So now that we’ve covered what intestinal permeability is, and what causes it, it’s time to tackle the most important issue: What can you do to heal leaky gut?
This is a multifaceted health problem, so there isn’t really a quick and simple prescription, but there are several things you can do to aid your body in the healing process.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and the Gut and Psychology Syndrome protocol (GAPS) are both specifically designed to heal leaky gut. The Autoimmune Paleo Protocol is pretty awesome in this regard as well.
What these diets have in common is the elimination of processed foods, refined sugar, grains, industrialized oils, and other common allergens like gluten, dairy, legumes, alcohol, soy, and sometimes eggs, nuts, seeds, and nightshades.
These diets also encourage the consumption of nutrient-dense, gut-healing foods that reduce inflammation and gently bring the body back to balance. These protocols can be extremely effective for removing inflammatory triggers, and supplying the gut with the nutrients it needs to heal itself!
12 Ways To Heal Leaky Gut:
- Eat Gelatin. It’s a fabulous source of protein, and it provides the body with the nutrients it needs to repair the intestinal walls. There are so many (delicious) ways to get more gelatin into your diet. You can stir gelatin powder into your hot tea and drink it down, or get creative… Make Homemade Jello, Smoothies, Milkshakes, Baked Goods, Pancakes, even Gummy Bears and Marshmallows! Ditch the candy and let these be your treats. I like Great Lakes, and Vital Proteins because they come from grass-fed cows.
- Put Collagen Hydrolysate in Everything. This stuff is similar to gelatin, but it won’t actually gel. You can toss it into any drinks (hot or cold) or baked goods to get some added health benefits, and you won’t even notice it’s there! Again, Great Lakes and Vital Proteins are both awesome sources. (Check them out on Thrive Market for discount prices!)
- Acquire a Taste for Sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is packed with probiotics that will help restore a healthy balance of intestinal flora and heal leaky gut. Plus, you can make it at home for the price of a head of cabbage! You can also eat Kimchi, or any other lacto-fermented veggies, just make sure you’re getting legit, raw fermented sauerkraut with live cultures. Better yet, make your own!
Some people love the tangy tart flavor right from the start, but for me it took a while. I started by eating a tiny piece of it every day, and then adding a little more each time. I am now enjoying it in pretty hefty amounts with some Applegate Farms grass-fed beef hot dogs, and my gut loves me for it. It’s definitely a taste worth acquiring!
- Drink Bone Broth. I basically keep a crock pot full of bone broth simmering on my counter at all times. Not only is it delicious, it’s packed with good fats, proteins (like gelatin!), and nutrients that the body needs to heal leaky gut. You can make some really tasty soups with it, or just drink it straight! If you’ve never made bone broth before, it’s super simple. Here’s how to do it. If you don’t want to make your own, you can always buy some ready made from The Brothery!
- Get Some Zinc! It improves the function of the intestinal barrier. (source) But how on earth do you get zinc into your diet? Eat some good quality seafood! If you’re not a big fan of fish, you can also get it from other meats, spinach, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, and best of all, raw chocolate. (You’re welcome.)
- Go Outside! Exposing your skin to the sunshine allows your body to produce Vitamin D, which is vitally important for just about everything.
This study observed that vitamin D “plays a critical role in mucosal barrier homeostasis by preserving the integrity of junction complexes and the healing capacity of the colonic epithelium.” In plain english: Vitamin D keeps everything in balance in the intestines. It keeps the tight junctions tight, and it helps to heal leaky gut. No need to buy a supplement–as long as you live in a sunny climate, just go outside and soak up some sunshine!
- Take Some Good Quality Fish Oil. I recommend the fermented cod liver oil/butter oil blend from Green Pastures. This stuff is incredibly anti-inflammatory, and it also a great source of vitamin D for those who live in cold climates. Eating good fatty fish like wild caught alaskan salmon or sardines on a regular basis is also very helpful, just be sure you’re getting it from a clean source. Here is a nice little guide to help you determine what’s a “clean source” and what’s not.
- Use PRP Spray. Proline-Rich-Polypeptides (PRPs) help regulate immune responses. This stuff helps to heal leaky gut by balancing the immune system’s inflammation signaling. It also helps to balance the thymus, and acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory. The natural source of this is fresh colostrum from grass-fed cows.
In theory, PRP spray should be fine for people with dairy sensitivities, HOWEVER, if you are incredibly sensitive to dairy you may want to skip this one just in case. I recommend this PRP spray from Numedica.
- Support your glutathione production! Here’s the deal. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that helps to heal oxidative damage in the gut. It is absolutely necessary for healthy gut barrier function. In fact, some researchers believe that leaky gut won’t even develop until glutathione stores are depleted.
Don’t run out and buy all the glutathione supplements just yet! Glutathione is pretty delicate, so when we take it in supplement form, our digestive enzymes usually end up degrading it before it’s even absorbed. Instead we need to take in the building blocks for glutathione, and let our bodies do the rest.
As always, I recommend getting these nutrients from real food, rather than isolated supplements.
L-Glutamine is a direct precursor to glutathione. You can find it in meat, cabbage, egg whites, parsley, and spinach, among other foods. You can also take this as a supplement, but be sure to work with a doctor if you go that route.
Cysteine is an amino acid that is rich in sulfur, and it’s also helps the body to make glutathione. The best sources are eggs and garlic.
Selenium is a powerhouse of a nutrient that helps the body to recycle glutathione. You don’t need much of it though, so just eating a few brazil nuts every now and then should do the trick.
- Eat Organ Meats. Liver, anyone? Traditionally organ meats were the most prized culinary cuts.
These days, most of us are a little squeamish about consuming organ meats, but we shouldn’t be! Organ meats are high in Alpha-lipolic acid (ALA), which is an important antioxidant that serves as a raw material for glutathione production, along with tons of other nutrients that our bodies need to thrive.
If you’re not used to consuming organ meats, I recommend starting small. Here’s a great way to sneak liver into your meals, from DaNelle over at Weed ’em and Reap.
- Cut The Crap. Limit your exposure to toxic substances by eating whole, organic, unprocessed foods, reducing the amount of chemical-laden body products that you come in contact with, and drinking filtered water. Ditch the inflammatory foods like sugar, grains, and dairy products for a while. The more toxic your body becomes, the more quickly you will burn through glutathione stores, the more inflammation you will have, the more permeable your intestines will become.
- And Finally… Breathe! Relax. Do what you can to reduce the stressors in your life. Go to bed early. Practice yoga. Go for a walk. Keep a journal. Be kind to yourself, and allow yourself some time to rest and heal. Don’t try to incorporate all of these suggestions at once, or you will find yourself overwhelmed and burned out. Take one step at a time, and use this information to inform your decisions, but don’t stress if you aren’t able to incorporate everything right away.
The healing process may take quite a while.
Many people report a significant improvement in their symptoms in as few as 3-4 days, but it usually takes much longer than that to truly heal leaky gut. It’s important to stick with it for the long haul, otherwise the problems are likely to come back. This can be anywhere from 6 months to 3 years, depending on the severity of the condition and the age of the person. Young people tend to heal more quickly than adults. Such is life.
Many people have found relief from their chronic health issues just by taking the time to heal and balance their digestive tracts. If your health issues are particularly serious, I’d recommend seeking out a naturopathic doctor, or a integrative/functional medicine practitioner to help you draw up a healing protocol that is specific to your needs. The good news is, with a few lifestyle changes and a little patience, you can heal leaky gut.
Do you suspect that you have leaky gut? Have you tried any of these healing protocols? Let me know your thoughts!