Healing the gut begins with Hippocrates’ concept of “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates, the Greek physician in 400 BC, also stated: “All diseases begin in the gut”. The concept has definitely been around for a while, so food is the first place to start when trying to heal the gut!
Healing the gut is a multi-faceted approach consisting of:
- Dietary and lifestyle changes
- Incorporating the right nutritional supplements
- Eating good fats
- Searching for foods specific for gut healing
- Eliminating food allergies and food sensitivities
- Taking enzymes to improve digestion
- Supplementing prebiotics and probiotics to increase gut flora
Sometimes more than one diet is necessary, especially if your child has autism spectrum disorder. Even if your child does not show a significant amount of improvement on a particular diet, then try another diet.
Keeping the diet clean and not continually having your child eat foods with toxins and chemical preservatives will help facilitate healing the gastrointestinal tract more efficiently. Sometimes changes are subtle and on a deeper biochemical level that are not always visible to parent. Remember that good quality foods to which your child is not sensitive are very healing to the gut.
List of Healing Diets
Here are some of the more common healing diets to help children recover from symptoms of autism, ADHD, allergies, asthma, mood disorders, autoimmune disorders, eczema, gastrointestinal disorders and other chronic health conditions:
- Gluten and Casein Free Diet (GFCF): This diet can help children with autism, ADHD, SPD as well as those with asthma and allergies improve their symptoms.
- Vegan: All animal products including eggs, milk and honey are prohibited. Because there is less saturated fat in this diet, high blood pressure may improve. Protein intake is important for vegans because there are limited sources, so supplementing with vitamin B12 may be necessary. In addition, the high amount of carbohydrates relative to protein may cause insulin resistance and weight gain in some, although not everyone experiences this issue.
- Vegetarian and Pescatarian: Vegetarians do not eat meat; pescatarians eat fish, but not poultry or red meat. These diets can lower the risk for chronic diseases because of the high intake of fruit, vegetables and fiber and healthy fats from fish and a lowering intake of saturated fats from beef and chicken. However, as with a vegan diet, there is a need to focus on enough protein, zinc, iron, calcium and vitamin B12.
- Paleo: This diet avoids processed foods, sugar, legumes, grains (including corn), potatoes and dairy but does allow for the consumption of sweet potatoes and honey. The paleo diet promotes taking healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals and may have cardiovascular benefits. However, there may be a deficiency of calcium, vitamin D and fiber, so be sure to include lots of animal protein and fats for a good source of vitamin D and lots of cruciferous vegetables because they are rich in vitamin C and calcium. A low-sugar and low-fruit Paleo diet (see ketogenic diet below) is an excellent way to control high blood sugar.
- Autoimmune Paleo: This version of the paleo diet eliminates additional foods that the standard Paleo diet does not: eggs, seeds, nuts and nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant). It emphasizes a higher consumption of antioxidant-rich foods and is an excellent way to control inflammation.
- Ketogenic Diet: This diet is similar to the paleo diet but does allow for the consumption of dairy and peanuts (a legume) while eliminating sweet potatoes and honey from the diet. The daily limit for “net carbs”, the remainder of the total amount of carbohydrates in grams minus the amount of fiber in grams, is between 20 grams and 50 grams, which means that most fruit needs to be eliminated. In general, higher amounts of fats versus carbohydrates are consumed. Because this diet forces the body to run on ketones rather than glucose, it is well documented to help those with seizures, high blood sugar and diabetes.
- Mediterranean: This diet includes plenty of olive oil, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, beans, whole grains and some dairy products. It has been shown to prevent diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline.
- Raw Food: This diet avoids meat, dairy, processed foods and cooked foods while enjoying raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Because foods are not cooked, there is a higher nutritional value in non-cooked foods, especially of vitamins C and B as well as of plant-based enzymes. However, cooking destroys harmful bacteria, so a child with a compromised immune system should avoid unpasteurized products and juices.
- The Whole 30: This diet removes grains, dairy, legumes and added sugars and sweeteners from the diet for 30 days. A challenge with these foods can help determine if these foods are triggering food intolerances and sensitivities.
