The lining of your digestive tract is just one cell layer thick. These highly specialized cells, called enterocytes, form a barrier between you, your bloodstream, your immune system, and the outside world that comes in through your mouth in the form of food, drink, medication, bacteria, and toxins.
These cells are cemented together with proteins called tight junctions, which form a protective barrier that ensures that everything you eat is properly processed by the enterocyte cells in a way that your body can handle without getting sick.
Things like chronic stress, poor nutrition, bacterial infections, and autoimmune disordersK can all cause gaps in this protective barrier.When these proteins, or tight junctions, break down, you get “Leaky Gut.”
Symptoms of leaky gut
There are many ill effects of leaky gut. As a result of your immune system being exposed to foods, bacteria, and chemicals it was never meant to see, it can flip into a permanent state of “on” sending a constant barrage of inflammatory chemicals through your body.
These immune chemicals and the inflammation they cause can lead to symptoms as diverse as acne, eczema, food sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, body pain, brain fog, insomnia, and even autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and rheumatoid arthritis.
10 signs you have a leaky gut:
According to Dr. Leo Galland, director of the Foundation for Integrated Medicine, the following symptoms might be signs of leaky gut:
- Chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas or bloating
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Poor immune system
- Headaches, brain fog, memory loss
- Excessive fatigue
- Skin rashes and problems such as acne, eczema or rosacea
- Cravings for sugar or carbs
- Arthritis or joint pain
- Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease or Crohn’s
Here are 9 simple things you can do to heal leaky gut syndrome for good.
1. Cut out toxic foods from your diet.
Gluten, dairy, sugar, processed foods, pesticide-treated foods (aka GMO crops), and alcohol, are some of the most common foods that mount an assault on the sensitive cells lining your gut. If you want to heal leaky gut syndrome, we recommend cutting out these foods for at least three months and avoiding them in excess thereafter.
2. Work toward a heavily plant-based diet.
If you’re experiencing leaky gut, a diet that’s fiber-filled and plant-based can decrease inflammation and irritation from gluten and other sugars. Meat and fish are fine to consume, but focus on gluten-free grains, vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats (bring on the avocado).
Plus, the prebiotics found in high-fiber whole foods like asparagus and whole-grain oats are crucial to feeding the probiotic bacteria in the gut microbiome and keeping it healthy.
3. Eat more healthy fats.
N-butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid, helps feed the cells that line the gut and help them heal. Your gut bacteria can produce more n-butyrate if you feed them soluble fibers in fruits and vegetables. You also can get n-butyrate in the form of Ghee, which is clarified butter. Another source of healthy fat is coconut oil, which contains medium-chain fatty acids that are good for the gut!
4. Manage your stress through mind-body practices.
Stress hormones attack and break down the tight junctions that hold the cells that line your digestive tract together. When you reduce stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine through rest and relaxation, eating mindfully, and meditation, these tight junctions can heal.
5. Take digestive enzymes.
Enzymes taken regularly with meals help break down large proteins and bacterial products that can damage the lining of the gut. We recommend taking a broad-spectrum enzyme prior to eating protein and fat-rich foods to support digestion and prevent irritation of the intestinal lining.
6. Increase your collagen consumption.
Collagen contains the amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline that are needed to repair and rebuild your gut lining.
Regular consumption of collagen containing foods like bone broth, gelatin, and collagen powders can be therapeutic additions to the diet that may help mend and prevent leaky gut.
Studies show that supplemental collagen peptides can help to strengthen the gut barrier, making it less permeable and more likely to retain nutrients from food.
Eating foods that boost your body’s collagen production like eggs, citrus fruits, broccoli, sunflower seeds, and mushrooms can also help increase your body’s natural collagen production.
7. Try anti-inflammatory supplements.
To repair your gut barrier, there are plenty of vitamins and supplements you can choose from, says Dr. Palma. L-glutamine is commonly used in treating leaky gut. Licorice root and Omega 3-heavy cod liver oil, which is high in Vitamins A and D too, have anti-inflammatory benefits to tame the inflammation in the gut barrier.
High-quality medical-grade herbs such as slippery elm and cat’s claw can also help leaky gut (and other inflammatory bowel diseases) by soothing the gut lining.
8. Up your cardio.
Studies show that cardiovascular exercise improves the transport of oxygen within the body and through the digestive tract helping to promote the presence, activity, and diversity of gut microbes—especially the ones that produce the gut-healing fatty acid n-butyrate.
