The ancient Greek physician certainly wasn’t wrong. In fact, more and more studies are finding that gut issues are the root cause of autoimmune and other diseases, the biggest culprit being leaky gut.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, let’s break it down.
Leaky Gut Syndrome is just another way of saying your small intestines are hyperpermeable.
Basically, the tight junctions of your gut (intestinal) lining separate and create “holes” that allow food particles and toxins to pass easily through. Those food particles and toxins then pass into your bloodstream which can wreak total havoc on your body causing food intolerances, sugar cravings, weight gain, diarrhea, constipation, hormonal imbalances and even autoimmune disease.
Yeah, not my kind of party. And, I’m guessing it’s probably not yours either.
The truth is that in our antibiotic-obsessed world, where GMOs and chronic stress run rampant, leaky gut is not an uncommon issue.
It’s more prevalent than ever which is why we asked 20 Gut Health & Wellness Experts for their help on one, simple question:
“What is one of your best tips for healing a leaky gut?”
Without a doubt, this is one of the best resources you’ll find on how to heal a leaky gut. When you see the expert contributors and read their stories, you’ll most certainly understand why.
Now, without further ado, I give you the experts and their thoughts
Dr. Shiroko Sokitch | Delfina | Dr. Lauren Noel | Hannah Crum | Aimee McNew | Holli Thompson | Ann Louise | Dr. Tom O’Bryan | Sally Wisbey | Bina Colman | Helena Davis | Shannon Garrett | Dr. Amy Myers | Beverly Meyer | Amanda Torres | Reed Davis | Ann Melin | Jordan & Steve | Dr. Erin Carter | Aglaée Jacob
Dr. Shiroko Sokitch from Heart to Heart Medical Center
I’ve struggled with leaky gut myself off and on over the years. I’ve tried many different things for both my patients and myself.
A year ago I tested positive for 20 severe food allergies which, is a clue that leaky gut is a problem.
I healed myself to the point where now, I only have 3 food allergies, which are not upsetting my digestion.
The first thing to do is to eliminate the irritants – If there are foods you are reacting to, you have to stop eating them. Usually for 6 weeks to 3 months, sometimes as long as 6 months. One food that I’ve found to be very healing is Bone Broth – it helps make the guts feel soothed like it’s healing your intestinal lining from the inside.
I’ve tried many supplements for healing leaky gut but the single most effective supplement I’ve found is a product called Restore. It is a soil based supplement that helps heal the tight junctions – the space between your cells – and encourages your body to produce its own healthy bacteria. You only have to take one tablespoon a day, and it takes about 2-3 months to work, but it works wonders. One of the reasons that I like it so well is that it doesn’t make things worse before you feel better.
Delfina from Code to Wellness
“Leaky gut isn’t real.” Those were the words a Gastroenterologist once said to me as I sat there, in his office, scared and vulnerable as a baby deer from being sick, tired, and desperate for answers. Out of sorts as I may have been, you better believe that was the last time I ever stepped into his office. From there on out, I took my health into my own hands and made the decision to heal my gut issues. And, I did!
I hope this never happens to you, but if it has, you’re very much not alone. In fact, if I could create your Leaky Gut healing plan, that would actually be my very first piece of advice – don’t go at this alone. I don’t care how many credentials you have after your name. You’re human, and humans need support, community, and connection. Find someone you know, like and trust to help guide you through this process. You will heal exponentially faster. Loneliness creates chronic, internal stress. Support and guidance relieve it.
Which leads to my second point – reduce and relieve chronic stress. One of the biggest contributors to chronic stress and, in my opinion, the easiest to address is inflammation-causing foods. Eliminating these foods (gluten, corn, soy, commercial dairy, processed foods, refined sugar, refined oils, additives, preservatives, dyes, un-soaked and un-sprouted nuts/seeds/legumes) will take you a really long way in your healing journey. Pairing an elimination diet with ultra gut healing foods and supplements like bone broth and probiotics will you not only heal further, but also faster.
Finally, you need to take a look at the way you’re moving and thinking, which, yet again, contribute to chronic stress. I’m a big fan and teacher of Yoga Tune Up because of its ability to quite literally relieve the pent up issues in your tissues (aka musculoskeletal stress). It’s a necessary tool to add to your Leaky Gut healing plan. Add in some daily outdoor walks, which give you the opportunity to absorb vitamin D straight for the sun, which is also crucial to gut healing and emotional wellness. While you’re at it, take a step back and reflect how life’s working out for you right now. What do you love about your life? What do you hate? Does the hateration outweigh the love? If so, what needs to change in your life to reverse that?
