The best diet for leaky gut is full of nutrient-dense whole foods, with a diverse range of fruits and vegetables.
Evidence tells us that one of the causes of leaky gut is modern, processed food, especially sugar, refined carbohydrates and industrial fats. So it makes sense that the best diet for leaky gut would exclude these.
Eating a healthy diet should be simple, but in reality, knowing what’s good for you and what isn’t is a minefield. Official advice from health authorities seems to change every week, food trends come and go and what you ate as a teenager may no longer serve you well today.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Your gut has a barrier that plays a critical role in keeping you healthy. It allows for the absorption of nutrients from your food, and stops large food particles, bacteria, fungi, and parasites from entering the rest of your body.
Essentially, it’s the wall between the outside world and you. When this wall doesn’t do its job properly, you’re more likely to develop health conditions like allergies and autoimmune disorders.
Gut Microbes And Leaky Gut
You have over 100 trillion microbes living in your gut. Together, they make up your microbiome.
There’s a massive link between dysbiosis (an imbalanced microbiome) and leaky gut, but we don’t know for sure which causes which. It’s likely that they both cause each other, in a kind of vicious cycle.
That means that looking after your microbiome will help leaky gut, and looking after your gut lining will help your microbiome to thrive. The good news is that a mostly plant-based, unprocessed diet does both.
What Causes A Leaky Gut?
A lot of different things can interfere with the function of your gut barrier:
- Lack Of Fiber (Fruits And Vegetables)
- Lack Of Fermented Foods
- Processed Fats (Takeaways, Crisps, Biscuits, Cakes)
- Infections And Toxins (Bacterial, Viral, Or Parasitic Infections Or Fungal Overgrowth)
- Heavy Metals
- Medications Like Proton Pump Inhibitors, Antibiotics, Or Nsaids
- Chronic Stress
- Sleep Deprivation
- Too Little Or Not Enough Exercise
- Inadequate Immune Stimulation During Our Childhood (Over Sanitizing Our Environment)
What Is The Fastest Way To Heal A Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut doesn’t happen alone. It’s always part of a picture of poor gut health, and is often accompanied by conditions like IBS, autoimmune disease or allergies. Solving your health puzzle is never a quick fix, but testing can help you find a good place to start.
For example, a Gut Health Test could reveal you have dysbiosis, a yeast overgrowth or an infection. Tackling these issues will also address leaky gut.
The fastest way to start healing a leaky gut is to clean up your diet.
However, nothing is a quick fix. It takes more than a couple of weeks of cutting out pizza to get good gut health.
Because everyone is different, everyone’s ideal diet is different too. For example, some people like to include lots of whole grains, like quinoa, brown rice and oats in their diet. Whole grains feed their good gut bacteria, regulate their bowel movements and maintain their energy levels throughout the day.
For other people, grains can exacerbate their gut dysbiosis (thus fuelling leaky gut), resulting in bloating, diarrhea or constipation.
Still, there are some diets which have been found (in general) to be helpful for leaky gut:
- Gluten free
- Elemental diet
- Intermittent fasting
What To Eat, What To Avoid
As a general rule, eat real food. That means food that our ancestors all around the world a thousand years ago would recognise as food.
Today, in most countries in the West, we have the luxury of whole foods from every corner of the earth. If your ancestors were from Europe, they probably wouldn’t recognise a pineapple, but it’s a nutrient dense, fiber-filled whole food that people in the tropics have been eating for thousands of years.
If you focus on missing out on the most common foods in our modern environment, like bread, chips and treats, you’ll feel deprived. Instead, explore the endless real-food options you have in your local supermarket.
Foods To Eat
Eat real food! If it walks on the earth, flies in the sky or grows in the ground, it’s real food.
It’s easy to get lots of fiber on a whole foods diet. That’s because it occurs naturally in whole plant foods: fruits and vegetables.
Fiber is great at preventing and/or healing leaky gut because it feeds the good gut bacteria in your large intestine. When those bacteria eat, they produce a host of different chemicals that fulfill important functions in your body. Some of those chemicals, like butyrate for instance, play a key role in tightening the junctions in your gut lining.
