Leaky Gut Syndrome. That’s something you definitely do NOT ever want to hear coming out of your doctor’s mouth, right? Faucets can leak, but your gut? No thank you.
But if you’re not paying attention to your gut health, is it possible you could already be at risk for a leaky gut?
Given that it can wreak havoc on your health in a number of unexpected ways, we wanted to take a closer look at the common symptoms of leaky gut, what causes this condition, how to treat it, and what gut-friendly foods can help.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
More scientifically known as intestinal permeability, leaky gut syndrome is is exactly what it sounds like. You see, when you eat or drink something, it’s your intestinal linings that keep the stuff you put in your mouth contained, instead of just floating around in your body.
In other words, that lining keeps everything that’s supposed to be inside your gut in, and everything that’s supposed to stay out, out. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen if you’re healthy. An unhealthy gut lining lets unwanted substances, like partially digested food, toxins, and bacteria, into the bloodstream. Yikes! So that’s why it’s called “leaky gut.”
In case you’re wondering, we’re not just talking about a small part of your body. Your intestinal lining covers more than 4,000 square feet of surface area. That’s bigger than the size of a tennis court! That should put into perspective the amount of impact it can have on your health if that tennis court of gut linings is unhealthy.
Why is Gut Health Important?
Your gut is sometimes referred to as your “second brain.” It contains about 100 million neurons, and there’s a lot of work that goes on in there. It’s the place where food is broken down, nutrients are absorbed, your cells are fed, and waste is processed. There are trillions of bacteria in the gut as well, communicating with cells throughout the gut. 
But when your gut health isn’t at its best, problems arise. Some of these issues might seem obviously related to your gut, like gas, bloating, and nausea, or even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, and autoimmune diseases.
Others conditions are less obviously related to your gut:
- Mental health
- Energy levels
- Skin health
These are all aspects of your health that can be negatively or positively affected by your gut.
10 Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome
How can you tell if your gut health has been compromised to the point of developing leaky gut? If you’re experiencing any of the following signs, you may be suffering from leaky gut syndrome:
- Digestive symptoms, like bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Irritable bowel diseases, such as Celiac Disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis
- New allergies, food sensitivities, or food intolerances
- Autoimmune disease
- Depression, anxiety
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Brain fog
- Excessive fatigue
Common Causes of Leaky Gut
If you’re already experiencing symptoms of leaky gut, or just want to take precautions to avoid it, there are plenty of things you can do. Diet and lifestyle are two important factors that can help improve and prevent leaky gut.
It probably goes without saying that a lot of the foods that can cause inflammation are also the ones that you already know are bad for you. To reduce leaky gut symptoms, try cutting the following foods from your diet:
- Wheat-based products, like bread, pasta, and wheat flour.
- Baked goods, like cake, pastries, cookies, and muffins.
- Processed meats, like cold cuts, bacon, and hot dogs.
- Dairy products, including milk, cheese, and ice cream.
- Refined oils, like canola and soybean.
- Junk food, like fast food, potato chips, and candy bars.
- Beverages that are alcoholic, soda, and sugary drinks.
These foods are linked to the growth of harmful gut bacteria, which can cause inflammation and lead to chronic disease. They’re also believed to trigger digestive issues like bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
If you’re familiar with stress, you’re probably familiar with how it makes your stomach feel. Stress can give you the feeling of a “knot” in your stomach, nausea, and “butterflies,” just to name a few!
Constant stress can cause inflammation by weakening your immune system. When your immune system isn’t functioning at its best, foreign invaders like bad bacteria and viruses can invade and cause inflammation.
Imbalance of gut bacteria
This was briefly touched on earlier, but let’s go into more depth. How can an imbalance of gut bacteria contribute to leaky gut syndrome? One possible reason why your gut bacteria is out of whack is that you don’t have enough of the good bacteria. This can be caused by:
- eating unhealthy foods
- too much stress
- using antibiotics
- food-borne illnesses
And if you’re eating foods with refined carbs and sugars, you might even be supporting the growth of bad bacteria in your gut.
