Leaky gut is at the center of so many of our modern health problems from constipation and bloating, to vitamin deficiencies, to depression and anxiety, to autoimmune disorders.
Leaky gut, or increased intestinal permeability, is a condition where toxins, microorganisms, and small food particles, get through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream where they don’t belong. This causes our immune system to respond with inflammation and varied unpleasant symptoms.
If you want a more detailed breakdown about what leaky gut is, what causes it, what the symptoms are, and what happens as a result of having leaky gut over a period of time – then check out my previous article.
This article will be focused on ways to heal leaky gut.
There is a 5-step plan based on functional medicine’s holistic approach. Here are the 5 Rs to heal leaky gut:
The first step in healing from leaky gut syndrome is to immediately stop the damage that’s being done by removing certain offending foods from your diet.
The most obvious of these are sugar, vegetable oils, gluten, dairy, processed food, and GMOs. These are the base of the Standard American Diet (SAD) and the cause of an epidemic of digestive issues, obesity, heart conditions, and various diseases and disorders including mental illness.
You can go on what’s called an elimination diet to remove these toxic foods from your menu. This is a temporary diet and should not be done long-term or without guidelines. You need to make sure you’re getting enough calories and healthy fats so your body will have all the nutrition it needs as it does its healing work.
An elimination diet would include nutrient-dense foods that most people don’t have any issues digesting and where all the nutrients come in their most bioavailable form. This is because you’re removing so much from the diet you need to make sure you’re meeting your nutritional and calorie requirements to function and heal.
The most ideal foods that meet this standard are red meats and quality animal fats. Make that the base of your diet. The full diet would depend on your own unique condition and your food sensitivities.
It’s a good idea to work with a doctor who practices functional medicine or a practitioner who is versed in holistic nutrition to get a full assessment of your health. If this isn’t possible you should still get a food sensitivities test done. There are some tests that you can order online.
I have an article that goes into a bit more detail about what an elimination diet entails.
Think about all that’s been thrown at your gut: environmental toxins, numerous medications, pathogens, stress, alcohol, heavy metals, processed food, overeating, pesticides, and all of your unhealthy food choices throughout your whole life.
Your gut has been through a lot!
After taking out all the junk from the diet, your gut needs to start on the repairs.
One way you can do this is through intermittent fasting. All this means is only eating in an 8-hour window through the day and then fasting the remaining 16 hours. For instance, I usually don’t have breakfast until 10 am and my last meal is over at 6 pm. Then I don’t eat again until breakfast the next morning at 10 am.
This allows your digestive tract a break from digestion so that it can get to work repairing all the damage.
On top of that, I’d recommend taking a coating agent to help calm and soothe the irritated gut lining. Herbal demulcents such as marshmallow root, aloe, licorice root, and slippery elm work well for that.
It also is a great idea to start taking L-glutamine and a good bone broth or collagen supplement. These help repair the damaged tissue of your gut.
“A significant body of evidence indicates that glutamine preserves the gut barrier function and prevents permeability to toxins and pathogens under various conditions of gastrointestinal mucosal injury. Glutamine is considered the most important nutrient for healing of ‘leaky gut syndrome…” You can check out the article in PubMed here.
I like adding Leaky Gut Revive powder to my morning smoothie because it contains glutamine as well as herbal demulcents. Perfect for repairing the gut!
Many times the root of problems with leaky gut is due to low stomach acid, a pH imbalance in the stomach acid, or insufficient digestive enzymes.
Stomach acid breaks down your food and also kills any potential pathogenic bacteria, viruses, or parasites that may enter the digestive tract. If you have low stomach acid levels or the pH of your stomach juices isn’t acidic enough, all kinds of bacteria that don’t belong can end up in your small intestine.
Taking a hydrochloric acid supplement before eating your meals can help ensure that food is being digested so that the nutrition can be absorbed and used. It also kills pathogens before they enter the intestines.
You can also take digestive enzymes if your pancreas isn’t producing enough to handle your food. Everything you eat needs to be broken down into the smallest possible particles so that your small intestines can do their job of extracting all the nutrients and energy that your body needs to function and heal itself.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to repopulate your gut with a diverse community of healthy bacteria.