We’ve known for years that fiber is crucial for the health of your gut and beyond. Recent research has revealed that preventing or healing leaky gut is a key part of its power.
The highest fiber foods are:
- Navy beans: 19g per cup
- Avocado: 13g per avocado
- Chia seeds: 10g per serving (2 tablespoons)
- Squash: 9g per cup
- Peas: 9g per cup
- Collard greens: 8g per cup
- Broccoli: 5g per cup
- Oranges: 4g per cup
- Sweet potatoes: 4g per cup
- Cooked oats: 4g per cup
Not to be confused with probiotics, prebiotics are food for gut bacteria. You can buy prebiotic supplements, but they’re readily available in everyday foods.
Some examples are:
Grains can either be whole or refined, which people usually call ‘white’. Whole grains include the outer husk, and are a good source of fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals like magnesium, iron, and b vitamins.
Most of the grains in a typical modern Western diet are refined, which means removing the outer husk and along with it the fiber and most of the nutrients.
Whole grains are a trusted source of fiber, which has earned them the respect of many health experts, and many people enjoy them and the health benefits they bring. They contain a lot of starch though, which can worsen intestinal symptoms, like IBS, if you have an imbalanced microbiome. They’re also high in lectins, which can irritate your gut.
If you like eating whole grains, we recommend you soak or sprout them, which minimizes levels of lectins and other potentially problematic chemicals, like phytates, which can block the absorption of nutrients like zinc and phosphorus.
Foods To Avoid
We know from the latest research that certain foods can worsen leaky gut.
If you’ve switched from regular fizzy drinks to diet versions, you might think you’re being healthy.
Unfortunately, many of the artificial sweeteners in diet drinks have been shown to impact gut microbes, causing knock-on effects like blood sugar swings, resistance to insulin and cardiovascular disease.
As we explained above, the microbes that make up your gut microbiome directly influence your gut lining, and play a big role in leaky gut. So, anything that negatively affects your microbiome is likely to exacerbate leaky gut too.
Sweeteners are ‘foods’ made in a laboratory, and best avoided. However they’re unlikely to do you much harm if you have them occasionally.
Processed Animal Products
Animal products get a bad rap these days. However most studies showing the negative effects of meat use processed or factory farmed meat. These products have a different nutrient profile to pasture-raised, organic meats.
Even fresh, unprocessed factory-farmed meats have starkly different levels of nutrients to animals who are allowed to graze on their natural foods. Organic, free-range meat has far lower levels of inflammatory omega-6 oils and far higher levels of the healthy, anti-inflammatory omega 3s.
Several studies suggest that animals fed grass-based diets raise our levels of vitamin a and e, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase, compared to grain-fed ones.
The evidence is now overwhelming that processed meats are bad for your health, in many different ways. Processed meats can cause cancer and reduce diversity in your microbiome, at least partly through some of the compounds they contain, such as nitrates and heterocyclic amines. Many of your gut bugs don’t like them, so they die off and leave a space for dysbiosis to set up shop.15
When it comes to fats, keep them as natural as possible. If you could extract it yourself—for instance from an olive, nut or seed—you’re good to go. Obviously you may need a bit of mechanical help, like a press, but the key here is to avoid highly processed, industrial fats.
Be careful of the oils extracted from the following:
- Safflower Seeds
- Rapeseeds (Unless Cold-Pressed)
These industrial seed oils may contribute to conditions such as IBS and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In one study, mice fed a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids from corn oil had an increase in inflammatory gut bacteria, leading to leaky gut.16
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen worsen leaky gut.
One study found that aspirin had a direct effect on the permeability (leakiness) of the guts of people with Crohn’s disease: the more aspirin they took, the leakier their guts became.
Leaky Gut Syndrome is one of the regenerative medicine treatments offered at Integrative Telemedicine. Our physicians will perform a comprehensive evaluation of your condition in order to determine which treatment might be best for you. They will explain your options so that you can make a decision you’re most comfortable with.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation, call our friendly staff today at (520) 396-4866 or fill out our online request form. We look forward to being your healthcare partner.Leave a reply