To support improvements in both digestive and cardiovascular health, we recommend opting for a goal of at least 150 minutes per week of heart rate raising physical activity.
If you need extra help with your Leaky Gut,
The Leaky Gut Diet Plan
As leaky gut syndrome isn’t an official medical diagnosis, there is no recommended treatment.
Yet, you can do plenty of things to improve your general digestive health.
One is to eat a diet rich in foods that aid the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. An unhealthy collection of gut bacteria has been linked to poor health outcomes, including chronic inflammation, cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes
The following foods are great options for improving your digestive health:
- Vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, arugula, carrots, kale, beetroot, Swiss chard, spinach, ginger, mushrooms, and zucchini
- Roots and tubers: potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, squash, and turnips
- Fermented vegetables: kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso
- Fruit: coconut, grapes, bananas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, oranges, mandarin, lemon, limes, passionfruit, and papaya
- Sprouted seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and more
- Gluten-free grains: buckwheat, amaranth, rice (brown and white), sorghum, teff, and gluten-free oats
- Healthy fats: avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil
- Fish: salmon, tuna, herring, and other omega-3-rich fish
- Meats and eggs: lean cuts of chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, and eggs
- Herbs and spices: all herbs and spices
- Cultured dairy products: kefir, yogurt, Greek yogurt, and traditional buttermilk
- Beverages: bone broth, teas, coconut milk, nut milk, water, and kombucha
- Nuts: raw nuts, including peanuts, almonds, and nut-based products, such as nut milks
SUMMARYA diet that promotes digestive health should focus on fibrous vegetables, fruits, fermented vegetables, cultured dairy products, healthy fats, and lean, unprocessed meats.
Avoiding certain foods is equally important for improving your gut health.
Some foods have been shown to cause inflammation in your body, which may promote the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria that are linked to many chronic diseases
The following list contains foods that may harm healthy gut bacteria, as well as some that are believed to trigger digestive symptoms, such as bloating, constipation, and diarrhea:
- Wheat-based products: bread, pasta, cereals, wheat flour, couscous, etc.
- Gluten-containing grains: barley, rye, bulgur, seitan, triticale, and oats
- Processed meats: cold cuts, deli meats, bacon, hot dogs, etc.
- Baked goods: cakes, muffins, cookies, pies, pastries, and pizza
- Snack foods: crackers, muesli bars, popcorn, pretzels, etc.
- Junk food: fast foods, potato chips, sugary cereals, candy bars, etc.
- Dairy products: milk, cheeses, and ice cream
- Refined oils: canola, sunflower, soybean, and safflower oils
- Artificial sweeteners: aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin
- Sauces: salad dressings, as well as soy, teriyaki, and hoisin sauce
- Beverages: alcohol, carbonated beverages, and other sugary drinks
Below is a healthy 1-week sample menu for improving your digestive health.
It focuses on incorporating foods that promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria while removing foods that are notorious for causing uncomfortable digestive symptoms.
Some menu items contain sauerkraut, a type of fermented cabbage that is easy, simple, and inexpensive to prepare.
- Breakfast: blueberry, banana, and Greek yogurt smoothie
- Lunch: mixed green salad with sliced hard-boiled eggs
- Dinner: beef and broccoli stir-fry with zucchini noodles and sauerkraut
- Breakfast: omelet with veggies of your choice
- Lunch: leftovers from Monday’s dinner
- Dinner: seared salmon served with a fresh garden salad
- Breakfast: blueberry, Greek yogurt, and unsweetened almond milk smoothie
- Lunch: salmon, egg, and veggie frittata
- Dinner: grilled lemon chicken salad with a side of sauerkraut
- Breakfast: gluten-free oatmeal with 1/4 cup of raspberries
- Lunch: leftovers from Wednesday’s dinner
- Dinner: broiled steak with Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes
- Breakfast: kale, pineapple, and unsweetened almond milk smoothie
- Lunch: beet, carrot, kale, spinach, and brown rice salad
- Dinner: baked chicken served with roasted carrots, beans, and broccoli
- Breakfast: coconut-papaya chia pudding — 1/4 cup of chia seeds, 1 cup of unsweetened coconut milk, and 1/4 cup of diced papaya
- Lunch: chicken salad with olive oil
- Dinner: roasted tempeh with Brussels sprouts and brown rice
- Breakfast: mushroom, spinach, and zucchini frittata
- Lunch: sweet potato halves stuffed with spinach, turkey, and fresh cranberries
- Dinner: grilled chicken wings with a side of fresh spinach and sauerkraut