Why You Might Have A Leaky Gut + How To Fix It

Author and Professor of Medicine By Terry Wahls, M.D.
Author and Professor of Medicine
Terry Wahls, M.D. is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Iowa, where she conducts clinical research on the use of diet and lifestyle to treat brain-related problems. She received her master's in medicine from The University of Iowa, as well as her master's in business administration from the University of St. Thomas.

Photo by Stocksy

Wondering if leaky gut might be contributing to your health issues?

First, let's review what makes a gut "leaky." The gut is a long tube, running from your mouth to your anus. The gut includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. The term "leaky gut," however, is referring to a specific part of the gut: our intestines.

The cells that line the intestines are bound together and keep the bacteria and undigested food from entering the bloodstream. There are gates between the cells that can be opened and allow fluid from the bloodstream to come pouring into the intestines, leading to diarrhea. When people are infected with the cholera bacteria, a toxin is released that makes these gates open very widely, and profound watery diarrhea ensues.

The scientist Allessio Fasano discovered these gates open and close in response to the cholera toxins. In addition, these gates will also partially open in response to gluten in someone who is genetically susceptible. When the gates are partially opened, bacterial fragments and incompletely digested food particles get into the bloodstream. This can cause a marked increase in inflammation and worsening of symptoms.

If you have the genes that put you at a higher risk for developing an abnormal immune response to food—that is, a food sensitivity reaction—having a leaky gut makes you more likely to develop gluten sensitivity. And if the leaky gut continues for years, you are more likely to develop an abnormal immune response to other foods such as dairy protein, eggs, shellfish, legumes, other grains, and other types of foods.

If you have a chronic health challenge, you likely have a leaky gut. Many medications can also contribute to the development of a leaky gut. So for example, if you're taking acid-lowering medication, antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or prednisone, you likely have a leaky gut.

In my therapeutic lifestyle clinic, I see people with many chronic medical problems. I presume that everyone who comes to us likely has a leaky gut, at least to some degree, contributing to their health issues.

Healing a leaky gut is a key step in restoring health. Here are the five most useful steps I recommend:

1. Eliminate gluten from your diet.

If you're genetically susceptible, gluten can lead to a leaky gut. Eliminate it 100 percent for 100 days. Consuming an occasional cheat meal with gluten prevents the leaky gut from healing.

Article continues below

2. Eliminate casein.

This is the protein in dairy. Again, eliminate it 100 percent for 100 days. If you're having an abnormal immune response to gluten, there is a high probability you'll also have an abnormal response to casein.

3. Consume bone broth.

The glutamine in bone broth is fuel for the cells in the colon.

Article continues below

4. Take cod liver oil.

It's full of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A—essential nutrients for your colon and immune cells.

5. Consume liver or shellfish for zinc.

Zinc is another key nutrient for both immune cells and colon cells that is present in an easily absorbable form in liver and shellfish.

To learn more about restoring gut health, check out my new class.

Terry Wahls, M.D.
Terry Wahls, M.D.
Terry Wahls, M.D. is a professor of medicine at the University of Iowa, where she conducts clinical...
Read More
More from the author:
Your Roadmap To Debunk Food & Diet Myths To Find Exactly What Foods Work For You & Your Body
Check out Food Fundamentals
Unlock the power of food to feel your best with this powerful course taught by Dr. Terry Wahls, best-selling author and functional medicine innovator.
View the class
Terry Wahls, M.D.
Terry Wahls, M.D.
Terry Wahls, M.D. is a professor of medicine at the University of...
Read More

More On This Topic

How To Heal Adrenal Fatigue

Popular Stories

Latest Articles

Latest Articles

Sites We Love

Your article and new folder have been saved!