by Dr. Bill Rawls
What’s the best diet for leaky gut syndrome? Dr. Bill Rawls explains why the average American diet can be so problematic for the digestive tract, plus he provides recommendations for which types of foods to eat and avoid to jumpstart gut recovery. Get a complete guide to overcoming leaky gut here.
Question: What’s the Best Diet for Leaky Gut?
Hello, this is Dr. Bill Rawls, and I got a question today: What’s the best diet for leaky gut? I think to talk about that, we’ve first got to talk about the worst diet for leaky gut, and the worst diet is the average American diet, which is heavy in grains and heavy in beans, both of which have problems for a variety of reasons.
One of them is the carbohydrates. These types of carbohydrates really do a number on the intestinal tract. They grow bacteria, those unfavorable bacteria in the gut that cause so many problems.
But beyond that, the type of fiber in a lot of our grain and bean products grows bacteria that cause problems—in addition to all the starch and sugar and their protein substances called lectins. Lectins are in seeds like grains and beans to deter creatures from actually eating the seeds.
In certain grains like wheat, you also have foreign proteins like gluten. Gluten is used to make bread because it’s really sticky, and it’s hard on the digestive tract.
When you’re eating some grain, you’re okay. If you’re eating a diet that’s mostly grains and meats, however, then that’s really doing a number on your digestive tract. It’s stripping away the mucus lining, and it’s making the gut more porous, so foreign substances like foreign proteins leak across more.
If you look toward a diet that’s more natural for the human digestive tract, you’ve got to look at what humans were eating for hundreds of thousands of years, and they were eating a lot of vegetable matter. Ancient diets were about two thirds vegetables and about one third meat in most locations on Earth, so it was leaves and stems and stalks and roots.
That’s really what our digestive system is designed for. We only started eating grain in any substantial amounts 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, and some grains are okay. Over that period of time, we’ve developed a tolerance to some grains. So humans have definitely eaten grain and it has been a normal part of our food supply, but it hasn’t been the dominant part.
When you look at a diet to help with leaky gut, my golden rule for healthy eating is your diet should be half vegetables. We’ve found that a lot of people with leaky gut tolerate rice okay. The rice lectins and storage proteins aren’t as bad as some of our other grains like wheat and corn. But you need to eat mostly vegetables. Nuts are sometimes a problem with a lot of people, so many people with leaky gut have to be careful about nuts because of the types of proteins.
So half the diet comes from vegetables. Meats tend to be fairly well tolerated by most people with leaky gut. Fruits tend to be well tolerated as long as there’s not too much sugar there. Berries are some of the most health-loaded foods on the planet, so berries could be really good. Good, healthy oils like avocados, olive oil, those are some food sources that are very, very well tolerated, and meats that are easy to digest like poultry and fish.
Those kinds of things are fine, but especially in the beginning, reduce your grain and bean consumption, and often you need to reduce nut consumption. You’ve got to be careful about those seeds. Sometimes you don’t have to eliminate them completely, but it’s really important to narrow them down. A smart idea is doing what’s called an elimination diet — looking for food sensitivities, or food sensitivity testing, could be very helpful for defining the best diet for you.