- The Failsafe Diet: This diet eliminates additives, salicylates, amines and high levels of free glutamates. This diet is not suitable for those with food allergies but is well tolerated for those with food chemical sensitivities, autism, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder and learning disabilities.
- Specific Carbohydrate Diet: This diet was developed by Elaine Gottschall to stop the vicious cycle of malabsorption and microbe overgrowth by removing the source of energy to the microbes: sugars and certain carbohydrates. By doing so, inflammation decreases, the digestive system heals and the immune system can return to normal.
- GAPS (Gut And Psychology Syndrome) Diet: The GAPS diet was developed by Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, who used it to recover her son from autism. It is similar to the paleo diet and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet but allows for homemade, fermented dairy as well as eggs and some legumes. All fruits and vegetables must be well cooked. This diet emphasizes bone broth and fermented foods.
- Body Ecology Diet: This diet was developed by Donna Gates to heal the gastrointestinal system. While it does allow for the consumption of gluten-free grains, they must not be combined with protein in the same meal. In addition, very few fruits are allowed. By emphasizing an acid/alkaline balance, food combining and fermented foods, expansion/contraction and the “80/20 rule”, the gut is allowed to heal.
- Feingold Diet: This diet, developed by Ben Feingold MD back in the 1970’s, is the original diet that showed that removal of certain foods and ingredients can improve a child’s allergies, mood, behavior and attention. It calls for the removal of artificial colors, artificial flavors and preservatives as well as foods containing high amounts of phenols and salicylates, which includes natural foods.
- Low Glutamate Diet: An excess of free glutamate, found in processed foods as well as some natural foods), can cause brain fog, seizures, problems with attention and focus and symptoms of autism, ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder.
- Lutein-Free Diet (Sarah’s Diet): This diet theorizes that children with autism crave opioid-producing foods (gluten and casein-containing foods) as a way to reduce the stress of the immune reaction to lutein, which are found in colored fruits and vegetables.
- Low Oxalate Diet (LOD): Oxalates are molecules found in food that join with calcium to create crystallized “stones” in the body that then contribute to inflammation. Unbound oxalates can interfere with sulfate and iron absorption and can impair brain function. Eliminating foods that are high in oxalates such as Swiss chard and spinach can help.
Learn more about healing diets and foods here.
List of Healing Foods
Remember to go organic as much as possible!
Here are basic healing foods to include in your diet; items may or may not be excluded depending on which specialized healing diet you’re following:
- Fermented vegetables and foods:
- Kim chi
- Miso soup
- Boiled umeboshi plum tea
- Apple cider vinegar
- Umeboshi plum vinegar
- Sprouted seeds
- Fermented pickles
- Kefir yogurts (preferably coconut-based): http://bodyecology.com/articles/mcoconutkefir.php
- Bone broth (can be chicken, turkey or red meat bones): http://recipes.mercola.com/bone-broth-recipe.aspx
- Good quality fats:
- Nuts and seeds (nut butters – no peanuts)
- Dark chocolate
- Eggs, butter or ghee
- Wild fatty fish from salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines and albacore tuna)
- Turkey bacon
- All coconut products
- Cold-pressed olive oil
- Chicken soup with chicken fat
- Algae and seaweeds:
- Chlorella (fresh water)
- Leafy green veggies:
- Mustard greens
- Beet tops
- Collard greens
- Mesculan salad
- Cruciferous veggies:
- Brussels sprouts
- Broccoli rabe
- Root veggies and squashes:
- Summer squash
- Winter squash
- Sweet potatoes
List of Nutritional Supplements That Help Heal the Gut
- Glutamine heals the leaky gut. Do not use glutamine if your child has high glutamates or a glutamate sensitivity because glutamine converts to glutamate and is an excitotoxin.
- Slippery elm coats and soothes any inflammation of damaged gut lining
- Aloe vera heals leaky gut and coats the intestines and starts healing process
- Butyric cal-mag (butyrate) heals the gut lining
- Licorice DGL balances cortisol levels and maintains mucosal lining
- Quercetin improves gut barrier and reduces histamine release
- N-Acetyl-Glucosamine (NAG) helps stop gastrointestinal irritation and keep
- BiCarb by Klaire Labs can relieve symptoms of reflux, gas and acid indigestion
- Betaine hydrochloric acid increases stomach acid. Zinc and salt also help create HCI in the body.
