Leaky gut syndrome is a rapidly growing condition that millions of people are struggling with and don’t even know it. From the sound of it, you might think leaky gut syndrome only affects the digestive system, but in reality it can lead to many other health conditions.
According to research, the cause of your food allergies, low energy, joint pain, thyroid disease, autoimmune conditions and slow metabolism could be leaky gut symptoms progression. In this article, I will outline specifically how you can heal leaky gut syndrome and break through the health problems you’ve been struggling with.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Think of the lining of your digestive tract like a net with extremely small holes in it that only allow specific substances to pass through. Your gut lining works as a barrier keeping out bigger particles that can damage your system.
When someone has leaky gut (often referred to as increased intestinal permeability), the “net” in your digestive tract gets damaged, which causes even bigger holes to develop in your net, so things that normally can’t pass through, are now be able to.
Some of the things that can now pass through include proteins like gluten, bad bacteria and undigested foods particles. Toxic waste can also leak from the inside of your intestinal wall into your bloodstream causing an immune reaction. (1)
Leaky Gut Symptoms and Progression
Leaky gut leads to inflammation throughout your system and can cause symptoms, such as:
- Food sensitivities
- Thyroid conditions
- Joint pain
- Skin issues like rosacea and acne
- Digestive problems
- Weight gain
- Syndrome X
One of the biggest warning signs that you may have leaky gut—and I recommend that you take a leaky gut test—can be that you’re experiencing multiple food sensitivities. Partially digested protein and fat can seep through your intestinal lining, making their way into your bloodstream and causing an allergic response.
This allergic response doesn’t mean you’ll break out in a rash all over your body, but it can lead to one of the symptoms I’ve mentioned above. If left unrepaired, it can lead to more severe health issues like inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, muscle pain and chronic fatigue. (2, 3)
According to the Journal of Diabetes, there is a strong body of evidence pointing to leaky gut syndrome as a major cause of autoimmune diseases, including Type 1 Diabetes. (4)
What Causes Leaky Gut?
There are four main causes of leaky gut which include:
- Poor diet
- Chronic stress
- Toxin overload
- Bacterial imbalance (5)
The most common components of food that can damage your intestinal lining are the proteins found in unsprouted grains, sugar, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and conventional dairy.
The problem with unsprouted grains is that they contain large amounts of antinutrients, or nutrient blockers called phytates and lectins. Lectins are sugar-binding proteins that act as a natural defense system for plants that protect them from outside invaders like mold and parasites.
This is good news for plants but bad news for your body. Your digestive lining is covered with sugar-containing cells that help break down your food. Lectins gravitate toward this area and when they attach to your digestive lining, it damages your gut and causes inflammation.
Lectins and Foods that Cause Leaky Gut
Lectins are found in many foods, not just grains, and are consumed in smaller amounts, so your body will do just fine with them. But foods that have large amounts of lectins are more problematic. Some of the lectins and foods that cause leaky gut include wheat, rice, spelt and soy.
Sprouting and fermenting grains reduces phytates and lectins, making these foods easier to digest. the GMOs and hybridized foods tend to be the highest in lectins since they have been modified to fight off bugs. Also, gluten-containing grains damage the intestinal lining and cause leaky gut syndrome.
So while you are working to heal leaky gut and cure autoimmune disease, stay away from all grains, especially ones that contain gluten, like wheat, rye, barley, and triticale. Once your gut is healthy, you can occasionally add back in grains that have been fermented and sprouted.
Conventional cow milk is another food that can cause leaky gut. The component of dairy that will harm your gut is the protein A1 casein. Also, the pasteurization process destroys vital enzymes, making sugars like lactose very difficult to digest. For this reason, I only recommend buying dairy that is raw and from A2 cows, goats, sheep, or buffalo.
Sugar is another substance that will wreak havoc on your digestive system. Sugar will feed the growth of yeast, candida and bad bacteria, which will further damage your gut. Bad bacteria actually creates toxins called exotoxins that damage healthy cells and can eat a hole into your intestinal wall.
Other Factors that Cause Leaky Gut
Chronic stress: It weakens your immune system over time, which cripples your ability to fight off foreign invaders like bad bacteria and viruses, leading to inflammation and leaky gut. To reduce stress, I recommend getting more sleep, schedule fun into your week, rest one day a week, meditate on scripture and hang out with positive, uplifting people.
Toxins: We come into contact with over 80,000 chemicals and toxins every single year, but the worst offenders for causing leaky gut include antibiotics, pesticides, tap water, aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). I recommend buying a high-quality water filter to eliminate chlorine and fluoride and look to natural plant-based herbs to reduce inflammation in your body.
