I Think I Broke My Gut

I get tired of hearing me whine, so I can completely understand if you don’t want to hear it either.  I feel I must write this post though, because I’ve so often sung the praises of raw garlic over the past 2-3 months, and I need to balance it with a big fat dose of truth.  So if you’re tired of hearing me whine, I understand.  Go over to Free The Animal.  He makes me look like Pollyanna.

Anyway….so where was I?

Oh yeah, garlic.

The garlic felt like a godsend at first, and erased all traces of diet-related depression.  Prior to my Great Garlic Experiment I was depressed whenever I ate something containing starch – potatoes, potato starch, rice, even cocoa powder (which contains a gram of starch per tablespoon).  I figured it had to be a gut problem – maybe a gut microbe problem – and was impressed by hearing stories of raw garlic having antibiotic properties.  Maybe it was just what I needed!  I paired it with probiotics and prebiotics in order to replace the bad bugs with good ones.  And indeed the results were great.  Depression gone for 2 months.

So I added starches back into my diet, having become tired of the restrictiveness of getting all carbs from various forms of sugar.  Well the gut bugs (I guess) grew back, and while I didn’t become depressed I wasn’t feeling happy anymore and I was gaining weight.  So I turned back to the garlic to kill them off again.  At first I’d have a clove of garlic a day or every two days.  Didn’t seem to make a difference. Heartburn started creeping in, no matter what I ate. I quit the probiotics and prebiotics – maybe they were causing Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO).

Then I made things really bad by eating lots of raw fruits and vegetables – I was trying to lose weight and manage my blood sugar in a conventional manner.  Well all intestinal hell broke lose then, probably due to the fiber irritating my digestive tract and causing an increase in endotoxin and serotonin.  I became depressed again for the first time in over 2 months.  I quit eating fibrous foods and cranked up the garlic, you know – to kill the evil bugs and reduce endotoxin.  That’s when hearburn became really bad – like, 12 hours a day or more, and stopped responding to baking soda and antacids.  I guess the garlic was making it worse.  So a few days ago I quit the garlic.

Yesterday I thought, “Ok, so if something about the garlic was causing the heartburn, then the probiotics might be ok to take!”  So I took some probiotics and a half teaspoon of inulin powder (prebiotic).  Gas pains all day.  No heartburn though!  But pain all day and all night. I didn’t used to have problems digesting inulin, but I do now.

So I think I’m done with all of this nonsense.  Garlic was a decent short term fix, but there’s something about it that causes problems (heartburn) with longer-term use.  I’m not sure exactly what causes the heartburn – I’ve heard that it can be related to inflammation of the valve between the esophagus and the stomach, so it doesn’t close fully – thus, when stomach acid is secreted in response to food, some can back up into the esophagus causing heartburn.  I do know that it’s gone now without the garlic. I think that garlic does have powerful antibiotic properties though – in fact, I think it killed off the gut bacteria that fed on the gas produced by inulin.

In all I’m back to recovering from this mess, but it appears the only things I digest well anymore are the foods that Ray Peat recommends.  Dairy, juice, meat, fat, eggs, sugar, and maybe some low-fiber fruit like watermelon, and some well-cooked vegetables.  It’s no longer a choice. I have to eat this stuff and nothing else or I’m in emotional and physical pain.

That’s ok, though.  I’m willing to do that.

9 thoughts on “I Think I Broke My Gut

  1. Which probiotic are you using? Bummer about the garlic. Anyways I do recommend well cooked greens over vegetables. The calcium and magnesium and other minerals will be useful for your HTN, DM. Also when its cooked it should be easy on your gut and keep it able to eliminate estrogen and toxins secreted by the liver. Once stable try add something one at a time. Maybe a bit of cooked and cooled white rice or a potato. Definitely want to see your LDL come down more with thyroid. Flush em out with some miralax and gatorade if needed to give your gut a break. Carrot salad definitely tops the list when it comes to taking care of heartburn.

  2. Lanie, I continue to be amazed by your persistence and willingness to experiment, even in the face of disappointment. 3 cheers for you! I’ve found your posts enlightening and informative. Thanks for your contribution. I hope you hit on the nutritional “sweet spot” that works for you.

  3. No more cooked and cooled anything starchy for me. I’m so tired of feeling fatigued and depressed. To coin a cliche, nothing tastes better than happy feels. It’s true. No more. NO MORE!!!! haha

  4. Aw, thanks, Agnes. You’re so kind. I wish I could say I was doing this in the name of science. At this point I just want to feel better! Happy to outline my failures so others might be saved the trouble though. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Depression and Diet | AnjumsList

  6. Lanie, I believe that your heartburn is a result of a combination of 1) insufficient bacteria in your gut, causing acid indigestion, and 2) a weak gut lining that makes you more sensitive to acid.

    Bacteria are needed in the gut to break down foods and acids. If you had more bacteria there to help with digestion, then you wouldn’t have this acid indigestion problem that manifests itself as heartburn. That is why in your case, taking garlic currently makes your heartburn worse – it kills bacteria, non-selectively, including the bacteria that you need to help you digest food. You need to replenish your gut with bacteria that can help with digestion, through some combination of taking probiotics, eating yogurt, and eating fermented foods and fermented beverages (sauerkraut juice, fermented beet juice, etc).

