Leaky Gut...Decoded

90% of our immune system is held in the gut!
— Dr. Josh Axe MD

You may have heard me talk a lot about leaky gut recently. I explained here how certain pesticides cause leaky gut, and here how GMO’s cause leaky gut. However, I wanted to dedicate an entire post on leaky gut, its symptoms, and what we can do about it….because well…it is that important

What It Is

Medically speaking leaky gut is increased intestinal permeability leading to chronic systemic inflammation and nutrient malabsorbtion. Let me translate with a little analogy…think of your intestines like a fishing net…the fish are the food we eat, and the water the nutrients our bodies need. So in a good healthy net the fish are too large to fit through the holes, the net does its job keeping all the fish where they should be and the water releases through the holes to be “absorbed”.

Now imagine that net gets some large holes in it…I don’t know maybe from a crabs claws or something. The next time you go to fish…wham…those large holes not only let the water through but some of the fish too…suddenly you have fish where they shouldn’t be…flopping around invading your space. And what do you do to that out of place fish? Remove it from your standing space…perhaps with a kick of the foot or grabbing him with your hand…whatever way you go about it think of this action as your immune system. Now what if you had to do this all day, wouldn’t you get tired and irritated after a while? That’s exactly how your immune system feels with leaky gut...overworked

So now you have food particles in your blood stream…because of the "holes in your net"…and your immune system (think inflammatory system) is working overtime to remove all the invaders. The problem is this causes long term whole body inflammation and malabsorbtion of nutrients which leads to a long list of seemingly unrelated problems.

Any of the issues listed below are often caused by leaky gut

  • Skin issues: acne, eczema, and psoriasis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Thyroid issues - Hashimotos Thyroiditis
  • Arthritis
  • Lupus and ALL other autoimmune diseases
  • Unexplained nervous system disorders 
  • Numbness and tingling in arms and legs
  • Muscular pain
  • Crohns and ulcerative colitis
  • Food allergies and sensitivities 
  • Mood issues - anxiety, depression, autism, ADHD
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Hormone issues
  • IBS

Warning Signs of Leaky Gut 

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Digestive problems
  • Food allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances **one of the most common and earliest symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Headaches
  • Chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • Weight gain

Take note of how you feel after you eat, especially certain foods. Does your nose get stuffy, are you bloated or have an upset stomach, do you have a slight headache, are you more moody? These things are NOT normal. What this means is you are developing food sensitivities secondary to a leaky gut. 

Major Causes 

Poor Diet 

  • Eating these foods can cause leaky gut:
    • GMOs - Read how here.
    • Non-organic food - is loaded with pesticides, read how they cause leaky gut in this post.
    • Sugar - allows for bad bacteria and yeast to overgrow, these bad bacteria irritate your intestines leading to leaky gut.
    • Conventional dairy - milk (even organic) that is pasteurized lacks the enzymes needed to fully digest the milk, which causes irritation in some. Also non-organic milk is from cows fed GMO feed, which is excreated in their milk. 
    • Unsprouted grains - high in lectins and phytic acid. Phytic acid binds with essential minerals preventing your body from absorbing them. Lectins are proteins, they bind with the cells of your intestine and cause inflammation and destruction.
    • Preservatives - many preservatives in packaged food are harsh chemcials that destroy the integrity of the intestines

Chronic Stress

  • Weakens the immune system

Toxin Overload  

  • Weakens the immune system and if taken orally destroy the intestine lining. This includes alcohol, pesticides, chemicals, and some medications like antibiotics and Advil (any NSAID) 

Bacterial Imbalances  

  • When the normal bacteria in your gut gets out of balance, the bad bacteria, yeast, and fungi multiply and cause irritation and inflammation. Antibiotics, certain foods, pesticides, being born by C-section, lack of probiotic foods & tap water can all cause a bacterial imbalance.

How to Heal

Leaky Gut is the cause of many seemingly unrelated health problems. Come start to feel better and heal at Clean's the New Black
  • Remove the foods that cause leaky gut
  • Start eating real food
  • Heal the gut and malnutrition with supplements
  • Rebalance mentally with stress reducing activities like yoga, meditation, etc.

