What Is Leaky Gut?
People often ask me why the gut is so important. The answer is simple: Your gut is the gateway to your health. It’s a major part of your digestive system and it’s also a key player in your immune and nervous systems.
If your gut health is compromised, it can lead to many issues that you may not know originate in your gut, such as seasonal allergies, hormonal imbalances, mood imbalances or even autoimmune disease.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that nearly ¼ of us (about 70 million people) suffer from digestive issues: gas, bloating, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation and nausea. In functional medicine, we believe that these symptoms are often the result of a leaky gut.
The good news is that leaky gut can be both prevented and reversed with some simple steps I outline later in this article. Let’s talk about what is leaky gut, what causes leaky gut, and my proven approach to healing your gut so you can achieve optimal health.
So, What is Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut is when the tight junctions that hold your intestinal wall together become loose. Think of your gut as a drawbridge. It 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. External factors, including certain foods, 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.
The immune response to these invaders can appear in the form of any of the nine signs you have a leaky gut, which I’ll discuss later. First, let me explain what causes leaky gut.
Causes of Leaky Gut
The high prevalence of leaky gut 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. Here are a few causes of leaky gut:
Gluten is the number one culprit of leaky gut because it triggers the release of zonulin in your intestines, a protein that tells your gut lining to open. For some people, gluten contributes to a disease known as celiac disease. In others, gluten is an inflammatory food that can overstress your immune system. Other inflammatory foods such as dairy, grains, pseudograins, nightshades and eggs, along with toxic foods, such as, sugar, nightshades, alcohol and GMOs are key causes of leaky gut as well.
The most common infectious causes of leaky gut are Candida overgrowth, intestinal parasites, and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Dysbiosis is what happens when the bad bacteria, fungi and parasites take over the gut. If this imbalance is not addressed, over time it will lead to leaky gut.
Environmental toxins such as mercury, pesticides, and BPA from plastics also contribute to leaky gut. Toxins can come in the form of medications, including NSAIDS such as Motrin and Advil, steroids, antibiotics, birth control pills, and acid-reducing drugs.
Chronic stress, both emotional and physical, also directly contributes to leaky gut and inflammation in your body. Over time, ongoing stress will weaken your immune system making it harder for your body to fight off bad bacteria and viruses, causing inflammation and leaky gut.
Signs of Leaky Gut
Gut imbalances and leaky gut have been linked to hormonal imbalances, 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 (gut) 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.
Here are 9 signs you have a leaky gut:
- Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Food allergies or food intolerances
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, ADD, or ADHD
- Mood imbalances such as depression and anxiety
- Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema
- Seasonal allergies or asthma
- Hormonal imbalances such as irregular periods, premenstrual syndrome, or polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease
- Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
The good news is that if you do have a leaky gut, you CAN reverse it.
Repairing Leaky Gut
For the longest time, the debate between functional medicine and conventional medicine was whether leaky gut plays a role in other health issues. The groundbreaking work of Dr. Alessio Fasano, an acclaimed Harvard researcher, proves there is a link between the opening of the gut wall, chronic inflammation, and autoimmunity.1
Instead of treating the symptoms, you need to get to the root of autoimmune disease and it starts by repairing your gut.The 4R approach is a proven approach that I recommend to all of my patients to begin repairing their gut.
- Remove: The goal is to get rid of things that negatively affect the environment of the GI tract such as inflammatory foods, infections, and gastric irritants like alcohol, caffeine or medications. Inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs and sugar can lead to food sensitivities. I recommend The Myers Way® to determine if you have a sensitivity to any foods.
- Restore: Add back in the essential ingredients for proper digestion and absorption that may have been depleted by diet, medications (such as antacid medications) diseases or aging. This includes digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid and bile acids that are required for proper digestion.
- Reinoculate: Restoring beneficial bacteria to re-establish a healthy balance of good bacteria is critical. This may be accomplished by taking a probiotic supplement that contains beneficial bacteria such as bifidobacteria and lactobacillus species. I recommend anywhere from 25 -100 billion units per day.
- Repair: Providing the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair itself is essential. My most comprehensive weapon against leaky gut is Leaky Gut Revive®, which contains powerful gut-repairing ingredients l-glutamine, aloe, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, arabinogalactan, slippery elm and marshmallow root.
How Do You Know 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 indicators you are on 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 a leaky gut, 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 I see as a result of leaky gut. 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.
