Leaky Gut Syndrome,

also called intestinal permeability, is a compromised barrier between the external environment and the internal environment of your body. It is when your gut lining literally breaks apart. It is one of the most common conditions and too often goes undiagnosed.

What makes the gut so important?


The digestive tract is said to be outside of our body. It is essentially a tube with two openings to your external environment. It keeps its contents separate from the body until it reaches the small intestines. This is where nutrient absorption occurs, and finally the external becomes the internal. The lining of the small intestine has tiny pores, which make it semi-permeable. This means the protective lining only allows certain tiny particles to travel from the digestive tract, the external environment, to the blood stream, the internal environment. From the blood, through circulation, these nutrients are sent to every cell and organ in our body to nourish them.

The gut lining is an extension of your immune system, keeping out foreign invaders and keeping you free from harm. Scientific research shows that 80% of your immune system resides inside your digestive tract. But what happens when we assault our digestive system little by little?

You are not what you eat, but what you absorb!

Most of us know that our diet has a huge effect on our health. But most misunderstand how. Repetitively consuming poor quality food and drink will break down the semi-permeable gut lining of the small intestines. The injury to the tissues causes inflammation, and eventually will widen the pores of the intestinal lining. Inflammatory materials are then able to leak through the enlarged pores into the vast mesh of absorbing blood vessels.

Now what was once local inflammation, only in the intestines, becomes systemic, as inflammation spreads quickly throughout the entire body via the bloodstream.

Inflammatory materials travel from the gut through the blood vessels to the joints, muscles, glands, skin, brain, and everywhere the blood takes them! Whether symptoms are manifested in each area varies from person to person.


Broken pores in the small intestine absorb more than just nutrients.

4 Causes of Intestinal Inflammation

The following offenders are responsible for Leaky Gut Syndrome:

  1. Poor diet – The typical diet heavily consists of inflammatory food and drink. They are even common in the diets of those who are conscious about their food quality. Processed sugars and grains are hidden in many conventional and “health” foods.

  2. Toxins - Found in anything from laundry detergent to mouthwash, mercury fillings, makeup, skin and hair care products. Medications, especially antibiotics, have been shown to destroy the good gut bacteria in the gut lining. This leads to an unbalanced ratio of bad bacteria taking over good bacteria.

  3. Mycotoxins - Pathogenic bacteria, mold, fungus, parasites, candida. These organisms can enter and disrupt your digestive system, whether due to mold exposure in the environment or in the food you consume, among other exposures. These organisms are bad enough on their own, but they also feed upon sugar. So a poor diet can worsen the situation. When the number of bad organisms overrules the good organisms, they release their own toxins in the gut which eat away at the gut lining and widen the pores.

  4. Chronic stress – Any kind of stress on your body, whether emotional, physical, or spiritual, acute or chronic, will signal a call for rescue from your immune system. This rescue is the inflammation process, which is good and purposeful. The immune system responds by releasing inflammatory chemicals that help you heal from whatever invaded or got out of control in the body. Yes, inflammation is a good thing, however, too much of it will wreak havoc on your entire body. Inflammation was never meant to be chronic or long-term. On a whole body scale, chronic stress ultimately depletes your immune system and keeps you in a constant state of fight or flight. (I will be discussing the dangers of an overstimulated sympathetic nervous system more completely in my next article. Stay tuned!) Chronic stress, no matter the type, will affect various parts of the body. In the intestines, the prolonged inflammation breaks down the intestinal lining, leaving you with pain and bloating, among other symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms


Leaky Gut Syndrome can progress into a number of autoimmune diseases and symptoms. It may demonstrate itself in any combination of the following conditions:

Skin: acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis

Immunity: frequent colds, frequent yeast infections, food sensitivities or intolerances, allergies

Brain: depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s

Joints: joint pain, Rheumatoid Arthritis, fibromyalgia, headaches

Adrenals: low energy, adrenal fatigue, irregular mood, irritability, weight gain, menstrual irregularity, Type 1 Diabetes

Colon: gas, bloating, cramping, chronic diarrhea or constipation, acid reflux, malabsorption, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, ulcers, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease

Thyroid: Hashimoto’s, Grave’s Disease, Hypothyroidism

4 Healing Steps

1. Remove Triggers

Avoid inflammatory foods. These are the top gut-destroying foods! Be aware of food labels.


You must cut out all sugar. This is the most important step! Along with its pure inflammatory nature, sugar is the fuel to bad bacteria, candida, and cancer cells. This is also true of anything that converts to sugar, like all simple carbohydrates (bread, potatoes, pasta, etc.), and most sugar substitutes. If you must add a sweetener, the best options are Monk fruit sugar and stevia. Also keep fruit to a minimum. One serving a day should be enough to satisfy a sweet craving only, as Fructose is proven no better than white sugar.

