Healthy Foods for Healing a Leaky Gut

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What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky Gut is a not-so-fancy way of talking about “increased intestinal permeability” also referred to as “intestinal hyperpermeability”. This basically means that the lining of the intestine, which is supposed to keep the contents of our digestive system separate from the rest of our body (moving food only from tongue to tail), has become compromised, leaky, and allows large particles to move across the gut membrane and into our bloodstream. Our bodies then have to mount an immune response to these particles, which could be things like chemicals or food proteins, which can then in turn lead to all sorts of health problems, including food allergies, mood disorders, chronic health challenges and autoimmune conditions.

What are the symptoms of leaky gut?

Leaky gut may result in digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea, but often presents itself as more complex symptoms like food allergies, eczema and rashes, migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, weight gain, blood sugar issues including Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroid syndrome, mood issues including depression, anxiety and even schizophrenia, infertility and a whole range of autoimmune conditions.

What can I do to heal a leaky gut?

Dietary intervention is extremely helpful in healing leaky gut and there are several gut healing protocols like the GAPS Diet, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), Body Ecology Diet (BED) and the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol. What all of these diets have in common is the removal of problematic foods, like gluten, hard-to-digest grains, legumes, sugars and starches, and the inclusion of healing foods like bone broths, pasture-raised meats, organically grown vegetables, healing fats and naturally cultured or fermented foods.

In our practice, we work extensively with clients who are addressing leaky gut and other gut issues (like Candida overgrowth, parasites and IBS) and in addition to a healing diet, we may recommend supplements or other measures to improve digestion, balance blood sugar handling, replenish deficient minerals and support hormonal balance. However, even if you aren’t working with a practitioner, you can begin to support your gut health today by removing the problematic foods and including gut-healing foods.

Foods to Include in Your Diet

Homemade broth, or stock, made from chicken, beef or other meat bones

Bone broth is an extremely healing food. Full of soothing gelatin, easy to digest, chock full of easily absorbable minerals, this is a gut healing (and traditional food cooking) staple. Read more about bone broths here, here and here. I have also shared this video of how to easily and inexpensively prepare broth at home.

Pasture-raised Meats

Healthy meats, from pasture-raised animals, are nutrient-dense and can be especially healing for the gut when the cuts include bone and fat and are slow-cooked or braised, like this pot roast or braised lamb.

Healthy, Natural Fats

Healthy fats are absolutely vital to our health. Despite what you may have heard during the past misinformed, fat phobic decades, natural fats, including saturated fat, are not problematic for our health. Processed, trans fats, oxidized cholesterol and refined polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils like corn, cottonseed, canola and soybean oils) are the fats you want to avoid, but natural fats like those from organically raised and pastured animals (butter, ghee, tallow and lard), pure olive oil, avocados and non-hydrogenated coconut oil should be plentiful in your diet, especially when supporting your gut health.

Naturally Cultured or Fermented Foods

Fermented, or cultured foods, are critical for gut health and not only confer health benefits because of their probiotic content, but also because the macro- and micro- nutrient content is enhanced and these foods more easily absorbed and used by the body. We often think of cultured dairy, like yogurt, as our only option, but the variety of cultured foods spans further than that. Vegetables (sauerkraut, kimchi, etc), fruits (chutneys and preserved fruits), beverages (water kefir, kombucha, beet kvass, etc), grains (sourdough bread), dairy products (dairy kefir, yogurt, crème fraiche, sour cream, etc.) and condiments (homemade ketchup, fish sauce, soy sauce/tamari, fermented salsa, etc) are all examples of foods that can be naturally fermented or cultured.

Resources to Get Started

GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) Starter Kit

GAPS is a gut-healing protocol focused on eliminating and then slowly reintroducing a variety of foods to the diet so as to support gut health and address issues concerning compromised gut health leading to various autoimmune responses, cognitive and neurological issues.  This GAPS Starter Kit is designed to take the guess-work out of implementing the GAPS diet while providing simple, practical and actionable resources for those beginning the GAPS diet.  It includes the GAPS Introduction eBook,  4 months of meal plans, a GAPS freezer cooking guide and paperback cookbook.  You can check it out here.

Get Cultured! How to Ferment Anything

Get Cultured! How to Ferment Anything is a comprehensive resource and Nourished Kitchen’s most popular online cooking class, and it’s entirely focused on fermentation and naturally cultured foods.  Through over 50 instructional videos, as well as thirteen downloadable workbooks with recipes, articles, tutorials and troubleshooting tips, members learn how to prepare naturally cultured and fermented foods easily.  Check it out here.

Healthy Child Summit

Featuring over 50 speakers and covering many topics in the world of natural health for children and families, nutritional therapist Amy Love will be presenting “How Candida and Parasites May Be Harming Your Family’s Health”. Learn more about the upcoming free Healthy Child Summit by clicking here.

Photo Credit.  This post contains referral links to Health, Home and Happiness and to Body Ecology.

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What people are saying

  1. Trisha says

    Hi, with reference to the new years GAPS starter kit.
    I would be interested in purchasing something like this, however I live in Australia (the southern hemisphere) and the starter seems to provide for winter & spring and we are in the middle of summer.
    Is there any possibility of different meal plans that are more appropriate for me?

    • Jenny says

      I’m confident that if you reached out to Cara at Health, Home and Happiness as she puts out these GAPS guides, that she’ll be happy to help you out.

    • Hazel says

      We live in Hawaii….so “winter” is pretty much like a cooler part of summer! Is there much difference in the meals for winter and summer? I thought GAPS was largely soups and things anyway? I’m kind of confused. Can we get a “Permanently summer” version or something, or would winter recipes still work well in hot places in the northern hemisphere?