This doesn’t mean you start popping probiotics left and right. Of course, taking a good probiotic that makes it past your now replenished and balanced stomach acid is very important. Just follow the directions on the bottle.
What’s even more important is eating a healthy diet with a variety of different foods. Fiber is not fully digested by our bodies but it is the perfect food for our microbiome. You can take all the probiotics you want, but if you’re not eating a healthy diet (that includes protein, healthy saturated fats, and carbs) the bacteria you need will not stick around.
Stress played an important role in making you unwell, so to maintain health and balance you can take steps to restore your bodymindspirit.
Here at Guts Need Love, we look at the whole picture. Everything is connected. And that isn’t just some fluffy idea. It’s based on reality.
Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression put your body in a state of constant immune response and inflammation. There is a physical reaction. It weakens your immune system so that it’s less capable of fighting off infections. It causes the release of different hormones like cortisol, which is important to help keep you alert in risky or dangerous situations, but you don’t really want it pumping through you all day.
Don’t let anyone tell you the effects are all in your head. These are real material consequences and we should be taking them more seriously.
So if we can use tools such as meditation, breathwork, journaling, exercise, or just being in nature to manage our stress levels, we must.
I think a lot of people skip this step because it seems unnecessary or they think they don’t have enough time. But if you have enough time to eat, or to work to pay for the supplements you’re taking to heal yourself, then you have 10 minutes to check in with yourself.
It’s just about your priorities and self-care should be at the top of your list.
These are the 5 ways to heal leaky gut. Taken together, this plan will help you address any gut issues you may be having.
Remember to be patient though.
It took a bit of time for us to get ourselves into this mess and it will take some time to heal. But I was shocked at how quickly I began to see improvements in my skin, digestion, and mood once I started following these guidelines.
I will create another post that will go into deeper detail about my elimination diet, supplements, and the results I’ve been seeing very soon. So stay close!
If you would like further guidance and want to take part in a program to heal leaky gut rather than going off on your own I really recommend Dr. Amy Myers’ Leaky Gut Breakthrough Program. It contains eBooks, menus, recipes, supplements, protein powders, probiotics, and a support group. I’ll review that program in a future article.
Let me know what your diet looks like now and if you’ve ever tried an elimination diet. I’m curious to know what works (and what doesn’t work) for other people!
*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our affiliate disclosure. This site is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please see our medical disclaimer.
Thank you for the article you shared with us about ways to heal leaky gut. The HCL has been very effective in helping my digestion and food sensitivities. I feel confident about the quality of the product ingredients. I’ve been enjoying eating so much more with the recent addition of Amy Meyer’s HCL & Complete Digestive Enzymes. Gas and bloating have greatly reduced!! So glad I’ve found these supplements!. Highly recommended. Once again Thank you
I’m so happy to hear that HCL and the digestive enzymes are working for you! I’ve been taking them both for a month now and my digestion (as well as my ability to sleep through the night) has improved too. Thanks for the stamp of approval:)
I would like to add one thing. To heal a leaky gut, we can take glutamine. For those of you who don’t know, Glutamine is also known as L-glutamine. And it’s an amazing amino acid that has the ability to heal soft tissue like the lining of our intestines. It is very good for improving the health and integrity of our gut.
I completely agree with what you mentioned in section 4 concerning repopulating by taking a good probiotic.
Glutamine is mentioned under the “Repair” section of the article along with the herbal demulcents. It’s also one of the ingredients in Leaky Gut Revive. I linked a scientific study in the article to explain more about glutamine if you wanted to read it.
Thanks for commenting!
Great explanation for everyone who experiences problems with the leaky gut syndrome! For me the L-glutamine, digestive enzymes and probiotics have worked wonders! You have to be patient offcourse but if you keep adding supplements to a healthy diet you will sure feel better soon!
Thanks, Erika! I’m so glad those supplements worked for you. And you’re right, maintaining a healthy diet is key to healing the gut. Thanks for reading!
Hi, I’ve just gone through your article on the ways to heal leaky gut. I find this article very educational and helpful. Little did I know that leaky gut is the condition where toxins and small food particles get through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream, just as you clearly stated. And this is not good for our immune system. Thank you for sharing such useful information with us. I promise I will be visiting your site more often to learn more about which type of food will help to avoid leaky gut. Thank you once again.
