What is a leaky gut?

what is a leaky gut

In simple terms, this is a condition where the lining of your gastrointestinal tract, also known as your gut, may be “leaky” which means it contains holes that allow bacteria, toxins, antigens and even partially digested food to penetrate the tissues beneath it.

If this happens, it can result in inflammation which changes what is known as the gut flora – this is the normal and healthy bacteria that should be present in the gut. Leaky gut can lead to severe health issues as the toxins and bacteria can trigger an adverse reaction from the immune system.

What causes leaky gut syndrome?

There is not a lot known about leaky gut syndrome so making a medical diagnosis about this condition is still difficult for professionals. However, there are a few factors believed to play a role in the permeability of the intestines which directly contributes to someone getting leaky gut:

  • Inflammation: Chronic inflammation throughout the body can possibly contribute to leaky gut syndrome.
  • Stress: Heavy amounts of stress can result in various gastrointestinal disorders, including leaky gut.
  • Excessive sugar intake: A diet high in unhealthy sugar, especially fructose can harm the barrier function of the intestinal wall.
  • Poor gut health: To maintain a healthy gut, there are two types of bacteria present, when this balance is disrupted, it affects the barrier function of an intestinal wall.
  • Use of anti-inflammatory drugs: Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for extended periods can affect intestinal permeability negatively and as a result, contribute to leaky gut.

What is the leaky gut diet?

After looking at some possible causes of leaky gut, it is also helpful to know what can improve your gut health and help you restore the permeability of your intestines to what it should be.

It is highly recommended that foods be eaten which aid the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. An imbalance of bacteria in the intestinal system has been linked to poor health such as chronic inflammation, heart disease and diabetes.

Common symptoms of the leaky gut syndrome

One reason why leaky gut syndrome has been hard to diagnose is that it shares symptoms with other common health problems, making it difficult for doctors to identify.

The following are common symptoms often associated with a leaky gut diagnosis:

  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating
  • joint pain
  • widespread inflammation
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • chronic diarrhea, constipation, or bloating

3 Main foods to cut out of your diet to avoid leaky gut:

  • Sugar – especially processed and refined white sugars found in desserts and soft drinks. Sugar causes imbalances in the body’s gut flora by feeding yeasts and bad bacteria, which will cause further damage to the gut.
  • Wheat – Grains can be part of a healthy diet if they are consumed soaked or sprouted to deactivate anti-nutrients. Someone suffering from leaky gut should avoid gluten-containing grains like wheat, spelt and barley.
  • Milk – Once the milk has been processed, the end-product is quite far from its natural state and therefore will be stripped of good bacteria that would be beneficial to your gut

What should your diet consist of when you have a leaky gut?

When you suffer from a leaky gut, there are certain foods that you should incorporate into your diet to help restore the natural diversity of bacteria of the gut, which will ultimately restore the permeability of your gut.

Foods that you should incorporate in your diet to improve your gut health:

  • Fruit – to sustain good bacteria in the gut, it is important to maintain the ideal pH in your colon, which is between 6.7 and 6.9. One way to achieve this is by eating fruits high in fibre such as raspberries, pears, kiwi, blueberries, apples and bananas.
  • Whole grainsVarious studies have proven that gut microbes respond positively to the consumption of whole grains.  Whole grains benefit the microbial profile of the gut, which will help restore good gut health. Where possible try to incorporate whole grains such as brown rice, barley, oatmeal, popcorn and barley into your diet.
  • High protein foods – Add high-quality protein foods to your diets such as fish, chicken or turkey. When possible, opt for free-range or grass-fed products and avoid cured meats.


If you think you are showing symptoms of a leaky gut diet such as chronic inflammation, regular constipation, or chronic diarrhea, please visit a doctor as soon as possible. Following a strict, healthier diet can help improve your gut health but it is also important to rule out the possibility of other gut-related illnesses.