If your gut is healthy, chances are that you are in good health. If it’s not, it can lead to a slew of issues. Seasonal allergies. Brain fog. Skin problems. Hormone imbalances. Digestive issues. Mood swings. Did you know that these can be symptoms of leaky gut syndrome?

Conventional medicine does not recognize leaky gut syndrome as a medical condition. Conventional medicine views the body as a group of different systems whereas we in functional medicine view the body as a whole unit working together. 1Let me explain. 

The gut is the gateway to health. It’s where nearly 80% of your immune system lives. Your gut is also where up to 95% of your serotonin (the primary neurotransmitter responsible for your mood) is produced.2

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What is Leaky Gut?

There is a condition called ‘leaky gut syndrome’ that can set you on the path to chronic illness. Symptoms go far beyond digestive issues. And thanks to our modern environment, these symptoms are much more common than you’d think. In fact, millions of people are struggling with leaky gut syndrome without even knowing it!

Before I dive in, feel free to view my video below:

Leaky Gut and Intestinal Permeability

Think of your gut as a drawbridge. Your gut is naturally semi-permeable to let teeny-tiny boats (micronutrients) pass through your intestinal wall and into your bloodstream. It’s how you absorb your food. Certain external factors, including food, infections, toxins, and stress, can break apart the tight junctions in your intestinal wall, leaving the drawbridge open.

Once this happens, you have a leaky gut. When your gut is leaky, much larger boats that were never meant to get through (toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles) can escape into your bloodstream. Your immune system marks these “foreign invaders” as pathogens and attacks them.

Symptoms occur as a result of your body’s immune response to these invaders. I’ll discuss what these symptoms are, what causes leaky gut syndrome, and how to prevent and reverse symptoms with the help of Leaky Gut Revive®

Symptoms of Leaky Gut – Infographic – Amy Myers MD®Symptoms of Leaky Gut - Infographic - Amy Myers MD® https://content.amymyersmd.com/article/symptoms-leaky-gut/Symptoms of Leaky Gut – Infographic – Amy Myers MD®

9 Symptoms of Leaky Gut

Leaky gut syndrome has been linked to hormonal imbalances, joint pain, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, eczema, and rosacea, just to name a few.

A properly functioning digestive system is critical to good health. Problems in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract can cause more than just stomach pain, gas, bloating, or diarrhea; they can be the root cause of many chronic health problems. If your intestinal wall has been compromised, and you have leaky gut, you’ll likely experience these symptoms and signs:

  1. Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  2. Food allergies or food intolerances
  3. Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, ADD, or ADHD
  4. Mood imbalances such as depression and anxiety
  5. Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema
  6. Seasonal allergies or asthma
  7. Hormonal imbalances such as irregular periods, PMS, or PCOS
  8. Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease
  9. Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, leaky gut may be the culprit.

Testing for Leaky Gut

If you want to support your leaky gut, you first have to know if you have one. Symptoms are often attributed to other conditions. The good news is that there are tests that can determine if you have intestinal permeability. 

One of the more accurate tests is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test (ELISA).3 This tests the levels of zonulin in your blood, which gives a biomarker of how much intestinal permeability there is. Dr. Alessio Fasano’s research showed that gluten triggers the release of zonulin.4 Zonulin is a chemical that signals the tight junctions of your intestinal wall to open up, creating intestinal permeability, or a leaky gut.  Higher than normal levels of zonulin is an indicator of a leaky gut. Optimal levels of zonulin are 22.3 to 161.1 ng/mL. 

Another way to test for leaky gut is to find out if you have a food sensitivity. The best way to discover your food sensitivities is to complete an elimination diet. An elimination diet is a short-term eating plan with the goal of pinpointing exactly which foods are causing the uncomfortable, painful, or mysterious symptoms you are experiencing. 