This is where you start. None of these suggestions or questions lead to a quick fix, but if you’re patient with yourself and you trust the process, you will experience true healing.
Dr. Lauren Noel from Shine Natural Medicine
One of the biggest factors for contributing to and preventing the healing of a leaky gut is chronic stress. What’s necessary for healing is good blood flow. That’s why veins heal so quickly and ligaments heal so slowly because of their difference in blood flow. When we are stressed, we get a decrease in blood flow to our gut. Our blood is the elixir of life, and it contains vital healing factors, oxygen, vitamins, minerals that are necessary for repair. So therapeutically, to heal a leaky gut, it’s absolutely necessary to reduce stress and optimize our sleep.
Hannah Crum from Kombucha Kamp
We have found one of the easiest foods to add to your diet to help rebuild the gut lining is milk kefir. Similar to yogurt, milk kefir has been fermented for thousands of years and puts the healthy bacteria back into pasteurized milk making it more nutritious and easier for the body to digest. It can be flavored a variety of ways and makes a terrific base for smoothies with other superfoods added. The numerous bacteria, bioavailable nutrients, and healthy acids assist the body in returning to balance. Plus, it’s super easy to make at home.Once the gut has had a chance to heal somewhat, then other ferments such as Kombucha may also be included.
Aimee McNew from AimeeMcnew
As someone who did heal leaky gut, I can tell you that at the start, it feels like a long and involved process. It can feel overwhelming. But instead of seeing it as an insurmountable task, take one day, one week at a time. Eat beneficial foods (like bone broth and fermented foods), and avoid triggers (like gluten, dairy, and soy), but also be gentle with yourself.
Take your gut-healing supplements but don’t feel like you can never have a splurge here or there, because if you do, you’ll probably give up on the whole process. Also, while healing leaky gut is definitely nutrient-driven, you need to make lifestyle adjustments, like getting as much sleep as you can, practicing relaxing forms of exercise like yoga, and doing things that you enjoy because mind/body wellness plays a huge role in the healing process.
It is entirely possible to reverse leaky gut and all of the adverse effects, but it does take time. Instead of racing to the finish line, just integrate it into your daily wellness routine. Even after your leaky gut has been restored, you’ll want to keep many of the same lifestyle and nutrition factors to avoid a relapse, but also to invest in the future of your good health.
Holli Thompson from HolliThompson
The best answer to this is adding in probiotics; which contain healthy bacteria that will help to replenish and balance your intestinal gut health. Our guts thrive on healthy bacteria, and many things deplete our supply, from antibiotic use to stress, probiotics are something that I recommend to everyone. Many people are beginning to see a significant difference after using probiotics over time, from stronger mental health to an overall healthier constitution. Sources can include foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, or any fermented vegetable, Kefir, or organic yogurt. For best results, and ultimate assurance, take a broad spectrum probiotic.
Ann Louise from AnnLouise
In addition to bone broth on a daily basis, I am a big proponent of healing leaky gut by completely avoiding any irritant to the GI tract which can potentially lead to intestinal permeability. In that regard, avoiding the most common food sensitivities (like gluten, dairy, eggs, and yeast) would be very helpful as well as the elimination of alcohol and caffeine. Interestingly, one of the most underrated causes of leaky gut syndrome is the frequent use of over-the-counter meds that are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and Advil. Looking for safer natural alternatives to the NSAIDs (think curcumin and boswellia), as well as, taking stock of food allergies is the key to solving gut grief.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan from The Dr.
The recognition of Pathogenic Intestinal Permeability (aka ‘The Leaky Gut’), has come from being an abandoned child crying in the wilderness being heard only by ‘Alternative Practitioners’, to the recognized gateway in the development of autoimmune diseases. I wish it were as simplistic as “just take this pill or packet of pills, and you’ll be fine”. Unfortunately, it’s not. There are at least four critical steps in the healing of a leaky gut.
