Last Updated: November 8 | Download my FREE Leaky Gut Recovery Guide
The #1 thing I hear people with leaky gut ask for, is an all-in-one list of simple ways they can heal their gut fast.
And I get it. After all, when I suffered from leaky gut I found myself drowning in a sea of 100s of different research papers, reports and books..
Jumping from one report to the next was time consuming and trying to tie it all together took months.
Well, that’s why I created this list of the best ideas for leaky gut.
It will save you 100s of hours of research and most of all, get you taking real action today. I’m excited you’ve found it and I hope you love it.
My best ideas for leaky gut syndrome
I cover a lot of ideas below (37 in fact).
And I know life is busy. So I don’t expect you to read through the full list right now or start implementing all the ideas today.
So here are my 2 big tips to save you time:
- The ideas below are listed in order from most important to least. So focusing on the top 10 to start with is probably the way to go.
- I wrote a great summary of this post with my very best ideas and you can download the summary ebook here
Jump to your favorite idea
1) Stop eating wheat / gluten – this is the #1 way to cure your leaky gut
For those of us with leaky gut syndrome, wheat (along with rye and barley) is public enemy number one! Nothing compares. And that’s because these 3 types of grains contain gluten.
Gluten is hard to digest, pierces holes in our gut lining and thanks to gliadin it raises levels of the hormone zonulin, thereby increasing the openings of tight junctions (the gatekeepers of the openings in our gut lining).
Taken together, these 3 actions make your gut more permeable, which means more toxins slip through your gut lining and cause inflammation and a raised immune response.
So even though I used to love spending my Sunday evenings gorging on a large Margarita pizza followed up by a series of different colored donuts, these days I would rather eat the cardboard box said pizza comes in.
I’m pretty sure my gut would digest it better!
Here’s a chart of the most popular foods that contain wheat:
You’ll hopefully join me in a moment of sadness as we see some of the all time tastiest foods included above, like bread, cereal, pasta, pizza, cookies, crackers, cakes, muffins, beer etc.
(Aka what I thought the entire food pyramid consisted of during college).
If you are Celiac or otherwise significantly gluten intolerant (which could be up to 30% of the population), you should look out for wheat-derivative products like couscous, durum, semolina etc and products containing trace amounts of gluten especially hidden as fillers, eg sauces, soups etc.
Dr Perlmutter has an extensive list of foods that contain gluten, including in small amounts.
I don’t want to sound like some kind of crazy new age hippy, but here’s my sincere advice…
Unlike a lot of the other ideas in this article, I genuinely believe this should be a permanent lifestyle change.
For example, whilst alcohol is something your gut can take in moderation when you’re back to good health, I really don’t think gluten is.
Of course, everyone is different and you will find out pretty soon if you reintroduce it into your diet after 30-90 days.
I will note that currently I do consume some gluten. Usually as trace/small amounts, eg if I eat oats that are not certified gluten free.
2) Do a 48-72 hour bone broth fast this weekend
Whenever people email in asking “What’s the fastest way to heal my leaky gut?”, I always have one go-to answer.
Fast. For 2-3 days. Drink only bone broth. And bon appetite!
It’s not the answer people want me to give. Everyone after all wants an easy fix. And let’s be honest…fasting is not fun. Whilst for many, the sound of ‘bone broth’ is even less appetizing.
But guess what?
Your gut will love it! Not only will the fast give your digestive system a much needed break, it will also ensure no more big food particles are making their way through your leaky gut and into your bloodstream.
That means inflammation will cool down and your immune system will also get a chance to regroup.
But the real benefit comes from the broth itself. You see, as long as you cook a nice beef bone based broth, you’ll enjoy a big serving of collagen, proline and glycine. And these 3 work great together to mend the damaged cell walls of your gut.
So this weekend here’s what I recommend you do…
- Buy 2 pounds of grass fed beef bones, including some with meat/fat/marrow. Plus some ‘stock vegetables’, eg carrots, onions, garlic.
- Brown the bones off in a pot. Add the rinsed vegetables. Cover with water. Add salt, pepper and 3-4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar. Bring to the boil. Let simmer for the 4-8 hours.
- Then consume a cup of it every couple of hours over the next 2-3 days.
I typically only fast for 48 hours. It is more than enough time to get all the benefits of the fast itself and the servings of broth.
Let me just wrap up by saying, please speak to your doctor before undertaking any fast or any other leaky gut syndrome treatment in general.
