Leaky gut. What is it and how to know if you have it.

So I’ve shared bits and pieces on gut health in my recipes but many of you out there may have never heard the term “leaky gut” before.  If you haven’t then todays post is just for you.  Lets get to it.

But first…

Please note:  I am not a doctor and am not providing medical advice.  Please consult a trained medical professional before beginning any diet.

What is leaky gut?

Leaky gut is simply a short cut term for something called intestinal permeability.  It’s much easier to say leaky gut right?  Leaky gut is a condition where the lining of the intestine becomes damaged and undigested food particles, bacteria and other waste products “leak” through the intestinal walls and are able to get into the blood stream.  Simply put, the lining of your intestines have become damaged and your intestines are not able to keep these things in where they should be.

Think of your intestines as a levee of sorts.  The levee (your intestines) are designed to keep things (food particles, bacteria, etc) in a certain area.  When the levee becomes damaged, leaks happen. And just like a levee, when leaks happen and things are allowed into areas they shouldn’t be, trouble ensues.  What this means in the case of the human body, when things are not where they should be (I.E. a food particle ends up in your blood stream), the body sees them as an invader or threat and it must be dealt with and our bodies have an immune response to said threat.

Why is this significant?

The majority of your immune system begins in your gut.  If your gut (intestines) aren’t working properly you end up with situations where your immune system becomes compromised.

Lets go back to the levee example.  When the “levee” (your intestines) breaks and a foreign substance enters the blood stream your body views it as an invader and creates an antibody to combat it. The antibody that is created can often resemble an antigen receptor in common body parts.  What this means is that when, for example, a particle of potato has gotten into your blood stream that shouldn’t be there (because your intestinal walls have let it through) your body red flags it and creates an antibody to identify it as an invader.  The antibody that was created for potato in this example could look very similar to a knee joint or a thyroid gland or some other part of the body.  What happens next is that your body then turns on an inflammatory reaction believing it is that potato particle causing you to have arthritis but its really the antigen attacking an otherwise perfectly healthy body part.

I’m just using arthritis as one example.  The bodies response to foreign particles in the blood stream includes inflammation as well as allergic reactions such as migraines, irritable bowel, eczema, chronic fatigue, food allergies and much more.  In addition, when the cells in your intestines are damaged, they are unable to properly produce the enzymes needed for proper digestion. As a result, your body cannot absorb essential nutrients which can cause a weakened immune system and hormone imbalances.

If that’s not enough, the large spaces that are created in the intestinal lining allow the body to absorb levels of toxins that would normally not penetrate the barrier of the gut.  These toxins may then overload the liver so that chemicals cannot be detoxified.  If this happens, you can develop food and chemical sensitivities.  Have a food sensitivity?  Leaky gut may be to blame.

How does it happen?

There are multiple factors that can contribute to leaky gut.  Much of the time diet is to blame.  Many of the common foods that the typical American eats on a regular basis, such as corn, soy, wheat, sugar and dairy, can contribute to leaky gut.

  1. A diet high in sugar, wheat/gluten, cows dairy, alcohol consumption and GMO foods
  2. Antibiotic usage
  3. NSAID medication usage
  4. Chronic stress and possibly advancing age
  5. Toxin exposure (pesticides, environmental toxins, BPA, etc)

I’m going to use the levee example one last time.

Lets say you have a perfect working levee (IE: your intestines are healthy).  The walls of the levee are nice and strong with no holes.  Now, view the above culprits (like over use of NSAIDS, poor diet, etc) as small grenades.  You start tossing a few small grenades into the levee here and there.   Over time these small grenades that have been tossed into the levee begin causing big holes to develop in your levee walls.  Then one day the levee breaks and all heck breaks loose.  All of the things that are supposed to be IN the levee are now breaking out.  That’s what happens when your body is exposed to processed foods, high sugar and grain diets, overuse of antibiotics and NSAID medications and repeated stress.  They are all like little grenades that over the years have caused damage to the lining of your intestines.  And, as discussed earlier, when the lining becomes damaged the body has an immune response to the invaders and inflammation occurs.

How do you know if you have it?

There are several signs and symptoms that you may have leaky gut.  They include, but are not limited to:

  1.  Food sensitivities/food allergies
  2. Inflammatory bowel disease or other chronic digestive discomfort (reflux, constipation, gas/bloating)
  3. Autoimmune disease
  4. Thyroid problems
  5. Inflammatory skin diseases
  6. Headaches, brain fog or memory loss
  7. Nutrient malabsorption
  8. Mood issues (autism, ADHD, ADD, depression or anxiety)

While science has not yet proven that leaky gut actually causes these conditions, they have been linked as occurring with these conditions.

Here are a few links to sites that may help you determine if you suffer from leaky gut:

  1.  http://holisticsquid.com/leaky-gut-syndrome-quiz/
  2. https://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=do-you-have-a-leaky-gut
  3. https://solvingleakygut.com/quiz/my-health/?

I think I have leaky gut, what now?

If you have determined that you may be suffering from leaky gut it’s time to call in the professionals.  There are many diet programs and supplements available for healing leaky gut but, as with all diet and medical changes, you should consult with a specialist in your area.  I recommend finding an alternative medical doctor or a naturopathic physician.  These physicians are medically trained and believe in whole body healing.  They treat the underlying condition of your symptoms (like healing leaky gut) rather than just treating the symptom(s).  All to often in modern medicine we are given pills or treatment for the affected area rather than looking at the body as a whole.

There are a few diet programs I would like to share with you for research purposes.  My husband and I have done the first two and have landed somewhere in between them as our final diet program.  Each of us are individuals and will have different requirements based on what is right for YOUR body.   As Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride states “one mans meat is another mans poison”.  I’m a firm believer in this and I also believe in advocating for your own personal healthcare.  Do not let anyone, including a doctor, fit you into one specific box if your body is telling you otherwise.

Leaky gut diet information.  I have personally read each of these books and highly recommend each of them.  I am linking the websites for research purposes as well in case your budget doesn’t allow for a book purchase:

  1. The GAPS Diet by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (http://www.gapsdiet.com/home.html)
  2. The Plant Paradox  by Dr. Steven R. Gundry  (Food list here:  https://gundrymd.com/plant-paradox-shopping-list/)
  3.  Eat Dirt by Dr. Josh Axe (https://draxe.com/leaky-gut-diet-treatment/)
  4. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall) (http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info)


I know how hard it is to face a huge lifestyle change.  To give up absolutely all of the comfort foods you’ve grown to love and probably grown up with.  I’ve been there!  Food is a part of your being and part of what makes you who you are.  It gives us comfort and is the center of so many occasions (happy or sad).

But let me leave you with this.  In the midst of feeling completely depressed at the idea of not eating any of my favorite foods anymore my husband opened my eyes with this statement:

“It’s not food, it’s poison.”

Really let that sink in.  Food can be poison and in many cases with todays modern diet it is.  Don’t think of it as throwing out food or giving up food.  Think of it as throwing out something grotesque.  Drain cleaner if you must.  Would you sit down with a plate of drain cleaner at night?

You CAN do this.  You CAN change your life by changing your diet.  I no longer suffer from fatigue, brain fog, depression and anxiety and I no longer have pain from fibromyalgia so bad that I could barely walk.  My allergies and asthma have calmed.  And furthermore, my husband no longer suffers from gluten sensitivity.

Your body can heal itself if your mind will let it.  

And finally…

Please note:  I am not a doctor and am not providing medical advice.  Please consult a trained medical professional before beginning any diet.