The first step is stop causing the excess permeability. You have to find out what’s the trigger, or triggers. That’s sometimes clear and straightforward, sometimes it’s not. Here are just a few of the triggers:
- Food sensitivities (yes, gluten causes intestinal permeability in every human) (source)
- Toxic metals (source)
- Bacteria in the microbiome (source)
- Toxic chemicals (source)
- Parasites (source)
- Antibiotics (source)
- Aspirin (source)
- Carrying extra weight (source)
- High-fat diets (source)
- Stress (source)
- Lectin sensitivity (source)
- Magnesium deficiency (source)
- Zinc deficiency (source)
- Polyethylene glycol (a common food additive) (source)
- Aluminum (a common carrier in vaccines) (source)
- Alcohol (source)
The second step is to identify the level of permeability. It’s your starting point. And you don’t ‘feel’ when your gut has pathogenic permeability so you can’t tell. That’s why you need a biomarker. So that after you’ve done all of your work, you can go back and confirm with testing that the damage has been reversed.
The third step is to create an environment in the intestines for the damage to heal. We have to rebuild a healthy microbiome.
The fourth step is to supply healing nutrients. This includes food selections and nutrients.
This is just an attempt to help develop a bigger picture overview of how to identify and arrest this silent mechanism that is the ‘gateway’ in the development of autoimmune disease.
Sally Wisbey from Sally Wisbey Nutrition
L-Glutamine is an excellent remedy to help heal a leaky gut. It is an amino acid and is necessary for the growth and repair of the mucosal lining of the gut and helps to maintain its integrity and structure. You can take L-glutamine in powder form and find it in the diet in foods such as cabbage, chicken, eggs, avocado, parsley, beetroot, and green beans.
Bina Colman from Unvegan
I love bone broth. I only just found out about it three years ago but since then I crave it, especially if it’s been more than a month or two sine I’ve had any. I also love that more and more companies are producing it so those times I want it in a pinch it is readily available. However, making your own batch at home is always nice, and such an easy way to impress your friends, family, and neighbors. What I love most about bone broth is the healing powers it has.
I have never been diagnosed by a doctor with a “weak”, bad or leaky gut, but there is no doubt in my mind that if I went to get it checked that would be my diagnosis. Since my husband is the sole reviewer for Unvegan.com I am usually tempted to eat what he does, and while it is 90% of the time delicious, it can really wreak havoc on my system. When I feel a little worse for the wear in my gut I turn to bone broth to fix me. I try to fast for 24-48 hours while drinking this magical elixir and allow all the healing properties to take place. I know there are other remedies for leaky gut, but I figure, why try others when this one works so well and tastes so good!
Helena Davis from Enhanced Vitality
Oak Bark tea taken alongside the celloid SCF (silica+calcium fluoride) is amazing for healing a leaky gut. It’s also vital to address your diet by ensuring you are eating low sugar foods. Minimize any foods to which you are intolerant such as wheat or dairy and ensure you are drinking at least 1.5 Liters of water daily to keep your cells nourished and bowels moving daily.
Shannon Garrett from Shannon Garrett Wellness
It takes time to heal intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut syndrome), but with commitment, it can be done. I always encourage that patients begin by using nutrients derived from foods that are known to strengthen damaged cells in the GI tract, as well as, by eliminating certain foods.
A daily cup or two of bone broth does wonders for healing leaky gut. Bone broth contains collagen, which is the major insoluble protein in connective tissue; and, it also contains two special amino acids: proline which is essential for collagen formation, and glycine which improves digestion. Glutamine, also found in bone broth has been found to heal inflamed and damaged cells lining the GI tract and is the most important usable food for cells that line the intestines.
It is critical to eliminate inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, soy, wheat, corn, sugar, GMO’s, un-sprouted grains, and any food(s) that cause inflammation in the white blood cells per a food sensitivity test to ultimately heal leaky gut syndrome.
Dr. Amy Myers from Amy Myers MD
The most important step in healing a leaky gut, and the first step in Functional Medicine’s 4R approach, is to remove the bad. What do I mean by this? I mean eliminate the primary causes of Leaky Gut – toxic and inflammatory foods and gut infections. Inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs trigger a rise in inflammation, which damages your gut lining, every time you eat them. Toxic foods such as alcohol, additives, preservatives, dyes, and sweeteners also trigger inflammation and cause leaky gut, and increase your toxic burden. Gut infections caused by yeast, bacteria, or parasites disrupt your gut’s ecosystem, damage your gut lining, and reduce your ability to digest and absorb nutrients.