What to eat

  • Real Homemade Bone Broth - high in amino acids and collagen. It is easy on the digestive tract, soothing, and offers nutrients to heal the gut. This is a superfood for those with leaky gut and a mainstay in the GAPS diet (more on that later). 
  • Probiotic Rich Foods - Foods with beneficial bacteria in them allows for your gut to repopulate with good bacteria. 
    • Lactofermented foods - like traditionally prepared sauerkraut, salsa, kim-chi, and pickles. You can lactoferment easily at home or buy products like Bubbies. Please note that typical pickles, sauerkraut, etc are not lactofermented but brined in vinegar...this offers you no benificial bacteria. Look for products at health food stores that have only salt but no vinegar or preservatives. This and this are great beginners books on lactofermenting. 
    • Kiefir - cultured milk, readily available in grocery stores.
    • Kombucha and fermented coconut water - I love The BU, Reeds, and Kevita
    • Yogurt
  • Gelatin rich foods - gelatin from grass fed cows aid in digestion and balance hormones. I love this brand. Make jello or gummies and add it to soups and sauces. Or get the hydrolized collagen which is gelatin that doesn't gel, making it easy to take daily with juice. 
  • Coconut products - oil, flakes, cream, milk, raw...however you like to eat it
  • Raw milk and other raw dairy products
  • Omega-3’s from wild caught fish, grass-fed beef, and grass-fed lamb
  • Lactofermented dough aka Real Sourdough - make your own or look for words like soured culture or sourdough starter in the ingredients. If vinegar is one of the ingredients it is not real sourdough.
  • Sprouted and soaked grains, legumes, and nuts - start soaking prior to use, this reduces the phytic acid levels making them easily digestable. Soak oats, flour, lentils, beans, and nuts overnight in water with a dash of apple cider vinegar. Or sprout your chia seeds, lentils, and hemp seeds. The Nourishing Traditions cook book is a great place to start for recipes or a quick google search will help. A great organic non-gmo sprouted bread is Alvarado St. Bakery, which is also sold at Trader Joe's under the name California Style Complete Protein Bread. 

For real healing many have found The GAPS Diet for 6 months to a year works wonders. It gives the gut a break and allows for your body to heal itself…after all food is our medicine. 

Supplements for Healing

  • Digestive enzymes
  • Fermented Cod Liver Oil - read more about why I don't go a day without this superfood here
  • Probiotic - I like this brand as well as this one for super powerful soil based organisms
  • Insoluble fiber - helps to regulate the bowels without the bloating and gas often associated with solulable fiber. 

A Word To the Wise

Many individuals in the medical community will deny that leaky gut exists. However, I have listened to many physicians, naturopaths, dietitians, and others state bodies of evidence that it indeed does exist and it causes autoimmune disorders.  With my profession being in the medical field let me be the first to say research is SLOW to disburse in the medical community….like soooo slow….we are talking 10’s of years. Medical professionals practice and prescribe treatments for years eventhough current research says otherwise. There is also an archaic way of thinking in the medical community that keeps many from ever changing their practice from what they learned in school….for some that is 30 or 40 years ago!

So I guess what I am getting at is: 1. Leaky gut is something many medical professionals will not acknowledge exists or will dismiss as no concern. 2. Leaky gut is real, it is effecting millions of people, and there is a growing body of evidence with which the progressive, up to date, integrative folk acknowledge. Some of the physicians on the forefront of this movement are Dr. Kelly Brogan, Dr. Josh Axe, Dr. David Perlmutter, Dr. Drew Ramsey, and Dr. Ronald Hoffman to name a few. 

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness/disease. Nor is to intended to supplement the advice of a licensed physician or the like. You should not rely upon the information in this blog to make medical decisions prior to consult with your medical doctor. Read the full disclaimer here.

Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary or other types of compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. However, I always give my honest opinion and findings of the products and would not recommend anything that I do not use for myself or family. All of the products recommended will adhere to the Standards of Clean, listed here. 


  1. Crissinger, K.D., P.R. Kvietys, and D.N. Granger, Pathophysiology of gastrointestinal mucosal permeability. J Intern Med Suppl, 1990. 732: p. 145-54.
  2. Rooney, P.J., R.T. Jenkins, and W.W. Buchanan, A short review of the relationship between intestinal permeability and inflammatory joint disease. Clin Exp Rheumatol, 1990. 8(1): p. 75-83.
  3. Katz, K.D., et al., Intestinal permeability in patients with Crohn's disease and their healthy relatives. Gastroenterology, 1989. 97(4): p. 927-31
  4. Jackson, P.G., et al., Intestinal permeability in patients with eczema and food allergy. Lancet, 1981. 1(8233): p. 1285-6.
follow us in feedly Follow on Bloglovin