Leaky Gut Syndrome
Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is a great way to prevent diseases and encourage longevity. The gastrointestinal system in particular can be impacted by nutrition. When functioning properly, the intestinal tract can easily digest food and liquids in the body. Sometimes, however, malfunctions in the intestinal tract occur, causing a condition called leaky gut or leaky gut syndrome.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Leaky gut is often described as inflammation of the intestinal lining due to comprised tight junction barrier in the intestines.8
Another leaky gut syndrome definition that may be used is increased intestinal permeability.1 With a comprised mucus layer, more space between cells in the gut wall becomes available. This increased permeability can allow pro-inflammatory cytokines and free radicals to cause intestinal impairment.9
Leaky Gut Symptoms
Issues with the intestinal barrier and gut microbiota may cause a variety of conditions such as leaky gut syndrome, celiac disease, food allergies, inflammatory bowel syndrome and colon carcinoma.7
Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability symptoms may include chronic fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating. This can occur as the protective lining of the digestive track is weakened, allowing bacteria and viruses into the intestines. Additional signs and symptoms of leaky gut syndrome may include general abdominal pain or feelings of illness.9
Digestive inflammation may also contribute to bad breath. For leaky gut syndrome, bad breath is a common side effect that may go undiagnosed. In addition, leaky gut syndrome and weight gain may be connected as intestinal permeability affects the ability to exercise and absorb nutrients in food.1
In recent years, scientists have questioned the connection between leaky gut syndrome and autism. While no current studies have established a direct connection between the two, preliminary research has noted that autistic children have markedly different gut microbiome than healthy children.8
While some of these leaky bowel symptoms are manageable, others can impair everyday life. Fortunately, there are several possibilities for healing leaky gut naturally.
How to Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome Fast
Despite how discouraging leaky gut may seem, it’s possible to receive leaky gut syndrome treatment. First, you may want to consider a leaky gut syndrome test by requesting one from your doctor. There isn’t a blood test for leaky gut syndrome, but the doctor may conduct a test that involves a mannitol and lactulose solution. A urine sample determines the level of these molecules in the body.3 A test result that shows high levels of mannitol and high levels of lactulose may indicate leaky gut.
How long does it take to heal leaky gut syndrome? – With a dietary change, it can take several weeks, with some recommending three weeks before taking the mannitol and lactulose test again. If someone has an infection as a result of a leaky gut, it’s recommend the same test be done six weeks after starting a treatment plan for the infection.
How to heal leaky gut syndrome may depend on the severity of the condition. Leaky gut syndrome in infants has been treated with a permeability test that shows what dietary changes mothers can make for healthier breast milk.2
Healing leaky gut syndrome can be done with a natural diet that includes vitamin A, vitamin D and probiotics from food sources and supplementation.7
Other ideas of how to heal leaky gut syndrome naturally include colon hydrotherapy. This involves running lukewarm water through the colon to flush out toxins and bacterial overgrowth.5 A very popular treatment option for leaky gut is a change in diet, which is discussed below.
Leaky Gut Syndrome Diet
A leaky gut syndrome diet plan has several options and can be customized for each individual. A general diet for leaky gut syndrome includes foods that are rich in fiber, antioxidants and amino acids. Antioxidants help the body fight against harmful free radicals, while fiber may help improve the function of the intestines and relieve some symptoms, such as constipation. Good sources of fiber include fresh vegetables, black beans, and bran cereal. You may also wish to take a fiber supplement.10
Leaky gut syndrome diet recipes can be found online or made on your own. Bone broth is popular to make, as it has a variety of health benefits, including promoting a healthy intestinal tract. For an easy, homemade bone broth check out our six-step bone broth recipe.
Foods to avoid if you have leaky gut syndrome may include gluten and other foods that lead to irritability, such as spicy foods or dairy products.
