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The Top 10 Leaky Gut Supplements (Plus, a Gut-Healing Diet Plan)

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Bloating. Cramps. Gas. Brain fog. Skin rash. What do all of these symptoms have in common? They may very well be caused by a condition known as “leaky gut.” Fortunately, leaky gut supplements might be just what you need to relieve these frustrating issues.

Leaky gut (specifically, leaky gut syndrome), is just what it sounds like: stuff leaking into your “gut” from your digestive system, rather than being digested and absorbed or eliminated properly. While there is some controversy around this condition, which is also known as intestinal permeability, there is scientific evidence to back up its existence. Research has found strong evidence that leaky gut is involved in several health conditions.

If you’re a little grossed out or, worse, freaked out, let this encourage you: there are simple steps you can take right now to improve your symptoms and feel better.

Taking some key leaky gut supplements and making a few simple changes to your diet can take your digestive health to the next level. Read on for how to heal leaky gut for better health, from head to toe.


What Is Leaky Gut?

When our gut is healthy, our small intestine has a strong lining, the intestinal wall, that prevents contents from leaking into our bodies. With intestinal permeability, though, the microscopic holes in your intestinal lining allow unwanted particles to leak into your body, such as undigested food, bacteria, toxins, and germs. These holes, known as “tight junctions,” are typically small for a reason — in a healthy digestive system, they’re the perfect size to stop the wrong things from leaving the gastrointestinal tract.

These leaks can also trigger inflammation and changes in our “gut flora,” or “microbiome.” This inflammation and the changes to our microbiome may cause unpleasant symptoms and even lead to serious health conditions.


Leaky Gut Symptoms

Leaky gut can lead to many different symptoms, which is why there are leaky gut supplements to deal with several of them individually. Not only can this condition cause problems with your digestive system, it may also cause a variety of symptoms in other parts of your body.

Leaky gut is correlated with several health conditions including asthma, IBD, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, adrenal fatigue, and acne. It’s also associated with many autoimmune disorders such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and thyroid disorders.

Common signs and symptoms of leaky gut may include: [12]

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Cramps
  • Brain fog
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Sugar cravings
  • Skin rashes
  • Joint pain
  • Food sensitivities and food allergies

Leaky Gut Causes

It’s unclear if leaky gut is a symptom, or the cause of other symptoms. Some researchers consider leaky gut syndrome a condition, although it hasn’t been officially recognized by major organizations as a diagnosis (yet). However, there are certain factors that appear to play a role in leaky gut. [3]

Higher levels of a protein known as zonulin seem to increase intestinal permeability. Certain strains of bacteria and gluten also appear to have a relationship to higher levels of zonulin. So, if your gut bacteria, or microbiome, is out of whack, or you eat foods that contain gluten, you may have issues with leaky gut.

Other factors such as your genetics, stress, and chronic use of alcohol, NSAIDs, and even certain antibiotics may also make you more susceptible to leaky gut.


Top 10 Leaky Gut Supplements

If you’re looking for ways to help heal your gut, trying some leaky gut supplements may be the way to go. Below is a list of some of the best supplements for leaky gut.

 

1. Collagen

collagen-powder

If you’re looking for supplements to help with healing leaky gut, collagen is a great place to start. As the most abundant protein in your body, collagen provides a wide range of health benefits. Not only can collagen help alleviate joint pain and improve your skin, but it also benefits the structure and lining of your digestive tract. [45]

Collagen production declines as we age, so it’s important to get vital collagen-boosting nutrients in your diet or take collagen supplements, especially as you get older.

Collagen is comprised of several important amino acids, including:

  • Proline: Proline is a nonessential amino acid that is a key component of collagen. It’s important for proper joint and tendon functioning. [6]
  • L-Glutamine: L-glutamine is an amino acid that supports intestinal health by both helping to maintain the gut barrier and regulating metabolism. [78]
  • Glycine: Collagen is composed primarily of glycine. Glycine is an amino acid with several health benefits. Glycine helps your body make glutathione, an important antioxidant that protects your cells. Glycine is a key component of creatine, a compound that gives your muscles energy. This amino acid also helps support brain and heart health. [9]
  • L-Arginine: L-arginine is an amino acid that helps support cardiovascular health. It also helps the body eliminate ammonia and release insulin. It not only helps build protein, but also releases nitric oxide into the bloodstream, which helps blood vessels relax and may help relieve high blood pressure. [1011]

