According to Harvard Medical School, “We already know that increased intestinal permeability plays a role in certain gastrointestinal conditions such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. The biggest question is whether or not a leaky gut may cause problems elsewhere in the body. Some studies show that leaky gut may be associated with other autoimmune diseases (lupus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis), chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, allergies, asthma, acne, obesity, and even mental illness.” However, more research must be done in this field to determine a cause and effect relationship in humans.
Factors that are believed to play a role in leaky gut syndrome include:
- Excessive sugar intake
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Chronic stress
- Yeast overgrowth
- An imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut
- Nutrient deficiencies (particularly Vitamin A, vitamin D, and zinc)
- Long-term use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like ibuprofen
So if I suspect I have leaky gut, what can I do to get my gut back on track?!
Diet likely plays a big role in having a leaky gut, so if you have symptoms of leaky gut, you would likely benefit from seeing a gastroenterologist who is also trained in nutrition. (If you aren’t taking a probiotic yet, you’ll want to be doing that, too!)
There are many diseases for which leaky gut can be a symptom (including celiac disease, IBS, multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis), so it’s worth visiting a healthcare provider to make sure you don’t have any of these issues as well.
Chronic stress may also be a factor in leaky gut, so trying to intentionally minimize stress can improve the condition as well.
Okay, I definitely do NOT want to develop leaky gut. How can I help to prevent it?
Taking self-care steps that promote overall digestive health may be the best way to protect yourself from leaky gut.
- Increase your intake of high-fiber foods. The soluble fiber found in vegetables, legumes, and fruit support your gut’s beneficial bacteria, according to a 2016 studyTrusted Source.
- Reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates. Too much sugar can negatively impact gut barrier function, according to a 2014 studyTrusted Source.
- Reduce your use of NSAIDs. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen, can increase intestinal permeability, according to a 2009 studyTrusted Source.
- Take probiotic supplements. The beneficial bacteria of probiotics are considered helpful for many gastrointestinal conditions, such as IBS, according to a 2009 studyTrusted Source.
- Reduce your stress levels. Gut bacteria can be harmed by chronic stress, according to a 2017 studyTrusted Source.
- Reduce your alcohol intake. Overindulging in alcohol may increase intestinal permeability, according to a 2014 studyTrusted Source.