The Holistic Gut Prescription is designed to be a simple guide to healing the gut, based on the following premise: if people give the body what it needs to heal itself and remove the obstacles to its cure, then within reason, healing will follow.
Nature Cure is not easy to employ, but it is usually easy to understand. There are only so many building blocks, and there are only so many possible obstacles to cure. The physician’s job is not to “make someone well,” but rather to facilitate the process of healing.
In this guide, Dr. Lauren helps readers recognize which obstacles to a healthy gut they face, how to remove them, and how to supply the specific building blocks they lack so that they can create their own personal path to optimal digestive wellness.
“The Holistic Gut Prescription is the most thorough guide to intestinal wellness I’ve seen to date. Readers can learn detailed programs to reverse leaky gut, chronic infections, candida and chronic inflammation. The book also gives deep perspective on how multifaceted the connections between gut health, lifestyle, and mindset are. Highly recommended.” —Alan Christianson, NMD, New York Times bestselling author of The Adrenal Reset Diet
Dr. Lauren Deville is board-certified to practice medicine in the State of Arizona. She received her NMD from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ, and she holds a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from the University of Arizona, with minors in Spanish and Creative Writing.
She also loves yoga, piano, and good audiobooks. She writes fiction under a pen name in her spare time.
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I couldn’t even remember what “normal” felt like.
As a child, I had severe allergies, in the usual pattern, called the “atopic triad”: eczema and hives, then hay fever, then asthma. When I was little, I loved dresses and frills and everything sparkly, but my rashes were so severe that I’d claw my legs open at night until they bled. My mom dressed me in long pants to hide the carnage and keep me from continuing to scratch whenever possible. (She tells me now that I pouted about it a lot.)
I was born and spent the first few years of my life in Louisiana, but after multiple asthma attacks despite allergy shots, the allergist there told my family that perhaps I might do better in a drier climate. So, despite the fact that both my parents had lived in Louisiana for the better part of their lives, and all of my extended family was there too, my dad flew out to Arizona to look for a job—the driest of the dry states.
In short order, we moved. And it worked: I definitely improved. Over the years, I even appeared to “outgrow” my allergies (provided I wasn’t around animals). As a physician myself now, though, I know that allergies are cumulative. The body reacts to environmental allergies, to food, and to chemicals in the same way: with histamine release. We succeeded in eliminating at least the environmental allergens in Louisiana, which knocked down my overall allergen load low enough that many of my symptoms faded to background noise… for a time. I don’t know if I had chemical sensitivities back then, but in retrospect, I did have food allergies: the IgG kind, the kind you can’t diagnose with a skin prick test (more on this in Chapter 1). Those symptoms don’t go away if you don’t address them—but I suspect that, with the strong healthy adrenals of a happy child, and the removal of the environmental allergens, my body was able to handle the food allergies without giving me too much trouble. Yet.
My adrenals, the glands that help deal with stress (more on this in Chapter 4), took a major hit when my father died. I was fifteen. I suspect that they suddenly couldn’t produce enough cortisol (the stress hormone, and also the anti-inflammatory hormone) to deal with a normal day, let alone inflammatory insults like the food allergies that had been there all along. It was shortly after that when I first got acne: before that, people used to tell me I had skin “like a porcelain doll.” I think that was when the bloating began, too. Atopic children (those with the triad of skin problems, allergies, and asthma) commonly grow up to develop gut problems. I’d always had issues with constipation, but by the time I recognized the bloating for what it was, I was so used to it that I’d basically just tuned it out. I assumed everyone must feel this way.
Then in college, I must have been exposed to toxic mold. (I deduced this via bloodwork in retrospect—and I did live in some pretty questionable places in college.) I think college was when the eczema came back, too. If I didn’t have leaky gut syndrome before (see Chapter 1), I had it now: and with it, overgrowth of candida (see Chapter 3), a fungal organism that eats sugar and simple carbohydrates and makes carbon dioxide as a byproduct.
