Tag Archives: leaky gut

An email made me cry

While I invest my attention and experience in every client, some of the stories that I hear from prospective clients can strike me deep in my heart. By the time some people reach out to me, they have endured frustrating and confusing symptoms with misdiagnoses and misdirected treatment efforts.

The following story affected me especially deeply. I share it now because I suspect that there are many others out there who may be facing similar struggles. To anyone out there who finds that this story resonates with your own, I say to you, things can get better. (shared with permission)

It started with an email from someone seeking my services: “I’m 17 and have a plethora of digestive issues and am in desperate need of a nutritionist who understands and actually believes in poor gut health. I have read your website and you seem like the PERFECT fit, I could really use your help to help put me out of my misery.” In all the emails that I receive from prospective clients, it is always striking how each one has a unique story to tell. What struck me about this one is that she was so young and so committed to getting the help that she desperately needs. I replied with my usual details (hours, rates, etc) and never heard back from her. That happens sometimes, as people just aren’t ready.

A couple of weeks went by, and I decided to follow up. I might not have, except she seemed so ready and like such an ideal client for my services. This time she did respond, thanking me for checking in. Then she told me why she had not responded the first time:

She said that she wished she could come see me, but her parents don’t believe in leaky gut. Since she was still a legal minor, they had legal authority over her medical care. So, until she turned 18, she would have to suffer. I replied that we didn’t have to use the term leaky gut.

She replied: “I was avoiding gluten and dairy and eating more veggies in order to try to heal my gut” (she had done some homework!). Unfortunately, her parents remained resistant to the concept of leaky gut and any attempts to treat it with dietary management. So, they took her to her pediatrician, who was equally appalled at this treatment plan. He referred her to the hospital, where she was “diagnosed with an eating disorder”. Her parents and the doctor were convinced that “leaky gut isn’t real”. Their response was to force her to eat gluten and dairy at every meal, even though these were the very foods that she told them were “inflaming [her] gut even more”.

In hearing her story, I was heartbroken. This smart and resourceful girl was stuck in a tragic dilemma. Not only would she be forced to suffer until she was 18; but, by that point, she would be so much further down the gut pathology road that it was pretty likely her gut would sustain some significant damage, damage that could be avoided or reduced by preventative treatment.

I replied that I was so sorry to hear about her dilemma, and I wished her the absolute best. I was tempted to send her all the published research articles I have on leaky gut. Instead I just told her that intestinal permeability (the proper term for leaky gut) is real. If she or her parents were to search that term on the National Institute of Health’s pub med website, 22,000 research articles would come up. I just left it at that. Was I defending against what felt like a professional criticism (by her parents and the doctor)? Or was I wisely planting a seed? Both.

Only a couple of hours later I received another email from her: “I believe I just made an impact on my parents. You gave me an idea with what you said about pub med. I took this idea and put all of my research into a document and presented this document to my parents (over 50 pages worth of research, I might add!). They were astonished by all of the science that backs this up, and they are now willing to have your support!! I am amazed and feel such a wave of relief.”

A story that began with heartbreak was transformed into triumph.

It is such a shame that many doctors aren’t interested in learning what’s new since medical school. Some doctors are so entrenched in conventional professional thinking that they dismiss any new treatment paradigms that do not fit within those conventions. Yet there are patients who are getting sicker and sicker, and conventional medicine is unable to help them. The lucky patients have the courage, the determination, or the resourcefulness to seek out alternative treatments. Those are the ones who find someone like me, and get well. But what about the rest? While that question saddens me, this story gives so much hope, because it shows how the research is out there. More and more professionals are learning about intestinal permeability, and that knowledge will eventually seep into the mainstream. This story proves that open-minded people who examine the research do actually change their opinions on leaky gut! So I will end by repeating my earlier point: to anyone out there who finds that this story resonates with your own, I say to you, things can get better.

The Gut Healing Protein


Glutamine is a nutrient that is involved in numerous biochemical processes that impact our immune system, muscles, digestion and other GI processes. Glutamine is an amino acid, a building block of protein, naturally found in food and in the body. Extreme exercise, infection, surgery, and trauma are all known to deplete our body’s glutamine stores, particularly in our muscle cells.

Glutamine is often used as a supplement for individuals with:

  • Diarrhea
  • Leaky Gut
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Nerve pain
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Athletic performance treatment

Glutamine and the Gut

The small intestine is the primary organ of glutamine use. Glutamine feeds the cells of the GI lining. This uses about 20-30% of our glutamine. Individuals with a ‘stressed gut’ should consider glutamine supplementation, as it is an essential component for the maintenance of gut metabolism, and function especially during trauma or when the stability of the gut wall is compromised. The gut can be compromised as a result of the following:

  • Consuming Trigger foods (foods your are allergic, or sensitive to. Often gluten, dairy, or soy)
  • Excessive sugar intake
  • Leaky gut
  • Overuse of antibiotics
  • Chronic Inflammation
  • Environmental Pollutants/Toxins
  • Smoking
  • Stress

…And these are just a few!

Glutamine supplementation is a support to the healing process and works to regenerate and repair the cells of the intestine. Because glutamine is the primary fuel for the cells of the intestine, high quality L-Glutamine can be absorbed directly into the cells- and the healing begins!

