bananas, jicama. you can also find good prebiotic powders at the health food store.(6)

Introduce Gut Healing Foods:

Introduce good gut healer foods into your life. (5)

  • High quality bone broths like Kettle & Fire, Pacifico, or make your own.

  • Greens wonderful greens like chard, cabbage, spinach, kale, collard greens, etc.

  • Omega 3 fats like in coconut, wild fish, and some nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, brazilian nuts)

  • Organ meats like liver are full of collagen which is great for healing the gut lining. If your not a liver fan, you can use collagen powder in soups or smoothies.

Introduce Gut Healing Botanical's:

Herbal recommendations are from The Whole Journey (6)

  • Tumeric

  • Ginger

  • Fennel

  • Oregano

  • Garlic

  • Burdock

Implementing all of these remedies or even some will help begin to heal your gut and feed your good bacteria in your microbiome. Reducing the amount of sugars and grains we eat and introducing more of the gut healers will start the process of changing your internal terrain, so that the good bacteria communicate better and your immune system and digestion system can begin to rest and restore it self. We are in a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria in our microbiome each one of us needing the other for survival and if we do not take care of our allies, then they will turn there backs on us and begin to over throw our delicate balance causing disease. I encourage you to take action by introducing one of these natural gut healing remedies into your life. I would love to know any of your thoughts on what remedies have helped you and if you try one of these that I spoke about, let us know how it's affecting your life. As always join me next time as I continue my gut series and dive into the world of pathogens and how they communicate with your gut microbiome. With lots of Love and Aloha!

~Karen :)


Resources:

  1. Kinsley, Denise, "WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN YOUR BRAIN AND YOUR GUT?" Neurogym blog. 2018. Viewed on 5/2/2018 <http://blog.myneurogym.com/connection-between-your-brain-and-gut>

  2. Elert, Glenn and his students. "The Physics Factbook: an encyclopedia of scientific essays." 2001. Viewed on 5/2/2018. <https://hypertextbook.com/facts/2001/AnneMarieThomasino.shtml>

  3. Shi, Na et al. “Interaction between the Gut Microbiome and Mucosal Immune System.” Military Medical Research 4 (2017): 14. PMC. Web. 8 May 2018.<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5408367/>

  4. Reasoner, Jordan. "Leaky Gut Syndrome Isn’t Only Scary, But Extremely Dangerous to Your Health – This is More Than a Poop Issue!" 2015. Viewed 5/2/2018.<https://scdlifestyle.com/2015/08/leaky-gut-is-more-than-a-poop-issue/>

  5. McBride-Campbell, Natasha MD. "Gut and Psychology Syndrome." 2010.

  6. Christa Orecchio & Jack Tips. "The Ffve Steps to Gut Healing." The Whole Journey webinar. 2015. The Whole Journey Website. Viewed 5/7/2018.<https://thewholejourney.com/programs/gut-thrive/5-steps-to-gut-healing/>