And guess what I was eating? Simple carbs. All the time.
I thought I was being healthy, though: I ate bagels and cream cheese for breakfast, singleserve containers of fruited yogurt on the go, and occasionally I had iced mochas for lunch.
(Okay, more than occasionally. The coffee cart guy gave me free coffee on a regular basis, and brought his wife to see me perform in a musical once.) But sometimes I’d snack on pieces of fruit here and there, maybe even the occasional carrots. I didn’t really cook (it seemed I always had better things to do), but I wasn’t eating fast food or desserts at every meal either, so I was doing well, right? I couldn’t explain the fact that I felt several months pregnant every time I ate, but I didn’t really think about it that much, to be honest. I was just so used to it.
As you might imagine, naturopathic medical school was a bit of a rude awakening. I remember when I had my first food allergy test in the student clinic. The older student who took my case came back into the room with a somber look on her face. A sense of utter dread crashed over me.
“Please,” I begged, “please, just tell me I’m not allergic to coffee!”
“No,” she said, sliding the results over to me, “but you’re allergic to everything else.”
It was almost true. To date, I think I’ve only seen one or two other patient food allergy tests to rival my own.
Since then, it’s been quite a journey. I cut out the foods I was sensitive to and then added them back six weeks later, but (unlike most patients) the sensitivities just returned. While the bloating improved, during school, it really never went away. I’m sure this had something to do with the fact that, as a medical student, I was a stress ball. I already had a predisposition to anxiety (“I have to do this, and this, and this, and oh my gosh, what if I forget that?”). I was in constant “fight or flight” mode—which meant all the blood flowed to my limbs, and not to my gut, where it should have gone to “rest and digest.” I ate standing up, in the car, rushing to the next clinic rotation… anything but sitting down and chewing slowly, like I should have. This meant I wasn’t releasing sufficient digestive enzymes to break down the food I’d just thrust into my gullet—so the bacteria in my gut happily did it for me, producing an abundance of carbon dioxide and acid byproducts in the process. The bloating and cramping became especially bad, I noticed, when I was on rotation with a few attending physicians who were… let’s just say, not very nice to us students. (You know those stereotypes of medical school, where the attending physicians pick various students to humiliate at every opportunity? Yeah, that happens in naturopathic school, too. I never knew when it would be my turn to suffer wrath for something as simple as offering a patient a glass of water.) That entire quarter, and especially on one particular shift, I was one big gas bubble.
Meanwhile, the eczema waxed and waned, mostly in response to various homeopathic remedies, which I plied upon myself like a mad scientist, lacking the patience to submit myself to a student clinician with more experience and objectivity. Once, my arms exploded in rashes from shoulders to wrists. I looked like I’d been burned: I wore long sleeves for three weeks in the Arizona summer to cover them up. The acne also stubbornly refused to budge, though it was decidedly worse around my menstrual cycle. As a woman who cared about my appearance, that was almost worse than anything else.
Over those next four years of school, I tried a lot of things: a lot of diets, a lot of supplements, a lot of homeopathic remedies. My healthy regimen was enough to get me by, and make great strides, but not enough to get me fully better. My obstacles to cure were certainly stress (Chapter 5) and toxic thoughts—(“There’s never enough time and what if I don't get it all done?!”—see Chapter 7), but also mold and recurrent candida (see Chapters 3 and 4), which prevented the leaky gut (see Chapter 1) from fully healing. Because of the mold, I wasn’t detoxing my hormones as well as I should have been either—which made everything worse around my cycle (see Chapter 6).
Each of my issues had to be addressed, fully, in order for my own gut to heal: leaky gut syndrome and food allergies, candida, mold, seasonal allergies, adrenal fatigue, histamine intolerance, hormone imbalance, anxiety and stress. Some of those symptoms stemmed from the same root cause, and some were a root cause in and of themselves. Combined, they created my specific brand of digestive dysfunction. Every case is a little bit different—that’s why this is the Holistic Gut Prescription!
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