Taking probiotics and an amino acid supplement such as L-glutamine are also thought to help seal the intestinal tract and improve function.1 The suggested probiotics for leaky gut syndrome are Lactobacillus caseii var GG and Saccharomyces boulardii, which restore nutritional flora in the intestines and prevent diarrhea.6
Supplementing with zinc, has also been used to improve intestinal barrier issues and was one of several supplements used in a 2008 clinical trial. Subjects took a combination of zinc, glutamine and N-acetyl cysteine in addition to following a leaky gut diet. After 10-14 months, subjects’ inflammatory responses were normalized and showed significant clinical improvement.9
Additionally, taking vitamin A and vitamin D supplements may also help strengthen the intestinal barrier and mucous lining.7
What Causes Leaky Gut?
In the past 30 years, increasing scientific research has focused on the causes of leaky gut and other conditions associated with intestinal permeability. However, the mechanisms are still not clearly understood. It’s thought that changes in intestinal microbiota, mucus lining, virus infections or drugs may be possible factors, but the severity or duration of these elements can vary widely.7
In the natural-health community, it’s widely believed that unidentified sensitives to gluten or lactose can cause leaky gut and damage to the intestines. Reports from individuals who follow the leaky gut diet indicate that once they removed these problem foods, they felt increasingly better. Typically, symptoms were said to disappear within 2-3 weeks. Interestingly, animal studies on the Western Diet, which emphasizes high fat and carbohydrate intake, have been shown to negatively influence the gut microbiota.7
For someone who already has leaky gut syndrome, alcohol consumption may exacerbate the signs of a leaky gut as it has been shown to increase the permeability of the intestines.4
Additionally, for those with leaky gut syndrome, psoriasis, as well as acne and eczema have been anecdotally more common, with some theorizing a connection to this condition.
Understanding the symptoms, signs and treatment options for leaky gut can help diagnose and manage the condition. It may take time to heal a leaky gut based on the severity of the condition. However, the results can lead to better intestinal and overall health.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Akisu, M., Baka, M., Huseyinov, A., & Kultursay, N. (2003). The role of dietary supplementation with L-glutamine in inflammatory mediator release and intestinal injury in hypoxia/reoxygenation-induced experimental necrotizing enterocolitis. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, 47 (6), 262-266. Retrieved September 19, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14520021
- Barau, E. & Dupont, C. (1994). Allergy to cow’s milk proteins in mother’s milk or in hydrolyzed cow’s milk infant formulas as assessed by intestinal permeability measurements.Allergy, 49(4), 295-298. Retrieved September 19, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8037363
- Johnston, S. D., Smye, M., Watson, R. G., McMillan, S. A., Trimble, E. R., & Love, A. H. (2000). Lactulose–mannitol intestinal permeability test: a useful screening test for adult coeliac disease. Annals of Clinical Biochemistry, 37(4), 512-519. doi:1258/0004563001899500
- Bjarnason, I., Wise, R. & Peters, T. (1984). The leaky gut of alcoholism: Possible route of entry for toxic compounds.Lancet, Jan 28,1, 179-182. Retrieved September 19, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6141332
- Ernst, E. (2010, February 5). Colonic irrigation: therapeutic claims by professional organizations, a review. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 64 (4), 429-431. doi: 1111/j.1742-1241.2009.02166.x
- Oksanen, P.J., et al. (1990). Prevention of travellers’ diarrhoea by Lactobacillus GG.Ann Med, 22 (1), 53-56. Retrieved September 19, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2184847
- Bischoff, S. C., Barbara, G., Buurman, W., Ockhuizen, T., Schulzke, J., Serino, M., … Wells, J. M. (2014). Intestinal permeability – a new target for disease prevention and therapy.BMC Gastroenterology, 14(1). doi:1186/s12876-014-0189-7
- Kang, D., Park, J. G., Ilhan, Z. E., Wallstrom, G., LaBaer, J., Adams, J. B., & Krajmalnik-Brown, R. (2013). Reduced Incidence of Prevotella and Other Fermenters in Intestinal Microflora of Autistic Children. PLoS ONE, 8(7), e68322. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0068322
- Maes, M. & Leunis, J.C. (2008). Normalization of leaky gut in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is accompanied by a clinical improvement: effects of age, duration of illness and the translocation of LPS from gram-negative bacteria. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 29(6), 101-109. Retrieved September 19, 2017 from – View Reference
- Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Foods to Choose if You Have Mixed Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Retrieved September 19, 2017 from – View Reference