 

2. N-acetyl Glucosamine

glucosamine

Glucosamine is great for bone and cartilage health, has shown effectiveness in helping to treat IBD, and can provide immune system support. Glucosamine has also been shown to be effective at supporting the growth of the gut-protective probiotic bifidobacterium. [12131415]

 

3. Probiotics and Prebiotics

probiotics

One of the best ways to improve your gut health is to support the health and growth of “good” flora in your microbiome. How can you do that? Taking high quality probiotic supplements for leaky gut can help improve your microbiome’s diversity. [16] When you think “probiotics,” think good bacteria (flora).

Adding prebiotic leaky gut supplements to your diet can help as well. Prebiotics help “set the stage” for probiotics. Certain foods help provide the nutrients that probiotic bacteria, or flora, need to thrive. These include: [171819]

  • Slippery elm
  • Licorice root
  • Marshmallow root
  • Mushrooms like reishi (known as the “king of mushrooms”)

 

4. Vitamin D

vitamin d

Animal studies have shown that proper levels of vitamin D help balance gut bacteria, prevent inflammation and intestinal infection, and help to reduce symptoms of autoimmune diseases. [202122]

 

5. Quercetin

quercetin

Lab and animal studies have shown that quercetin helps to improve the function of the intestinal barrier, boost immunity, and guard against inflammation. [232425] Leaky gut is closely tied to chronic inflammation, which can cause a number of health problems on its own.

 

6. Curcumin

curcumin

A variety of animal, lab, and human studies have shown that curcumin, which is the active compound in turmeric, has antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin can also improve the function and integrity of the intestinal wall. [2627]

 

7. Marshmallow root

marshmallow root

This herb provides quite a few health benefits. Not only does marshmallow root serve as a helpful probiotic as described above, but it also helps repair the gut lining, lowering inflammation and soothing irritation. [28]

 

8. Digestive enzymes

digestive enzymes

Because leaky gut syndrome is associated with improper digestion and absorption of food and nutrients, digestive enzymes can be an incredibly powerful leaky gut supplement. These handy enzymes are what help turn the complex foods you eat into digestible nutrients like fatty acids, cholesterol, amino acids, and simple sugars.

The dizzying array of enzymes to support digestion can feel overwhelming, but deciding if you need digestive enzymes is simple: if you have leaky gut syndrome, you probably need to take digestive enzymes before each meal.

Here’s a quick rundown of how they work:

Your body makes digestive enzymes to help digest foods. Different enzymes support digestion of different macronutrients (carbs, proteins, and fats). Digestive enzyme supplements are designed to be taken just before meals to supplement the enzymes your body already produces.

If possible, you’ll have the most success if you take digestive enzymes that are best for any nutrient issues you have. For instance, vegans/vegetarians may benefit most from mostly plant-based enzymes. However, a broad-spectrum option is great if you’re looking for improving your overall digestion and you eat a fairly balanced diet.

 

9. Licorice root

licorice root

It might sound like a candy store treat, but licorice root is a powerful adaptogen that’s been used for centuries. The Glycyrrhiza glabra herb can heal stomach ulcers and soothe an inflamed intestinal wall. [29]

Although it’s been around for centuries, there are some side effects associated with the use of licorice that many people who take the supplement don’t know about. [30] All of these are related to the glycyrrhizin compound in standard licorice root. Things get a little tricky here, though — while glycyrrhizin can be problematic when taken in large doses over a long period of time, it’s also part of licorice root that serves to reduce inflammation.

There are a few ways you can tackle the side effects of licorice root. One option is to use supplements that contain only DGL licorice (deglycyrrhizinated licorice). DGL licorice root is stripped of glycyrrhizin and can be taken long-term with no known negative impacts on health. Your other option would be to take standard licorice root, but only for several weeks at a time, and never more than the dosage listed.