3) Avoid ALL grains and legumes for the next month
Life without any grains or legumes whatsoever can be tough. Whenever you plan a meal that is just meat/fish and vegetables it feels like something is missing.
But if you’re suffering from leaky gut and are really motivated to repair it fast, then leaving grains and legumes off the table is a no brainer. Especially GMO grains, which by design are highest in anti-nutrients like lectins.
Sure, they don’t irritate the gut lining and create all kinds of havoc quite like grains with gluten (thanks gliadin!), but they are still loaded with anti-nutrients like lectins and phytates, which your digestive system simply can’t handle when it is in already poor shape.
Here’s a list of the most popular grains and legumes you need to temporarily cut (on top of wheat/rye/barley per above):
Rice (white & brown), oats, corn AND beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, respectively.
Make sure you avoid all the derivative products too, eg soy sauce (beans), eg hummus (peas) etc.
Then in 30 days time you can consider adding them back in and seeing how you respond. My advice would be to add these back one at a time so you can see how you react to each specific type of grain or legume.
Here’s how to make this happen…
- During the 30 days without all grains and legumes, you should consider eating some quality starchy vegetables like sweet potato. These do a great job of giving you that content feeling you would normally get from eating grains and legumes.
- Then over the long term, if you decide to add them back in, just make sure you only eat fermented/sprouted grains and soaked legumes.
4) Megadose L-Glutamine for 8 days and then maintain at 10g a day
Just like protein powder feeds your muscles so they can repair and grow stronger, L-Glutamine fuels your gut lining so it too can repair damaged cells and come back healthier.
In fact, the cells lining your gut love L-Glutamine so much that they’re able to absorb it directly, making supplementation very effective.
By feeding these cells the fuel they love, your body is able to produce more intestinal mucus and Secretary Immunoglobulin Type A (SIgA), as well as tighten up the openings in your gut lining themselves, thereby stopping things like large undigested food molecules and other toxins crossing the gut barrier and into your bloodstream (ie stopping leaky gut syndrome).
When the gut barrier strengthens like this, the inflammation in your body starts to slow down since fewer and fewer toxins are hitting your bloodstream.
Plus your immune system starts to enjoy some relief – and unsurprisingly it is able to strengthen. And that’s when you really start to enjoy the benefits that come from L-Glutamine.
I often hear people say L-Glutamine doesn’t work for them
But the minute I ask them what sort of dosage they are taking, I straight away find out why.
You see, when it comes to leaky gut in order to get the positive effects from L-Glutamine you can’t simply take 1-2g a day. Instead, you may need to consider taking a high dosage and then a significant maintenance dosage.
Of course, it is worth saying that some people just don’t agree with L-Glutamine. And so as with everything on this site, it is worth talking to your doctor first.
How I megadose L-Glutamine powder
- Days 1-3 – work up over the first 3 days from 10g to 30g. This gives your body time to get used to the L-Glutamine and should stave off any upset stomach effects. Simply mix the powder with water. Make sure you spread the dose throughout the day and take each serve on an empty stomach so that the L-Glutamine does not have to compete with other amino acids for uptake.
- Days 4-8 – take 30g each day. This is best done via 1 rounded teaspoon (approx 5g) every 1-2 hours.
- Days 9+ – take a maintenance dose of 10g a day. Split this into 2 serves, so you take one 5g serve when you wake up and the other later in the day whenever is convenient and you have an empty stomach.
As you can see from the dosages required, it is best to buy L-Glutamine in powder form. And ideally one that is highly absorbable (uses pure, free form L-Glutamine), mixes easily, and has no additional ingredients that will compete with the amino acid for uptake and obviously comes with no nasty fillers, sweeteners etc.
It is not always easy to find one that ticks all those boxes, so my research team and I created this high quality pure L-Glutamine powder (currently available in USA only).
5) Ditch all sugars and dairy – except for some gut-friendly dairy
First I asked you to ransack your house and bin all the grains and legumes.
Now I’m asking you to find anything with sugar or dairy in it, and add that to the scrapheap as well! By the end of today you’ll probably have no food left in the house…
…But that’s alright.
In fact, the process of elimination is without doubt the most important step towards healing your leaky gut and feeling great again.
Say goodbye to sugar, in all forms
Not only will excessive sugar consumption fuel the growth of yeast / candida, but also bad bacteria in your gut. Taken together this can, over time, eat straight through your gut lining.
Whilst refined white sugar found in popular foods/drinks like soft drink, ice cream, sauces etc is obviously bad, when you have leaky gut so are the more innocent sounding sugars like brown sugar, raw sugar etc.
