Leaky Gut Syndrome

By June Rousso
June Rousso
June Rousso
I am a New York State licensed psychologist and a nutritional consultant with an M.S. degree in holistic nutrition. My interests have expanded over the years to the field of nutrition, which I often integrate in my work as a psychologist. I love to write and educate people about nutrition so that they can make more informed choices about their health. I believe that dietary and lifestyle changes are so important in our lives to support a healthy lifestyle.
July 20, 2014 Updated: July 20, 2014

Leaky gut syndrome or intestinal permeability can result from many factors.  Overuse of non-steroid drugs, such as Advil, Motrin, and aspirin can damage the intestine. Infections also can increase permeability, including bacteria, viruses, and yeast. Sometimes we are exposed to parasites from polluted water. These same pathogens can enter the bloodstream and make us sick. Excess alcohol, food allergies, and environmental toxins are other causes. 

In terms of diet, consuming a lot of processed foods, especially with high levels of food additives, can damage the intestinal lining.  Inflammatory foods, such excess refined sugar and coffee, also can lead to intestinal permeability. Low zinc levels in the diet are another factor since zinc helps to maintain the strength of the intestinal lining.

Chronic stress can slow down healing in the body, including the small intestine.  Avoid environmental and household chemicals as much as possible as they can slow down healing as well. Intestinal permeability becomes more common with age since as cells age, the spaces around them widen. 

Typical symptoms of leaky gut include allergies, inflammation, rashes, diarrhea, and joint pain.  Asthma, inflammatory joint diseases, and skin conditions also have been associated with leaky gut.  Physicians test for intestinal permeability by having you drink a liquid with small and large sugar molecules. High levels of both sugars passing through urine are suggestive of leaky gut.  Testing for the presence of infections and food sensitivities also is recommended.

Certain steps can be taken to regenerate and repair damaged cells of the small intestine. Many foods are healing, including cabbage, cabbage juice, okra, bone broths, vegetable broths, and vegetable juice.  Green vegetables are high in chlorophyll, which also aids in healing. When intestinal cells become damaged with leaky gut, there will be inflammation. Fruits and vegetables are high in anti-oxidants that fight inflammation.  A high quality anti-oxidant formula also can be used as a supplement.

Glutamine is an amino acid that is a fuel source for intestinal cells, and is found in plant and animal proteins. Whey protein isolate (25 to 30 grams daily) is an excellent source of glutamine, especially one with additional levels of glutamine. Flaxseed oil (1 tablespoon daily) also helps to heal the intestines.

A high fiber diet (at least 35 mg daily) will provide energy to the small intestine, and help in regeneration and repair.  When we consume fiber, it is partially broken down by bacteria.  The bacteria, in turn, produce a fatty acid as an energy source and the same fatty acid helps with healing of the intestine.    

A good probiotic supplement, high in Lactobacillus Acidophilus, will help rid the gut of bad bacteria and yeast, and heal the intestinal lining.  Digestive enzymes also can be used to help break down food and to reduce inflammation of the intestinal lining.  Last but not least, chew your food well to support digestion.