Contraindications for licorice root (meaning people with these should only use DGL licorice) include:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Liver or kidney dysfunction
  • Pregnant women

If you don’t have these conditions and want to try standard licorice root, stick to less than six grams per day. Six-18 grams seems to be the dosage range associated with side effects like swelling and drops in potassium levels. [31]

 

10. Caprylic Acid

coconut oil

The last of the best leaky gut supplements is caprylic acid, a fatty acid that’s found richly in coconut oil and other coconut products. Caprylic acid can temper the overgrowth of yeast in the digestive tract, which is a major issue if you’re struggling with leaky gut. [32]

It’s best to take caprylic acid alongside probiotics, as they support one another. Bonus: if you know yeast is a problem in your gut microbiome, take a probiotic that contains Saccharomyces boulardii. S. boulardii is a strain of healthy yeast that can soothe inflammatory bowel disease and prevent harmful yeast strains from getting out of control. [33]


Gut-Healing Diet Plan

gut diet plan

In addition to taking supplements to heal leaky gut, you can also follow a leaky gut diet plan to make sure your body is getting plenty of the gut-healing, immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory nutrients it needs. Follow these steps for to make sure your diet supports your gut health:

 

Keep it gluten-free

Gluten is a compound in grain that is comprised of proteins. Gluten is the “glue” that holds bread together. It causes dough to be elastic and bread to be chewy. Two of the main proteins in gluten are gliadin and glutenin. Most people who have a reaction to gluten are sensitive to gliadin. [34]

People with celiac disease have an intolerance to foods containing gluten. Gluten causes greater intestinal permeability in these individuals. Some people may not have celiac disease, but they may have a milder negative reaction to gluten, which is referred to as gluten sensitivity. If you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, avoid breads and other baked goods and other foods that contain gluten. Instead, opt for gluten-free baked goods and products. [35]

 

Add apple cider vinegar

Adding a little apple cider vinegar to your cole slaw or salad dressing or other recipes may help your gut. Studies have shown that vinegar can help inhibit the growth of certain bacteria that increase intestinal permeability and leaky gut. Plus, vinegar helps the body create stomach acid to aid in digestion and absorption. [363738]

 

Sip on bone broth

Bone broth is loaded with a ton of beneficial nutrients, not least of which is collagen with all of its gut-protecting benefits. Enjoy bone broth as a soup or add to other recipes. You can make your own, buy it pre-made, or purchase powdered bone broth supplements. Supplements make it easy to add this nutrient to smoothies and other beverages as well. [39]

 

Munch on lots of soluble fiber from vegetables

Getting enough fiber in your diet is key to gut health. You need both soluble and insoluble fiber for proper digestion.

Soluble fiber comes from sources such as oats, potatoes, and fruits like bananas. It pulls water into the gut and aids the digestion process by reducing inflammation and constipation.

Insoluble fiber is also called roughage. It does not draw water into the gut but rather helps move the contents along. Examples of insoluble fiber include cereals, bran, and nuts. If you have issues with gluten, carefully consider your sources of insoluble fiber to ensure you’re not accidentally consuming gluten.

If you have a bowel disorder or other digestive issues, speak with your health care provider before increasing your fiber intake. Be sure to increase fiber slowly as increasing it too rapidly can cause bloating, gas, and cramps. [40]

 

Avoid artificial sweeteners

Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can change the microbiome in your gut. Many artificial sweeteners have been associated with other health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dementia. [41]

 

Limit sugar

Excess sugar provides a breeding ground for yeast known as candida and “bad” bacteria within the gut. Plus it can lead to other health conditions, like obesity and type 2 diabetes. [4243]

 

Limit alcohol

Alcohol use can increase intestinal permeability. [44]

 

Cut out processed foods

Both lab and animal studies have shown that food additives in highly processed foods can increase intestinal permeability. [45]

 

Eat fermented foods

Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchee, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir contain live cultures (probiotics) that help improve gut health. That said, as always add new foods to your diet slowly and check with your health care practitioner first. If you have a dairy sensitivity, avoid yogurt and kefir. [4647]

Take care when choosing kombucha, too. Many brands are mostly sugar and don’t even contain the live cultures you’re seeking.

Key Points

  • Intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, means that there are gaps in the intestinal lining that allow undigested food, bacteria, toxins, and germs to leak into our bodies.
  • Leaky gut can cause many different symptoms in your digestive system and throughout your body. It’s also associated with several different health conditions.
  • A leaky gut treatment plan may include taking some key leaky gut supplements and making a few simple changes to your diet.

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