I inherited something called Selective IgA Deficiency. It’s a common issue, 1 in 500 Caucasian people have it. It means I lack antibodies that protect the mucosal lining. Having this genetic issue doesn’t mean you’re destined for illness, but it does mean you’re more susceptible to it, especially if your gut mucosa is damaged by medications, certain foods, or infections.
My gut mucosa was damaged by all of the above: overuse of antibiotics throughout my childhood and teen years, eating foods like gluten that irritated the gut lining and that I didn’t know I was sensitive to, and a serious bacterial infection I had when I was 21 years old that led to chronic intestinal issues.
Years of treating intestinal inflammation with antibiotics combined with the immunosuppressive Prednisone permanently wiped out my Lactobacillus, a good bacteria that helps protect the intestinal mucosa from invasions of bad bacteria. Even after 15 years of taking high dose probiotics, a test revealed I had zero of this probiotic species growing in my gut.
Changing my diet decades ago and addressing infections with holistic medicine healed the inflammation and eliminated GI symptoms. And I enjoyed good health for a while, before the next infection, Lyme Disease, appeared.
Because something I didn’t know needed my attention, even when I felt my healthiest, was continued repair of my gut. One of the most critical things I’ve learned on my wellness journey is how important it is to rebuild and maintain my gut lining.
What is intestinal mucosa?
Inside our intestine, there are two layers of mucosa, a mucous membrane. Imagine the lining of a coat: the inner lining creates a barrier between your body and the outer coat. The outer coat protects you from the environment, like rain, snow or dirt.
Our gut lining works similarly. We have an inner lining, like the inner lining of a coat, that stops bacteria from entering our bloodstream. We have an outer lining, similar to the outside of our coat, that protects the inner lining from becoming contaminated with bacteria. It’s a multi-walled system, like having several bouncers at the digestive door who keep the bad guys out and protect the good guys.
When you don’t have enough good bacteria to protect your mucosal lining, or a strong mucosal lining to begin with, the chances of illness spike.
The gut lining’s job
- Producing enzymes that help digest food
- Absorbing nutrients from food
- Protection from inflammation
- Protection from allergic responses
- Helps maintain blood sugar balance
- Protection from infections
- Synthesizing vitamins like biotin, pantothenic acid, and vitamin K
Effects of damaged gut lining (a.k.a. leaky gut)
- Bile acid malabsorption (I’ll write more about this in a separate blog)
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Vulnerability to infections, weakened immune system
- IBS and IBD
- Autoimmune diseases like R.A. and Lupus
- Skin issues like acne, eczema and rashes
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic inflammation
- Mental health issues like depression
More ways gut lining gets damaged
- Chronic use of NSAID’s
- Bacterial infections like salmonella, Lyme disease and sepsis
- Overuse of antibiotics
- Lack of probiotics in the diet
- Inflammatory diets (lots of processed foods, refined sugar, histamine-rich foods, food sensitivities)
Tests to check your gut lining
An endoscopy helps a G.I. doctor look at the state of the mucosal lining in your upper GI tract, including your stomach and small intestine. A colonoscopy helps him/her analyze your large intestine. Some doctors will form an opinion based on your lab work, medical history and symptoms without requesting invasive tests.
And now to the good part!
Reconstructing gut mucosa
If you’re like me, the first question you may have is how long will this take?
According to The Harvard Gazette, the intestine is the most highly regenerative organ in the human body, regenerating its lining every five to seven days. If you have a healthy gut, no worries, you’re regenerating a fresh lining every week!
If you have mild gut issues, it could take anywhere from 2 to 12 weeks to strengthen your gut lining.
If you have autoimmunity or another chronic illness, it can take up to two years or more to repair your gut lining.
And more good news from a Harvard study, significant changes in the makeup of the gut bacteria occurred just three days after a dietary change. The power of food, right?
You could help your gut lining start regenerating today by avoiding food sensitivities, and seeing which diet works best for you. Two common diets that help many recover from IBS are FODMAPS and a low histamine diet.
Supplements that work
These are the best supplements that I’ve personally tried on my gut healing journey.
I use RenewLife’s IntestiNew as my first line of defense. I find it critical in the initial phases of repairing a gut that has been a war zone. That’s how I would describe my gut after a Borrelia (Lyme) infection. That bacteria bombed my intestines for years, leaving my gut lining so weak, I was reacting as if I had been poisoned by anything I put in my mouth. Even plain lettuce leaves! (Click here to read the protocol that healed that.)
IntestiNew has lots of soothing ingredients like NAD, marshmallow root, ginger, and the powerhouse amino acid L-Glutamine. It’s available in powder and capsules. This great formula helps strengthen and support the protective intestinal lining and cells.
Straight up L-Glutamine, this stuff is a wonder amino. I met a healthy, full-time working 80-something year old man who takes two a day and swears by it’s health benefits.
I’ve read varying things about whether capsules are easily absorbed, so I opted for the powder for now. It’s easy enough, I just put a scoop of the tasteless stuff in my unsweetened iced tea, juice or lemon water. I use Pure Encapsulations brand because it doesn’t have any fillers.
This amino acid is the #1 supplement for healing intestinal mucosa. I notice a big difference when I take it, it restores digestive harmony.
I’ve decided to take it for life because of Selective IgA Deficiency. My immunologist agreed, it’s a good idea. My hope is probiotics and L-Glutamine will not only help me regenerate my gut lining, these immune protectors will help me stay strong in the long run.
The medication that helped
Low-dose Naltrexone, also known as LDN. It’s an immune regulator, providing relief to people with autoimmune, inflammatory and central nervous system disorders. After a doctor recommended it to me as a potential Lyme Disease treatment, I did some research. What I found was impressive. A before and after photograph from a clinical study showing intestinal mucosa healed in just 4 weeks! The NIH even backed it up for IBD. That plus this video finally convinced me to give it a try.
I had a positive experience taking LDN. I had to start at a very low dose because the standard dose triggered too strong of an immune response, otherwise known as a “herx” effect. Taken at low doses, it improved my digestion, sleep and overall well-being. The only reason I stopped taking it is because of the cost. It’s not covered by insurance, and was $100 per month. I know of a doctor who has been taking it daily for years, claims it’s helped inflammation, and has no plans of stopping.
Why organic may matter
There is no conclusive scientific data about the effects of pesticides and GMO’s on the microbiome or gut lining. It could take many years of studies until the public has access to accurate data. Considering the heavy duty pesticides used in America are linked to diseases like cancer, and studies in Europe showed a connection between GMO’s and tumor growths, I’d say better safe than sorry and opt for organic, at least for the dirty dozen.
This post contains some affiliate links to items I’ve purchased.