What Is A Leaky Gut?
An unhealthy gut can affect more than just our digestive tracts, as the gut plays a role in many functions throughout our bodies. Studies have linked our gut health to our mental health, which in turn affects our nervous systems, biochemical releases, sleep, etc (1). Keeping our gut healthy will keep our bodies healthy, which is key for living a long and happy life!
Our digestive tract breaks down the foods that we eat, while controlling what nutrients are absorbed from those foods. Those nutrients pass through passageways in our gut lining called tight junctions. Our bloodstream then absorbs those nutrients and distributes them throughout our body. When our gut is damaged and those tight junctions aren’t performing as they should be, we might be experiencing a leaky gut…
A leaky gut can allow toxins, food particles, pathogens, etc., to pass through our gut lining. A healthy gut will keep these things out, while an unhealthy gut can lead to increased intestinal permeability. Increased intestinal permeability, or intestinal hyperpermeability, is another way of referring to a leaky gut (2).
Leaky gut has been catching the eyes of medical professionals in recent years, partially due to the increased research on the gut-brain axis relation (1). Some doctors believe that ‘leaky gut’ is more of an “umbrella” term, referring to the notion that a further, more specific diagnosis must be completed (3).
Taking Steps Towards A Healthier Gut
Logically, a rather common question that people seem to have after learning about leaky gut is how to heal leaky gut. The answer to that isn’t as simple as you might think… To start, a healthy gut is essential to healing a leaky gut. Achieving a healthy gut can include changes to your daily diet, as well as your lifestyle. Trying to reduce processed foods, that may increase inflammation, and improve your gut bacteria are just a few ways that you can start healing a leaky gut. Let’s get into some foods and lifestyle changes that might help you answer your question of how to heal leaky gut!
Top 6 Foods To Heal Leaky Gut
Fiber Filled Foods
To help strengthen a leaky gut, we need to focus on your overall gut health, including your digestive tract. It’s crucial to consume enough fiber every day, as it keeps your digestive tract moving smoothly and emptying what it needs to empty. Some foods that are filled with tons of prebiotic fiber are chicory root, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, etc. These fibrous foods have been linked to improved gut microbiomes, reducing IBS, and strengthened gut health (4, 5, 6), and can be found in healthy food alternatives, from popcorn to coffee creamers.
As our gut is filled with trillions of microscopic bacterial cells, we need to make sure that the majority of them are good bacteria. One way to strength our gut health and help heal leaky gut is by including prebiotic foods and probiotic foods into our lifestyle. Some foods include kefir, kombucha, legumes, bananas, kimchi, or even just probiotic supplements. Keeping our gut filled with healthy, beneficial bacteria helps prevent, and heal, leaky gut by maintaining a stable, nourishing environment for our gut to thrive off of (7, 8, 9, 10).
We’ve talked about collagen in the past, explaining how it’s a fundamental protein that is crucial to the foundation of our skin, hair, joints, connective tissues, etc. But studies have shown that people with damaged gut health may have lowered amounts of collagen (11). Boosting your collagen intake my keep your gut healthier, aiding to heal leaky gut. Some collagen-promoting foods are bone broth, leafy greens, avocados, oysters, collagen protein, and many others that you can read about here.
Speaking of collagen, a great food staple through history has always been bone broth. Bone broth is filled with collagen, along with other vitamins and minerals, that aid in overall health, including gut health. This beloved bone broth has been linked to healing and strengthening your intestinal barrier, which can help heal leaky gut (12, 13). While it can be quite time consuming to make your own, there are superb bone broth options that you can find online.
Healing your gut is the major key to healing a leaky gut, which is why the low-FODMAP diet has been an important factor in gut health. Low-FODMAP diets consist of low amounts of Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. In laymen terms, you want to stay away from lactose, high-fructose corn syrup, sweeteners, certain fruits and vegetables, etc. A low-FODMAP diet has been recommended to help treat IBS, which can then help heal a leaky gut.
A well-known amino acid, L-Glutamine helps with healing soft tissue matter, especially in your gut. L-Glutamine has been linked to strengthening intestinal tight junctions and bolstering a good gut microbiota (14, 15, 16). Introducing L-Glutamine supplements into your daily diet can help prevent, and heal, leaky gut and strengthen your digestive tract (28).
Top 6 Lifestyle Changes to Heal Leaky Gut
Stress is almost never a good thing, but we all need small amounts of stress to keep our adrenaline glands functioning normally and our bodies moving. However, when we experience too much stress, our body starts to break down, with certain organs deteriorating, as well as our own mental health. Stress has been linked to unhealthy gut microbiomes and increased intestinal permeability, aka leaky gut (17, 18, 19). Try reducing excess stress in order to keep a healthy gut and help heal leaky gut.
Less Alcohol Consumption
For the average individual, enjoying an alcohol behavior every now and then doesn’t do much bodily harm. Once we start to drink excessively, that’s where problems may arise. Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to gut inflammation/damage and loosened tight junctions (20, 21, 22). Both of these detriments can lead to a leaky gut, so try cutting back on those lemon drops every now and then.
Reduce Inflammation-Inducing Foods
Similar to a low-FODMAP diet as mentioned above, try to reduce inflammation-inducing foods to give your gut a helping hand. Foods that are high in sugar or fat, processed foods, etc., can be damaging to your gut microbiota and increase intestinal permeability (23, 24). In the long run, these damages can cause a leaky gut, so try to cut those types of foods out from your lifestyle.
Figure Out Food Sensitivities
Whether you’ve had them since you were a child or just found out recently, food allergies can cause quite the uproar in your gut health. Food sensitivities to lactose, gluten, etc., can contribute to inflammation in your digestive tract, damaging your intestinal lining (25). In particular, gluten has been linked to increased level of zonulin, a protein that can increase intestinal permeability when there is an excess of zonulin (26, 27). Try reducing the amount of gluten you eat, and find out if you have any food sensitivities that you may not have known about.
We all know how important sleep is for our bodies, as it’s a resting and refurbishing time for most of our body parts. A lack of sleep can cause imbalances in the biochemical functions throughout your body, as well as disrupt your gut microbiome (29, 30). This can lead to increased intestinal permeability, which leads to leaky gut (31). Make sure you’re getting enough sleep to keep your body healthy and functioning properly!
Get Enough Exercise
Just like sleep, exercise is crucial to keeping our bodies in a healthy state, both physically and mentally. Exercise can help prevent heart diseases, diabetes, cancers, depression, etc… the list can go on forever! Regular exercise has anti-inflammatory effects on our bodies, especially in our gut (32). A lack of exercise can allow inflammation to occur in your gut, which damages your intestinal barrier. A damaged intestinal lining doesn’t function at peak performance and can lead to a leaky gut. Make sure you’re maintaining a regular exercise routine to keep your body in tip top shape!