Healing Foods: The answer to your health problem could be connected to your gut

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- Face it, we live in a world where if something ails you, you go to the doctor and maybe you get a pill to make it better.

But, when a pill couldn’t help one boy’s mysterious illness, a local mom went in search of a cure.

A simple change in diet changed their life forever.

At 12-years-old, Waylon Spiva is already a label reader.

He had to learn early-on the importance of all those ingredients because of a health condition his mother, Bridges Spiva, said started it all.

"In first grade we noticed Waylon starting to grunt," Bridges said. "Then we noticed some blinking, it was like he'd randomly wink or blink."

Bridges said doctors diagnosed him with a 'transient childhood tic.'

"I noticed it sometimes, but not every time," Waylon Spiva said.

No one knew why, and some doctors even warned it might turn into Tourette syndrome.

"So, for awhile we were just left with a transient childhood tic and there was really nothing we could do about it," Bridges explained.

That’s when they turned to Dr. Stacey Katany.

“I've treated a lot of patients who were at their wits end," Katany said.

Kantany practices functional medicine, where she said they focus on the individual, figuring out what the underlying reason is behind a person's symptoms.

For Waylon and many others, Katany said diagnosis and treatment isn't about popping a pill, but rather healing the gut.

Katany diagnosed Waylon with intestinal permeability, or leaky gut.

"Many symptoms that show up in one place can be due to an imbalance somewhere else in your body," Katany explained.

Dr. Katany went on to show that a disruption in your gut can not only cause chronic symptoms in your digestive system, but also in your brain, thyroid, heart, hormone imbalances, bone and joint issues, and immune system.

"When you consider you have about 100 trillion bacteria in your gut, and that compromises 100 times more DNA than we have as humans, we maybe need to be looking more closely at that," Katany said.

Antibiotics, steroids, or a bad stomach infection can lead to a problem in the lining of your intestine, that "leaky gut."

If that happens then the proteins in foods that the body normally digests can start to be recognized as foreign, so the immune system kicks into gear and inflammation occurs.

"When inflammation occurs it can go anywhere it wants to," Katany said.

Essentially the food you are putting in your body could be triggering your chronic illness.

"The top four potential triggers are wheat, dairy, soy, and anything related to gluten; rye and oats," Katany said.

Waylon's parents had him tested for leaky gut, and Dr. Katany took him off of all those trigger foods, and treated him with probiotics and supplements to heal his gut.

"Within a month, all of the symptoms stopped," Bridges said.

If this sounds too good to be true, some doctors will tell you it is; they argue there isn’t enough science to prove functional medicine is legit.

But, Dr. Katany said right now they are compiling their case studies and publishing their proof in the next year.

“There is a lot of information coming out where we connect the dots for people,” Katany said.

The Spiva's are believers though.

"It was eye opening to me," Bridges said.

"When I am about to eat food I think about where it comes from, like if it comes from a farm or a factory," Waylon said.

The Spiva's are now making food choices that are good for the whole family, inside and out.

You can get tested for leaky gut, insurance will often cover it.

But, in the meantime, if you feel like your gut may be what's ailing you, get on an anti-inflammatory diet; cut out wheat, dairy, soy and gluten.

You'll really need to read labels because they can hide in your foods.

Two different types of diets that support this eating lifestyle include the Paleo diet and the Whole 30 diet. Follow Maggie's blog to learn more about making the transition into the new eating lifestyle.

For more on testing and how you can get tested go here.

To find practitioners, go here and here.

Local doctors include Dr. Patty Powers in Lynchburg, Dr. Michael Arthur in Roanoke, Dr. Ashley Mannell in Richmond, and Dr. Aaron Hartman, also in Richmond.

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