An elimination diet involves removing specific foods from your diet for a relatively short period of time. You then reintroduce these foods one by one while monitoring your body’s reactions and symptoms to help identify which foods you are sensitive to. By doing an elimination diet, you are combining scientific strategy with your body’s wisdom to help determine your personal food sensitivities. By ignoring food sensitivities, you could make it worse. 

4 Causes Of Leaky Gut – Infographic – Amy Myers MD®4 Causes Of Leaky Gut - Infographic - Amy Myers MD® https://content.amymyersmd.com/article/symptoms-leaky-gut/4 Causes Of Leaky Gut – Infographic – Amy Myers MD®

What Causes Leaky Gut?

A poor diet is one of the leading factors of leaky gut syndrome. Processed foods contain many ingredients that can lead to leaky gut. In fact, gluten is the number one cause. Gluten causes the gut cells to release zonulin, a protein that can break apart the tight junctions in your intestinal lining.5

Other inflammatory foods (such as dairy) or toxic foods (such as sugar and alcohol) are causes as well.

Infections, toxins, and stress are the other three important factors that can cause leaky gut symptoms. The most common infectious causes are Candida overgrowth, intestinal parasites, and SIBO, or small intestine bacterial overgrowth. Toxins come in the form of medications including NSAIDS (Motrin and Advil), steroids, antibiotics, and acid-reducing medications.6

Environmental toxins including mercury, pesticides, and BPA from plastics are also causal agents. Finally, stress can also be a cause.

The Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Connection

When your gut remains leaky, more and more particles are able to escape into your bloodstream. Your immune system reacts by sending out wave after wave of inflammation to attack foreign invaders. This state of high alert causes your immune system to become overstressed and fire less accurately. This can lead your own tissues to get caught in the crosshairs and cause a flood of symptoms. Eventually, this will develop into full-blown autoimmunity if your leaky gut syndrome is not addressed.

In addition, your immune system starts making antibodies against the substances that have escaped into your bloodstream. Many of these foreign invaders—gluten and dairy in particular—look very similar to your own body’s cells.7

Under constant pressure, your immune system can get confused and accidentally attack your tissues. This process of mistaken identity is called molecular mimicry. It’s another way that leaky gut syndrome can trigger autoimmune disease. And, once you have an autoimmune disease, leaving your symptoms untreated can cause your condition to progress. This places you at greater risk of developing another autoimmune disease.

How Do You Treat Leaky Gut?

If you’re wondering how to deal with leaky gut and prevent symptoms, I suggest everyone begin by following the 4R approach:


Remove all inflammatory foods that can contribute to leaky gut such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, and eggs. To practice natural health, you’ll also need to ditch toxic foods including sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Finally, eliminate any gut infections you have, whether caused by Candida overgrowth, SIBO or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or parasites.


Replace the bad with the good. Adding leaky gut supplements such as digestive enzymes to your regimen will help support optimal digestion and nutrient absorption, as well as assist your body’s intestinal repair and inflammation responses.


Restore the beneficial bacteria in your gut with high-quality, high-potency probiotics to re-establish a healthy microbiome. I recommend 100 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) while dealing with symptoms. Transition to 30 billion CFUs as a maintenance dose.


Provide your gut with the essential nutrients it needs to repair itself. My most comprehensive supplement for this is Leaky Gut Revive®. This supplement contains powerful, gut-repairing ingredients such as L-glutamine, aloe, licorice, arabinogalactan, slippery elm, and marshmallow root. With these ingredients, Leaky Gut Revive® nourishes and soothes your gut cells, restores your gut’s natural mucosal lining, and maximizes gut-mending fatty acid production. Another one of my favorite gut-healing supplements is Collagen that is rich in amino acids that quite literally “seal the leaks” or perforations in your gut by repairing damaged cells and building new tissue.

How Do You Know When Your Leaky Gut Is Repaired? 

Following this protocol takes commitment, so of course, you want to know if all your hard work is making a difference. While there are lab tests available, I typically didn’t use them in my clinic to diagnose leaky gut. 

