Like many, my personal road to gut healing was a bit of a roller coaster, with many ups and downs. While functional healthcare practicioners were quick to test for pathogenic overgrowths like SIBO and candida, there was little done to support my overall gut health to help heal from the years of damage done to my digestive tract and suffering from SIBO.
Thankfully, we have much more information now about gut permeability and how to repair and maintain the lining of the digestive tract. In this article, you’ll find many of the tools I used in my own personal health journey and with my clients today that have made a world of a difference in our health.
What is leaky gut?
The lining of your gut acts as a gateway for nutrients, foreign compounds, and other substances passing through your digestive system. In a healthy digestive system, the nutrients from the food you eat should be digested and absorbed. Some of these nutrients will pass through the gut lining and into the bloodstream, as they should. Anything that isn’t digested, absorbed and used by the body, should move through the digestive tract and come out the other end.
A healthy gut will also perform another key function, protecting your body from exposure to substances that could be harmful if they are allowed to enter the bloodstream. This doesn’t always work as it should.
When the intestinal barrier fails, the junctions that hold the gut lining together break down, leading to the disruption of a complex network that should selectively allow nutrients to pass in and out of the circulatory system.
Unfortunately, this is becoming more of an issue for many people. This is why maintaining the integrity of your gut is so crucial. How do these compounds start escaping the gut? The cause of gut permeability most often begins with inflammation of the gut lining.
Causes of Inflammation and Gut Permeability:
Many things that we are exposed to in modern environments can contribute to leaky gut and it’s likely not just one thing that pushed you over the edge. More realistically, it was the accumulation of exposure to many of the things listed below, over time (with the exception of NSAIDs which we see can cause gut damage after only using for a few weeks and, in some, even a single dose).[1a, 1b]
- Stress 
- NSAIDS [2,3]
- Birth control pills and prescription corticosteroids [4, 1]
- Recurrent antibiotic exposure 
- High-sugar, high-starch diet
- Gluten and casein sensitivities
- Toxin and chemical exposure, including tobacco smoke
- Exposure to inflammatory foods including grains, legumes, dairy, soy, sugar, artificial sweeteners, carrageenan, other additives to processed foods
- Low hydrochloric acid (HCL) in the stomach
- Exposure to environmental toxins including pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, fluoride, mercury and EMFs
Symptoms of Leaky Gut:
You don’t have to have symptoms emerging from your gut, such as bloating, gas, and constipation, to have leaky gut. In fact, this condition manifests itself in a multitude of ways throughout the body. These can include:
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Autoimmune conditions 
- Bloating, gas, constipation
- Chronic pain
- Joint and muscle pain
- Headaches, brain fog, irritability
- Mental illness, including depression
Okay, so all of that may sound like “gloom and doom,” but there are many ways to start healing and repairing an inflamed or leaky gut. If you are worried you might have gut inflammation or permeability, try some (or all) of the following:
4 Ways to Heal Your Gut
1) Give Your Gut the Right Support
Your body produces enzymes that are required for the proper breakdown of food. When your gut lining becomes compromised, these enzymes often stop working properly. Adding digestive enzymes in supplement form can help increase vitamin absorption and improve digestion. Mitolife’s Digest-it-All is a great option. I also like Pure Encapsulations Digestive Enzymes Ultra.
This comes as a surprise to many of my clients, but many people are low in hydrochloric acid. Without proper amounts of HCl, food doesn’t get properly digested and can even start to rot in the stomach. This process causes fermentation that can lead to reflux symptoms, gas, and bloating. It can then trickle down to the digestive tract, causing additional inflammation in the small intestine, eroding the microvilli, and ultimately contributing to a leaky gut. Sadly, you see many people with leaky gut turn to antacids for symptom relief. Antacids will further decrease HCl levels, hindering digestion of proteins and absorption of vitamins, including vitamin B12, a nutrient key to proper detox and mood regulation.
That being said, look for Betaine HCl:. It can improve digestion and your body’s absorption of nutrients.
Vitamin e is an important antioxidant necessary for overall cell health. It supports the immune system and is an important nutrient for healing a leaky gut. Avocados are a great source of vitamin E. So are nuts and seeds (look for sprouted nuts and seeds, or sprout your own).
I use the vitamin E from Mitolife called PUFA Protect. (Code CKN15 for 15% off)
Zinc plays a major role in the repair of intestinal damage. It’s is also important because it supports immune function and the healing mechanisms of the gut.
It is much better to get zinc from foods, as zinc in supplement form throws off copper balance. The best food sources of zinc are oysters, dark chocolate, grass-fed beef, pastured lamb, and pumpkin seeds. Zinc is less bioavailable in plant sources than animal sources due to the plant’s phytic acid content.
For an extra zinc boost, you can take encapsulated oysters. I take the Oyster Extract (Code CKN15 for 15% off)from Mitolife, especially when I’m traveling and don’t have easy access to other quality food sources of zinc.
