More than 300 years ago Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said that all disease starts in the gut. It seems that modern science is proving him right when it comes to leaky gut.

Despite the fair amount of doubt surrounding the legitimacy of intestinal permeability, a.k.a. ‘leaky gut’, more and more health professionals are changing their opinions. The purported ‘leaky gut syndrome’ is legit[1] and may play a role in diabetes, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies, and other digestive ailments. Leaky gut can cause inflammation, often systemic in nature. With that said, the key to healing inflammation is in your gut.

What is Leaky Gut?

Why do we need an intestinal barrier? According to researchers, the gut barrier has a surface area of about 4000 square feet. 2 and utilize nearly 40 percent of the body’s energy expenditure. This barrier prevents against loss of electrolytes and water. It also guards against the passage of microorganisms and antigens into the body, while permitting the absorption of nutrients from the food we eat[2].

Also known as permeable gut, leaky gut occurs when the intestinal barrier is damaged, which allows foreign substances such as food particles and opportunistic microorganisms (e.g. bacteria and viruses) to enter the bloodstream.

This triggers the immune system to respond. Cytokines, the messenger chemicals, signal the rest of the body to react. The immune system sends biochemical signals that alert the entire body. Often, the response is inflammation, causing blood vessel dilatation to encourage blood flow while sending out white blood cells to fight foreign invaders.

What causes leaky-gut?

Leaky gut isn’t caused by one factor. Usually, several variables have to be considered in order to address leaky gut and promote healing. Below are some of the most common causes of the permeable gut.

1. Gluten

A number of studies have shown that gluten can increase the permeability of the intestinal lining, resulting in an immune response. In gluten-sensitive people, this protein is regarded as a foreign invader that triggers inflammation.

In a study on the effect of gliadin (a protein component of gluten) on intestinal permeability, it has been found that gliadin activates zonulin, a protein that influences the tight junction of the gut. When zonulin is released, the junctions open a bit, allowing bigger particles to enter through the intestinal wall[3].

2. Stress

Chronic stress can affect your gut health. In a report published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, the review states how the brain-gut interaction is influenced by stress, including the increase of gut permeability[4].

3. Chronic constipation

Toxins in stool can irritate the intestinal wall and cause damage when they are not eliminated from the body. Worst, harmful toxins and hormones packaged as waste can be reabsorbed through the gut lining when normal elimination is hampered.

4. Microflora

Microflora, also known as probiotics microbes, are beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms in our gut. These friendly bacteria keep the digestive system healthy. Among other things, they digest fiber and assist in the production of vitamins. In cases where bad bacteria dominate the gut, irritation and inflammation may occur in the lining.

5. Antibiotics

Frequent use of antibiotics can pose harm to your gut flora because they kill all kinds of bacteria, whether it’s good or bad. When probiotics are not taken to bring back balance to the gut, the bad bacteria may dominate, leading to a host of symptoms.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Gut Heath

The most important step in keeping a healthy gut is to avoid the items above that damage the intestinal barrier. However, if you are subject to this risk, there are effective ways to restore your gut flora and promote gut health.

1. Diet Rich in Healthy Fiber

Some of the gut microflora specialize in digesting soluble fibers present in vegetables, fruits, and legumes. The end-products of this fermentation nourish the colon cells and help prevent leaky gut along with other digestive-related problems. A diet rich in fiber also helps prevent constipation and promotes regularity.

Sources of healthy fiber include chia seeds, avocados, flax seeds, hemp, peas, berries, green beans, and almonds.

2. Diet Rich in Probiotics

Foods rich in probiotics (fermented) are prepared by placing them in a Mason jar or slow cooker and allowing them to ferment naturally. Bacteria convert sugar into acid while preserving the food and giving it a tangy flavor. Fermented foods offer rich fiber for your gut bacteria while at the same time they enhance the diversity of gut microbes. Here are some potent probiotic foods:

  • Cultured dairy products such as kefir, yogurt, buttermilk
  • Fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, kimchi, Lacto-fermented pickles
  • Fermented soybeans such as natto, miso, tempeh
  • Fermented beverage such as kombucha, kefir
  • Fermented condiments such as raw apple cider vinegar

3. Manage Stress

Although, eating foods rich in fiber and probiotics will go a long way towards healing your gut, reducing chronic stress is important to overall gut health. I’m not suggesting that things which cause stress can always be controlled; however, we must do our best to manage the impact of stress.

There are many things to help manage stress levels. For example, getting enough sleep, relaxation exercises, practicing yoga, and peaceful walks outdoors. Regular workouts also help. Finally, it may pay to identify your primary challenges in this area and make lifestyle changes if needed.


Feeling sick and sluggish? Dealing with your gut health may be what you need to experience for ultimate wellness. Healing the gut successful may take time and dedication but the outcome is well worth the sacrifices.


[1] Farhadi, A. (April 2003). Intestinal barrier: An interface between health and disease. Retrieved from

[2] Stephan C Bischoff, (November 2014). Intestinal permeability – a new target for disease prevention and therapy. Retrieved from

[3] Fasano, A.  (February 2015). Effect of gliadin on permeability of intestinal biopsy explants from celiac disease patients and patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Retrieved from

[4] Konturek PC1, Brzozowski T, Konturek SJ. (December 2011). Stress and the gut: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, diagnostic approach and treatment options. Retrieved from

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