The Healthy Gut

Just as your skin forms a barrier to the world outside of your body, your gut forms a barrier inside your body. The surface area of your gut is 200 times larger than your skin. Laid out flat, your intestines would cover an entire tennis court. To achieve proper absorption, the gut lining is very thin: only a single cell thick! 

That single-cell lining is in constant contact with nutrients, microbes, toxins, additives, and drugs that pass through your system every single day. It works as a filter that determines what should be passed from the digestive tract into the body, and what substances  (like toxins, bacteria, and undigested food) should be kept out. Your immune system is constantly inspecting the border of your gut, searching for anything it does not recognize in order to prevent an invasion of pathogens.

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut syndrome, also called increased intestinal permeability, occurs when the walls of your intestine begin to allow undigested food particles and toxins to leak into your bloodstream. Properly digested food is usually absorbed through the cell wall, but when the tight junctions between the gut lining cells begin to loosen, a pathway between the cells is opened up, exposing your gut-associated immune system to a wide variety of metabolic toxins. This activates an immune response that targets food particles and pathogens, but may also attack healthy body cells, as well.

Symptoms of Leaky Gut

We know that most illness starts in the gut. When substances get through the gut lining that shouldn’t, the immune response creates inflammation, and healthy body cells may be affected. 

Symptoms of leaky gut include:

  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus, or psoriasis
  • Brain fog
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia
  • Digestive problems, including bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, indigestion, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Migraines
  • Mood disorders, including ADD, ADHD, anxiety, or depression
  • Food allergies or intolerances
  • Hormonal imbalances, including PMS or polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Skin problems, including acne, eczema, and rosacea
  • Weight gain (partly due to water retention)

What Causes Leaky Gut?

Because the gut lining is thinner than a single piece of hair, it is extremely sensitive to factors that may cause cell damage. Many triggering events can disrupt the gut flora, compromise the tight junctions between cells, and lead to the development of a leaky gut: 

  • Chronic Stress
  • Frequent use of NSAIDS: aspirin, ibuprofen, Advil, Aleve
  • Infections
  • Ingestion of emulsifiers (used in processed foods to make it thicker or hold together)
  • Lack of fiber or phytochemical intake
  • Lack of probiotic and prebiotic foods
  • Low stomach acid
  • Poor dietary choices: the SAD (standard American diet) full of starch, sugar, and processed oils
  • Systemic inflammatory disease
  • Toxin exposure: preservatives, pesticides (glyphosate), and environmental toxins
  • Use of antibiotics
  • Use of acid blockers
  • Use of steroid medication

How to Heal a Leaky Gut

A properly functioning digestive system is critical to good health. Functional medicine aims to identify the root of what is causing leaky gut in order to heal the whole issue. There are 5 primary steps that help heal the digestive system and can lead to dramatic symptom improvement. These steps are recommended by the Institute for Functional Medicine

Remove

Remove triggers that that negatively affect the gut lining, including:

  • Antibiotics
  • Bacteria or yeast overgrowth
  • Chronic stress
  • Exposure to pesticides or preservatives
  • Foods that trigger intolerance, sensitivity, or allergy
  • Heavy metals
  • Inflammatory foods (sugar, flour, gluten)
  • Negative thoughts or emotions
  • Parasites
  • Processed foods
  • Toxic people 

This step might involve using an allergy elimination diet to identify food triggers or a stool test to look at the microbiome and analyze the function of the gut. 

Replace

When the gut is inflamed it does not secrete digestive enzymes to digest foods properly or absorb nutrients and foods properly. You can aid in your healing process by replacing digestive enzymes required for proper nutrition that may have been compromised by diet, medication, or disease, such as:

  • Bile acids 
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Hydrochloric acid

This helps improve the breakdown of proteins, fats, carbohydrates. Breaking foods down into its component parts (example: protein to amino acids) helps prevent an inflammatory immune reaction. 

Reinoculate

Your gut contains an entire world of “friendly” bacteria that help you digest food and keep the “unfriendly” bacteria at bay. You can support your digestive system by consuming probiotic foods or supplements that contain the “friendly” intestinal bacteria, such as the bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species. 

Fermented foods are a good source of probiotics:

  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha (no sugar added)
  • Kvass
  • Sauerkraut

*Remember – pickles are preserved through the acidity of vinegar, which is different from the fermenting process. Pickles may seem like they are fermented, but they won’t be helpful in the gut healing process.

Probiotics in the colon feed on prebiotics in order to survive and grow. Prebiotics can be found in supplement form, but it is recommended to include foods high in soluble fiber and phytonutrients in your diet. Try including:

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Chicory
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Onion

Eating a wide variety of healthy, (ideally) organic food is what the environment in our gut needs to thrive. A great rule of thumb is to eat something from every color of the rainbow every day. Going to a more plant based, high fiber diet has been shown to change the microbiome within 48 hours!

Repair

You can help your gut lining repair itself by supplying your digestive system with key nutrients that may be in missing in a leaky gut:

  • Antioxidants (vitamins A, C, and E)
  • Collagen
  • Fish oil
  • Glutamine
  • Zinc

Rebalance

Your lifestyle choices make a very big impact on your gut health. Balancing It is important to pay your activities is important to obtaining a healthy, optimally functioning digestive tract. 

  • Find healthy ways to manage stress and negative emotions
  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Get adequate sleep

Your gut health directly impacts every other area of your health. Start making positive changes towards optimizing your gut health today! 

FMI is here to partner with you to identify the root issues, create an individualized treatment plan, and guide you on your healing journey. 