There are many hidden sources of sugar in everyday foods. Examples of foods that would catch you by surprise are ketchup, salad dressings, cereal, protein bars, milk, and yogurt. For example, a protein bar with 11g sugar is not worth the protein. The harm of the sugar cancels out the benefits In the bar. Learn to read labels. Over 50 different names are used for sugar! A list of names can be found here. Steer clear of all these forms of sugar.


Avoid grains. Grains immediately break down into sugar once hitting your tongue. From there, it acts just as if you ate a teaspoon of sugar. If you absolutely must have bread, sourdough is your best option, due to the fermentation of wheat. But it is best to avoid these simple carbohydrates all together. Another reason to avoid grains is that some, such as wheat, contain the protein, gluten. Gluten is oftentimes seen as a foreign invader, causing an immune reaction. This inflammatory reaction can show no symptoms, only subtle symptoms, or symptoms as extreme as Celiac disease. Be aware of the hidden sources of gluten found in processed grains, sauces, packaged and restaurant foods. No matter the extent to which your body displays its reaction to gluten, it absolutely poses a threat to the intestinal lining.

GMOs and Pesticides

The most heavily genetically modified and pesticide-sprayed crops are wheat, soy, corn, cotton, and canola. It’s no wonder some of these foods are also frequent allergens! It would be wise to avoid foods from this list completely, along with all other GMO and pesticide foods. Even produce with rinds or peels are at risk. Pesticides are not only absorbed through the exterior of the fruit, but also through the soil up into the fruit flesh. Always choose organic and non-GMO options.

Conventional Meat

Conventional meat is riddled with antibiotics and are GMO–fed with corn and soy. If animals are being fed antibiotics and GMOs to fatten them up, what will it do to you when you eat them? These toxins build up in the intestines. Aside from this, conventional meat is raised within extremely congested quarters. These conditions lead to the quick-spread of diseases among the animals. Therefore, animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are routinely given low-dose antibiotics to prevent diseases. So while you may be avoiding medical antibiotics, you may still ingest antibiotics through factory-farmed food, especially animal products. Opt for organic, grass-fed, free-range pastured meat.

Conventional Dairy

Dairy pasteurization requires very high heat, which strips it of vital nutrients like Vitamin D and Calcium. It is also harmful to consume due to the A1 beta-casein, the specific protein found in conventional cow dairy. A1 beta-casein has been shown to have effects on the gut such as abdominal pain, irritable bowel disease, and dairy intolerance in this study and in others. If you must have cow dairy, choose a raw organic option. Otherwise, there are many non-dairy options now available. Coconut milk and almond milk are your best options.


Certain medications are particularly harmful to your digestive tract. Ask your medical doctor about getting off of these medications safely.

    • Prescription antibiotics are the worst to your gut, as they directly damage the microbiome.
    • Birth control allows yeast and fungal overgrowth because yeast feed on estrogen.
    • Steroids
    • Acid-blockers.

These medications cause yeast overgrowth. Yeast uses up your vitamins and minerals, leaving you malnurished. Now fat and sassy, they multiply in your intestines, chill out there for far too long, and release toxins that break down your gut lining.

2. Add healing foods

For all of the foods mentioned, choose an organic option with no added sugar. The less processed the better! Remember to check the ingredients list.

Bone Broth

Rich in both collagen and gelatin. The collagen in organic bone broth will restore the connective tissue lining your intestines, as well as your skin and tendons. The gelatin helps with probiotic growth. Buy organic free-range broth, or make your own by boiling organic chicken scraps in water. Add vegetable scraps to add flavor and season to taste. You may simmer in a crockpot on low for 24-48 hours or simmer on the stovetop for 45-60 minutes. Strain and enjoy warm. Cooled broth can be stored in the refrigerator for a week, or in the freezer for 3 months. Add cooked veggies for a delicious soup!

Probiotic-rich foods

Start adding foods dense in probiotics and prebiotics. Fermented foods will restore the good gut bacteria to promote health and balance in the gut. The gut is its own microbiome, in which a balanced ecosystem of organisms is very important!

    • Sauerkraut and kimchi: One to two tablespoons a day is sufficient for probiotic benefits.
    • Kombucha: Make or buy one low in sugar and drink for a refreshing replenish of probiotics.
    • Kefir and yogurt: Make or buy organic, full fat options with no added sugar or flavors. Add into smoothies or enjoy with some fruit for dessert. You can even use yogurt as the base of a homemade condiment or sauce in place of cream cheese or mayonnaise.

