What You Need To Know About Leaky Gut From Celebrity Doctor Steven Gundry

As the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, stated over 2,000 years ago, “Disease begins in your gut.” This also means that health begins in your gut. So if your gut becomes compromised, then disease will arise. It’s as simple as that.

By Anna Hugoboom6 min read
Pexels/Kader D. Kahraman

One such compromise that is widespread today, especially in the United States, is leaky gut. Medical celebrity Dr. Steven Gundry is a cardiologist as well as a medical researcher and author on gastrointestinal health and weight loss. Dr. Gundry has explored the ins and outs of gastrointestinal health and researched how the stomach and intestines can be the determining factors of your energy, digestion, skin health, and overall immunity. 

What Is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut is a condition also known as intestinal permeability. To understand leaky gut, we first need to understand the normal structure of the intestinal walls. Lining the gut are immune cells that are critical in keeping the gut wall strong and that act as the body’s immune defense against pathogens and infections. These cells in the gut are essentially the body’s first line of immune defense.

The intestinal wall is also lined with mucosal cells, which lock together in tight gap junctions to prevent particles from escaping the bloodstream as well as to prevent toxins from invading the bloodstream. The immune (white blood) cells interspaced in and around that lining decide what enters and what remains in the bloodstream. Dr. Gundry explains that when all is working properly, then nothing unwelcome invades the barrier. However, when the barrier becomes worn down, the gut lining can then become swollen and/or torn with microscopic openings, and the cell junctions might not close completely or even widen. These tiny holes allow undigested food particles and other toxic compounds to “leak through” from the intestines into the bloodstream, resulting in leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut can then result in inflammation and a host of other health problems.

Leaky Gut Symptoms and Causes

So, how can you distinguish leaky gut symptoms from just regular indigestion? Dr. Gundry points out that you might be confused by general leaky gut symptoms such as painful indigestion, diarrhea, gas and bloating after meals, brain fog, and low energy. More pronounced leaky gut symptoms show up as persistent gastrointestinal upset, chronic low energy and brain fog, and constant gas and bloating, especially after eating. You should not feel like your pants no longer fit after every meal. Brain fog and low energy also aren’t normal or simply problems you can fix with a cup of coffee!

Many factors can lead to or cause leaky gut, and many comorbid conditions can result from intestinal compromise. Some of the most common causes of leaky gut are an imbalance of gut bacteria in the intestines, chronic inflammation, gut infection, food sensitivities, smoking, chronic stress, and medications like NSAIDS and antibiotics. Any and all of these can literally wear down your gastrointestinal tract and physically “eat away” at your gut lining and inhibit proper digestion, thereby causing greater inflammation and bacterial imbalance. When paired with poor nutrition and a lack of sufficient nutrients and immune-boosting vitamins, it will cause a deterioration of the gut’s immune defenses, resulting in leaky gut. 

Parasites can literally eat away at the healthy tissue in the area they infect, including your gut lining.

Another culprit for leaky gut can be a parasitic infection. An intestinal parasite presents itself as a foreign invader in the body and can trigger an autoimmune response in addition to the direct damage it causes. Intestinal parasites can literally eat away at the healthy tissue in the area they infect, which can then cause inflammation and intestinal permeability. It doesn’t take long for the parasite to gnaw through the mucous membrane and perforate little holes in the gut lining (kind of like ulcers). Parasites can take a while to eliminate from your system, but once you start evicting those unwelcome visitors then you might find your gut symptoms greatly relieved! Read more on parasites here

Conditions associated with leaky gut include skin breakouts like acne and eczema, allergies, constipation, bad breath, and gas (not fun). If untreated or ignored, leaky gut can worsen into more serious health conditions, including Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune diseases, ulcerative colitis, hypothyroidism, lupus, and multiple sclerosis, as well as IBS and obesity

Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Disease

There is a strong correlation between leaky gut and autoimmune disease. According to Dr. Gundry, “Autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue,” as in the case of a leaking gut that is allowing bacteria and other toxins to enter the bloodstream when they aren’t supposed to enter. When this happens and the bloodstream is contaminated with these irritants, the body triggers an immune response to these alien substances, which can result in inflammation and various health problems.

The body is supposed to react to pollution – the issue is when there is consistent irritation building up, it creates chronic inflammation. Then the immune response becomes overactive and begins reacting to everything that comes into your body, like an overprotective guard dog barking at a fly. Because the gut is central to the strength of the immune system, the chronic inflammation in the gut can wear down those defenses and pave the way for an autoimmune disease to develop. For example, inflammatory bowel disorders/diseases, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are considered autoimmune diseases and can result from leaky gut

Lectins and Leaky Gut

Dr. Gundry’s book, The Plant Paradox, talks about the foods that may actually cause more harm to your gut than good, even if they’re natural foods, mainly in the form of lectins. Lectins are a type of plant protein that protects the plant while growing and prevents it from being eaten. However, these plant proteins “can force apart the gap junctions in your intestinal wall by attaching themselves to your gut lining,” actually causing intestinal permeability.

Dr. Gundry argues that a lectin-free diet is the best way to vibrant health and quality longevity. His yes-and-no-foods list, The Energy Paradox, outlines such a diet. Try doing a lectin-free detox for three days and see how you feel – you’ve got nothing to lose! When you’ve healed your leaky gut, you can reintroduce some of those natural lectin foods back into your diet, sparingly.

When combating a leaky gut, you need to eliminate inflammatory foods, such as dairy, gluten, grains, sugar, and fried foods. Lectin foods to avoid (at least most of the time) include the following: 

  • Grains, breads, and grain products like cookies, crackers, cereal, etc.

  • Corn and corn-based products like corn chips, popcorn, cornbread, corn tortillas, etc.