Glutamine and the rest of the body

Because our immune and intestinal cells rely on glutamine for energy, an individual who is deficient may experience fatigue as our cells become drained and functionality decreases. As cell function decreases, the inability to complete the necessary processes required to maintain optimal health causes our immune system to weaken, increasing the risk of infection and the common cold. This process is exacerbated during times of stress, trauma, chronic injury, or extreme exercise.

Glutamine is an essential component in the process of detoxing, as is helps to remove excess ammonia. It also plays a role in maintaining proper immune and brain function. Glutamine increases the production of Gamma-Amino Butyric Acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on the body and mind during stressful situations, permitting improved concentration and enhanced sleep.

Where to Find Glutamine in our Diet

Some of the best sources include:

  • Dark leafy greens
    • Spinach
    • Cabbage
    • Raw Parsley
  • Beans
  • Meat
    • Chicken
      • Beef
  • Fish
    • Pork
  • Dairy
    • Ricotta Cheese
    • Yogurt
    • Cottage Cheese

If you think supplemental glutamine may be something to consider, talk to your functional dietitian! Anyone with a compromised gut would benefit from glutamine supplementation. It comes in a powder form that can be added to smoothies, soups, or any drink. You can also click on supplements (above) and see my “heal your gut” powder-it is 100% glutamine.


The Best Smoothie

Rishkoff Smoothie 3

Every single ingredient in this smoothie is a superfood. This smoothie is gluten-free, dairy-free, low in FODMAPs, and contains gut-healing ingredients. And with ingredients like strawberries, bananas and pineapple juice, and coconut oil, it is delicious and nutritious (for anyone). I developed this recipe for me, as a way to heal and seal my gut after all my struggles. It’s a rare and useful drink to fill my gut with everything it needs (and nothing it doesn’t!).

Pineapples contain bromelain, an anti-inflammatory compound. Coconut oil is easy to digest and it’s fatty acid structure causes it to be utilized for energy and not stored in our fat cells. But the heavy hitters in this smoothie are the L-glutamine and gelatin. Both of which can help repair leaky gut.


3-4 strawberries, cut up
2/3 of a whole banana, sliced up
organic fresh pressed pineapple juice
1 tb of coconut oil
1 teaspoon of gelatin (Knox brand)
1 teaspoon of L-glutamine powder (pharmaceutical grade)


Put the cut up pieces of fruit in the blender.

Add pineapple juice just enough to cover the empty spaces between the fruit.

Put the coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl and heat it for 30 seconds to turn it liquid. Then add it to the blender.

Add the gelatin and L-glutamine

Blend and enjoy!!!

If you want a full meal-add a little of your favorite protein powder too!

PS: While the sugars in this smoothie are ALL natural (no added sugar), it is not a low carb drink and may be too high in sugar for some people.

(My recipe also appeared on Further Food Photos courtesy of Further Food as well! Rishkoff Smoothie 2)

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Leaky Gut


Leaky gut is as gross as it sounds. Not because what is in your digestive track is leaking out of your body but because it’s leaking INTO your body.

The lining of the GI track, like your skin, is a barrier to the outside world. What’s in your gut IS outside your body until your GI lining lets it through. Luckily this gut lining is extremely good at letting in the good and blocking the bad. It has tight junctions (imagine a net). Things that should get through: fully digested and broken down molecules of protein (amino acids) and carbohydrates (single monosaccharaides), as well as vitamins and minerals. Things that should stay out: bacteria, non-digested food particles, toxins and other things that belong in your poo and then the toilet.

But when the lining is damaged, the tight junctions become loose. And what shouldn’t get through does. This is leaky gut, or increased intestinal permeability.

It is theorized that all autoimmune disease is partially caused by leaky gut. Something big and/or foreign get into your blood and your immune system attack these unwanted things. But over time, you immune system starts getting confused and starts attacking you. If you are genetically predisposed to an autoimmune disease, this can be a trigger. Leaky gut can also cause food allergies and sensitivities. If a protein molecule (that isn’t totally broken down into single amino acids) gets through, that will cause an immune reaction and trigger a food sensitivity or allergy.

Symptoms of a leaky gut:

  • Fatigue
  • Gut symptoms (bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation)
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Food sensitivities
  • Skin problems (rashes, eczema)
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Behavioral problems (ADHD, Autism)
  • Weight problems
  • Adrenal Fatigue

Causes of a leaky gut:

What can help?

  1. You want to remove all your triggers. (stop taking aspirin, start meditating, give up gluten, etc)
  2. Treat the root cause (infection, SIBO)
  3. Heal the lining

What heals?

  • Gelatin. I am not talking about Jello. I am talking about non-flavored unsweetened gelatin. The amino acids heal the tight junctions. Bone Broth, if made properly, is an excellent source. But you can buy gelatin powder too and add it to drinks and food. Check out this smoothie!
  • L-glutamine. An amino acid that heals the lining.
  • Zinc, Vitamin A
  • Probiotics (as long as SIBO, and other infections are treated appropriately)
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Real food

Please leave any questions in the comments and SHARE this article on social media, using those buttons below. There are bound to be numerous people who need this info!

Image courtesy of Ohmega1982 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net