Over the past few years, there's been a lot of chatter about a condition called "leaky gut." If you've heard this term and wondered what it means for your well-being, you're in the right place. So what exactly is leaky gut? Imagine your small intestine like a barrier in your body. Normally, it's like a strong fortress, only letting the good stuff from your food into your bloodstream. But in a condition called leaky gut, this wall becomes a bit too loose. It's like the guards between the bricks in the wall are taking a break, allowing bigger things like pieces of undigested food, toxins, and bacteria to sneak through and get into your bloodstream. This wall starts to "leak," which can cause havoc in your body such as inflammation, and may be linked to various health issues. That's why we're here today with some of the best ways to heal your leaky gut and reclaim your gut health.
While leaky gut is not a universally accepted medical diagnosis, some researchers and healthcare practitioners believe it may be associated with certain conditions, including autoimmune diseases, allergies, and other chronic health problems. In this article, we'll explore 10 practical ways to heal and support your gut health. Whether you suffer from leaky gut symptoms or are seeking solutions for digestive issues, these strategies can help you nurture and restore balance to your gut. So, let's dive into the journey of ways to heal your leaky gut and how to foster a healthier digestive system.
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
It's likely not a shocker that your food choices play a direct role in your gut's well-being. Opting for a well-balanced and nutrient-packed diet is the ideal way to provide optimal support for your digestive health.
Atlanta-based registered dietitian and creator of Health Down South, Jessie Winstead, RD, tells Eat This, Not That!, "Eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help support the healing of a leaky gut. By incorporating nutrient-rich foods that reduce inflammation, such as leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, and colorful fruits, individuals can promote better gut health and enhance their overall well-being."
Choose healthy fats.
Another pro tip? Opt for healthy fats.
Registered dietitian and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices, Mackenzie Burgess, RD, notes, "There's growing evidence suggesting healthy fats—especially anti-inflammatory omega-3s—are beneficial for our gut health. A perfect example of a food that provides both good fat and fiber is avocados." Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Incorporate fermented foods into meals.
Eating fermented foods is great for your gut because they have something called probiotics—these are like friendly little bacteria that help keep a good balance of microorganisms in your digestive system.
"If you have leaky gut syndrome, a great place to start is by adding foods into your diet that help the growth of good gut bacteria," says Brooke Baird RD, registered dietitian and founder of Simply Divine Nutrition. "These foods include fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi, and dairy products like Greek yogurt and kefir." Other fermented foods are kombucha, tempeh, miso, and kimchi.
Consider a probiotic supplement.
If you struggle to eat plenty of probiotic-rich foods (like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi), you may want to consider taking probiotic supplements to promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. Probiotics are like friendly superheroes living in certain foods and supplements. They're tiny microorganisms, mostly bacteria and yeast, that are good for your health—especially your gut. These little helpers work to maintain a happy and balanced community of microorganisms in your digestive system, supporting overall well-being.
Prioritize fiber-fortified foods.
A key element of this eating plan involves incorporating plenty of high-fiber foods, such as navy beans, black beans, raspberries, lentils, butternut squash, chia seeds, pears, broccoli, artichoke hearts, figs, and more. According to the USDA, you should aim to consume 14 grams of fiber per every 1,000 calories of food.
Registered dietitian and founder of the What's for Dinner Club, Gillean Barkyoumb, MS, RD, stresses, "One of the best ways to support the health of your gut is to make sure you are including prebiotics and fiber in your diet."
Even stress has a big effect on your gut health, making it kind of like a team effort between your mind and your digestive system.
"Chronic stress is often overlooked as a culprit of compromised gut health," says founder of Louisiana Nutrition Associates and registered dietitian Krista Wale, RD. "However, the good news is that it can be effectively managed by incorporating healthy daily habits, such as regular physical activity, ensuring quality sleep, and practicing deep breathing exercises. These habits contribute not only to overall well-being but also play a pivotal role in healing the gut lining—a crucial aspect in addressing and fixing leaky gut."
Increase your intake of dried fruits.
Increasing the intake of dried fruits may be beneficial for individuals with leaky gut. Dried fruits, such as apricots, figs, and raisins, are rich in fiber, which can promote digestive health by aiding regular bowel movements and supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Additionally, they contain essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can contribute to overall well-being and help repair damaged intestinal lining. The natural sugars in dried fruits can provide a quick source of energy without exacerbating inflammation, making them a convenient and nutritious option for those who are looking to support their gut health.
Indulge in healthier-for-you desserts.
You may believe that indulging in dessert is off-limits when healing your leaky gut, but that's simply not the case. It all comes down to making better choices when dessert or snack time rolls around. Consider whipping up one of our healthiest desserts to have, such as chocolate pistachio energy bites, a Greek yogurt parfait, chocolate avocado pudding, fruit crumbles, or fresh assorted berries. (They're all dietitian-approved!)
"Lifestyle changes including reducing stress, increasing sleep, and limiting alcohol can also aid in healing leaky gut," says Baird. Experts recommend limiting one glass of alcohol per day for women and two for men, but reducing your intake of alcohol even further doesn't hurt.
Drinking too much alcohol can throw off the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. This imbalance can make harmful bacteria grow too much and reduce the helpful bacteria. Having a balance of gut bacteria is important for keeping your gut healthy and making sure your overall well-being is in good shape.
Try collagen powder.
Collagen is gaining popularity for gut health. Collagen is made up of different amino acids like glycine, lysine, and cysteine. Some studies show that these amino acids can help make our gut healthier and keep our gut lining working well. And the cool thing is, since collagen is already broken down, it's usually pretty easy for our stomachs to handle. So, it's a nice choice for folks with sensitive stomachs.
Burgess notes, "Collagen is naturally present in foods like chicken skin and bone broth. However, we often don't regularly consume enough of these foods to make a significant impact. This is where supplements can be beneficial. Using a collagen peptide powder offers a concentrated source of collagen, making it easier to incorporate into your daily routine."