Click below to start the new patient process

Stephanie Ritari, PA-C

Stephanie Ritari is a board-certified Physician Assistant who offers primary care for adults at the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center. She specializes in Internal Medicine and has spent the majority of her career in the field of cardiovascular disorders.

Stephanie has more than 15 years experience as a Physician Assistant in a variety of medical areas, including cardiology and electrophysiology. Holistic practices have long been a part of Stephanie’s lifestyle, with a particular focus on clean living and nutrition. She has embedded functional principles into her conventional medicine practice throughout her career. After watching family members struggle to find answers for their chronic illnesses, Stephanie became more interested in finding ways to take a root cause approach in her own practice. Wanting to provide a proactive, comprehensive, and preventative scope of care for her patients, Stephanie began studying functional medicine. In 2021, she joined Functional Medicine of Idaho, where she is able to provide evidence based, root cause medicine.

Stephanie earned her Bachelor's of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Montana and her masters in Physician Assistant Studies from Rocky Mountain College. She is currently working towards her certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine. 

In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys spending time with her husband, son, and dog doing outdoor activities including biking, hiking, and skiing. She also loves interior design and traveling, and is hoping to start her own garden in the near future.

Dr. David Musnick, MD, IFMCP

David Musnick is a board-certified medical doctor who offers in-person and telemedicine care from the Functional Medicine of Idaho Eagle clinic (coming soon). Dr. Musnick offers Functional Medicine, Sports Medicine, Functional Immunology, and Primary Care for adults and teenagers. He specializes in sports medicine, internal medicine, frequency specific microcurrent (FSM), scars, homeopathy, prolotherapy, and low-level laser treatments. 

Dr. Musnick is interested in getting to the root of underlying causes and factors that affect healing, including diet, sleep, exercise, stress, GI health, brain region health, toxins, hormones, infections, and electromagnetic fields (EMF). In medical school, Dr. Musnick spent a year studying nutrition. He has always been interested in the complex interrelationships of different systems of the body. Taking on challenges in the past, he created new treatment programs to heal the brain after concussion, treat chronic pain, arthritis, and tough SIBO and IBS cases. Dr. Musnick wants to help his patients achieve the highest level of health, vitality and function. 

After his internal medicine residency in Seattle, Dr. Musnick completed a fellowship in sports medicine where he became interested in helping patients get back to optimal musculoskeletal health and eventually back to their favorite activities. He quickly learned that many areas of the body were interrelated and started learning more about nutrition, supplements, and other facets of functional medicine. Dr. Musnick has more than 24 years of experience in Functional Medicine and achieved a very high level of both experience and expertise with many health conditions. He is also the author of the book, Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness, and helped in writing textbook chapters on arthritis and concussions.

Dr. Musnick received his Doctorate of Medicine from the University of California, San Francisco. He is certified through the Institute for Functional Medicine as an IFMCP. He also studied in the French school of Homeopathy. He is uniquely rare in that he teaches Frequency Specific Microcurrent (FSM) and how to integrate it with functional medicine. 

In his spare time, Dr. Musnick enjoys hiking, nature photography, cooking healthy food, mountain biking, and skiing.

IFM Certified Practitioner

Aaron Dykstra, DNP, FNP-C

Aaron Dykstra is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. He offers pediatric primary care, including well-child checks and acute visits, in the Pediatric Department of the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center.

Functional and alternative therapies were a part of Aaron’s life from a young age, and he has implemented these principles into his conventional medicine practice throughout his career. Aaron has more than 8 years of experience in a variety of medical disciplines, including pediatrics, obstetrics, mental health, and nutrition. He has practiced in rural health clinics in California and Oregon. For the last 5 years, Aaron has had a passion for working with children and implementing positive change through the family unit. Aaron joined the Functional Medicine of Idaho Pediatric Team in 2021. His enthusiasm for educating children and parents about living a healthy lifestyle allows him to provide preventative and acute care for infants, children, and adolescents. 

Aaron obtained his Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Brigham Young University. He earned both his Master’s of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice through the University of Arizona. He has obtained a Family Herbalist and Family Nutritionist certifications through The School of Natural Healing by Dr. Christopher. He is currently working towards his certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Outside of work, you will find Aaron spending time with his wife and 5 kids, mountain biking, running, or camping in the backyard. Aaron is a big fan of Master Chef and enjoys cooking.

Nadia Kravchuk, DNP, FNP-C

Nadia Kravchuk is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. She offers functional pediatric primary care, including well-child checks and acute visits, in the Pediatric Department of the Functional Medicine of Idaho Meridian Wellness Center.

Nadia and her family immigrated to the United States in 1989 where they first settled in Oregon and then moved to Idaho in 2001. Complementary medicine practices were embedded into her lifestyle at a young age, and she has implemented these principles into her conventional medicine practice throughout her career. She has more than 15 years experience in a variety of medical environments, including emergency room, intensive care unit, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, family practice, and aesthetics.

Nadia joined Functional Medicine of Idaho so that she can combine functional principles with the foundations of conventional medicine to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness. As an avid gardener, beekeeper, and sustainable living enthusiast, she understands the importance and role of optimizing nutrition, sleep, physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. She has a passion for pediatric functional medicine and understands that early recognition and interventions can correct imbalances, prevent chronic illness, and improve overall outcomes for children.

Nadia obtained her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Northwest Nazarene University. She earned both her Master’s of Science in Nursing and Doctor of Nursing Practice through Frontier Nursing University. In 2017, she was the recipient of the HCA Excellence in Nursing Award. She is currently working towards her certification with The Institute for Functional Medicine.

Outside of work, you will find Nadia working on her urban homestead, hiking, foraging, camping, snowboarding, and spending time with her husband and her dog, Wolfy. She is also fluent in both English and Russian.