This non-essential amino acid that is critical to cellular health, muscle growth and protein syntheses. It is the preferred fuel of small intestinal calls. L-glutamine also contributes to rapid replication of healthy cells that line the small intestine, and studies suggest that it can increase the number of cells in small intestine, increase the amount of villi on those cells, and increase the height of those villi. It may also be protective against damage from NSAIDS.
Animal proteins contain l-glutamine, but you can also take it in powder form. Since it’s a precursor to the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, you may not want to take large amounts in the evening or late at night.
2) Add in Gut-Healing Foods
Bone broth: You may have seen the recent post on the many benefits of collagen due to its proline and glycine content. Bone broth is an excellent source of these two amino acids. Glycine can promote a healthy gut and reduce inflammation.[12, 13] It’s also anti-inflammatory and cell-protective.[14, 15, 16]
So drink more bone broth for gut-healing glycine and loads of minerals. You can also use hydrolyzed collagen protein from grass-fed cows, mixed into your coffee or smoothie.
Check out this post to learn how to make bone broth.
Grass-fed Butter: Were you expecting to see butter on this list? Butter is a great source of the antioxidant, vitamin E, and butyric acid. Butyric acid (butyrate) is a nonessential short-chain fatty acid. It can act on the large intestine in the same manner that glutamine acts on the small intestine. Studies show it can improve intestinal function and integrity, with direct anti-inflammatory effects.[17, 18]
Some research suggests that butyrate might be a link between fiber and colorectal cancer as butyrate has anti-cancer properties. The body can convert some dietary fibers into butyrate. Depending on what type of bacteria is present in the large intestine, will determine the rate at which fiber converts to butyrate (vs. some other short-chain fatty acid). Even though your body has a means of producing butyrate on its own, modern-day diets don’t allow us to produce enough, so many people are low in butyrate. That’s where butter comes in.
Make sure your butter is grass-fed though. The nutrient profile of grass-fed butter is far superior to other butter.
Slippery elm: Slippery elm has a fun name. It’s also a herb that also helps soothe inflamed tissues. This is particularly useful to an irritated digestive tract. You can take slippery elm in leaf powder form, mixed with water. I like the slippery elm from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Chamomile: This herb has calming effects that can help reduce stress (a leading cause of leaky gut) and promote better sleep. It is antimicrobial, promotes healthy digestion, and is also used to fight inflammation.
3) Limit Exposure to Inflammatory Foods and Compounds:
Limit your gut’s exposure to harmful, inflammatory foods and irritants. These include:
Grains and grain-containing foods: Grains are essentially sugar, in another form, as they convert to glucose when broken down during digestion. They can spike your insulin levels and are high in anti-nutrients, lectins. Lectins inhibit your body from using insulin properly, which can lead to intestinal wall damage. Even if you’re not gluten intolerant, grains can still result in a leaky gut. They have a protein called gliadin, a component of gluten. This protein can increase levels of zonulin, a protein that moderates the openings between the gut lining and bloodstream.[21b] High levels of zonulin can make these openings too large and can, therefore, lead to leaky gut. And even if you’re eating gluten-free grains, these grains can still lead to gut permeability.[22b]
Sugars: Sugars feed harmful bacteria and yeast, that can contribute to gut and systemic inflammation. Not only that, but sugar-sweetened foods can lead to overconsumption. This promotes inflammation caused by leptin and insulin resistance.
Refined processed oils, corn-based products, and soy: These products are often genetically modified and can lead to inflammation and gut dysbiosis.
Artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes: These include Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharin and other potentially harmful additives. These artificial sweeteners alter gut bacteria and lead to gut dysbiosis.
Conventional Dairy: When people are struggling with gut issues, even some of the healthiest foods can be problematic. It’s not the dairy’s fault, it has more to do with the type of dairy most people consume and the state of your gut health. Try eliminating dairy for 3-4 weeks to give your GI tract a break. If and when you decide to add it back into your diet, go for dairy from 100% grass-fed, raw milk products.
Beans/legumes: Legumes contain short-chain carbohydrates, galactans, that aren’t always properly absorbed in the small intestine. These can act as food for harmful bacteria in the intestines. When these bacteria digest galactans, it causes fermentation. This fermentation can lead to the gas and bloating and inflammation that’s commonly associated with consuming beans.
Processed meats that contain gluten, soy or sweeteners.
4) Reduce Your Stress
Exposure to stress can change the gut microbiome lead to increased gut permeability.[24, 25] It can also weaken the immune system and result in chronic health issues.[26, 27] Stress management is at the core of healing and recovery. If you’re feeling a little tightly wound or anxious, try some of these stress-relieving techniques:
- Breathing exercises (box breathing and 4-7-8 breathing are both my go-to for immediate stress relief)
- Go for a walk
- Spend time in nature
- Spend time with friends and family
Pin and read later:
 Lipski, E. (2000). Digestive Wellness (Updated 2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Keats
 Gedgaudas, N. (2009). Primal Body – Primal Mind. Portland, OR: Primal Body – Primal
 Murray, M. (2005). The encyclopedia of healing foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.
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