Simply put, avoid all blatantly sugary products like sodas, sweets, desserts, etc, and also avoid the less obvious ones like sauces, ‘low fat’ products, etc.
Limit all cow milk based dairy
So here’s the reason: in normal cows milk you’ll find a protein called A1 Casein. It does not play well with your gut.
Worse yet, the pasteurization process normal dairy undergoes kills the enzymes your body needs to digest the food itself. Sure you can take a digestive enzyme supplement with lactase in it, but still you have the Casein problem.
So my advice is no butter, no milk, no chocolate, no ice cream, no cheese etc where derived from cow’s milk.
If you’re feeling pretty good, consider alternative gut-friendly dairy products
Here’s the ultimate list of gut friendly dairy you can consider. But make sure to stick to organic dairy products.
For example, I can tolerate goats cheese or buffalo mozzarella quite well. And obviously, a probiotic-rich organic unflavored yogurt can work wonders for me as a dessert.
6) Take 1-2 broad-spectrum digestive enzyme supplements with every meal
Digestive enzymes are one of the best supplements out there for gut health. Not only are they so effective, but they’re also relatively inexpensive, which makes supplementation a bit of a no brainer. Here’s why they work so well…
Firstly, they take the food we eat and break it down into individual nutrients so our body can actually absorb the amino acids, vitamins, minerals etc from our food.
This is super important for those of us with leaky gut, because our damaged gut lining is not absorbing nutrients properly, and yet needs the nutrients to repair itself. Digestive enzymes help us get out of the vicious cycle!
By breaking down food particles more, digestive enzymes also ensure less irritation and thus inflammation of the gut lining.
In fact, they will safeguard against large molecules making their way down into and through your gut barrier and into the bloodstream. That means less inflammation and less immune system issues.
A bonus benefit is that digestive enzymes will clean up the mucosal lining of your gut as they can remove toxins, bad bacteria and damaged cells. And they will also help the body weed itself of pathogens that may contribute to leaky gut syndrome.
You can find an in-depth explanation of all of this in my article on digestive enzymes and leaky gut.
In terms of taking digestive enzymes, here’s what I recommend…
- Take 1-2 with each meal. I do this just before my meal.
- If you are still having digestion issues, consider upping the dose to 2-3. You most likely will be fine with 1-2.
- During the early stages of leaky gut recovery make sure you take them before any meal or snack, even a simple protein shake for example. The idea is to really give the digestive system a helping hand at every turn.
Most importantly, look for a digestive enzyme supplement that contains the best enzymes for supporting digestion of all food groups. Here’s the list:
Since there are 100s of different digestive enzymes on the market I often get asked, which one is worth taking.
Well, as you might have read in my article on digestive enzymes it is really important to choose a digestive enzyme complex that ticks 3 boxes.
The 3 things to look for in a great digestive enzyme supplement
- It must have a broad range of different enzymes. That way it will help you digest multiple food groups, ie protein, carbs, fiber, fats. I would always look for a product with over 10 different enzymes.
- It should be plant based, NOT animal or fruit, so it survives the low pH environment of your stomach AND is strong enough to effectively break down your food.
- It should be dosed strongly across ALL enzymes in the formula, but especially the kings of enzymes, being protease, lipase, amylase and cellulase.
- BONUS – it should be gluten free, dairy free and soy free – and most importantly, this should be independently verified by a 3rd party laboratory.
Up until recently I struggled to find a specific product that met all 3 points, plus the gluten, dairy and soy free point. Unfortunately, the market is just saturated with weak, low quality, allergen-stuffed digestive enzymes.
So together with my research team at Essential Stacks we decided to create our own high quality, premium digestive enzyme complex, that ticks all 4 points.
And of course it contains all the different enzymes listed in the image above.
As you can imagine this was a monumental challenge. It took months of research and product testing. But after working with our expert team of formulators and the most experienced enzyme manufacturer in the country, we finally got there!
If you’re interested you can learn more about our digestive enzyme supplement here on Amazon.
7) Eat my clean leaky gut diet consisting of vegetables, fish, meats, nuts & good fats
Before we jump into this, I just want to say the way I’ve ordered the food groups in the heading is pretty important.
i.e. it’s crucial that you make vegetables and fish priority #1, instead of eating a never ending diet of meat, meat, and more meat.
Okay, let’s get into this.
So I don’t understand why people say the leaky gut diet is complicated. Out of the top 10 leading diets out there it’s probably the simplest.