  2. says

    Thanks for this! I have heard of leaky gut syndrome, but had no idea what it really was, what the symptoms were, or what to do about it until reading this post. It’s so appreciated — and it makes me want to go home and drink a big cup of bone broth :)

  3. Brenda T. says

    Thank you for articles. Have had RA/Lupus, then developed SIBO and autoimmune thyroid problems
    Dr are totally supportive, and suggest gluten free diet, etc.
    Your articles are very supportive, informative and on target !
    Thanks for pointing me in right direction.
    Much Gratitude,
    Brenda

  4. J Bradford says

    I thoroughly enjoy the articles on this website, but this one left me skeptical. I’m sorry but I find it hard to believe that serious physical and mental diseases can be attributed to increased porousness of the gut lining. I wonder whether this theory is based on scientific research? Here’s some information for those who might be interested – it’s from the NHS (National Health Service) website in the UK. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/leaky-gut-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx

    • Brenda T. says

      Wow, I was also skeptical, until I had “IBS”. Thank goodness my doctors continued to look for answers with me, and this condition, due to SIBO, and it has been addressed.
      For anyone who is ill with GI symptoms, with no answers or relief, despite repeated visits to doctors, and medication.
      Please, do not give up. There is an answer to you symptoms, and it is as individual as the people affected.
      For anyone, not affected, please do not judge, or misjudge. I have multiple autoimmune problems, and look very healthy on the outside. Inside I can become very ill, sometimes not being able to eat much of anything but soup broth.
      Only a very knowledgable, up to date GI doctor, can help with these digestive disorders, and it can take YEARS to get to the answer.

      • Dee V. says

        Yes, Brenda. people say I am a vision of health, but I KNOW I am not on the inside. On the inside i feel just terrible. NO mater what I eat, I have have been living a GF diet, dairy free diet, shellfish diet, and eating smaller meals. I don;t eat after 7pm. Yet, I dont find relief. I am not starting the GAPS diet with huge hopes to allowing my intestines to recover from the gluten damage. I wish you luck in your endeavors and I KNOW the hardest thing the temptation of food especially when its meal time and your hungry. I guess I will be making broth around the clock.. I found an almost new crock pot at a garage sale and also a thrift store.. Here is to our health!!

    • says

      While I can attest to this (that a leaky gut contributes to problems throughout the body) personally and professionally, I recommend reading Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to understand the gut-brain/body connection. You can also google “gut-brain connection” and find oodles of articles and research on the topic. Additionally you might look up “autoimmune disorders and the gut”- I’m sure that would bring up tons to read as well. It’s actually being studied more and more frequently as allopathic medicine is finally catching up to what those in the alternative medical world have been talking about for some time.

    • Krista says

      My husband is a medical researcher studying autoimmune disease and they are only just concluding that the health of the gut may be a primary cause along with genetics.

  5. Trinh says

    Thank you for your great support! Basically, my husband convinced me to change my eating habits and honestly without him I wouldn’t have survived to beat phases of cravings for gluten and sugar. But I can say that it’s so worth it! Stick to your decision and you will be very proud and happy about your feeling healthier.
    One thing that did the trick for me is to always carry around healthy snacks (almonds, carrots, boiled egg,..) and as soon you start getting these annoying cravings, start snacking your emergency snacks.
    You may also find the 21DSD (for your ref.: timreviews.com/21daysugardetox) very helpful – it gives you the right shopping list and all the tips you need to endure your challenge until your free of cravings.
    Also thanks for recommending the GAPS starter kit, as I like expand my knowledge on this topic

    All the best for you,

    Trinh

  6. Deborah miles says

    I drink organic coffee , but have a hard time finding organic real cream that doesn’t have the preservative carrigeen in it. I know organic valley makes half n half without it. I don ‘t plan on giving up my coffee.

    • Sharon says

      I’m doing GAPS right now, and I love coconut oil and honey in my coffee. If you’re looking for cream, find a pasture-based farm with whole, non-homogenized milk and pour the cream off the top. Some farms sell their cream, too.

  7. Jill says

    I tried to use the coupon code, and it didn’t work. I didn’t notice a deadline for the coupon noted in the post.

  8. Sarah says

    Hi, I’m confused. Ive Bern dealing with candida and its symptoms for a while, I did the candida diet for a while, that was aweful. Ive gained weight and am nursing, have issues with lactation and a bunch of other problems. I have been diagnosed with wheat and yeast allergies. I am getting so many mixed answers about fermented foods not being good for candida. My allergy to yeast is pretty bad, my brain feels like it shuts down, ive almost passed out at the wheel, I get asthma attacks and lose control of some bodily functions. Ive cut out those triggers for a couple years but still have many health issues. I cant even be near wine or activated yeast without getting dizzy and having an asthma attack. I take probiotics but I just am not sure about fermented foods.

    • Jenny says

      This is because the Candida Diet doesn’t differentiate between lactofermented foods like sauerkraut and foods fermented by acetobacter like vinegar. Lactofermented foods are not yeast-based ferments; rather, they’re bacterial. The Body Ecology Diet is an anti-candida diet, and it recommends lactofermented foods at every meal.

  9. Christine says

    I am having problems making good meals that will help heal my leaky gut.I sure could use some menu ideas so I’m not just eating bland vegetables and meat.Thank you,Christine

  10. says

    leaky gut, I just knew this disease from your post. It seems that every organ can get damage as we age. Sticking with a well and healthy balanced diet is the most effective way to prevent any disease that can attack our digestive system.

    Great post, I will bookmark it. Perhaps I will write about this disease in my personal blog. Just my 2 cents, and keep posting.

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