Leaky gut can seem confusing at first glance, and there’s so many possible do’s and don’ts. Sometimes, you just want someone to tell you what you should eat for your leaky gut diet and which foods to stay away from.
You want to be healthy from the inside out. For many people, good overall health starts with a healthy gut microbiome (the good, the bad, and the ugly of the bacteria/viruses/fungi that share space in your gut).
There’s a party in your gut 24/7 with the microbes that should be there and the bad ones that you need to tell that the party’s over. They don’t have to go home, but they can’t stay there.
Leaky gut syndrome is all about healing up your gut by tightening security around what enters your system. You want to get the good guys in and keep the bad guys out.
The foods you eat and the ones that you avoid can play a HUGE role in healing up your leaky gut syndrome. Let’s dive deep into the superfoods that should make up your leaky gut diet to help you heal up leaky gut quickly and naturally!
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
I’m an integrative medicine physician assistant, and I want to take a minute to unravel what’s going on with leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome (or intestinal hyperpermeability) is when your small intestine develops increased gut permeability. The place where you absorb food is compromised, and larger molecules than preferred get into your system. This can cause systemic inflammation (widespread swelling), food sensitivities, abdominal pain and bloating, wonky bowel movements, abnormal immune system reactions, and so much more.
For more on leaky gut syndrome and leaky gut symptoms, check out this post where I break it down further.
Worried that you might have leaky gut and may have developed food allergies? Know for sure and testing with this lab test from EverlyWell. Knowing exactly what’s going on in your gut can help you to address your specific issues and heal/become your healthiest you even faster!
This type of testing usually costs thousands of dollars with an integrative medicine provider, and you can do it for under $175 and get personalized results and suggestions from a holistic doctor. You may also be able to save some cash by taking these results to a local integrative medicine provider.
What foods should you avoid if you have leaky gut syndrome?
To start, let’s take the offending foods out of your diet. To start to heal leaky gut, you need to stop eating the things that cause it.
1. Food Allergies/Sensitivities
First and foremost, STOP eating the foods that you’re allergic to!!!
Leaky gut often leads to food sensitivities, so stop eating the foods that you’ve developed an allergy to. Removing the offending foods helps your gut have a chance to calm down and heal.
No clue what you’re allergic to? I had the same problem, and I’ve seen this in many of my patients! These allergies have a delayed appearance, so symptoms can show up up to 7 days after you’ve eaten that food.
Get some IgG food allergy testing, (it’s a blood test) and know exactly what your body needs to avoid. Or, try the Whole 30 Diet for a month. Whole 30 isn’t my favorite diet forever (this one is, though :), but it’s a great way to take the most common food allergies out of your diet for a while to help your gut start to heal.
2. Refined Sugar and Simple Carbohydrates
Pretty much, you should avoid the white stuff right now.
Eating refined sugar (think white sugar stuff, like conventional cookies or donuts and anything with high fructose corn syrup) has been linked to bacterial overgrowth in the gut.
Yeast, especially, loves to feed off the sugar that you consume.
To give your leaky gut syndrome a chance to heal, you need to remove or severely limit the refined sugars that you consume.
Simple carbohydrates, like white flour, white rice, and white potatoes, can also aggravate leaky gut syndrome. These foods break down into simple sugars as your body processes them, and they can encourage the bad gut bacteria to multiply.
Alcohol also falls into the category of simple carbs and should be avoided in your leaky gut diet.
I have not been able to find any studies that support avoiding gluten on a leaky gut diet, but in my clinical experience, the majority of my patients have tested positive for antibodies to gluten and FEEL so much better when they avoid it.
Gluten is a protein in many grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye, that can inflame the gut and should not be a part of your leaky gut diet.
Gluten promotes the release of zonulin, the hormone that controls how leaky your gut is. In theory, the more gluten you have, the more your body can produce zonulin and tell your gut to leak.
Gluten tends to cause inflammation in many people, and increased inflammation makes leaky gut syndrome worse, meaning that it essentially makes the gut leak even more.
Dairy consumption can increase your struggle with leaky gut syndrome. Regular milk is made up of lactose, a milk sugar that can feed the bad gut bacteria.
Cultured dairy, however, is the exception to this guideline; see more info below.
What can you eat on a leaky gut diet?
Thankfully, there are a TON of great foods that you CAN eat on a leaky gut diet. Keep the above list of foods to avoid in mind, but focus your energy on what you can eat.
Life’s always more fun when you think about what you can have, right?!
And with each bite that you take of the foods on this list below, think about how you’re healing up your leaky gut syndrome! Things are getting better, and you’re getting healthier with every meal!
What foods heal the gut?
Okra is a staple here in the South, but if you’ve had it before, you’re familiar with its somewhat slimy texture. Don’t let that slipperiness put you off!
Instead, think of that mucilage, which makes that purty lil okra kinda slimy, as healing and soothing your inflamed, leaky gut. Because that’s exactly what it’s doing with every bite of gumbo!
Here’s one of my favorite soup recipes that hides the flavor and sliminess of okra in some delicious taco goodness.
Coconut oil offers a wide variety of unique benefits, including its ability to help heal up leaky gut. It’s full of lauric acid (found in mother’s milk) which is an antimicrobial, meaning that it breaks down the bad bugs like H. Pylori (causes ulcers), Giardia (a parasite), and yeast overgrowth.
It’s also a potent anti-inflammatory that will work to heal your gut’s lining. It’s even great for revving up your metabolism and helping you to lose weight.
If you’re not crazy about the coconut flavor but don’t mind the smell, you can apply it topically to your skin. You’ll still get loads of health benefits.