Obviously my version is a riff on the paleo and SCD diets, with the big differences being how much it emphasizes liquids (shakes, juices, soups, broths), how mind blowingly simple the solid meals are and how much tighter the list of approved foods is.
Here’s what the shopping list looks like
And here’s how I recommend you tackle this diet…
- For starters, grab my free leaky gut recovery guide to see my top 7 recipes. During my times of poor gut health I’ve simply rotated amongst these 7 meal ideas. They’re easy to cook, taste amazing and require very few ingredients.
- Focus on green and colorful vegetables above all else. Obviously some of you will suffer from leaky gut syndrome so badly that even many vegetables out there will irritate your gut to no end. In which case simply eat what your body responds best to, and err on the side of liquid meals. But for most of us, the focus on vegetables is crucial as they play such a big role in healing fast. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to get a big part of your vegetable intake from juices, green powders and soups/broths, insofar that too much insoluble fiber intake can be a bad thing for a sensitive digestive tract (very irritating) and it is easier to stomach during the early stages.
- Fish and meats are your new BFF. This is where the majority of the flavor in your new diet comes from. Take the advice below in idea #14 seriously, and try to buy high quality meat and fish as much as possible.
- Some starch is okay…in vegetable form that is. Depending on how you react try to eat some starchy vegetables like sweet potato, yam, yucca etc. I find the mouth feel and way they fill me up to be most satisfying. And they really round of dishes made with the 2 food groups above. But above all, these fermentable fibers are great for feeding your gut’s good bacteria.
- Everything else. Nuts, eggs, nightshades (eg tomatoes, potatoes etc), low sugar fruit (eg berries) etc can all have their place in your leaky gut diet too, but they’re not for everyone. And as I explain below in idea #22, some of you may never fully heal if you keep these borderline foods in your leaky gut diet.
8) Sleep 8-9 hours every night no matter what
If you’re anything like me, this idea at first seems nothing short of crazy. A pure fantasy in fact! After all, life is hectic and our commitments across family, work and social are extensive.
But it is perhaps one of the top 2-3 foundational lifestyle changes you need to make if you’re serious about solving your leaky gut, because nothing – and I mean nothing – can help your body repair faster than sleep. (Conversely, few things will cause leaky gut syndrome faster than sleep deprivation).
That’s why I committed to sleeping a good 8 hours every night several years ago and still stick to it today, even when my schedule is overflowing.
Here’s how you can achieve it too…
- Firstly, you need to cut things from your life. This is the only way you can make time to get the sleep you need. I cut weekday social dinners out completely, cut my TV down to 20 minutes a day max, reduced my exercise sessions to tight 20 minute blocks (good for leaky gut too!), capped my reading time at 1 hour a day. There were a few other things too, but these big cuts were enough to boost my time available for sleep from 6-7 hours to 8-9 hours a day.
- Get to sleep on time and stay asleep. That’s the only way to get a good quality 8-9 hours. To do this follow my sleep protocol. Simply turn off all electronics around 9pm (no computer, tablet, phone, TV etc). Limit liquids. Pop 200-400 mg magnesium citrate. Eat a handful of fat, eg some walnuts. Pop a teaspoon or two of honey (if your body can tolerate it). Meditate for 10-20 minutes using Headspace app. Read a relaxing book, especially fiction, until you fall asleep. This should get you to sleep and keep you there nicely. Of course you might want to add in sleep mask and ear plugs for noise.
- Sleep is also built on what you do during the day. So each day I recommend you get some light exercise in, enjoy some sunlight or Vitamin D supplement and don’t drink too much caffeine (which shouldn’t be a problem if you’re following idea #13 below).
- Finally you want to make sure you are sleeping fairly similar times each night, so you don’t disrupt your circadian rhythm too much. I try to keep a very tight 10:30pm to 7am schedule.
9) Abstain from all alcohol for 30 days and say goodbye to beer forever
Your gut is not a fan of alcohol. And that shouldn’t be a surprise given alcohol itself is the natural result of yeast overgrowth and sugar!
I go through a detailed explanation here in my article on alcohol and leaky gut syndrome, where I explain how alcohol messes with your digestion (decreased secretion of pancreatic digestive enzymes), reduces your ability to control inflammation (decreased production of prostaglandin), and it makes the openings in your gut lining larger (changes gene expression of the proteins involved in tight junction function).
Oh yeah, and alcohol is fantastic at depleting your levels of mucosal-supporting zinc too!
These effects are magnified if you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, which is so often the case when people go for after work or pre-dinner drinks.