Amazingly, your gut cells regenerate every 30 days, so by removing these foods and infections for just one month, you can see a huge improvement in leaky gut and the myriad of symptoms it causes.
Beverly Meyer from On Diet and Health
The brain and nervous system play a huge role in gut health. Stress is an underrated factor in how the gut becomes damaged and in why the best diet and supplements sometimes aren’t enough to repair it.
The neurotransmitter GABA is our primary stress management tool. People today are chronically anxious and stressed, life is at such a fast pace, and we secrete inappropriate hormones and gastric juices in response to stress. I’m a big fan of Passion Flower, an herb that directly supports the GABA system. Passion Flower and learning to pace your life more slowly can make all the difference in recovery.
Amanda Torres from The Curious Coconut
My best tip for healing leaky gut syndrome is not to attempt to do it alone. I successfully healed leaky gut syndrome working with a Chinese medicine doctor (acupuncturist) who was also trained in functional medicine principles. Functional medicine has an established protocol to address leaky gut. The protocol involves eliminating specific foods, taking specific supplements, and including plenty of self-care with specific lifestyle adjustments. There are now several respected companies producing high-quality supplements that are needed to address any lingering gut infection and promote closure of the tight junctions. Ideally, find someone in your area who can treat you, but you can also work with someone remotely using Skype.
I also recommend working with an acupuncturist while you are doing the protocol. I think that getting acupuncture twice a week really helped give me an extra leg up to control inflammation, improve digestion, and help my body process the herbs and other supplements I was on.
Reed Davis from Functional Diagnostic Nutrition
“Leaky Gut” is a term applied when a person suffers from increased or hyperpermeability of the small intestines, wherein larger than normal particles (macromolecules) may infiltrate the mucosal barrier into the hepatic portal system. The portal vein, normally rich in nutrients properly extracted from food, may become overburdened with toxins, antigens, and immune complexes, leading to serious health issues.
While hyperpermeability is generally perceived as a topographical problem, to be patched or healed like any wound, it is actually caused by an immune response to specific antigens, which raises the level of zonulin, a protein that regulates the permeability of tight junctions in the wall of the small intestines. In the walls of healthy intestines, properly functioning tight junctions hold cells together in such a way as to force food particles to “diffuse” through the cells instead of between them. Up-regulation of zonulin in genetically susceptible individuals has been shown to lead to autoimmune and other diseases. Attempts at repair, restoration or healing of “leaky gut” would be fruitless without reducing the antigenic load at the root of the zonulin response. Genetic predispositions, food sensitivity and gut pathology testing should loom large in the assessment and treatment of gut hyperpermeability.
Ann Melin from Upward Spiral Nutrition
My perspective on it is that the question is too simple. Leaky gut never exists in a way that is isolated from the rest of the system. One must consider all aspects of a person’s clinical and functional presentation in order to really assess the best way to work through leaky gut on a case by case basis. For one person, bone broth might be wonderful. For another, it might be provocative. For many, herbs like slippery elm and marshmallow are helpful, but, if the person has SIBO, those herbs can exacerbate the problem. As with everything, I think that we cannot separate the part from the whole. We must look at the person as an entire being if we are to jump in with appropriate interventions. So, I guess that my best tip would involve broadening the scope away from a reductionist focus on one diagnostic condition and looking at the whole person in an integrative way that supports building up overall health.
Jordan & Steve from SCD Lifestyle
There are three really common leaky gut triggers I’ve seen over the years with people who are still struggling with chronic health problems. No one tip can heal a leaky gut, and all the triggers need to be addressed for real healing to take place.
The first thing is to stop eating foods that trigger a leaky gut like grains, pseudo grains, eggs, nuts and seeds, peppers, and dairy for a while and start eating healing foods like bone broth. If you have leaky gut and you’re still struggling with chronic illness, the 80/20 rule doesn’t fly.
The second trigger is poking holes in your gut with pills. The inconvenient truth is: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) cause your gut to leak. If you take NSAIDS, especially the stronger kind that are used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, you’ll be putting your gut barrier at risk.
