What Is Leaky Gut?

By: David Meine

| June 25, 2021

The Answers to Your Leaky Gut Syndrome Questions

Chances are you’ve heard the term by now, but what exactly is leaky gut syndrome? How and why can you get a leaky gut, and how do you even know if you have it? Is it even a real condition? Here’s an unbiased look at the basics of leaky gut syndrome.

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?

You’ve probably heard about leaky gut syndrome somewhere, as this phenomenon has received a lot of attention lately. Sometimes referred to medically as intestinal permeability, leaky gut syndrome is a digestive condition where bacteria and toxins are able to ‘leak’ through the intestinal wall.

The digestive tract breaks down food so that we are able to absorb nutrients. It also plays a major role in protecting your body from harmful substances. The intestinal wall is really a giant barrier, and it controls what enters the bloodstream for transport to your organs.

Our First Line of Defense

Your intestinal lining is the first line of defense for your immune system. The outside layer of the small intestine is bound by tight junctions. They are supposed to be semi-permeable so that the micronutrients we need to survive can make it into the bloodstream. 

This is how we absorb food. Your gut is supposed to make sure the good stuff gets absorbed as energy and nutrients, and the bad stuff keeps going and eventually gets eliminated through your bowels. It’s a brilliant system when it’s working properly.

Leaky gut syndrome happens when those tight junctions become loose, and there are small gaps in the intestinal wall. Then they allow dangerous things (think undigested food particles, bad bacteria, or toxins) into the bloodstream. It can also mean the good stuff (nutrients we need) isn’t fully absorbed. 

So, when the gut is leaky, bacteria and other toxins enter the bloodstream, which can cause inflammation and trigger the immune system into action.

What Does Leaky Gut Look Like?

Most people aren’t even aware if they have a leaky gut. That’s because the symptoms go far beyond digestion. These symptoms can include digestive tract problems, like gas, bloating, and diarrhea, but many people don’t have digestive symptoms at all. Instead, they have one or more of some seemingly unrelated symptoms that are actually caused by a leaky gut. 

Here is a partial list of symptoms that may be linked to leaky gut:

  • Chronic fatigue and muscle pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Frequent illness
  • IBS (Inflammatory bowel disease)
  • Migraine headaches, brain fog, and memory loss
  • Multiple food sensitivities or allergies
  • Nutrition deficiencies
  • Psoriasis, eczema, and other skin conditions
  • Seasonal allergies or asthma
  • Insomnia or sleeplessness

When we treat these symptoms individually, it’s like putting on a bandage instead of treating the true cause of the problem. 

Always Tired?

One of the main side effects of a leaky gut is fatigue. That’s because fighting the harmful bacteria that get into your bloodstream is a big job! And, the longer it goes on, the harder your body has to fight. If you find that you are often tired and you can’t understand why, it may be a sign that you have leaky gut syndrome.

Is Leaky Gut For Real?

Many mainstream medical professionals do not yet recognize leaky gut as a real condition. However, there is mounting scientific evidence that it not only exists, but it is also associated with many health problems. Prominent doctors such as Dr. Steven Gundry, Dr. Tom O’Bryan, and Dr. Ann Myers have enthusiastically embraced this condition as a serious medical issue. They have built reputable practices and supplementation solutions to solve this serious issue plaguing the world today.

In addition, although they don’t refer to it as leaky gut syndrome, most medical professionals agree that increased intestinal permeability exists in certain chronic diseases. There are also many studies that connect increased intestinal permeability with multiple chronic diseases, such as celiac, diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, and IBS. Some doctors remain unsure if leaky gut is the cause of some of these other health conditions, or if it is a side effect of the condition. 

It’s a type of ‘chicken or the egg’ question; which came first? Studies performed on animals with Celiac, type 1 diabetes, and IBS show that increased intestinal permeability (otherwise known as leaky gut) was identifiable prior to the onset of the disease. This evidence would support the theory that a leaky gut precedes the onset of other health conditions. 

Plus, scores of Functional Medicine Doctors and Certified Functional Nutrition Counselors have the most compelling evidence of all–the lives of their patients and clients as they see their quality of life improve as they help them heal their leaky gut problems

Why and How You Can Get A Leaky Gut

 Medical professionals are still trying to determine exactly what causes leaky gut. Ongoing research continues as to what makes the intestines weaken and become permeable. Some of the culprits suspected of causing gaps in the intestinal wall include:

  • Certain medical treatments (like chemotherapy and radiation therapy)
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Use of painkillers and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aspirin, etc.)
  • Surgical procedures (like gastric bypass)
  • Overuse of antibiotics
  • Food allergies and sensitivities
  • Nutrient deficiencies/poor diet
  • Stress
  • Excessive sugar 
  • Poor gut health (balance between harmful and beneficial bacteria in the gut is disrupted)

One study found that 87% of people with intestinal permeability who adopted a gluten-free diet were able to heal their leaky gut over the course of the year. This is evidence that food sensitivities and/or a poor diet may help cause a leaky gut. Additionally, it is evidence that once that particular trigger is removed, it is possible to heal a leaky gut. 

A Personal Look

This has definitely been my experience. I’ve spent the past two decades trying to treat and solve a variety of medical problems. It wasn’t until my wife and I connected the dots about the leaky gut syndrome that we started having any luck. We removed certain culprits from my life (no more NSAIDs, gluten, or sugar, for example), and added proper health supplementation, and I have been able to begin healing my leaky gut

Since making these lifestyle changes, I have experienced a dramatic improvement in my health. Daily pain, which I now know was caused by the inflammation induced by my leaky gut, is no longer a chronic problem in my life. I am sleeping much better and have increased energy. And I’ve been able to reverse multiple health conditions I’d struggled with for years (I share these stories in the book Eating to Live: Unlocking the Leaky Gut Code.) 

Want to Know More?

There is significant scientific evidence that leaky gut syndrome is a real medical condition. But for me and my wife, my personal experience was the most compelling evidence of all. In addition, my wife, a Certified Functional Nutrition Counselor, has helped many clients to heal their guts and solve a wide variety of medical issues. It’s powerful to watch their quality of life change as they learn about and treat leaky gut syndrome. It’s been life-changing. 

To learn more about this condition, and whether or not you might suffer from a leaky gut, visit our website. We are passionate about coaching our clients to optimal health.


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