So here’s my guide to alcohol and leaky gut
Abstain from all alcohol for 30 days
When you are just getting started in your recovery to good gut health, I think it’s best to completely stop drinking for a month.
Given alcohol can be nearly as bad as grains for our gut lining’s integrity, it makes sense to include it in the list of NO’s during our elimination month.
My best advice for making this easy…
- For the next 4 weeks consider avoiding any occasions where you’ll be tempted to have a drink. i.e. Take yourself out of the drinking environments and make this month of saying no as easy as possible. It’s just a month after all!
- If you can’t or don’t want to avoid these situations, then make sure you have your reason for not drinking ready to go. As it can be a real pain to have to explain some long winded story about intestinal hyperpermeability to every single person who asks – and they do ask!
- Use other state-changing techniques to replace alcohol’s role. You see, many of us like alcohol because of how it changes our emotional state. Whether its blowing off a hard week at work or wanting to relax on the weekend with friends, it is a state change we’re after. Thankfully you can get as good a change from exercise, meditation, breathing, yoga etc. (Kinda)
After 30 days experiment with adding relatively gut-friendly alcohol back in
If you like beer, then try to find a gluten free beer
Sadly, normal beer should be a permanent no go for us leaky gutters. Seriously. It is literally the worst alcohol you can drink as it combines gluten and yeast and sugar all into one horrible package.
If you decide that the nice bitter taste of beer on a hot summer’s day is just too good to say adios to, then search out a gluten free beer.
Let me firstly wish you good luck in finding one that tastes good.
And secondly, let me remind us that gluten-free beers are still made from grains, still come packed with yeast and although not as bad as gluten-based beers, they sure as heck aren’t helping our guts stay in good health.
So my best advice is to just avoid ALL beer indefinitely.
Admittedly, I personally have a gluten-free beer a couple times during summer. But that’s just about it.
If you like spirits, then make sure you drink them heavily diluted
Spirits are not as bad as many think, especially if you drink them like I do – i.e. heavily diluted.
For example, I typically order a tall glass with 400ml soda water, a shot of vodka and a fresh wedge of lime. Plus minimal ice. That combination is so diluted you can barely taste the vodka. And that’s how you know you’ve nailed it.
Importantly, I never use pop/soda/soft drinks as a mixer due to the sugar content.
But if I get sick of mixing with soda water, then I will mix with something like kombucha. This can be pleasantly delicious, especially if you get a little naughty and choose kombucha with natural flavoring in it!
If you like white wine, add ice cubes or water or seltzer
This ‘spritzer’ idea might seem sacrilegious to my French readers, but hey, it is an easy way for us to keep our total wine consumption limited, whilst still being able to enjoy a few glasses on a Saturday night.
The ideal amount of dilution would be 50%. So it is half wine, half non-sugar mixer (like water/ice).
Probably the #1 thing to look out for when choosing a white wine, is dry v sweet. The former contains much less sugar. That means sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio are your new BFFs.
I personally tend to limit my white wine consumption to the summer months, and so generally only drink red wine, which leads us to the next point…
If you like red wine, great…so do I
Like with white wine, the crucial thing here is to choose dry over sweet – so we cut down our sugar intake.
My favorite choices of red are thus pinot noir (for warmer weather) and a nice big shiraz (for winter). But other dry red wines include merlot and zinfandel.
What I perhaps like most about red wine is that it has a lot of ‘taste memory’, meaning it is relatively hard to over indulge.
And if you want to support your poor ol’ gut, get some probiotics
If you’ve ever drunk a little too much alcohol, then you’ve no doubt felt firsthand how it can cause havoc to the delicate balance of bacteria in our guts (and have us spending our day hungover on ye olde throne!).
So taking probiotics (good bacteria) can be a smart idea to keep things in better balance and more able to deal with those couple of glasses of pinot.
Now, if like me you can’t stomach eating sauerkraut every time you drink (like some crazy German at Oktoberfest!), then consider trying a probiotic supplement, which we’ll look at in the next point.
10) Take a probiotic supplement daily
Unless you’re going around eating sauerkraut all day like some crazed German Popeye, your gut will be crying out for probiotics, aka good bacteria.
In fact, long term you’ll find probiotics are the #1 thing to get more of in order to help maintain good gut health.
The reason probiotics work so well is something I dive deep into in my article on probiotics and leaky gut syndrome.
But the short and sharp version is that the good bacteria (probiotics) help to fight off bad bacteria and yeast overgrowth, so that your gut flora can start regaining a healthy balance.
