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Leaky Gut: The what and the why

Before we dive into talking about leaky gut or intestinal permeability, we must first understand the basic structure of the digestive tract. The gastrointestinal tract is a long tube that starts in your mouth and ends with your anus. The purpose of this tube is to break down and absorb food while keeping out any unwanted materials such as undigested food, pathogens, toxins and food antigens.

The wall of our digestive tube is called the intestinal or epithelial lining. The intestinal lining is one cell thick and each cell is linked together by tight junctions. This wall acts like guards around a castle, separating the body from the external environment.

The food within the digestive tract is broken down into smaller components, such as amino acids from proteins; glucose from carbohydrates; triglycerides from fats; minerals and vitamins, by chewing, muscle contractions and digestive enzymes. Nutrients are absorbed into the cellular wall and then into the bloodstream to be distributed throughout the body, everything else that is too big, indigestible or pathogenic ideally stays within the digestive tract to be excreted. Our bodies can handle a few invaders, but imagine what happens when there is damage to this barrier!

Leaky gut or intestinal permeability is when the epithelial lining is damaged or compromised allowing toxins, antigens, bacteria and large molecules to pass into the bloodstream and lymphatic system. This triggers an immune response locally and systemically, throughout the body.

What contributes to “leaky gut”:

  • Excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee

  • Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as advil, ibuprofen, tylenol, motrin, aspirin

  • Antibiotics

  • Corticosteroid drugs (e.g. prednisone)

  • Food intolerances

  • Low stomach acid

  • Blood sugar dysregulation

  • Toxins

  • GMOs

  • Glyphosate

  • Inflammation

  • Sleep deprivation

  • Dysregulated immune system

  • Hormonal imbalance

  • Infections

  • Dysbiosis: imbalance of bacteria in the gut

  • Poor diet, processed foods

  • Excessive intake of tannins (found in wine, tea, chocolate)

  • Vitamin D deficiency

  • Low fiber diet

  • Chronic stress

  • Constipation - stagnation

When there is poor gut integrity one is more susceptible to infections, food allergies, nutrient deficiencies, overactive or decreased immune function, inflammation, gastritis, & inflammatory bowel disease. Leaky gut can show up as a wide variety of symptoms such as digestive discomfort, hormonal imbalance, skin issues, food allergies, low energy and more

So what do we do?

Here are some ways to support a healthy intestinal lining:

  • Chew your food

  • Relax while you eat

  • Remove food allergens & sensitivities

  • Make sure you have adequate stomach acid

  • Eat a nutrient rich diet full of color and fiber

  • Balance blood sugar

  • Drink clean water

  • Move your body

  • Vitamin D

  • Quality fatty acids & proteins

  • Omega 3 fatty acids

  • Remove processed foods

  • Soup and broth made with veggies, meats & bones

  • Mindfulness & stress reduction

  • Gut healing teas with calendula, marshmallow, slippery elm, licorice, plantain, self-heal

I have created a list of healthy foods for you to get started on your healing journey… click the link below to download!

Shopping Guide


Mu Q, Kirby J, Reilly CM, Luo XM. Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases. Front Immunol. 2017;8:598. Published 2017 May 23. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.00598

Lee, B., Moon, K. M., & Kim, C. Y. (2018). Tight Junction in the Intestinal Epithelium: Its Association with Diseases and Regulation by Phytochemicals. Journal of immunology research, 2018, 2645465.

Lynch, Ben. Dirty Genes. HarperCollins Publishers. 2018

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