The Symptoms of and Treatments for Leaky Gut

By Rusty Gregory, Alan Chasen

Leaky gut, which is linked to eating wheat, can be difficult to get diagnosed because its symptoms are wide ranging and can seem unrelated to each other. Here’s a partial list of ailments that may be signs of leaky gut (emphasis on the word partial ):

  • Autoimmune diseases such as celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis

  • Chronic diarrhea and constipation

  • Chronic fatigue and muscle pain

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Frequent sickness

  • Inflammatory bowel disease

  • Migraine headaches, brain fog, and memory loss

  • Multiple food sensitivities

  • Nutrient deficiencies

  • Obesity and Type 2 diabetes

  • Skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema

Treating these and other leaky gut symptoms individually is like just slapping a bandage on a gaping wound. In order to truly eliminate the symptoms, you have to treat the underlying cause. If you or your doctor thinks leaky gut may be the root of one or more of your symptoms, you can do a few basic things to address it:

  • Cut the wheat.Gliadin, one of the two main proteins in wheat gluten, causes an increase in zonulin. Elevated levels of zonulin cause the tight junctions and the blood-brain barrier to allow invaders through for a period of a few hours to a few days. Removing wheat from your diet helps reduce your zonulin levels.

  • Take refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods out of your diet. The chemicals and preservatives in these foods cause gut inflammation because your body wasn’t built to handle them, especially in the quantities that most people take in. Refined sugar can also lead to an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast, another cause of leaky gut. Eliminating sugar starves the bacteria overgrowth so it can’t propagate.

  • Reduce your use of antibiotics, NSAIDS, aspirin, and prescription hormones like birth control pills. Part of what makes the gut susceptible to inflammation and leakage is an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut. Certain medications kill off not only the bad bacteria but also the good bacteria (a condition called dysbiosis.)

    The bacteria colonies aren’t able to keep each other in check, and the bad ones have a chance to flourish. NSAIDS and aspirin in particular irritate the stomach lining, leading to more inflammation and permeability.

  • After long-term antibiotic use, taking probiotics helps restore the bacteria balance in your gut (because your gut can’t do so on its own). Adding fermented foods to your diet will do double duty, along with the probiotics, toward healing your gut bacteria.

  • Rid yourself of chronic stress. That ache you feel in your belly from stressful situations is a reminder of the link between the brain and the stomach. The occasional pregame or prespeech jitters don’t cause a huge problem, but sustained stress over time creates continual gut damage, paving the way for a suppressed immune system, inflammation, and gut leakage.

    Steps to eliminate stress include exercising; practicing breathing techniques, mindfulness, and/or meditation; and expressing gratitude.

  • Eliminate chronic infections. Much like chronic stress, chronic infections cause an environment that paves the way for a bacterial imbalance in the gut. Although a wheat-free lifestyle can’t guarantee you’ll never have another infection, adhering to the principles here can help you avoid chronic infection.