Most of my clients ask me what are some of the mistakes that they make when they try to improve their digestive health. With all the research available to us on the Internet, misconceptions are abundant. Many people also make personal changes to their diet, by the information that they receive from the news, talk shows (Dr. Oz, The Doctors), or from family members. Always research any information you are exposed to, before making major life changes. Always use your research to make best-informed decisions.

Just because I give you recommendations and information that might be beneficial to you, does not mean that what I suggest will always work out for you. A few things that you believe you are doing that are beneficial to your health might be in fact harming you as well. Everyone is different, though. Therefore not all the information applies to each and every one of us.

Nonetheless, I believe the following recommendations on the list are the most common mistakes that people make when they are trying to improve both their digestive health.

Five Common Mistakes Made When Trying to Improve One’s Digestive Health

5. Eating A Paleo Diet or The Bulletproof Diet When a Person Has SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth)

Finally, you have taken control of your health by switching to one of the cleanest diets, a paleo type diet. You have lost weight, your joints feel better, your pain is reduced, and your sleep is the best. You have said goodbye to all of the perils of a standard American diet, whole grains, processed food, hydrogenated oils, and lack of omega 3’s. Even though you have improved your health, your intestinal tract still feels funny. You still suffer from gas, and your stomach still bloats. 1 How can this be? You switched to one of the healthiest diets on the planet. Well, even though, your food selections are healthier than any time in your life, they still contain fermentable material that is feeding the opportunistic bacteria in the small intestine. But is switching to an ancestral diet good for the digestive health of people with SIBO?

Probiotic digestive bacteria are only supposed to be found in great numbers in the large intestine. These probiotics can become opportunistic if their population becomes too great or if the conditions are just right (too much fermentable food, weakened immune system, and long-term PPI use, 2 to name a few). The bacteria then overrun and infect the small intestine. This chain reaction eventually causes improper digestion of food, which produces a lot of gas. This gas causes bloating, pain, and discomfort. It can also lead to leaky gut syndrome eventually, which has its host of digestive problems. 3

From the fruit you are eating as a snack, the asparagus you had for dinner, or the butter in your bulletproof coffee the next morning, all of these things feed the bacteria in your intestines. The bacteria take all of the fructose (fruit sugar, apples for example), fructans (wheat, garlic, onions), and lactose (milk, ice cream, cream, butter) you just ingested and use it for ENERGY! Now all of the healthy food you thought you had been eating during the day is making your SIBO much worse by giving the bacteria, extra food to ferment. 4

One of the best ways to tackle SIBO using one’s the diet is to continue eating a paleo type diet, but also limit FODMAP’s and resistant starches until your digestion is better. Resistant starches include rice that is high in starch (brown rice, non-sticky rice), grains, and cooled white potatoes. 5 Click on this link if you want to learn more about FODMAP’s. 6 Finally, there are issues with limiting one’s diet long term and the effect of the microbiome. Here is a blog article on how you can improve the low FODMAP diet so that it works better for you.

4. Over Use of Colonics / Colon Cleansing

Periodically colon cleaning is extremely important for digestive health. When colon cleansing is done properly, you can eliminate opportunistic bacteria, toxins, undigested fecal matter, and help restore proper intestinal function. Proper clean fiber intake, proper magnesium intake, and proper hydration should be all the average person needs to keep their bowels regulated. Some alternative medicine experts recommend colonics or even coffee enemas for colon cleansing. I believe that both of these types of colon cleansing should be used sparingly if even used at all. Both of these commonly recommended forms of colon cleansing can cause electrolyte imbalances and imbalances of gut flora as well. 7

Your digestive system has a natural defensive probiotic barrier and mucus barrier to help protect your intestines from opportunistic bacteria and toxins. Overuse of colon cleansing methods can wear down this barrier over time and cause more harm than good.

I believe that everyone should at least do one of my colon cleansing protocols at least once a year to keep the digestive system running smoothly. I would do the protocol no more than two times a year, because too much cleansing can reduce the body’s natural flora and limit the body’s natural elimination cycles.

3. Ingestion of Carrageenan in “Healthy” Natural or Organic Products / Ingestion of Raw Milk When a Person is Suffering From Severe Digestive Disorders is a “Healthy” Idea

Carrageenan is a family of linear sulfated polysaccharides that are extracted from red seaweed. 8 Carrageenan is used in the food industry (even in natural and organic products) for its gelling, thickening, and stabilizing properties in food. Carrageenan is used mainly in meat and dairy products. The problem with carrageenan is that it has been implicated in causing gastrointestinal problems in multiple studies. 9 In those studies, it was found that carrageenan caused gastrointestinal inflammation and immune responses in the gut. It also has been linked to causing gastrointestinal cancer in animals as well. 10 Anyone suffering from gastritis or inflammatory diseases should eliminate carrageenan until their gastrointestinal tract heals. It might need to be eliminated from the diet for some people.