And best of all, continued use of probiotics can help ensure the ratio of good to bad bacteria stays in the healthy range, which means bad bacteria and excessive yeast may not return and cause leaky gut again. A bonus benefit is that a healthy gut flora will also aid digestion.
When all 3 benefits are taken together you can see why probiotics are at the heart of any leaky gut recovery protocol.
My advice on taking probiotics is simple
- Take a high strength probiotic supplement with 40-50 billion CFUs.
- Make sure your probiotic contains multiple strains / species of bacteria (at least 10 different strains), so that you are feeding your gut a healthy balance of bacteria and not drowning it with just one type. Importantly, look for a probiotic containing my 7 favorite strains: L Plantarum, L Rhamnosus, L Acidophilus, B Bifidum, B Longum, B Lactis and B Coagulans.
- Look for probiotics with 100-300mg of prebiotics, eg Jerusalem artichoke, as they will support the probiotic and help it makes its way down to where it is needed most in the digestive system. Also eat prebiotic rich foods (see idea #23 below).
If you’re looking for a probiotic supplement that ticks all the boxes above, you can try Smart Probiotic – it is a next-generation probiotic-prebiotic supplement that my research team at Essential Stacks and I spent 3 months developing.
It is the exact probiotic formulation I’ve always been looking for.
And that’s because it is strong enough to meet our requirements (50 billion CFUs), has 12 different high quality strains (including my 7 favorite strains mentioned above), contains 2 premium prebiotics (Inulin and Jerusalem Artichoke), and uses delayed release capsule technology to help the probiotics survive the journey.
This combination means you get your probiotics delivered to the place where they’re actually required (ie your gut). And this optimal delivery process makes all the difference.
You can learn more about Smart Probiotic here on Amazon.
11) Speak to your doctor about NSAIDs, excessive antibiotics, antacids and any other unnecessary drugs
From Advil to ‘the pill’ to corticosteroids, there are so many drugs that contribute to leaky gut and/or gut flora imbalances. Obviously, not all of these are entirely optional.
For example, when I had asthma attacks as a young child I couldn’t simply say “My hyperpermeable intestines and I are not interested in your corticosteroids Doc”. (And it would have been pretty weird to hear a 6 year old say that as well!)
Obviously you should speak with your doctor about what is and isn’t necessary for you. And I’ll talk below about how to find a doctor that gets leaky gut better than most.
Wherever possible try to do as the drug-averse Europeans do and…
- Cut down drug intake and rely on more natural remedies. For example, breathing exercises and meditation can work well to replace mild pain relievers.
- Prevent the causes happening in the first place. This is the big one! So for example, NSAIDs are often taken during hangovers. Solution: don’t get drunk. Or headaches often flair up on days where you don’t have enough sleep, eat / drink too little and OD on caffeine. Solution: ah well, you get the point.
- Take probiotics. Many drugs by design will strip your digestive system of bacteria, both good and bad, eg antibiotics. So after use, make sure to mega dose probiotics for a week and then maintain with a smaller daily dose.
Speaking from personal experience, I found that even seemingly ‘necessary’ drugs were no longer necessary (or at least necessary in much lower doses) if I addressed the deep root cause.
For example, when working on a new doctor-supervised asthma protocol several years ago, I found it possible to cut down my corticosteroids intake by 80% within 30 days by addressing leaky gut itself.
The funny thing is by following many of the ideas on this page you will naturally find your use of these drugs reduces, ie the vicious cycle stops. Gut happy!
WARNING: just to repeat…please consult your doctor and never stop taking any prescribed drugs or other drugs without doctor approval. Immediate cessation of drugs can cause all kinds of problems.
Struggling to find a doctor who gets leaky gut?
Then take a moment to checkout our directory of doctors who have written about leaky gut and are knowledgeable on how to fight it from start to finish.
12) If you have candida overgrowth, focus on this first
Most people don’t realize it, but candida overgrowth is actually one of the primary causes AND maintainers of leaky gut.
Here’s the plain English explanation of how that works…
1) First of all, it’s important to realize candida is a fungus, which is a type of yeast, and it is an opportunistic (and aggressive) pathogen.
In other words, when candida senses a weakness in you, e.g. those of us with an autoimmune disease or general poor gut health (us leaky gutters!), it starts going rogue. And growing like crazy.
2) Candida starts to cause real problems when it grows and forms long hooks, that allows it to not only attach itself to your intestinal lining, but also start drilling and piercing holes through your intestinal wall…hello leaky gut!