Hi, Kokontala. I’m glad that you found the article educational and useful. Thanks for commenting and please do visit again!
Please guide me in repairing my leaky gut. I’m on strong blood pressure meds and it’s hard to get a handle on anything.
This article is a great place to start. It’s best to start slow and build up some habits. Of course, stay on any medication prescribed by your doctor. While it’s true that blood pressure medication can damage your gut, it’s dangerous to come off it without a plan and without supervision. You can work with your doctor in the future to lessen the dosage if the change in lifestyle habits that I recommend has a positive effect on your blood pressure.
The first step is removing processed food from your diet. Do you already eat a whole-food diet? If so you’re way ahead of the game! Eating healthy and getting daily exercise even just by taking a 20-minute walk really goes a long way. Our bodies need both. If you’re not eating a whole-food-based diet yet, it can help to write everything down that you eat for a few days and then look at what you should be eliminating. For instance, you want to avoid junk food, fast food, sugar, and anything that comes in a box with a lot of ingredients on the label that you can’t pronounce.
I recommend an elimination diet. Grains, beans, legumes, dairy, gluten, nuts, seeds, and certain vegetables can be difficult for a compromised gut to digest. In order to get all the nutrition you need as you figure out what foods are bothering you, eat mostly red meat, fatty fish, grass-fed butter, and eggs if you can tolerate them as you add in other foods one at a time. Most people do ok with white rice. Cooked vegetables can sometimes be easier on the gut than raw if you choose to consume them. I can’t make many more recommendations than that when it comes to food because I don’t know your full situation such as allergies, food sensitivities, or other underlying conditions.
Also, it can be helpful to start taking digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid to help your stomach and intestines break down your food properly. If you’re lacking in these then the larger undigested food particles can get through your leaky gut and into the bloodstream, triggering inflammation and an immune response. L-glutamine and herbal demulcents are great to help you to start healing the gut lining. I mention all of these in the article as well.
What are you doing every day to help with your stress levels? This is often overlooked and people don’t realize that stress and anxiety do physical damage to our bodies. So it’s important that you are taking the time for yourself every day to relax. Try a breathwork app on your phone and take little breath breaks throughout the day. Or you can start a 5-minute meditation practice or incorporate yoga into your routine.
If you’re looking for more of a guided approach when it comes to diet and supplementation, I definitely recommend Dr. Amy Myers’ Leaky Gut Breakthrough Program. Her programs have a lot of structure and are easy to follow along through all the steps you need. They come with meal plans, recipes, supplements, protein powders, and lots of information and support in the Facebook group. She does offer an upgraded program if you want extra supplements for more gut support. When I took her Candida program I purchased the cheaper one and I ended up buying the extra supplements in the upgraded program and spent more money in the long run so that’s why I mention it. (If you do decide to purchase one of these use the code GUTSNEEDLOVE10 to get $10 off your order).
If you don’t want to go that route then I definitely recommend seeing a naturopath. They could help you create a holistic plan to both lower your blood pressure and get off your medication and heal your gut.
Thanks so much for commenting and please write back any time if you have more questions!
Wow I never stopped and thought just how much damage a constant barrage of bad dietary habits could have on our stomach. Aside from acknowledging that eating healthier will improve our overall health I had never really looked at how much damage we could cause ourselves by not eating a healthy, balanced diet.
I consider myself much more enlightened and look forward to reading more content like this to ensure I take the appropriate measures to retain a healthy gut.
Our guts seem to take a lot more abuse today than at other times in human history. I’m glad you have more of an awareness of gut health because it is linked with our overall wellbeing. Thanks for reading, Danny!
Thank you so much for sharing with us ways to heal leaky gut. I have a gal that rents from me who has this. Honestly she does nothing and then complains. I will suggest this to her. Sounds like a simple way to get to feeling better with no more leaky gut. All about healthy eating for sure!
Please do share this with her. If not addressed it can lead to more serious issues in the future. And small changes can really make a difference. She might enjoy another article I wrote called, The First 3 Steps To Food Freedom so she can start taking more control of her health now through baby steps. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Leahrae!