Leaky Gut Syndrome

“We don’t know a lot but we know that it exists. In the absence of evidence, we don’t know what it means or what therapies can directly address it.” Linda A. Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist and director of the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center.


Dr. Oz says leaky gut syndrome is a clinical diagnosis, Wikipedia says it’s not. Do any of you guys know which of the 2 is the more reliable source?


The medical profession is just now agreeing this condition even exists. “Intestinal permeability” has been discussed in medical literature for over 100 years…


This sort of thing is much more common than I’d like to admit. The medical field is such a rapidly advancing and wide field. It seems like the functional medicine doctors are moving forward while your family doctor follows their protocol. We can’t be too mad at our family doctors but you might consider having a high quality functional medicine doctor in your arsenal for good health.


As an EMT, half the people I see going to the emergency room are in for abdominal problems and half of those people leave the hospital undiagnosed. While your family doctor argues with an alternative medicine doctor about whether leaky gut syndrome exists or not, let me explain what it is, how it’s caused, and what to do about it.  I want you to know this isn’t like the sasquatch – you see it every day, it has a profound effect on our society, and you probably have it to some degree.


The other half of the argument is there are no studies that prove what to do about it. Maybe the pharmaceutical companies just haven’t figured out how to monetize it yet. However, there are studies on what improves the gut lining and what to do to maintain a healthy gut.  The theory is these methods to improve the gut lining will fix leaky gut syndrome. Makes total sense to me.


What It Is

Junctions act as “gates” in cells at the molecular level and in the gut they carry nutrients across to the blood stream. Small molecules are normally allowed to pass while larger molecules are held back to be further broken down before they may pass.


Leaky gut syndrome is when the permeability of the gut lining is compromised. The gut lining may be damaged in many ways from cell death, to junctions being damaged, to the microvilli being destroyed causing the gut to be much more permeable. When the gut becomes hyperpermeable, larger molecules and toxins may enter the bloodstream and start doing damage.


The liver has to work to get rid of toxins and larger molecules while the immune system attacks the foreigners in the blood. Some of these foreigners are now attacking the cells in the blood stream; we are talking system wide inflammation.



Symptoms include autoimmune diseases, allergies, skin problems, candida (yeast) overgrowth, digestive issues, depression, and all kinds of other unexplained issues. I should add that there is an unusual massive surge of these types of problems in our society. Almost everybody I know has at least one of these symptoms.


How To Test For Leaky Gut Syndrome

According to Robynne K. Chutkan, MD, FASGE Assistant Professor of Medicine, Georgetown University Hospital Founder and Medical Director, Digestive Center for Women, there’s a simple test for leaky gut syndrome. It’s a pee test. Mannitol is a small molecule and passes through a healthy gut and lactulose is a larger molecule that’s not normally supposed to pass. After drinking the mixture of mannitol and lactulose, we wait 6 hours and do a piss test. If there are high levels of both mannitol and lactulose, then leaky gut is indicated.



Lectin and phytate or phytic acid are plant toxins. Because plants can’t run or fight like the rest of us they have these toxins as their defense against predators. Of course we eat lectin all the time and in low dosage we are fine; in high dose not so much. Things that are high in lectin are soy, grains, seeds, dairy, specifically the casein which is the protein in the curd of dairy, and the highest in lectin is GMO foods and gluten. Gluten is the protein found in rye, wheat, barley, oats, kamut, and spelt. Lectin will bind to your gut lining and damage or kill the cell causing your gut to be leaky. 


Dysbiosis is an imbalance between good bacteria and bad bacteria. In theory, dysbiosis is one of the leading causes of leaky gut. Prescription antibiotics, chlorine and fluoride in water are the biggest contributors. This imbalance along with sugar increases yeast in your gut. Yeast attaches to your gut lining and does damage in the same way as lectin. Anybody want some bread?


Inflammation causes leaky gut. After everything I have read, all I can surmise is that it just exasperates the issue. It makes the body weak and allows for all kinds of problems to occur. The same way that stress is the number one cause of medical problems in north America. I wonder if it’s the same in Spain where they have siesta or the Caribbean where people are expected to be a couple hours late.


Things that cause inflammation are medications, NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like Tylenol, Advil, Motrin); processed foods, preservatives and flavorings, mercury, pesticides and BPA from plastics. Obviously infections and other sicknesses are in there too. I’d like to point out that some functional medicine doctors believe NSAIDs are the number one drug that kills people.


Looking at all of the above it is clear to see that your gut is under constant attack and being damaged. For most people this is happening at a higher rate than the repair. And of course age contributes to leaky gut syndrome as well. Whether you want to believe this syndrome exists or not I’m sure with all the undiagnosed abdominal problems coming through the emergency room we can all agree it’s a big deal to take excellent care of your gut. Let me show you how.


How To Fix Your Leaky Gut

Of course this is just theory as no studies have been done on leaky gut syndrome but studies have been done to know what repairs and maintains a healthy gut. The 4 R’s of remove, replace, re-inoculate, repair are the agreed treatment among functional medicine doctors for leaky gut syndrome. The idea is twofold. First, to heal inflammation, and then restore the integrity of your gut lining.


Eliminating sugars, starches, grains, and any other irritating foods alleviates the inflammation and starves out the yeast overgrowth. Reducing stress and eliminating as much of the above mentioned toxins and allergens as possible will reduce inflammation as well. The most common allergens are gluten, dairy, sugar and other sweeteners, soy, corn, peanuts, and eggs.


