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Signs Your Gut is "Leaking," Say Experts

Everything to know about a leaky gut. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

The term "leaky gut" is getting a lot of attention on social media and medical blogs with good reason. "A leaky gut is detrimental to our health because of the inflammatory response it incites. A leaky gut also tends to be less effective at breaking down food and absorbing nutrients, leading to nutrient insufficiencies. A healthy gut is foundational to the health of the entire body because it is where 70-80% of our immune system resides. The microbes in the gut also play critical roles in regulating our metabolism, mood, and mental health, and, of course, digestion," Lindsay Christensen, a clinical nutritionist and licensed dietitian nutritionist with California Center for Functional Medicine tells Eat This, Not That! Health. While the medical community is still learning about leaky gut syndrome and ETNT Health spoke with experts who revealed what we do know. Read below to find out what the signs of a leaky gut are and how to help prevent it. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is a Leaky Gut?

Young woman suffering pain at bedroom

Haylie Pomroy, a top Hollywood nutritionist and NYT-best-selling author of The Fast Metabolism Diet explains, "Leaky gut" is the popular name for having intestinal permeability. What this means is that the mucosal lining of your digestive tract has become compromised, often through inflammation in response to inflammatory foods or stress, or both. When the mucosal lining becomes permeable, food proteins can leak out into the bloodstream, triggering allergic reactions or even autoimmunity, when your immune system mistakes those food proteins for something it needs to attack. This can also compromise digestion and cause your body to begin storing fat around the torso."  


Abnormal Skin Reactions

Woman scratching arm indoors

Christensen states, "Skin reactions, such as flushing and rashes, can indicate a leaky guy. The inflammatory response triggered by leaky gut can promote inflammation in the skin via the 'gut-skin axis,' a collection of signaling molecules that links the gut with the skin."


Brain Fog or Headaches After Eating

Woman hands on his head felling headache dizzy sense of spinning dizziness with motion

According to Christensen, "Leaky gut-induced inflammation adversely affects the brain and cognition via the 'gut-brain axis,' a collection of nerves, neurotransmitters, and other signaling molecules that links the gut and central nervous system."


Joint Pain

Senior fitness woman injury knee pain while exercising in gym. aged lady suffering from Arthritis . Old female workout .Mature sport training.rehabilitation.elderly osteoarthritis Healthy lifestyle

"We also have a 'gut-joint axis' whereby imbalances in the gut can extend to the musculoskeletal system and cause joint stiffness and inflammation," Christensen says. 

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Abdominal Bloating


According to Christensen,, "Inflammation in the gut causes an influx of inflammatory molecules that can cause bloating. Excess gas from bacterial imbalances involved in leaky gut can create excess intestinal gas that further promotes bloating."

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Preventing a Leaky Gut

fiber foods

Pomroy says, "The best way to prevent or treat leaky gut is to eat mostly whole foods, get enough fiber, and drink half your body weight in ounces of water. Digestive herbs like parsley, cilantro, and basil can help to improve digestion and reduce inflammation in the gut. I also recommend eating more foods with naturally occurring probiotics like kombucha, kefir, and cultured vegetables, like our fermented salsa."

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How Can You Treat or Cure a Leaky Gut?

eating fruit

"The key to gastrointestinal repair is to use food as medicine," says Pomroy. 

  1. "Eat every 3 to 4 hours. That means 3 meals and 3 snacks every day. No skipping. 
  2. Drink half your body weight in ounces of spring water every day, up to 100 ounces a day. Make it a habit to drink first thing when you wake up and carry a water bottle to work. Whatever you do, you must get in all your water every day.  
  3. Chew slowly. The easiest way to improve your body's ability to fully digest your food is to chew it thoroughly. My clients find that if they sing the "Happy Birthday" song, that gives them enough time to chew each bite. This has practically cured many of my clients' heartburn or constipation. This is because when we chew, we stimulate digestive juices, which tells our GI tract to prepare for the food that is on the way. 
  4. Enjoy eating. It's time to turn down the stress dial, take a few breaths, and take the time to enjoy your food. Not in the car, not running out the door, not after an argument. Sit down, share a meal with friends or family, and enjoy your meal at the table. This sends calming signals and you'll digest your food the way you're supposed to. 
  5. Journal your meals. Writing down everything you eat and how you feel when you eat is important in identifying patterns. I find this really helps my clients identify the foods that are giving them troubling symptoms. This will also be helpful to share with your doctor. 
  6. Team up with your Doc. Share with your doctor that you are using a diet to work on your GI issues. Your doctor may want to run some tests, and you could ask for additional tests like a stool analysis or food allergy panel, to get the full picture of what's going on." 
Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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