(Apologies if this is sounding like a Quentin Tarantino inspired gastrointestinal horror film)
3) And we all know how it can go from there right, especially when the immune system is weak…
…candida, along with toxic by-products (mycotoxins), then make their way into our bloodstreams where they then proceed to wreak havoc on our poor detoxing organs, eg liver, and also send the autoimmune system into overdrive.
And eventually they may even end up finding their way into our organs and tissue (brain, skin, joints, nerves, muscles etc), which can lead to chronic conditions developing over time.
Plus, under this kind of constant attack the gut lining is never going to be able to heal. Instead it will remain hyper-permeable, i.e. leaky.
So for us leaky gutters, chronic candida overgrowth is thus something to take seriously and to watch out for.
How do you tackle candida overgrowth?
I’ll run through the protocol briefly below, but they say an image can tell a 1000 words, so the summary of it all…
1) Starve the candida of the foods it loves, especially sugar
Sugar is without doubt candida’s go-to fuel source. And just like we wouldn’t feed a deranged Popeye more spinach, we shouldn’t feed our candida spoonfuls of sugar.
Obviously you want to avoid eating the main culprits. i.e. simple sugars like soda drinks, fruit juices, sweets, desserts and even fruit.
But you also want to stop consuming all refined carbs (which quickly turn into sugar), processed foods, alcohol, ‘low-fat’ products (since they’re often high in sugar), condiments and any foods with yeast.
Meanwhile, if you can also stick to the leaky gut diet we’ve talked about above, you will give your gut the best chance of healing and thus fighting back against candida.
2) Kill the excess candida with a variety of tools
Since we only want to kill the overgrowth, and not all the candida (as we need a certain amount of candida to have a healthily functioning digestive system), I like to follow a natural and gentle approach.
- Coconut oil – the caprylic & lauric acids in coconut oil have antimicrobial properties that can poke holes in the wall of candida/yeast cells causing them to die off. You can consume it orally (eg tablespoon in your morning shake) or topically (eg apply some to your skin where a candida-related flare up is, eg athlete’s foot). If you have signs of candida on your tongue/mouth (hello creamy or white patches!), try swishing 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes daily until it goes. But if you do this, make sure to spit out all of the coconut oil at the end and brush your teeth thoroughly. This ensures the toxins pulled into the coconut oil don’t make their way down into your leaky gut.
- Apple cider vinegar (ACV) – the acid and enzymes contained in ACV can also break down yeast/candida cells, so this can be worth adding to dishes or mixing in your drinks. Note: this is basically the ONLY type of vinegar or fermented food you should consume during a candida cleanse.
- Garlic, ginger, oregano leaf and turmeric/curcumin – these are also worthwhile natural anti-fungals. Especially garlic, which can inhibit both growth and function of candida albicans thanks to the ajoene compound formed from allicin. But unlike coconut oil & ACV, I would probably take these in supplement form instead of eating them. That way you can get a high and effective dose without smelling like some crazy eyed Vampire-vigilante!
- Lemon – another anti-candida hero we can rely on. And to get a good dose of it each day I recommend starting the morning with the juice of a whole lemon squeezed into a glass of water. It’s cheap and effective, and boy will it wake you up!
- Omega-3 fatty acids – they may also help inhibit the growth of candida / fungal infections, especially in the mouth, as noted in a 2010 published study in Molecular Oral Microbiology. Plus they carry anti-inflammatory benefits as well. However it is important to make sure you get your omega 3s from a source low in toxins like mercury and PCBs. That’s why I like to eat wild salmon and take a molecularly distilled fish oil supplement like this one, instead of eating farmed fish potentially high in toxins like mercury, not to mention antibiotics etc.
- Pau D’arco tea – this is also a fantastic concoction to sip on throughout the day, thanks to a multitude of anti-fungal compounds in it, such as Lapachol.
- Enzyme supplements – with the right mix of enzymes, you can help your body take down candida cells with a 1-2-3 punch. For example, whilst cellulase and hemicellulase enzymes can support break down of the cell wall (since it is composed of fiber & glycoproteins), other enzymes like amylase, lactase and glucoamylase will support breakdown of the polysaccharides in the biofilm of the cell. And then once the protective layer is exposed, protein digesting enzymes like protease can march onward and actually ‘eat’ the protein nucleus of the candida cell. That is serious team work! But the key to making enzymes work like this is to take them between meals, NOT with meals. You see, if you only take them with a meal, then all they will do is focus on breaking down your food. i.e. they’ll never have the chance to focus on breaking down your candida overgrowth cells. This is a point unfortunately just about everyone misses or doesn’t quite understand. If you’re looking for a plant-based enzyme supplement that has all the specific candida-fighting enzymes mentioned above – and that you can take with AND between meals – then checkout Pure Enzymes.
