Your Detailed Guide to the Leaky Gut Diet Plan for Improved Gut Health
The reality is that gut health often equates to whole health, and investing in gut health is one of the best ways to advocate for healthy digestion, immune system, metabolism, mental health, and overall well-being. When your “second brain” is out of whack, it’s likely that some other part of your body is a bit out of whack too. By using food as medicine and nourishing your body with the right nutrients, it’s possible to heal your gut and reach overall wellness.
Now, you may be thinking, “A leaky what?” But yes, you read that right. leaky gut syndrome is a thing, and we’re here to discuss the ins and outs and the nooks and crannies of this digestive condition. This is your detailed guide to the leaky gut diet plan for improved gut health and overall wellness.
- Leaky Gut Syndrome is a digestive condition that means the lining of your gut is damaged and allows harmful substances to enter your body. This contributes to other medical conditions.
- Anything that persistently harms the lining of the gut can contribute to leaky gut syndrome. This includes a poor diet, heavy alcohol use, and prolonged stress.
- A leaky gut diet plan includes low-fiber fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, while it excludes alcohol, added sugar, legumes, sugary beverages, full-fat dairy products, and processed meats.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Often referred to as increased intestinal permeability, leaky gut syndrome is a digestive condition that is far more common than you may think. Although it sounds intimidating (and quite frankly, a little bit disgusting), the truth is, we all have a leaky gut to some extent.
But what exactly is leaky gut syndrome? Essentially, it is a digestive condition that interrupts gut health and functions as a prerequisite for a plethora of other medical conditions. If you have leaky gut syndrome, it means the lining of your gut is impaired, prohibiting optimal barrier function.
The already-present small holes that adorn your gut lining get larger and permit harmful substances such as bad bacteria, undigested food particles, and toxins into your system. As to be expected, this can cause substantial damage to your overall wellness.
With that being said, because our gut isn’t completely impenetrable (and it isn’t meant to be!), we all have some level of a leaky gut. Our intestinal walls are designed to have small holes for water and nutrients to get through to our bloodstream. The problem arises when the permeability gets a little too permeable, if you know what I mean.
When toxins and harmful substances enter the bloodstream, they can prompt inflammation and instigate changes in the healthy bacteria in our gut. Research shows that this chronic inflammation can lead to Celiac disease, Chron’s Disease, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
How does it happen?
While there isn’t necessarily one specific cause of leaky gut syndrome, it is thought that nearly anything that persistently harms the lining of your gut can trigger increased intestinal permeability. Thus, research shows that at this point, the standard American diet (one that is high in sugar, saturated fats, and refined carbs while being low in dietary fiber) can kickstart a leaky gut.
Research also shows that indulging heavily in alcohol and managing prolonged loads of stress can unsettle the balance between good and bad bacteria in the gut. This imbalance, referred to as dysbiosis, is one of the main causes.
When your intestinal lining is under persistent attack, it becomes limited in its ability to defend the body from abrasive particles, harmful bacteria, and chemical irritants. Thus, the bad bacteria can begin to swamp the healthy bacteria that generally balance them out. This process is what begins to erode the gut lining and contribute to leaky gut syndrome. I mean, a bunch of microscopic bacteria going to war in your body and causing the erosion of your intestines sounds exhilarating, right?
In general, other common causes of intestinal permeability include diseases such as HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, repeated overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and food allergies.
Signs of leaky gut syndrome
Because the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome overlap with the symptoms of a plethora of common conditions and diseases, it makes identifying the disorder particularly challenging.
Common possible symptoms of having a leaky gut include (but are not limited to):
- Inflammation throughout the body
- Joint pain
- Diarrhea, bloating, or constipation
- Skin problems such as rashes, acne, and eczema
- Food sensitivities
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Poor immune system
To be clear, if you’re a hypochondriac like me, and you research literally anything on WebMD, it’s likely that most of these symptoms are going to come up. The symptoms overlap with so many other health conditions that doctors and researchers are still trying to figure out if leaky gut syndrome is a cause or a symptom of other digestive conditions such as diabetes, IBS, and Crohn’s disease.
Additionally, while more research needs to be done, some research shows that having a leaky gut can directly contribute to anxiety and depression, among other mental health conditions.
The leaky gut diet plan
It’s important to note that, because the term “leaky gut” isn’t necessarily thrown around too often by medical professionals, there is no particular leaky gut diet that is recommended by doctors as a “cure.” There are simply dietary guidelines that can help those suffering to manage the condition.
It’s also important to note that anyone will reap tremendous benefits from eating a balanced, nutritious diet. However, what you choose to put in your body when your digestive system isn’t functioning properly is significantly more important.
The key to developing a leaky gut diet plan is to prioritize foods that nourish your body and supply it with energy without putting too much strain on your digestive system. So where do we start?
Considering the duration of your diet is the first step! If you’re considering a leaky gut diet plan to actually treat a condition, it could be more beneficial to your body to enact permanent changes to keep symptoms at bay. If you suffer from flare-ups or experience symptoms periodically, it could be of better use to you to instill dietary changes when experiencing symptoms for short-term relief.
A list of foods that are compliant with a leaky gut diet plan includes:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Chicken or turkey
- Salmon or tuna (or any fatty fish)
- Bone broth
- Fermented foods rich in probiotics
- Unsweet tea, coconut water, or fruit juice without added sugars
- Oats or oatmeal without added sugar
- Meat alternatives such as tofu and tempeh
- Lowfat cheese
- Nuts and nut butter
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, consider avoiding high-fiber fruits and vegetables such as corn or broccoli. Additionally, raw fruits and vegetables are jam-packed with fiber, so peeling and cooking them tends to improve their digestibility. If you can tolerate it, make sure to try to choose whole grains over refined grains. As these are also packed with fiber, they still may not be comfortable for you to eat. Substituting white rice for brown rice and sourdough bread for whole wheat or multigrain bread is also an option and may be easier on the digestive system.
Foods that are not compliant with a leaky gut diet plan include:
- Legumes and beans
- Raw fruits and vegetables
- Greasy or fried foods
- Processed meats
- Full-fat dairy products
- Fatty cuts of meat
- Brown or multigrain rice and bread as tolerated
- Caffeinated coffee and tea as tolerated
- Energy drinks
Overall, as long as you aren’t restricting and stressing yourself out too much, a leaky gut diet can be healthy for your mind and body. Additionally, the diet is designed to be extremely flexible and customizable to your wants and needs, as well as your food preferences. Lastly, it is so important to consult with a registered dietitian or nutritionist to ensure you don’t miss out on key vitamins and minerals and to make sure you are properly implementing the right diet if you think you may suffer from leaky gut syndrome.
Written by Morgan Taylor
- Photo by nrd on Unsplash