While I've been very open about my leaky gut journey...yes, my body is still healing...I wanted to include an amazing food which has been kind to my system. I want to start off by saying my journey has not been an easy one. It has been wrought with ups, downs, twists, turns and everything in between. Quite honestly, there were times I'd grow weary of the whole leaky gut ordeal and wanted to say "screw it". However, I would not have had the benefit of learning how my body works and what works for it. This journey is really helping me stretch, grow and is making me a better health advocate. Plus, I'm not a quitter.
Let me be honest, I have almost 40 years of "mileage" when it comes to my relationship with sugar...yep sugar. I used it as a way to cope with emotional trauma which I did not know was deeply seeded in me. By the time I was ten years old, sugar became a friend, of sorts, comforting me when I was trying to suppress feelings of self-loathing, guilt and shame due to sexual molestation which occurred during my childhood years. I won't go into details on this blog post, but I will say I was traumatized and didn't realize or understand it until I was well into my adult years. You may ask, "so what does this have to do with sugar or papaya even?
Well, let's start with sugar. Sugar, in it's natural form is quite good for the body, especially those natural-occurring sugars found in fresh fruit. The white processed sugar, which seems to be everywhere and in EVERY THING these days, is not good for the body - it can cause a myriad of issues and can be at the root of gut disease...hence leaky gut. The reason it's not good for the body is because all the nutrients which were originally in sugar (think sugarcane), was stripped, bleached and processed with addictive chemicals.
For those of us with leaky gut, many are not receiving the absorption and utilization of nutrients which will repair the gut lining and contribute to healing. Leaky gut occurs when the intestinal wall lining has been damaged by consuming unhealthy fats and processed foods, which mostly contains processed sugar. The processed sugar creates a toxic environment which can cause yeast overgrowth (parasites) which leech onto intestinal walls and, over time, creates small tears or pinholes. Although the teeth, saliva and stomach acids do much of the work to break down foods, some food particles which travels through the intestinal tract can make detours through the pinholes and go directly into the bloodstream. This can, and has, wreaked havoc on the immune system, cause intestinal inflammation and create toxicity in the blood. And since blood travels everywhere within the body, the entire body, including major organs has the potential to become toxic as well. Research has shown that most chronic illnesses are generated from the gut and what enters your bloodstream through the intestinal lining
Supplements such as digestive enzymes can help break down food particles in order to prevent larger particles of food from entering the blood stream. However, there are also certain foods which can be eaten to help seal, heal and create a healthy, well-balanced flora...namely papaya.
Papaya is rich in antioxidant nutrients such as carotenes, flavonoids, and vitamin C, as well as vitamin B (folate and pantothenic acid). It is also a good source of fiber and minerals such as magnesium. Together, these nutrients help improve cardiovascular health and protect against colon cancer. Papayas are commonly consumed for proper digestion. Papain, a digestive super enzyme, improves digestion by breaking down proteins and also cleanses the digestive tract. Papaya juice and the ripened form of papaya also aid in digestion. The fiber obtained from the fruit helps increase bowel movements. Improved bowel movements help ease the passage of stool, thereby reducing the effects of constipation. Papain works by cleaving the peptide bonds of complex proteins, breaking them down to their individual amino acids, ready for use in the growth and repair of your body. So, while I still take Glutamine (up to 10 mg per day) to repair my intestinal lining, I eat papaya for its natural healing benefits.
For me, the best way to consume papaya is alone, without any mixes, milks, other fruit or ingredients. I do this because because each fruit group has a unique enzyme assigned to it and mixing anything else with it can disrupt the digestion process. The only thing I mix with papaya is more papaya. Also, fruit digests very quickly, so if you add a nut milk, which contains protein, the papaya has to wait for the protein to digest...and while it's waiting, it's putrefying, or rotting, inside the body. This only creates other issues and discomforts in the body such as constipation and gas.
Most leaky gut diet plans require you to avoid eating fruit altogether and I have done so, for the most part, until my gut heals and I and can re-introduce them into my diet. However, I do consume papaya, for all the reasons mentioned. I also eat green apples (Granny Smith) on occasion, as this variety can help detox the liver by removing toxins. Granny Smith's also, contain antioxidants and fibers that increase bile production, which is responsible for expelling the toxins before they reach the liver.
Here's my easy-peasy Papaya Smoothie recipe.
2 cups ripe Papaya, cubed or sliced
6 ice cubes
1/4 cup water
Directions: Add all ingredients to high-speed blender. Enjoy!
Regina Thomas Dillard is the author of "FEED: Living Food Recipes to be Made and Eaten with Love", and founder of Inner + Sanctum Wellness, a business dedicated to assist others as they embark on their holistic journey. All products are handmade and sourced from reputable organic and natural ingredients purveyors.