    Including some fiber in your diet will also help to maintain a healthy ecosystem in the gut that includes a certain amount of bacteria, which the fiber helps to feed, BUT since you have so little bacteria in your gut to begin with (due to your ultra-low-fiber diet and your garlic consumption), you need to add fiber into your diet very gradually, of course, otherwise it won’t digest properly and you’ll get negative symptoms like you did during that week when you all of a sudden increased your fiber consumption a lot. That was too much fiber for your body to handle at that time and there wasn’t enough of a transition.

    Another thing to consider would be supplements that might help to heal your gut lining and make it less permeable, such as glutamine (an amino acid available as a powder that helps nourish the cells of the gut), an herb called marshmallow root (available as a powder or capsules or tea), colostrum (optional but supposedly quite good for helping to grow new gut cells, and new cells in general, as well as boosting immunity), and slippery elm (another root). The herbs will help your gut to form a protective lining, which might be somewhat lacking in your gut simply because of your prolonged avoidance of fibrous foods – and your negative reaction to such foods implies that the gut lining is weak. That doesn’t mean your gut is necessarily damaged, it could be simply be a function of being on an ultra-low-fiber diet.

    Once you replenish your gut bacteria and strengthen your gut lining, your digestion will be much better and your gut will have a higher tolerance for acid. At that point, you won’t have heartburn problems any more and you’ll have much more flexibility in terms of what you eat.

    Two resources to consider if you want to research this further would be Donna Gates’ Body Ecology Diet and Dr. Raphael Kellman’s The Microbiome Diet. And of course you don’t need to pay too much attention to their dietary biases, you can just focus on what they have to say about how to establish and maintain a healthy gut environment. (Note that Dr. Raphael Kellman also happens to be an MD who practices integrative medicine and stresses the importance of proper thyroid levels and thyroid supplementation when needed, so you might like him.)

    Best of luck, keep us posted, and we look forward to seeing your future updates!

  7. Ok….

    1. It doesn’t make sense to me that heartburn (inflammation of the esophagus by stomach acid) would have anything at all to do with insufficient gut bacteria. The intestine is on the other side of the stomach. It makes more sense to me that the lower esophageal sphincter is inflamed and/or isn’t closing as it should.

    See this diagram: http://i1.wp.com/gutcritters.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/200802291537_01218_000.jpg

    2. I’m not opposed to taking probiotics and eating probiotic foods. I’ve done that until very recently, in fact. Like, 2 days ago. I probably will again. But it’s important to note that taking probiotics didn’t prevent any of this and it didn’t seem to be healing any of it. Ray Peat, the only person who’s advice has made me feel better for a sustained period of time, does not recommend probiotics or fermentable foods. I’m inclined at this point to follow his advice.

    3. No more fiber.

    4. Thanks for all the suggestions, but I’m done experimenting. I’m done spending $17 on some new supplement, hoping it’s the answer to all my problems. I’m following Peat’s advice.

    Thanks, Martin!

  8. Understood, Lanie, that makes sense and I sympathize with your predicament, but limiting yourself go such a restrictive diet is going to be difficult over time, especially with holidays coming up, etc, and people might start to view you as being orthorexic. My suggestions were intended to help you be able to gradually adapt to a somewhat less restrictive diet, which I think will require doing things that will improve “gut health” (“gut” meaning both stomach and intestines)…..not that there is necessarily anything “wrong” with your gut, but it is currently adapted to a certain way of eating and it likely has a rather weak / thin lining (making you very sensitive to acid) and a relatively low level of the sorts of beneficial bacteria that may be useful for breaking down fiber and perhaps also for breaking down protein foods.

    Regarding your point about probiotics generally residing in the intestines, not the stomach, and the fact that your heartburn is located in the esophagus and triggered from the upper part of the stomach, not near the intestines, I recognize that, but I think probiotics or fermented foods might be helpful anyway – but you may need to take them only in small amounts to begin with, to build up a tolerance to them. I believe the probiotics might improve digestion in the intestines, which would speed up the transit of food in the intestines, allowing the food to travel more quickly from the stomach to the intestines, and I suspect that might help your heartburn, possibly, but more importantly, I suspect the probiotics (or better yet fermented foods like yogurt & some fermented veggies or fermented veggie juice) might help you to improve digestion & gradually be able to tolerate more foods. As you are doing this (or even before you start), the gut-lining herbs (marshmallow root powder and slippery elm) would probably be helpful in alleviating and preventing heartburn symptoms or leaky gut issues – and I think heartburn and leaky gut are related in that I think they can both be partly a function of a weak stomach lining, causing the stomach to both be overly sensitive to acid (contributing to heartburn) and to let stuff through too easily (contributing to leaky gut symptoms).

    Anyway, these are just some ideas for you and naturally you can take them or leave them. All the best to you either way, best of luck, and I look forward to reading your continued updates!

  9. “…people might start to view you as being orthorexic.”

    Well, currently they’re viewing me as an impatient, irritable asshole, thanks to my high serotonin level incurred by ingesting lots of fiber. So orthorexic is a step up!

    I am taking probiotics, and I’ll continue to do that. Thanks for the tips!

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