The third trigger we see too often is chronic stress. Stress wrecks your gut and makes it leaky. You WILL NOT heal your gut if it’s experiencing chronic stress. Stress can be emotional, like a crappy job or a bad relationship. It can also be physical stress, like overtraining. Working out too hard can be extremely stressful on your body if you’re struggling with chronic illness.
Many of us are “tough cases” and we need more than just a healthy diet to heal. Complex problems rarely ever have simple answers.
Dr. Erin Carter from Pure and Simple Nourishment
Leaky gut is a complex condition that is being linked to more and more health problems. There are many factors that lead to this condition including poor diet, medications, stress, infections, abnormal gut flora, toxins in the environment etc. The first thing I tell all my patients to do when trying to heal their gut is to eliminate grains, sugar, and dairy from their diet. For some people, this will be enough, but others need a more comprehensive dietary strategy and I find that for many people a combined Paleo-Low FODMAP diet works really well. It’s also important to help the gut heal so I emphasize the importance of drinking bone broth made with pasture-raised animal bones, as well as, supplementing with L-glutamine, grassfed gelatin, vitamin D, digestive enzymes, and zinc. Some patients may also need additional supplements to initially help them heal. Everyone is individual. I also get patients to start taking probiotics in the form of Kombucha, fermented foods, and probiotic supplements. I don’t usually start this right away as some people will flare or have a die-off reaction when probiotics are added, so I caution patients to ease into this portion of gut healing.
In addition to diet and supplements, it is also crucial to address the other factors that may be contributing to leaky gut. This includes going over all of their medications and, if safe to do so, stopping the ones that may be contributing. Proper sleep, exercise, and stress reduction techniques are also crucial. Other patients may also need to be tested for conditions that can lead to leaky gut including small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, parasites, celiac disease, fructose malabsorption, and others to name a few. It takes a comprehensive approach to heal leaky gut, and it may take a long time to fully heal, but with the proper approach, I have found that most people do get better.
Aglaée Jacob from Radicata Nutrition
Healing leaky gut starts with removing inflammatory foods that are more likely to damage the gut and make it more permeable (leaky). The most common culprits are gluten, soy, corn, dairy, sugar, refined oils and processed foods. It’s also important to address other lifestyle factors that can contribute to leaky gut, such as stress, lack of sleep and overtraining. Overlooking these important factors is like trying to put a band-aid on a broken bone!
To truly heal leaky gut, it’s often necessary to add ingredients that will help reduce the inflammation and support gut healing. Quality bone broth, traditionally fermented foods and nutrient-dense liver from grass-fed/pastured animals are some of my favorite ways to support gut healing with real food, of which I am a big advocate. Sometimes, extra supplements like L-glutamine, zinc, probiotics, digestive enzymes or even herbal antimicrobials in the case of a severe case of gut dysbiosis (gut flora imbalance), can be really helpful too, but gut healing always starts with real food.
Phew [wipes sweat off of forehead)! That was a heck of an epic schooling in all things leaky gut, eh?
I’m guessing you’re feeling one of two ways right now: insanely inspired or absolutely overwhelmed. I get it. When I first started navigating the gut healing waters myself, I actually felt both depending on the time and what I ate.
My advice for both is the same.
Close your eyes. Shut out the noise. And, breathe 5 deep breaths.
Better? Good. Ok, now that you’ve got your head on straight, here’s what I want you to do: take action!
To quote Abu Bakr, “Knowledge without action is useless.”
You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you choose to do nothing with it, then your Leaky Gut situation won’t change.
How to Take Action and Heal Your Leaky Gut
Sometimes the whole idea of taking action is one of those “easier said than done” type of things, particularly when it comes to our health. So, here’s a little guidance to help you get started:
- Bookmark this page for future reference (yes, you’ll definitely want to come back to this resource!).
- Pick the one brand-new tip that resonated with you the most and implement it today. If you’re not already drinking bone broth, we highly recommend starting with that one 😉
- Apply that tip to your life for the next 2 weeks.
- Come back here, pick another tip, and implement that one into your Leaky Gut healing plan.
- Continue cycling through all of these steps and slowly implementing new strategies at a pace that works for you. While you’re at it, be sure to let us know what’s worked. We’d love to know.
Imagine the relief!
Tell us, what’s your experience with Leaky Gut? Was bone broth part of your healing process? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.