How to Identify and Prevent Leaky Gut

“Leaky gut” is becoming a more widely known condition, especially among the holistic and naturopathic health community. 

Leaky gut is a term for increased intestinal permeability, posing several health concerns and digestive upset. 

Although all Western medical professionals may not be fully on board with “leaky gut” being a real thing, more and more clinicians are coming around to acknowledging its presence and impacts on health. 

This article will explain what leaky gut is, its impacts on health, its causes, as well as some of the best ways to manage or prevent it from occurring in the first place. 

What is leaky gut?

In the digestive tract, food is digested, and nutrients are absorbed through the intestines. The walls of the intestines are an important protective barrier to control what enters the bloodstream. 

The intestine walls are made up of tightly lined cells called tight junctions. When the tight junctions of the intestine walls become loose, it is easier for potentially harmful substances – like toxins and bacteria – to get through. 

Essentially, bacteria and toxins can “leak” through the intestines and into the bloodstream, hence the term “leaky gut”. The substances that enter our circulation trigger inflammation and an immune response, leading to various health symptoms.  

You may be wondering if leaky gut is even a real thing, given its lack of acknowledgment by clinicians. 

Although the term “leaky gut” is not recognized as a medical diagnosis, increased intestinal permeability is the same thing, and it’s widely recognized and accepted (1). 

There’s significant research to suggest the health problems associated with having increased intestinal permeability.

What happens if you have a leaky gut?

Leaky gut, or increased intestinal permeability can lead to a whole range of symptoms. 

When toxins or bacteria get into the bloodstream, an inflammatory and immune response is triggered. 

As a result, conditions and symptoms that can arise from this condition include autoimmune disease, food sensitivities, fatigue, digestive irregularities, headaches, and achy joints (1, 2). 

It’s been proposed that a leaky gut may be the root cause of multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, depression, thyroid conditions, and even autism. 

Perhaps the most commonly discussed side effect of having a leaky gut is digestive upset.  Irregular digestion may be one of the body’s first signs to show that increased intestinal permeability might be present. 

What increases the risk of a leaky gut?

There continues to be a great deal of research on leaky gut and its causes. 

While some research suggests that a leaky gut is the root cause of most health problems, other claims find that leaky gut is merely a symptom of chronic disease – not the cause (3).

It’s suggested that the root cause of leaky gut is an imbalance of healthy gut bacteria, otherwise known as dysbiosis. 

There are habits and lifestyle choices that can increase someone’s risk of developing a leaky gut. To reduce your risk of developing a leaky gut, it’s important to be cautious of the following factors that may increase your risk:

  • High added sugar intake: Excess added sugar could increase inflammation and weaken the walls of the intestines, making it easier for harmful substances to get through (4).

  • Excessive alcohol consumption: Excessive alcohol intake can also wreak havoc on the intestinal lining. Not only does alcohol lead to inflammation, but it can alter gut bacteria and loosen tight junctions, leading to increased intestinal permeability (5).

  • Nutrient deficiencies: Certain nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin A, Vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids, may increase the risk for leaky gut, giving you all the more reason to take your vitamins (6, 7).

  • Chronic stress: Stress plays a huge role in many digestive disorders – leaky gut included. The gut and the brain are closely connected, so with high-stress levels, the integrity of the intestinal lining is often affected (8).

  • Diet high in processed foods: A diet high in processed foods may cause a leaky gut. This is largely due to the additives, emulsifiers, and stabilizers found in processed foods that have been shown to impact gut bacteria and intestinal permeability (9) negatively.

How to manage or prevent leaky gut

If you are already suffering from a leaky gut, it’s possible to improve and heal it through lifestyle and diet modifications. If you don’t currently have a leaky gut, it’s still a good idea to tailor your habits to prevent it from happening. 

Here is a list of ways to manage or prevent leaky gut: 

  • Consume probiotic-rich foods: Given that the root cause of leaky gut is an imbalance of gut bacteria, it’s important to eat probiotic-rich foods to promote a healthy gut regularly. Yogurt, kimchi, miso, kombucha, and tempeh, are all great sources of probiotics.

  • Maintain a high-fiber diet: A high-fiber diet may help protect the function and structure of the intestinal walls. Plus, fiber leads to short-chain fatty acids in the intestines, which help reduce inflammation (10).

  • Ensure adequate sleep: Poor sleep can negatively impact gut health.  Aim to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night to support the health of your intestinal lining.

  • Follow a whole-food diet: Aim to consume various foods in their whole form, while reducing intake of processed and packaged foods. Include foods such as chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, yogurt, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and olive oil.

  • Engage in stress-reducing practices: It’s been shown that high levels of stress contribute to a leaky gut. Aim to include stress-reducing habits into your routine such as meditation, yoga, journaling, going on long walks, etc.

  • Try Naked Gut: Naked Gut contains the perfect blend of gut-healing ingredients. It contains probiotics, natural fibers from inulin and pectin, and glutamine, an especially important amino acid to reduce inflammation and strengthen the gut barrier (11).

Key Takeaways

Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the intestines is more permeable, allowing for bacteria and toxins to enter the bloodstream. Leaky gut may be a root cause of many common symptoms, even chronic conditions. 

Many lifestyle and nutrition habits can be modified to heal a leaky gut and prevent a leaky gut from occurring. 

It’s important to follow a nutrient-dense, balanced diet rich in probiotics and fiber. Limiting added sugar, alcohol, and processed foods is also helpful in maintaining proper gut integrity. 

Perhaps a supplement such as Naked Gut can be helpful for those looking for a specialized formula to prevent or manage leaky gut.