In today’s world, our exposure to toxins is inevitable. Even if you try to live the healthiest life, free radical damage is bound to happen. How? Toxins are found in a lot of things… the air we breathe, the water we drink, the products we put on our skin. Fried food, alcohol, tobacco smoke, and pesticides are just a few other examples of common toxins in everyday life. In fact, free radicals can even form in your body when you’re out in the sun. 
Normally, your liver is responsible for cleaning out those toxins from your body. But, when you’re exposed to too many, it has a much more difficult time getting all that work done. When your liver is overloaded with work, toxins can accumulate in your gut and cause inflammation, potentially causing a leaky gut.
How to help and prevent leaky gut syndrome
The good news is that there are steps you can take to protect your gut health.
1. Eat gut-friendly foods
Foods that help fight inflammation can also help prevent leaky gut and digestive discomfort. Foods high in omega-3 acid, like salmon and fatty fish, help prevent inflammation, as do berries and anti-inflammatory spices like ginger and turmeric.
2. Address food sensitivities
Removing foods from your diet that you’re sensitive to or intolerant of is another great way to improve your digestive health. Keeping a food journal and closely monitoring how your gut feels with each meal is one way to determine if you’re sensitive to certain foods. You can also talk to your doctor about being tested for food intolerances.
3. Reduce your stress
Easier said than done, right? Reducing your stress levels isn’t a simple task, but there are some techniques and tips you can incorporate into your life.
- Exercise. Whether it’s taking a 20 minute walk, yoga, weightlifting, or running, moving your body can release endorphins, a hormone that makes you feel good.
- Get more sleep.
- Try to spend time with more positive, inspiring people who lift you up, not bring you down.
- Deep breathing. Breathe in through your nose, inflating your belly as much as possible. Then, breathe out through your nose until there’s no breath left. Repeat as necessary.
4. Eat pre- and probiotic foods
To improve the health of your good gut bugs, prebiotics and probiotics can help! Some foods to include in your diet are high-fiber fruits and vegetables, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, kimchi, tempeh, and sauerkraut.
5. Include antioxidants in your diet
Antioxidants can help fight free radical damage. Plant-based food and beverages, in particular, are filled with antioxidants. Green tea, cranberries, blueberries, and other types of berries have a high antioxidant content. Leafy greens, like spinach and kale, also contain antioxidants. 
Foods to Fight Leaky Gut
As mentioned earlier in this article, there are gut-friendly foods that can help improve leaky gut syndrome. Here are some of the top foods for helping to protect against leaky gut.
|Pumpkin seeds||Pumpkin seeds contain a lot of vitamins and minerals, like zinc, vitamin B, and magnesium, all of which are beneficial for digestive health. Pumpkin seeds are also powerful anti-parasitics.|
|Fermented foods||Fermented foods, like non-heated kimchi, cultured vegetables, sauerkraut, and miso, contain probiotics. These good “gut bugs” are essential to a healthy gut.|
|Ginger||Ginger is popular for its anti-nausea effects. Ginger can also improve production of stomach acid, bile, and pancreatic enzymes. These digestive “juices” help reduce inflammation that causes leaky gut.|
|Peppermint||Peppermint can help alleviate nausea. It can also help expel gas and reduce pain that’s associated with gas.  Peppermint can also help relieve symptoms of IBS, indigestion, and acid reflux.|
|Bone broth||The two main nutrients in bone broth are gelatin and collagen, which contain important amino acids that help make up our gut lining. Including bone broth in your diet can help repair damage caused to your gut lining because of leaky gut.|
|Apple cider vinegar||Apple cider vinegar (ACV) helps reduce stress on the digestive system by pre-digesting meat and vegetables. ACV also helps improve the flow of digestive juices.|
Say Goodbye to Leaky Gut
Before making drastic changes to your diet or lifestyle, be sure to talk to your doctor–especially if you have pre-existing health conditions.
You can never go wrong with taking steps to help care for your gut health. And leaky gut is no joke! So, for your best gut health, try to improve your diet, de-stress, and feed your good gut bugs! It can take at least 12 weeks for your gut lining to start to heal, so be patient and remember that healing yourself is a long-term commitment and process. You got this!