Leaky gut has been correlated to numerous chronic health conditions such as autoimmune conditions and systemic inflammation (Source), as well as many neurological conditions such as Parkinson's disease (Source). When your gut is leaky, then the function of your intestinal cells becomes compromised, altering their ability to digest and absorb nutrients. Given that leaky gut is correlated to many chronic health conditions, it becomes important to consume foods in an easily digestible format, and cooked foods allow for easier digestibility.
Cooking vegetables can break down cell walls making it easier for your body to extract many nutrients. While some nutritional value is lost during cooking, it is important to consider the state of digestive function overall. When digestive function is compromised, such as when leaky gut is present, then cooking foods ensures that nutrients can be extracted from foods.
Raw foods that are still easy to digest include soaked or sprouted nuts and seeds, fermented vegetables, and fermented raw dairy.
Once a leaky gut is repaired, and digestive function is optimal, then slowly adding raw vegetables and fruit back into your diet will allow you to benefit from all those great enzymes!
MYTH #3 - A VEGAN DIET IS THE HEALTHIEST DIET!
A vegan or vegetarian diet is a great way to detoxify your body, and to bring down inflammation. It can work well for some people, but not if you are dealing with a microbial imbalance in your gut, or if you have leaky gut.
Vegan diets rely on a combination of grains with legumes, nuts or seeds to meet protein requirements. The problem with grains and legumes is that they are also high in carbohydrates that will feed pathogenic species in your gut microbiome, and can perpetuate dysbiosis (an imbalanced microbiome). In my clinical practice, I have seen the vast majority of my clients having IgG food sensitivity reactions to a variety of grains, which indicates that the proteins in them aren't being digested properly and are leaking through the gut barrier (leaky gut).
Additionally, phytates in grains (Source) and legumes (Source) bind to minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium making them unavailable for absorption, so a vegan diet will not optimize mineral intake into your body. Soaking, sprouting or fermentation will make minerals more available, but you will still be left with the high carbohydrate content.
You can still have a plant-strong diet that is low in carbohydrates, and that includes animal proteins. Think plant-strong instead of plant-based. If you are vegan or vegetarian for ethical reasons, but suffer from chronic health conditions, then it might be time to switch to an ethically sourced plant-strong diet without grains and legumes.
I hope that you are starting to recognize that some of our commonly held ideas about food don't apply to everyone, and may not be right for you. Availability of nutrients is largely dependent on a food's matrix, which is a combination of a food's nutrients, and non-nutrients, along with their molecular relationship to one another (such as the way phytates bind to minerals). This is a growing area of study, and is helping us to bust common food myths. It's important that you eat in a way that supports your health and that is customized to what is going on in your body, especially your digestive function and gut health.
Happy Healthy (and customized) Eating!