Healthy fats

Fat has gotten a major misnomer. Fat does not make you fat! Studies have shown that sugar in fact causes you to become fat. Sugar and other toxins are stored within fat cells. Therefore, the more sugar you consume, the bigger each fat cells becomes. Healthy fats are essential to boost metabolism, brain health, carry fat-soluble vitamins, and restore the gut lining.

    • Wild-caught fish: full of essential omega-3 fatty acids to provide health to your nervous system, the control center of your entire body. Benefits are also demonstrated in your hair, skin, and nails.
    • Virgin Coconut oil: As a beneficial saturated fat, the lauric acid fights against bad bacteria, viruses, and fungi, improving immunity and balancing gut bacteria. Cooking with this fat is okay, as it maintains its integrity under heat.
    • Butter: Organic Raw or from grass-fed sources only. The omega-3s and -6s found in butter are essential to fuel the brain and help transport fat-soluble vitamins. However, do not cook with this fat. It will break down under heat and become harmful.
    • Ghee: clarified butter, which is lactose- and casein-free. It is anti-inflammatory and improves digestion. Ghee is a pure fat that can be heated.
    • Extra virgin olive oil: Olive oil is a great source of omega 9 fatty acids. Eat this oil raw, on salads or drizzled over vegetables. Never cook with it, as it breaks down and becomes carcinogenic when heated.
    • Avocado: High in folate, vitamin E, and monounsaturated fats, avocados improve immunity, skin, and reduce free radicals in the body. Avocado oil is a great, mild-flavored oil to cook with.
    • Nuts and seeds: Raw or sprouted is best. These fats, as well as those mentioned above, will satiate you and keep you fuller for longer. Nuts and seeds are a great snack with plenty of protein.

Make sure to buy full fat options when given the chance. Nonfat, fat-free and low-fat products should never be consumed. In order for these Fat-reduced foods to hold form and remain edible, the natural, beneficial fat is replaced with additives and chemicals. Therefore, good fats are lost and harmful additives are consumed. There is no reason to be afraid of good, natural fats from full-fat foods.

3. Take specific supplements


Total body inflammation causes a list of conditions on its own, but Leaky Gut Syndrome in particular leads to malabsorption of important vitamins and minerals. The most common deficiencies due to Leaky Gut are below. Find a good supplement to replenish these essentials. It’s just as important to check the ingredient list on supplements as it is on real food. Invest in reputable supplements. It is worth the extra money to buy bioavailable products so that you make sure you're absorbing the vitamins and minerals instead of peeing out cheap, non-absorbing forms.

  • B12: Methyl-adenosylcobalamin is the best form.

  • Zinc: Zinc picolinate is the best form. Take with food.

  • Iron: Iron Glycinate is the most bioavailable form with the least side effects.

  • Magnesium & Calcium: Take Calcium citrate and Magnesium citrate with meals.

  • Probiotics: The best probiotics are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, and soil-based organisms. You may want to double or triple the dose for 30-90 days as you rebuild your gut.

  • Digestive enzymes: These restore your stomach acid (HCl) which will be low if you have Leaky Gut Syndrome. Adequate stomach acid will help you break down proteins.

4. Lifestyle changes

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Gut health should be a focus within your health regimen, as it affects every part of your body. It will be a slow and gradual lifestyle change, as you form new habits. Take little steps, and over time your consistency will pay off.

Exercise and activity

Movement of all kinds rid toxins and increase blood, nutrient, and oxygen circulation. Exercise also helps to combat stress and anxiety. This could be any form of movement. Find a fun hobby and incorporate enjoyable movement in your days!


Give your body the proper time to heal. Sleep a full 7-9 hours to allow restoration of gut lining cells and full absorption of nutrients. Sleep is often overlooked but is essential to decrease inflammation and to restore.


Optimize your body’s ability to digest properly. With well-aligned and properly moving bones, your spinal nerves to the gut and other digestive organs will be unhindered and working at their best. No matter how amazing your diet may be, you cannot digest well if your nerves aren’t efficiently communicating to and from the gut.

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In Conclusion

Pay attention to what you are eating and how it affects your body. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, especially after eating the cautioned foods, you may have Leaky Gut Syndrome.

Rid toxins. Eat smart. Supplement. Make lifestyle changes and form healthy habits. You'll be on your way to a happy gut, and reduced symptoms. Scientific research shows that 80% of your immune system resides inside your digestive tract. It's time to treat it right!

{Written by Dr. Becca Schroeder 1/11/2017}