Everyone and their mother seem to be talking about "Leaky Gut Syndrome" lately. As a wellness professional, you may even have clients coming to you with symptoms asking, "Do you think it might be leaky gut!?".
Leaky Gut Syndrome refers to an increase in intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability in extreme cases. A healthy gut lining allows only specific components of food to pass through into the bloodstream. This is how nutrients enter the bloodstream and promote health. However, poor diet, stress, and certain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can damage the gut lining over time. The result is a more permeable gut lining, which allows larger particles to enter the bloodstream while failing to properly absorb key nutrients.
Undigested food particles, gut bacteria, proteins, and toxic waste shouldn’t be able to enter the bloodstream. But when the gut lining becomes compromised (or “leaky”) they do, causing negative consequences.
While Leaky Gut was once thought to affect only those with serious medical conditions such as celiac disease, we now know that even slight increases in intestinal permeability can cause chronic health issues such as inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as systemic diseases or diseases involving other organ systems like type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and autism.
Today we will be discussing the most effective ways to help a client with leaky gut syndrome including:
- Common signs and symptoms of a leaky gut.
- Foods to avoid.
- Foods to incorporate.
- Supplements to support gut healing.
- Meal planning.
Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Some common signs and symptoms of Leaky Gut include:
- Autoimmune disease.
- Frequent food sensitivities.
- Digestive issues such as bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
- Inflammatory skin conditions.
- Compromised immunity.
- Joint pain.
- Brain fog.
- Fatigue and low mood.
Foods To Avoid With Leaky Gut
Gluten-containing grains like wheat, spelt, rye, and barley can stimulate higher zonulin levels in certain individuals and this increases intestinal permeability. While whole grains can be a part of a healthy diet, they are best consumed soaked or sprouted to deactivate anti-nutrients. Anyone struggling with a leaky gut should avoid gluten completely until their gut lining is functioning properly again, as it is a particularly problematic protein.
Refined "white" sugar added to foods like desserts and drinks and too much added natural sugar (like cane juice or maple syrup) can also be problematic for people with leaky gut syndrome. Sugar can cause imbalances in gut flora by feeding yeasts and bad bacteria, further damaging the gut. Several studies suggest that fructose is one of the key carbohydrates involved in the regulation of intestinal permeability and too much may cause harmful effects.
Tip: Log in to That Clean Life and use the "grain-free and sugar-free tags" to easily generate a meal plan free of grains and sugar.
Conventional milk can also be problematic for those with leaky gut syndrome. It is among the most common food sensitivities and therefore should be avoided.
There may be a place in a gut-healing diet for fermented, organic dairy such as yogurt or kefir. Reactions vary from person to person, so work closely with your client to assess for any new or worsening symptoms when incorporating these foods. Consider trying goat, sheep, or camel dairy as the casein is less inflammatory from these sources and may even contain protective proteins, including immunoglobulins necessary for maintaining the immune system.
Foods To Incorporate To Heal Leaky Gut
A diet that promotes digestive health should focus on fibrous vegetables and fruits as these foods contain phytochemicals which have been reported to improve tight junction integrity by controlling proteins and inflammatory signaling pathways. While raw vegetables and fruits may be difficult to digest, cooked or blended vegetables are just as powerful in healing and supporting the body. Choose a wide variety of colorful vegetables and fruits with plenty of leafy greens.
Thanks to its healing amino acid profile, minerals, and gut-healing collagen bone broth can be incredibly nourishing for an inflamed gut. Homemade bone broth from organic, pasture-raised, or grass-fed animal bones is the most healing.
Filled with a wide variety of probiotic strains, fermented foods bring good bacteria into the gut. Cultured veggies like kimchi and sauerkraut, beverages like kombucha and kefir, and even preserved meats like prosciutto can support healthy intestinal flora.
Healthy fats reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and feed some kinds of good gut bacteria to support gut healing. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory and medium-chain-triglycerides (MCT) are easy to digest. Coconut products should be included as those with leaky gut syndrome can benefit from their MCT content.
This potent anti-inflammatory spice can help with inflammation in the gut lining and throughout the body. It also helps support liver detoxification of environmental toxins that can worsen the disease.
Tip: Log in to That Clean Life to add these Turmeric Coconut Fat Bombs to your plan, which are great for those with Leaky Gut Syndrome as they contain both MCT and turmeric.
Supplements That Support Gut Healing
The element zinc boosts the immune system and can limit gut permeability by its ability to modify the tight junctions of the intestinal lining.
Suggested dose: A study found that taking oral zinc sulfate supplements with a dose of 110 mg three times a day helped to strengthen the gut lining in patients with Crohn’s disease.
One of the beneficial components of bone broth, collagen, can be added to the diet in powder form. Thanks to its high glycine content, it works to strengthen the gut lining while also reducing joint pain and increasing skin quality.
This key amino acid contributes to gut health in many ways. It supports the growth and repair of intestinal cells, reduces inflammation, and coats the gut to protect against further irritation.
Suggested dose: 5-10 grams per day, of a micronized powder dissolved in water, juice, or smoothies. This should be taken as a divided dose and research shows that even a low dose of oral glutamine could improve intestinal permeability after strenuous exercise.
In addition to fermented foods, a quality daily probiotic will reintroduce good bacteria into the gut.
Suggested dose: will vary depending on needs, but one capsule providing at least 10 billion CFUs is a good daily dose for most people. Intensive support doses may be significantly higher.
Anti-inflammatory omega-3s work to reduce inflammation in the body and can help to improve cardiovascular health and cognitive function.
Suggested dose: will vary depending on needs, however, most health organizations recommend a minimum of 250–500 mg combined EPA and DHA each day for healthy adults.
Reminder: Always complete a comprehensive health assessment and ensure there are no contraindications before recommending any supplement.
Meal Planning for Leaky Gut Syndrome
There's a lot to remember when building a meal plan for clients with leaky gut syndrome, so we are saving you time with our Leaky Gut Diet which includes:
- An evidence-based meal plan that includes essential foods for gut healing while excluding all damaging foods.
- Simple, easy recipes that clients will actually love.
- An itemized grocery list.
- A prep guide to minimize confusion and time spent in the kitchen.
- Evidence to educate your clients on key nutrients like fiber, zinc, and probiotics.
Learn more about our Leaky Gut Diet here.