List of Nutritional Supplements That Help Intestinal Mucosa Stay Strong and Intact
- MSM methylsulfonyl-methane improves allergies, gut permeability, aids in detox and helps with constipation
- Zinc rebuilds intestinal lining and aids in growth and healing
- Essential fatty acids are good fats for the gut
- Omega3s and 6s
- Omega 7
- Cod liver oil
List of Probiotics and Prebiotics That Can Help with Gut Healing
- Klaire Labs-Therabiotic Complete
- Kirkman Labs-Probio Gold
- Custom Probiotics D-Lactate
- Dr. Ohhira Professional Formula
- Renew Life Ultima Flora
- Gut Pro
- Allergy Research Group
- Pure Encapsulations
- Douglas Labs
- DaVinci Labs
- Thorne Research
- Cardiovascular Research
Prebiotics are fruto-oligosaccharides (FOS) that can help feed and grow probiotics in the body:
- Klaire Labs (Biotagen)
- Vital Nutrients
- Pure Encapsulations
List of Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes – depending on the type – can help lower food sensitivities, relieve gastrointestinal symptoms and eliminate biofilm.
Here is a list of different kinds of enzymes:
- DPPIV enzymes are used to help with gluten and casein sensitivities:
- Vital-zymes Complete by Klaire Labs
- TriEnza by Houston Nutriceuticals
- DPPIV Forte by Kirkman Labs
- DPPIV by Enzymatica
- Similase by Integrated Therapeutics
- Proteolytic enzymes for inflammation
- Pancreatic Enzymes by Vital Nutrients
- Serrapeptase by Klaire Labs
- Enzymes to help with phenol sensitivities
- No Fenol by Houston Nutriceuticals
- Phenol Assist by Kirkman Labs
- Enzymes to help with fat digestion:
- Lipo by Enzymatica
- Lipase by Integrative Therapeutics
- Enzymes that help with protein digestion:
- Theragest by Klaire Labs
- Enzymes that help eliminate biofilm (encapsulated microbial cells):
- Interfase and Interfase Plus by Klaire Labs,
- Bio Film Defense by Kirkman Labs
- Bromelaine can ease inflammatory conditions if taken between meals and can help with digestive problems if taken with meals
List of Testing Laboratories for Food Allergies and Sensitivities
These laboratories can help you eliminate food sensitivities and food intolerances.
- Viome combines information from a microbiome test with a metabolic test to see how the body and the flora in the digestive system interact with specific foods.
- LRA Lymphocyte Response Assay by ELISA/ACT Biotechnologies is a delayed hypersensitivity test that looks directly at lymphocytes to detect delayed food and chemical hypersensitivities up to 504 items.
- Food and Chemical Sensitivity Testing by ALCAT tests over 450 substances to determine which food and other substances trigger chronic inflammation.
- Allergy and Immunology Overview by ALLETESS Medical Laboratory tests for environmental allergens, food allergies, yeast and mold allergies and gut immunity.
- IgG Food Allergy Test and Candida by Great Plains Laboratory tests for 93 foods with Candida, a yeast that increases and produces toxins that create holes in the intestinal lining leading to a leaky gut. Once in the blood, it can cause an inflammatory immune system response.
- Bloodprint Test (IgG) Airborne and Food Allergy Test (IgE) by Immunolabs is a delayed food reactivity test also comes with a nutritional program. The Airborne and Food Allergy Test is the immediate reactivity test for IgE.
- The Bloodspot IgG4 Food Antibody Profile by Genova Diagnostics measures levels of IgG4 antibodies specific to 30 commonly offending foods clearly identifying foods causing patient reactions.
- Multiple Test Arrays and Food Reactivity Screens by Cyrex Labs to screen for a large variety of different food and chemical sensitivities.
- A – 95 Food Panel by Meridian Valley Laboratory is a basic food allergy test panel which is a combined IgG4 and IgE by ELISA Method consisting of 95 commonly eaten foods and includes a free Candida screening.
Still Looking for Answers?
Sources & References
White, E., et al. The Effect of Nutritional Therapy for Yeast Infection (Candidiasis) in Cases of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. 2005;20(3).
Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. Medinform Publishing. 2010.