Once you’ve followed my protocol to repair your gut, your symptoms (or a lack of them!) are the strongest indication of whether or not your gut is healthy. Here are a few good signs your gut is healing and the right track: 

  • Digestive issues disappear: Gas, bloating, heartburn or acid reflux, and constipation are some of the first signs of leaky gut. This is especially true if a gut infection played a role in your leaky gut. When those symptoms start to dissipate and then go away completely, this is a good sign your hard work is producing results.
  • Food sensitivities go away: If you have increased intestinal permeability, you likely also have multiple food sensitivities because partially digested food particles are escaping via your bloodstream and your immune system is attacking them. Another sign your gut is repairing is that you’ll be able to eat foods that once caused digestive problems. 
  • Skin issues clear up: Skin issues are another common symptom. Whether it’s eczema, rosacea, dandruff, rashes, or even acne, most skin issues are an outward manifestation of an internal problem in the gut. That’s why, once your gut begins to repair, you will likely see your skin issues begin to subside as well.
  • Autoimmune labs improve: Because gut health plays such a critical role in your immune system, repairing your gut also often leads to improvement in your autoimmune lab markers. Many patients see their lab results improve, and some even see their antibodies go negative.
  • You are your optimal self: If you are dealing with a leaky gut, you are very likely living with symptoms that affect the quality of your life in some way. A good indication that the gut repair program is working is when your energy and vitality have returned, you’ve regained mental clarity, your mood has improved, you’ve returned to your ideal weight, and you feel like your best self.

Repairing your gut is the first step in restoring your health. Be sure to review my article on common mistakes people make in their leaky gut treatment. By overcoming this condition you can reverse your symptoms, reduce your risk for a number of chronic illnesses, and start living a fruitful life!

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Leaky Gut Signs & Symptoms FAQs


What is leaky gut?

Leaky gut syndrome is when the tight junctions that hold your intestinal wall together become loose. While it’s naturally semi-permeable, certain factors can punch large holes in your intestinal wall, allowing toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles to escape into your bloodstream.


What are the most common leaky gut symptoms?

Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or IBS, food allergies or intolerances, brain fog or mood imbalances, and autoimmunity are all symptoms.


What are the main causes of leaky gut syndrome?

The high prevalence of gut problems is a direct result of our modern lifestyle. The toxic and inflammatory foods we eat, medications, infections, and chemicals our bodies are exposed to and the chronic stress many of us are under every day are the cause of symptoms.


What foods should you avoid if you have leaky gut syndrome?

Gluten is the number one culprit. Going gluten free is often a solid first step to healing a leaky gut. Other inflammatory foods such as dairy, grains, pseudo-grains, nightshades, and eggs along with toxic foods such as sugar, alcohol, and GMOs are key contributors to symptoms.


How do I know if my leaky gut is repaired?

Once you’ve followed a protocol to repair your gut, your symptoms (or lack of them!) are the strongest indication of whether or not your gut is healthy. You might notice your digestive issues disappear, food sensitivities go away, skin issues clear up, or autoimmune labs improve.

Article Sources

  1. Leaky Gut: What is it and What Does it Mean for You?. Marcelo Campos, MD. Harvard Health. 2019.
  2. That gut feeling. Dr. Siri Carpenter. American Psychological Association. 2012.
  3. ELISA Tests: An Overview. Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD . MedicineNet. 2020.
  4. Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Diseases. Alessio Fasano. Clinical reviews in allergy & immunology, vol 42. 2012.
  5. Zonulin: Regulation of Tight Junctions and Autoimmune Diseases. Alessio Fasano. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences vol. 1258. 2012.
  6. Toxins in Drug Discovery and Pharmacology. Steve Peigneur and Jan Tytgat. Toxins, vol. 10. 2018.
  7. Molecular Mimicry as a Mechanism for Food Immune Reactivities and Autoimmunity. Aristo Vojdani. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine vol. 21. 2015.