MCT oil contains the medium chain triglyceride components extracted out of coconut oil. They are essentially flavorless and remain a liquid in cool temperatures, unlike coconut oil which hardens into a solid on cold days.
When you buy some coconut oil, you get about 55% of the MCTs versus 100% when you buy MCT oil. It’s typically metabolized faster than coconut oil, but it doesn’t contain the lauric acid that you get in coconut oil.
Because you burn through MCT oil faster, you may notice a boost in energy and weight loss with it over coconut oil.
For leaky gut, however, it’s great to use a combination of MCT oil and coconut oil.
Cultured foods are ideal to include in your leaky gut diet. They’re already teeming with good bacteria, and that’s a perfect way to plant in the good species that you need for a healthy gut microbiome.
Cultured foods include:
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar, or ACV as it’s affectionately known by its fans, is rich in probiotics. This can boost the good bacteria count in your gut and help to reset your good gut flora.
ACV can also help the body to heal naturally. Adding ACV into your diet can promote the healing of leaky gut syndrome.
Beets can help you to break down and use the essential fatty acids that you eat by thinning out bile, which is produced by the liver and stored in your gall bladder. Absorbing healthy fats properly helps you to create healthier cells, as every cell in your body is made up of a fatty outer layer.
Beets are also fantastic for stimulating lymphatic flow. The lymphatic system helps to clean toxins out of the blood stream, and improving lymphatic flow can lead to an improved immune system.
Love the health benefits of beets but hate how they taste like dirt?! Me too! Try beautiful beet powder! It tastes so much better and adds a gorgeous color to your smoothies, baked goods, etc!
Bone broth is just what it sounds like– broth made with soup bones from meat. Bone broth is cooked at a low heat over a long period of time to allow the bones (and chicken feet if you’ve got ’em!) to release collagen.
Collagen and gelatin are tremendous for healing the mucosal lining of your gut. (and making your skin gorgeous, and easing joint pain and swelling, reducing the appearance of varicose veins, and so much more!).
Collagen reduces the gut permeability, or helps to knit the tight junctions in your small intestine back together so that your gut doesn’t leak larger substances anymore.
Want to know more about leaky gut? Check out this post where I share all of my info on it from working with patients in the integrative medicine office!
Collagen is also great for reducing inflammation.
Bone broth is also full of glycine if you include the skin when making your broth. Glycine is an essential amino acid that helps to form the backbone of your immune system. More glycine = stronger immune system.
Additionally, glycine heals and seals the inner lining of your gut.
Ready to whip up some super easy, super healing homemade bone broth? Check it out here and spend just 5 minutes making this super food!
Don’t have time for homemade bone broth? Check out this ready-made option so you can heal on the fly!
Gelatin and Collagen
Your intestinal lining is made up of tons of tissues, and collagen helps to renew and strengthen tissue connectivity, or how resilient tissue is.
Collagen and gelatin both come from animal collagen, but collagen is broken down into smaller protein molecules, This can make it easier to digest, and for some people it can be more potent in its healing powers than gelatin alone.
Also, collagen dissolves in both hot or cold liquids, but gelatin only dissolves in hot liquids.
Collagen can also help to reset gastric juices in the stomach to help you get the right amount to break down your food properly.
For your leaky gut diet, you can use both collagen and gelatin to offer variety to your diet.
Grass-Fed Butter and Ghee
In addition to being packed with the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, grass-fed butter is fantastic for your gut.
Butter is rich in essential fatty acids, especially butyric acid. Butyric acid is a short-chain fatty acid that which help to reduce total body and gut inflammation and nourishes the cells of the small intestine.
Ghee is butter that has been clarified to remove much of the casein, whey, and lactose leaving just the fatty acids. Most lactose-intolerant people can still use ghee and repeat its benefits without a problem.
Think about adding butter or ghee to cook your veggies to help absorb their fat soluble vitamins better, or use it in your bone broth or soups.
This potent part of your leaky gut diet is packed with essential oils that fight bad bacteria, viruses, yeast, and parasites. What a little powerhouse!
Reducing your gut’s overload of bad bugs is vital to restoring a healthy gut. You need to remove the bad bacteria/viruses/yeast/parasites and plant good bacteria strains with probiotics and cultured or fermented foods.
Ginger is also great at improving digestive juices. Proper digestion is key to good gut health. Ginger promotes healthy levels of stomach acid, bile (helps you to break down fat), and pancreatic enzymes.
Ginger also reduces inflammation to help soothe your gut.
Peppermint is fantastic at calming your stomach and reducing pain that you may have from leaky gut.
Adding peppermint to your leaky gut diet can help to increase the tone of your mucosal lining to aid in healing up your leaky gut.
Peppermint also helps to calm down and reduce muscle spasms, so it’s perfect for people who notice a lot of abdominal pain as part of their leaky gut symptoms.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the leading natural anti-parasitics, which means that it naturally kills parasites, including medication-resistant tapeworms.
I know that it’s hard to think about having a parasite when you live in a comfortable, first-world country, but you would be shocked at how many patients I’ve seen in America who have parasites!
Of course, your gut cannot heal when it’s overloaded with freeloading parasites. Add some pumpkin seeds to your diet and get those freeloaders out!
Raw, sprouted pumpkin seeds are best to get their full nutrient profile. They’re also full of antioxidants and are a potent anti-inflammatory.
The Leaky Gut Diet
Do your best to avoid those foods which make your leaky gut worse, and spend your time focusing on all those delicious foods that will delight your tastebuds and heal up your leaky gut!
You can totally do this, friend! You (and your gut) are going to be sooo glad that you did as your gut calms down and heals up!
Want more details about what is leaky gut? Check out this post!
Think that you might have food allergies thanks to mean ole leaky gut? You can know for sure and heal it up with this!
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