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The Best and Worst Foods for Leaky Gut: 5 to Avoid and 4 to Add

6 minute read


Leaky gut syndrome has been a condition of interest for quite some time. The condition has been linked to autoimmune disorders and chronic inflammation, so while doctors may not confirm its existence at the moment, the symptoms are very real.

It is therefore very important for you to know what you can and can’t eat to protect yourself from this leaky condition.

The Mystery of Leaky Gut

The reason doctors cannot agree on the reality of leaky gut syndrome is that research produces conflicting evidence regarding the specifics of it. The symptoms are reported and tests are done to confirm inflammation, but much of what causes the condition is a mystery.

The condition is related to the intestinal permeability of your gut, which typically only allows nutrients to pass through. With leaky gut, other, toxic particles are able to escape too.

Tight junctions are gaps in your intestinal wall that allow nutrients to pass into the blood. Leaky gut is marked by increased intestinal permeability and the loosening of these junctions.

What specifically causes that is still under research, but the result is very well known: Undigested food, toxins, and other harmful substances are allowed to pass into the blood. Once these are in your body, the immune system marks them as foreign targets.

While this may seem like a good thing, it is not. Your immune system targeting something foreign is good, but not when those particles or toxins reach a healthy organ in your body. The result is that this organ or part of your body is also attacked.

Studies have shown the link between autoimmune problems and the presence of leaky gut, and because of the severity of autoimmune diseases, clogging the leak is becoming a point of focus.

The 5 Types of Food to Avoid for Better Gut Health

Studies have shown that certain foods can trigger inflammation that leads to a leaky gut. There are also foods that contain compounds known to stimulate chemicals that cause the tight junctions to loosen.

There are also foods that help heal a leaky gut and promote gut health. Knowing what a leaky-gut diet consists of can help you heal any damage already done to your intestines as well as promote overall gut health.

The worst foods you can eat if you have a leaky gut are those that increase inflammation or interfere with the digestion process. The most well-known culprits include:

1. Gluten

A protein found in wheat, rye, and barley as well as any products containing these grains, gluten is known to interfere with tight junction function as well as cause inflammation in those with any gluten sensitivity. Removing gluten is a must for those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, but it also benefits gut health for others too.

2. Lectins

These indigestible proteins bind to carbohydrates and travel through the digestive system unchanged. They prevent proper absorption by binding to the cells on your gut wall. When consumed in large amounts, they are believed to contribute to leaky gut. The most commonly eaten lectin-containing foods are grains, beans, and nightshade vegetables.

3. Refined Sugar

Excessive consumption of sugar is known to be linked to obesity, diabetes, and other chronic conditions but can also contribute to leaky gut. Sugar feeds unhealthy bacteria that can prevent the healing of a leaky gut. When harmful bacteria flourish, inflammation is increased and further damage can occur to your gastrointestinal tract. It is important to note that artificial sweeteners have the same effect.

| Related: L-Glutamine: The Leaky Gut Superhero |

4. Refined Oils

Refined oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, and these are not as beneficial as the popular omega-3s. Refined oils, like sunflower oil and soybean oil, contain the pro-inflammatory omega-6s, which can cause systemic inflammation and serious damage to the gut lining.

5. Dairy

Many people react to dairy, specifically lactose, in the same way as they do gluten. You can reduce the risk for leaky gut by avoiding dairy, whether you have a known intolerance or not.

4 Gut-Friendly Food Types to Add to Your Diet

Reducing or eliminating foods known to contribute to leaky gut is only half of the battle. There are also foods you should eat more to prevent the condition in the first place. The foods below can also promote healing of any damage that has already been done to your gut.

1. Probiotics

Probiotics found naturally in foods like yogurt or as a supplement help restore balance to an unhealthy gut. They support the growth and strength of your friendly bacterial colonies. As a result, the harmful strains are reduced as is inflammation and leaky gut damage can heal. Probiotics will prevent leaky gut and promote optimal digestion at the same time.

2. Bone Broth

The high amino acid and collagen content in bone broth is well known for healing and restoring strength to intestinal walls. You can buy bone broth or make your own, and both options will deliver healing benefits to your gut and beyond.

3. Healthy Fats

While some fats trigger inflammation and contribute to weight gain, healthy fats deliver benefits instead. Fats found in avocado, olive oil, and egg yolks contain healing compounds known to protect the intestinal lining from inflammation. You want to include omega-3 fatty acids instead of omega-6 fatty acids, as they contain the beneficial compounds that fight against inflammation.

4. Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables contain powerful plant compounds known to fight oxidative damage and inflammation. The trouble is that their high fiber content can be trouble for a weakened digestive system. Cooking these foods first will make them easier to digest and still ensures you get all the nutrients you need.

The Bottom Line

Professionals may argue over the specifics of leaky gut, but enough research has been done to conclude that certain factors contribute to increased intestinal permeability. Diet is by no means the only factor involved, and research continues to learn more about leaky gut syndrome.

What is known is that following a leaky gut diet will promote gut health and can prevent the condition as well as heal any damage done.

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