Raw Milk is healthy for some people, but I believe that it should only be consumed in people who have optimal functioning digestive systems. Granted raw milk does have some beneficial probiotics left in the milk; it also has been documented to contain a higher MAP content as well. 11 Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis is a mycobacterium that is found concentrated in ruminant milk and is one of the proposed causes of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. 12 Someone with IBD should stay away from all forms of dairy until the disease is completely in remission for a long period of time. Some sufferers might have to stay away from dairy products forever if they are sensitive to them. The probiotics in raw milk can be beneficial in people with different digestive diseases but can aggravate digestive problems in people with SIBO.

I recommend that if you do drink milk, you should drink VAT pasteurized non-homogenized pasture-raised milk. There is mixed information if pasteurization even eliminates MAP, but I would always try to take the safest option available to prevent against MAP infection. 13 14 VAT pasteurization is a process in which the milk is pasteurized at the lowest temperature possible. VAT pasteurization also keeps most of the beneficial enzymes and amino acids intact, compared to regular pasteurization, which inactivates the enzymes and amino acids. 15

2. Eating Whole Wheat Products Are Healthy!

Gluten is a protein component that is found in wheat and other related grain species like barley and rye. Gluten is what gives elasticity to the dough, and helps wheat products rise, keep their shape, and give wheat its chewy texture when eaten. 16 Gluten is the composite of two other proteins, gliadin, and glutenin, which make up 80% of the proteins in wheat. 17 Gluten is not destroyed by cooking or processing and, therefore, is present in all wheat products.

Gluten is in almost every meal the average American eats on a daily basis, so make sure you check nutrition labels and ingredients. If you eat out for your meals, check the restaurant’s ingredient list before dining. Gluten is found in bread, most cereals, cookies, muffins, pancakes, waffles, most fried foods coated in flour, pies, cakes, gravy, pizza, pasta dishes, flour tortillas, and other foods made with flour. 18 Also remember your food can be contaminated with gluten if it is fried in the same oil as food that contains gluten (including fries that are fried in the same oil that onion rings are fried in). 19 Gluten can even be added to food secretly, like McDonald’s French fries, where it is added as a natural flavoring. 20

Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease is becoming more prevalent all over the world 21 because wheat was selectively bred in the 1960’s to contain more gluten and gliadin. These new wheat plants were shorter and were quicker to harvest. Since the new plants were shorter, they also contained more gluten and thicker gluten strands to support the grains’ growth. 22 You can still purchase Einkorn wheat (heirloom wheat) which has less gluten and gliadin than modern wheat and tends to cause fewer reactions in your average person if they are sensitive to wheat (people with Celiac disease still have to avoid it).

Upon digestion, gliadin is reduced to a collection of five polypeptides, which bind to the opioid receptors in the brain. The opioid peptides in wheat can make the consumption of wheat addicting to the body. It can also stimulate appetite and make you crave wheat products. 23 24 Giladin also has been shown to increase small intestinal permeability leading to leaky gut syndrome. 25

Glutenin has been shown to bind to the leptin receptor in your stomach causing you to want to eat more. The binding of glutenin leads to less leptin being produced and circulating throughout the body. 26 Leptin is the hormone of satiety and is what makes you feel food after eating a meal. 27 Ingestion of glutenin makes you crave more food, which may cause you to overeat.

I know that you were taught to believe that whole wheat bread is better for you than standard white bread. The problem with whole wheat bread is that it contains more gluten and more amylopectin A. 28 Amylopectin A is the “complex” carbohydrate unique to wheat that is highly digestible by the enzyme amylase in your saliva and pancreas secretions. Since amylopectin A is a carbohydrate that is easily digested, it can make one’s blood sugar soar. After eating, two slices of whole wheat bread, your blood sugar increases higher than eating two tablespoons of sugar. 29

All this information should cause even the average person who does not have a gluten intolerance to reduce the ingestion of gluten for proper health, everything in moderation.

1. Taking a Daily Probiotic

I know this is a controversial stance, but just hear me out this issue. People in the natural health field frequently recommend that mostly everyone should take a probiotic every day. I do not agree with this blanket statement. If a patient needs probiotics frequently to relieve their digestive problems, they have an underlying health problem that isn’t properly being addressed.

Most people should only take probiotics shortly during a protocol, or during / after they have taken an antibiotic long term. Probiotics should not be taken for a long period of time unless medically necessary. Probiotic supplements that are used every day can cause SIBO in some people, even if they are healthy. Developing SIBO could happen to some people because the probiotic bacteria they are digesting could implant themselves in the small intestine, instead of the large intestine due to slow motility. People who take probiotics regularly, if they have a sudden medical emergency, their immune system can become compromised. If their immune system becomes compromised, the probiotics can become opportunistic and cause serious health problems. 30 Probiotics can be very important for digestive health, but they should only be taken in certain situations for different periods of time. Finally, some people have issues with d-lactate (you get brain fog, headaches, fatigue, or depression / anxiety when you ingest probiotics), Th1 / Th2 reactions, or histamine (you get brain fog, allergic reactions, headaches, or fatigue when you ingest probiotics) with certain strains of probiotics that produce them.

These are all common mistakes that people make when they are trying to improve their digestive health. I have made many of these mistakes myself in the beginning before I became a researcher. Never put yourself down for mistakes you have made in your health in the past, always try to live a healthier tomorrow!

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