Sweeteners also kill the good bacteria (flora), in your intestine which is only one of the reasons why sugar is the better choice to sweeteners and natural ones are the best (maple syrup, dates and honey). I have to add that artificial sweeteners are more addictive than sugar, which lights up your pleasure centres in the brain about four times as much as cocaine. On top of that, artificial sweeteners cause diabetes faster than sugar because they spike your insulin.


Now that you’ve eliminated things that cause leaky gut syndrome, you can work on healing the gut with proper diet and supplements.


Quercetin is a plant pigment (flavonoid), and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It’s used as a supplement for many ailments. According to Dr. Axe it has also been shown to improve gut barrier function by supporting the creation of tight junction proteins.


L-glutamine is an essential amino acid supplement that is an anti-inflammatory and has many benefits including helping with brain function, promotes muscle growth and prevents muscle wasting, improves athletic performance in endurance like snowboarding, improves metabolism, curbs cravings for sugar and alcohol, fights cancer, improves diabetes and blood sugar, and dramatically decreases recovery time. I wish I had been taking it before squat day on Tuesday…


The main benefit of L-glutamine I want to talk about here is how it helps build and repair the intestines.  L-glutamine coats your cell walls and acts as a repellent to irritants. L-glutamine has been shown to repair the gut after damage from chemotherapy and radiation and in theory it’s beneficial in leaky gut syndrome.


Coconut oil has a huge list of benefits, kind of like omega 3’s. One of which most of you would like to hear is how it’s great for weight loss. The benefits I want to talk about here is, it’s an anti-inflammatory and prevents all kinds of diseases. It’s also one of the healthiest sources of energy you can give your body because of its anti-inflammatory properties and its ease of use for the body.


The list of benefits of omega 3’s doesn’t end but my top 5 can be seen in my article on omega 3’s. Here I’d like to mention the anti-inflammatory effects and the reduction of cortisol reducing stress; obviously helping in the repair and maintenance of a healthy gut.


Fibre also has many benefits including weight loss but here I’ll just talk about how it improves the health of your gut. Your gut is a muscle that is activated by the parasympathetic nervous system or rest and digest system. In other words, you can’t work this muscle the same way you can work your biceps. The way you work the smooth muscle of the intestines is to consume insoluble fibre. It improves what they call motility or the wave action of the tube moving contents through it. Another thing fibre will do for you is maintain a fresher environment; out with the old, in with the new. Less time for things to ferment.


Probiotics with as many species as possible is a must. A high quality supplement will reduce inflammation and promote a healthy gut. It is doctor recommended that you have 85% good bacteria in your gut, which means nothing to me, but get as many different species as possible and take different kinds regularly.


Your microbiome is essentially an ecosystem in your gut. There are trillions of bacteria in there outnumbering your own body cells approximately 10 to 1. Fermented foods, including kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso along with probiotics, will improve your microbiome. This has so many benefits another article will have to be written or you can join the summit.


A good multi-vitamin, vitamin D, and Zinc. I would think these things are obvious in any diet but they still need mentioning here. One of the things I’d like to also mention is how zinc improves dry skin (it’s one of the active ingredients in dandruff shampoo but you’re probably better off taking the oral supplement), and prevents prostate cancer in men. Chronic skin problems are rooted in gut problems. Zinc has been shown to improve gut health, so if you have dry skin and you take the supplement you are getting a double treatment. Zinc is typically lacking in a North American diet and can be found in red meat and of course wild meat is best.


Digestive enzymes ensure that foods get fully digested, decreasing the chance partially digested food particles will damage your gut lining.


Bone broth contains collagen and the amino acids proline and glycine that can help heal your damaged cell walls. Great for the gut and all connective tissue of the body including skin.  Doctors recommend having some daily and it will likely rejuvenate your skin making you look younger.


I Know This Was Long But Here Is My Conclusion

Whether you believe leaky gut syndrome is really a thing or not, maintaining a healthy gut is imperative to your health. Ask any nurse or spend 5 minutes in emergency; “unexplained abdominal problems” are an epidemic and get treated with pain meds and sent home undiagnosed a lot of times. The old, “We will have to keep an eye on that.” Your doctor isn’t to be blamed. In most cases they are just following their protocol.


A detox is highly recommended by functional medicine doctors to kick start your journey to a healthy gut. I mean a proper detox, not some gimmick you buy. If you want me to hook you up with a proven detox, drop me a line or see me in person for a free consultation. One of the side effects of my favorite tried and tested detox is significant weight loss while learning how to eat healthy by the way.


The next thing is to incorporate the methods of the GAPS diet by doctor Natasha Campbell-McBride. It starts with soup and Dr. Josh Axe says 3 cups of bone/organ meat broth a day. Dr. Natasha says eat nothing but soup at first then you can incorporate other foods after your gut heals a bit. I have to add that taking some of the above supplements (L-Glutamine) may do more damage than good in some cases and you should contact a functional medicine doctor before taking certain ones. The soup has a lot of the supplements naturally and can be used safely.


I hope you liked the article. If you did, share it with friends. These are the types of issues I deal with daily with my clients in order to accomplish their fitness goals. I believe in a coach like approach and I help guide my clients to do the things they deem relevant for them and they are seeing really great results. For me the reward is the happiness it creates and seeing the new found confidence in people. WOULD YOU LIKE ME TO PERSONALLY SHOW YOU HOW YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOUR FITNESS GOALS …FOR FREE?


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