Dysbiosis: Finally, one of the leading causes of leaky gut is a condition called dysbiosis, which means an imbalance between beneficial and harmful species of bacteria in your gut. For many, this imbalance can begin at birth because of a C-section or because the mother didn’t have a healthy gut herself. The overuse of prescription antibiotic drugs, tap water with chlorine and fluoride, and the lack of probiotic-rich foods contribute to this imbalance of good and bad bacteria.
Leaky Gut and the Brain
Another topic I want to quickly discuss is how leaky gut can affect the brain. If you’ve ever seen a child with autism experience a mood swing, this can be caused by intestinal permeability. Gluten-free and casein-free diets have proven effective for many children with autism because these proteins can leak through the gut and then recirculate and act on the brain similarly to an opioid drug.
This is also why leaky gut syndrome has been linked to other psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. So, in many cases, if you can heal the gut, you can heal the brain.
The 4-Step Plan to Heal Leaky Gut
The good news is there’s a solution to successfully healing leaky gut. There is a four-step process that includes:
- REMOVE foods and factors that damage the gut
- REPLACE with healing foods
- REPAIR with specific supplements
- REBALANCE with probiotics
This is the protocol I have used with my patients over the years that has helped them see incredible results. The top foods that cause leaky gut to remove are sugar, grains, conventional meat, conventional dairy and GMO foods. The top toxic exposures to eliminate are tap water, pesticides, NSAIDS and antibiotics—but remember to always consult with your physician if he or she has prescribed these for you.
The Leaky Gut Diet and 5 Healing Foods
If you suffer from leaky gut syndrome, you’re overdue to consider adopting a leaky gut diet. Here are the five foods and supplements to heal your leaky gut.
1. Bone Broth—Broth contains collagen and the amino acids proline and glycine that can help heal your damaged cell walls. I’ve had many of my patients do a bone broth fast for three days to help heal leaky gut and cure autoimmune disease.
2. Raw, Cultured Dairy—This dairy contains both probiotics and SCFA’s that can help heal the gut. Pastured kefir, yogurt, amasai, butter and raw cheese are some of the best.
3. Fermented Vegetables—They contain organic acids that balance intestinal pH and probiotics to support the gut. Sauerkraut, kimchi and kvass are excellent sources.
4. Coconut Products—All coconut products are especially good for your gut. The MCFA’s in coconut are easier to digest than other fats so they work well for leaky gut. Also, coconut kefir contains probiotics that support your digestive system.
5. Sprouted Seeds—Chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds that have been sprouted are great sources of fiber that can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria. But if you have severe leaky gut, you may need to start out getting your fiber from steamed vegetables and fruit.
Also, consuming foods that have omega-3 fats are beneficial—anti-inflammatory foods such as grass-fed beef, lamb and wild-caught fish like salmon.
Top 5 Supplements for Healing Leaky Gut
There are many supplements that support your digestive health, but I believe the most beneficial leaky gut supplements are l-glutamine, probiotics, digestive enzymes, quercetin, and licorice root.
1. Probiotics are the most important supplement to take because they help replenish good bacteria and crowd out bad bacteria. I recommend getting probiotics in both food and supplement form. I see people all the time only follow part of the protocol in healing their leaky gut syndrome by removing the damaging irritants. But the part they often leave out is re-inoculating their gut with beneficial bacteria that will keep bad bacteria at bay. So load up on probiotic-rich foods and take AT LEAST 50 billion units of probiotics daily from a high-quality brand.
2. Digestive enzymes (one or two capsules at the beginning of each meal) ensure that foods are fully digested, decreasing the chance that partially digested foods particles and proteins are damaging your gut wall.
3. L-Glutamine is critical for any program designed to heal leaky gut. Glutamine powder is an essential amino acid supplement that is anti-inflammatory and necessary for the growth and repair of your intestinal lining. L-glutamine benefits include acting as a protector: coating your cell walls and acting as a repellent to irritants. Take 2–5 grams twice daily. (6)
4. Licorice Root (DGL) is an adaptogenic herb that helps balance cortisol levels and improves acid production in the stomach. DGL supports the body’s natural processes for maintaining the mucosal lining of the stomach and duodenum. This herb is especially beneficial if someone’s leaky gut is being caused by emotional stress. Take 500 milligrams twice daily.
5. Quercetin has also been shown to improve gut barrier function by sealing the gut because it supports creation of tight junction proteins. It also stabilizes mast cells and reduces the release of histamine, which is common in food intolerance. New studies have also shown its effectiveness in healing ulcerative colitis. Take 500 milligrams three times daily with meals.
If you can follow the above protocol, you are well on your way to successfully heal leaky gut and autoimmune disease.