  • Peanuts and cashews.

  • Nightshade vegetables: eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers.

  • Alcohol, carbonated drinks, and coffee, as the acidity will ruin your gut lining.

How To Heal Leaky Gut

To combat leaky gut and to heal your GI tract, it’s necessary to make several changes to your diet as well as to your lifestyle. Mindfulness is essential to creating a balanced lifestyle and optimal health for yourself. Stressful habits will only worsen your leaky gut. So if you’re someone who wakes up, grabs a coffee, and rushes to work, then some changes need to be made! Give yourself an extra half hour in the morning to get things done so you can prep without stress rushing. Eat a protein filled breakfast to fuel your body and balance your hormones. Sit down for your meals and don’t eat on the go; chew your food and don’t rush.

If you’re someone who goes to sleep late or scrolls mindlessly on social media before bed, then create a relaxing bedtime routine for yourself and start going to bed earlier. Practice stress management techniques to more mindfully de-stress your nervous system. Consistent exercise will help with stress management too. And if you smoke or vape, it’s time to bite the bullet and wean yourself off.

Revising Your Menu

Utilize your diet as a means of ingesting fresh and restorative vitamins for your gut. Other doctors in addition to Steven Gundry stress the importance of an anti-inflammatory diet and restorative foods to heal leaky gut. The two most important additions to your menu are collagen, especially in the form of bone broth, and probiotics or probiotic-rich foods

In addition to helping skin and bone health, collagen helps your intestinal lining to heal and restore to a normal state. Bone broth is the top source for collagen since it also contains minerals and protein from the original meat bones it was made from. It’s very soothing for the stomach, assists good digestion and absorption, and is instrumental in helping repair the intestinal lining. In addition to bone broth, you should also eat collagen-rich foods such as skin-on chicken, sardines, organ meats, collagen powder and collagen-infused drinks, aloe vera juice (it increases collagen especially in dermis layers of the skin), and berries for their vitamin C content. Fun fact: Vitamin C helps your body synthesize/build collagen, especially for wound healing (sounds great for torn tissue repair)!

Be sure to also consume enough quality protein! Omega 3-rich foods like eggs and fatty fish are highly beneficial. Many people do not eat enough protein, which causes them to crave carbs. Stick to:

  • Eggs (pasture-raised, organic, and boiled or poached is best, never fried).

  • Fish (wild-caught when possible, and grilled, baked, or air-fried is best, never fried).

  • Simple meats that are not fried or processed (avoid lunch-meats and fatty ground beef).

  • Probiotic-rich foods, including sauerkraut, raw kefir, and plain yogurt.

  • Soups and broths. 

  • Herbal tea and infused spa water (without sugar).

Supplements To Heal Leaky Gut

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In addition to eating foods high in probiotics, you can also supplement with pre/probiotics. Probiotics are essential for healing a leaky gut – they help repair the damaged gut lining, reduce inflammation, and restore the good gut bacteria. Prebiotics are foods, usually high in fiber, that act as the food for your good gut bacteria – so eat your fruits and vegetables!

Dr. Gundry has his own line of enzymes and probiotics available on his website. His most popular are the Bio Complete 3 and the Total Restore. Both supplements are personal favorites of mine and are highly effective. All of the Gundry products are soy-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, artificial sweetener-free, and lectin-free. 

  • Bio Complete 3 is a probiotic combination (includes prebiotics and probiotics) to improve and balance gut bacteria. It also helps reduce achy muscles and joints, reduces gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation, and may help curb food cravings and improve energy. You should take two capsules with 8 oz. of water twice per day, preferably before meals.

  • Total Restore is a supplement blend that promotes healthy gut lining, so you should take it in the healing phase after taking the Bio Complete 3 first, or you can take them together. This compound helps your body fight bloating, gas, fatigue, indigestion, food cravings, and weight issues. It boosts energy and focus and even mood, and it helps nourish the gut lining as well as improve nutrient absorption. You should take three capsules with at least 8 oz. of water daily (preferably in the morning). 

In addition to Dr. Gundry’s line, Nature’s Sunshine Products also carries multiple options that help the digestive process and can assist in healing the gut. It’s not necessary to buy all of these items; choose a couple that seem to fit your needs and start from there. I recommend starting with a probiotic and an enzyme for better digestion.

For NSP orders, you can use the link HERE to get a 25% discount and free shipping on your first order! Just create a free account, click where it says Anna Hugoboom’s favorites near the top of the screen, select whichever item you want to order from the favorites, and enter the promo “NSP” at checkout. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Probiotic Eleven is a general probiotic supplement.

  • Elevated Eleven is a more concentrated form of probiotics and helps boost gut bacteria while improving digestion.

  • High Potency Protease is an enzyme that assists in the digestion of meat. If you eat a lot of meat but often have gas or feel heavy after eating, or if you struggle with eating meat (check your blood type), then this might help.

  • Protease Plus is an enzyme that helps digest general proteins. Always helpful!

  • Lactase Plus is an enzyme helps those who struggle with digesting dairy to break it down properly. So even if the only dairy you’re eating is butter and raw milk, you can take this supplement to help you digest it and absorb the dairy nutrients better.

  • Food Enzymes is a general enzyme supplement (another personal favorite) that improves digestion and helps you break down your food and absorb those nutrients more efficiently. Bye-bye, bloat!

Closing Thoughts

Leaky gut has become more of a problem in the last decade, but that doesn’t mean we're stuck with it! Now we know the causes and are educated on the facts. You have the tools to heal yourself and prevent multiple other health issues from arising. Both the preventative and healing steps for leaky gut are generally beneficial and will enhance your overall immunity, decrease inflammation, and boost your energy so you can live your life to its vibrant fullest!

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