Leaky Gut Revive® Helps Repair Leaky Gut
As I mentioned earlier, Leaky Gut Revive® is my most comprehensive weapon in repairing leaky gut. It’s packed with a high concentration of gut-repairing ingredients that nourish and soothe your gut cells, restore your gut’s natural mucosal lining, and maximize gut-mending fatty acid production. Now, it comes in delicious strawberry lemonade flavor! It’s so refreshing you’ll look forward to drinking it every morning.
Let’s look at the ingredients of Leaky Gut Revive® and their benefits:
L-Glutamine is one of the absolute most important nutrients to restore gut health because of the way it supports cell regeneration. This amino acid helps to mend the broken junctions in your intestinal wall so they can function normally.34 L-Glutamine can also be used as a preventative nutrient, minimizing the damage caused by the food, toxins, infections, and stress that can lead to leaky gut in the first place.56
Larch Arabinogalactan is a fiber that is found in many plants, mostly commonly in the wood from the larch tree. It is a complex carbohydrate that supports healthy immune system function and a free radical fighter.7
It also promotes healthy gut microflora and promotes gut mending fatty acid production, which is essential in repairing your leaky gut.
Marshmallow root has a high mucilage content, which covers your digestive tract with a protective lining. It can support your gut’s reaction to inflammation, which in turn can impact ulcers, diarrhea, and constipation. Further, marshmallow root can help restore the integrity of the tight junctions found in your gut wall.
Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice Root
Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) helps your body repair your gut lining and heal your gut by replenishing the mucus that creates a healthy intestinal barrier. DGL is made by removing the glycyrrhizin — which can raise blood pressure — from whole licorice while retaining its nutritional benefits. Since the glycyrrhizin has been removed from the licorice, Leaky Gut Revive® will not raise your blood pressure.
Slippery Elm Bark
Slippery elm is another effective herb for gut repair that has been used for centuries in the United States. It works to your advantage in three ways. It increases the mucilage content in your digestive tract and stimulates nerve endings to boost mucus secretion, which neutralizes excessive acidity in the gut.
Aloe vera is soothing and protects your body. It helps your body replace the lost mucus associated with gut damage and leaky gut. Aloe vera supports your immune system, improves water balance within your intestines, and aids in controlling Candida overgrowth.8
It also provides a wide range of nutrients and antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, and E.
Leaky Gut Revive® is my go-to starting point for anyone that believes they have a leaky gut or autoimmune disease. It tastes great and it’s easy to take. Simply add a scoop to 8 ounces of water, stir, and enjoy. I drink a glass every single morning. As I mentioned earlier, Leaky Gut Revive® now comes in a great new strawberry lemonade flavor! It’s so delicious, even my daughter, Elle, loves it!
Providing your body with the nutrients it needs to heal your gut is essential for optimal health. If you’re dealing with a leaky gut and you want to restore gut health with a great-way to heal your gut, Strawberry Lemonade Leaky Gut Revive® is a must-have!
- Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases . Alessio Fasano. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2013.
- Leaky Gut As a Danger Signal for Autoimmune Diseases. Qinghui Mu, Jay Kirby, Christopher M. Reilly, and Xin M. Luo. Frontiers in Immunology. 2017.
- Wasting and intestinal barrier function in children taking alanyl-glutamine-supplemented enteral formula. Noélia L Lima, Alberto M Soares, Rosa M S Mota, Helena S A Monteiro, Richard L Guerrant, and Aldo A M Lima. PubMed. 2007.
- Glutamine and the regulation of intestinal permeability: from bench to bedside . Najate Achamrah 1, Pierre Déchelotte, and Moïse Coëffier. PubMed. 2017.
- Effect of glutamine on Th1 and Th2 cytokine responses of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. W K Chang, K D Yang, M F Shaio. PubMed. 2001.
- Is glutamine a conditionally essential amino acid?. J M Lacey, D W Wilmore. PubMed. 1990.
- Arabinogalactan The Immune And Gut Enhancer. Dr. Alex Jimenez. El Paso's Functional Health & Wellness Clinic. 2020.
- Aloe vera: Potential candidate in health management via modulation of biological activities. Arshad H. Rahmani, Yousef H. Aldebasi, Sauda Srikar, Amjad A. Khan, and Salah M. Aly. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 2015.
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