Trying to heal a leaky gut when you’re on a vegetarian diet is possible. However, before I talk about how it can be achieved, let’s first recap on what leaky gut is.
What Is Leaky Gut?
Your intestinal tract can become stressed from any of the following: emotional or physical stress, antibiotics, medications, bacterial and/or fungal infections, ingestion of toxins, processed food and more. This stress can cause the tissue in your intestinal tract to become damaged, irritated and inflamed. Couple this with unhealthy microflora and leaky gut syndrome can occur. This is where toxins, pathogens, and other matter pass through the intestinal tract and make their way into the bloodstream and then to other tissues in the body.
If your leaky gut is left untreated, it can lead to more serious health issues like nutrient and mineral deficiencies due to malabsorption issues, autoimmune diseases, migraines, depression, anxiety, IBS, muscle pain, fatigue and more. If you would like to read more about leaky gut, read our blog here. The good news is that there are things you can do to successfully heal and repair your gut and work towards rebalancing the microbiome (gut flora) – even if you’re a vegetarian.
10 Things You Can Do To Help Heal Leaky Gut On a Vegetarian Diet
1. Manage Stress
This tip is the first on my list, and in my humble opinion one of the MOST important things you can do in regards to healing your gut. Stress, as you can imagine, has a negative effect on the gut. When you’re stressed, you release peptides that lead to an increase in inflammation, gut permeability (leaky gut), perception to pain, and gut motility. Therefore, I often encourage my clients to find enjoyable ways for them to decrease their stress levels. The following blogs discuss some different techniques for managing stress:
- ‘8 De-Stressing Techniques that Aren’t Meditation’
- ‘Adaptogen Herbs – Nature’s Stress & Fatigue Fighters’
- ’11 Tips for Managing Stress’
2. Avoid Inflammatory Foods
Everything you consume except for pure clean water has an inflammatory or anti-inflammatory effect on the body. If you want to start reducing inflammation in your body, then I recommend you avoid the following: refined sugar and refined oils (vegetable and canola oil, etc), wheat, processed, packaged foods and highly refined takeaway foods. All of these inflammatory foods suppress the immune system and allow pathogenic bacteria to proliferate and thrive. If you would like to read more about how to reduce inflammation through food, read my blogs ‘Inflammation Explained – What Exactly Is It’ and ’20 Inflammation Fighting Foods’ .
Additionally, gluten contains a protein called gliadin that has been proven to increase inflammation and the ‘leakiness’ in our guts, causing further damage. This is another reason I encourage many clients to avoid gluten. Read more here: ‘Are You Addicted to Gluten?’, and ‘The Gluten-Free Trap – How to Avoid Processed Food’.
3. Quality Fats
Natural fats are so very important for supporting our gut health! Fats stimulate the gallbladder to produce bile which can help flush out toxins from the liver. I recommend including a variety of quality fats such as cold-pressed nut/seed oils such as pumpkin seed, walnut, olive and macadamia nut oil, as well as cacao butter, grass-fed ghee and butter (if tolerated), Inca Inchi Oil and Coconut Oil.
One of the best fats you can eat for your gut health is coconut. Coconut oil has short chain and medium chain fatty acids that are antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial— which is why it’s recommended on many gut healing protocols. Coconut oil is also a natural anti-inflammatory, which can help soothe the intestinal lining and improve inflammatory bowel conditions. Read more about the health benefits of coconut oil here.
4. Consume Cooked Foods
This tip may be a little perplexing, but for many of my clients with severe gut issues, I actually recommend they avoid as many raw foods as they can because the tough fibre in raw vegetables can be taxing on a weakened digestive system. This is why I recommend to steam, cook and puree your veggies when working towards healing your gut as they’re much easier for your body to digest and absorb the nutrients from.
5. Eat In a Relaxed Environment
You probably already know that you feel better and your digestion is much smoother when you eat in a quiet and peaceful environment. So I recommend avoiding watching television, reading, working, talking on the telephone or scrolling through Instagram while you’re eating. You will notice the difference.
6. Consume Fermented Foods
It probably feels as though everyone is going on about fermented foods of late, however there is a really, really good reason for this! Fermented foods are packed full of antimicrobial and antifungal properties and prebiotics, enzymes and probiotics, the friendly bacteria our bodies need. Probiotics, prebiotics and enzymes help to support the healthy microbes in the digestive tract, crowding out the bad bacteria and yeast strains. Fermented foods are essential in helping to repair a leaky gut, replenishing good bacteria in your gut, improving digestive health and boosting your immune system.
However, I recommend consuming only homemade fermented foods that use a high quality starter culture where possible, as this ensures only the beneficial bacteria grow. If you consume ‘wild’ ferments like Kombucha, or wild sauerkraut, they can contain a few various bacteria and/or yeast strains that can negatively impact your gut health. Try our Simple Sauerkraut recipe here.
7. Marine Collagen (Pescatarian-Friendly Collagen)
Ok, I know this recommendation isn’t strictly vegetarian, however, it’s for all the pescatarians out there. Collagen powder helps soothe, seal and repair the intestinal tract. It also supports strong hair, skin, nails and teeth, improves digestion, supports joint health and boosts the metabolism. I would recommend sourcing a sustainably-harvested and wild-caught marine collagen powder, free from any nasty additives. Collagen powder dissolves really easily into different types of foods so it can be added to hot and cold drinks, as well as slices, bliss balls and even pancakes.
8. Vegetable Broth
While vegetable broth doesn’t have the same gut healing benefits as a meat-based bone broth, it’s still a fantastic way to increase nutrient density in many different meals. You can make your own veggie stocks quite easily, either in a slow cooker or a stock pot. However if you simply don’t have the time to do this, Changing Habits has a dehydrated Vegetable Stock Powder which can be added to soups and stews or simply sprinkled over scrambled eggs to add an additional flavour and nutrient boost to your meals.
When done right, I believe detoxing is an essential step towards optimal gut health. One simple, easy and gentle detox method you can begin to implement in your routine is a detox bath. Magnesium salt baths help to flush toxins and heavy metals from the cells, assisting the body in eliminating harmful substances. I also recommend increasing your veggie intake as cabbage, kale, broccoli and other brassica vegetables enhance detoxification and are a good source of fibre. You can read about other ways to detox in this blog ‘6 Natural Ways to Detox Your Body’.
10. Intermittent Fasting
Just like you, your gut needs a period of rest and rejuvenation to function optimally. Giving your gut a break can help to reduce inflammation, shed water weight, and reduce bloating. Studies are coming out all the time supporting the benefits of intermittent fasting, which gives the body a break for a set number of hours so that your gut can rest, repair and reset. You could start with a simple 12-hour fast. A 12-hour fast means ending your food consumption at 7pm and not eating breakfast until 7am the next day. Try this and see what happens. If you notice some positive results, you could start extending your fast.
Please note: These simple self-help steps are not meant to resolve your health problems entirely. As always we recommend that you consult with your chosen health care practitioner for individualised advice so they can investigate further what may be affecting your gut health and what else you can do, especially if you’ve seen no improvements.