- Candida support supplement – these can be very helpful since they combine many of the ingredients above into one. i.e. making things very convenient. My team and I developed this candida supplement, which has all the big fighters above like caprylic acid, oregano leaf, candida-focused enzymes like protease etc.
3) After the starve & kill phases, reinoculate your gut
This is such an important step, because if we mess up here – or simply avoid step 3 altogether – then all the hard work we’ve done up until this point may end up being for nothing.
You see, in order to support healthy candida levels (after you’ve eliminated the overgrowth), we need to reinoculate our gut with good bacteria. This ensures the good bacteria, just like bouncers at a club, will be strong enough in numbers to support a healthy balance of the candida population going forward. Meaning we will have no need to constantly be fighting candida with antifungals.
To reinoculate your gut all you need to do is…
1) eat probiotic-rich foods like fermented vegetables several times a week and;
2) consider taking a 40-50 billion CFUs probiotic supplement with 10+ different strains, like this probiotic my research team at Essential Stacks and I developed.
13) Channel your inner Dalai Lama and cut work stress out of your life
For the majority of us, our main source of stress is work.
And as we know, chronic stress is one of the top 5 causes of leaky gut, because it has a crippling effect on digestion and in general makes it very hard for your body to fight off the bad bacteria and yeast overgrowth causing leaky gut.
Not to mention the inflammation that flares up because of leaky gut.
Here’s how you can cut work stress to a minimum:
- Use an email blocking app on your computer like Self Control or Freedom to guarantee you don’t check emails outside of work hours. I set my Self Control app for 22 hours a day, which means I can only ever look at email between 3-5pm. Maybe you can’t go so extreme because of your job, but definitely try to push the email-free hours using an app.
- Remove email from your phone. Feels amazing.
- Go outside every lunch time, walk for 20 minutes whilst doing deep breathing exercises (or sit somewhere quiet and meditate!), eat lunch slowly, and then rest somewhere in the sun for a while. Alternatively, do a quick and light gym session, followed by a 10 minute sauna and a slow lunch. You can fit this all into your lunch break. And I think this idea alone could cut your stress levels in half!
- If it’s possible listen to relaxing music throughout your work day. This is especially great for office workers. In fact, if you look at one of the most high stress office environments on Earth – the open plan floor of an investment bank in New York – you’ll find half the analysts sporting noise canceling headphones. It really does help you drown out the noise and stress of work.
- When you get home from work go through a de-stress routine. You need to do this to switch off from work. I know when I get home I like to take 20 minutes out for myself, stretch, breathe, write down all the things in my head on paper, and then I’m good. I’ve transitioned. Stress of the day melts away.
- Most of all set expectations clearly with coworkers. It is not easy, but if you stick to your guns whilst being reasonable, you’ll get the point across.
14) Replace your morning cup o’ Joe with some herbal teas
This need not be forever, but it should definitely be your approach for the next 1-3 months whilst you are recovering from leaky gut.
You see coffee, including decaf, is not good for your intestinal lining. (And even worse if you tend to drink your coffee with cow’s based dairy!).
You can read my in-depth article here on coffee and leaky gut, but the exec summary version is that coffee irritates the gut (it is a seed after all), causes inflammation (once you hit 2+ coffees a day), gets confused by our bodies as gluten (highly cross-reactive food) and the caffeine itself spurs on adrenal fatigue.
Here’s how I quit coffee for my leaky gut & what I drink now
- Week 1 – substituted my morning coffee with decaf coffee (love Swiss) and my lunchtime coffee with Yerba mate (or black/green tea without cow’s based milk). The decaf was simply to wean me off the taste and the Yerba mate off the caffeine. Plus I drank my morning shake/juice (see idea #16 below), which gives a huge amount of natural energy. Alternatively, you could stop it all, and just wean off using caffeine tablets.
- Week 2 – herbal teas only, but if you really need it, Yerba mate can be thrown into the mix. (And shake/juice)
- Week 3 onwards – only herbal tea. (And shake/juice)
- Once healed / long term – then just continue on with the week 2 protocol, but occasionally (like once or twice a month) you can try and have coffee and see how you feel. For example, about once or twice a month I will have a Bulletproof style coffee (coffee with a teaspoon each of grass fed butter and MCT oil), because my gut can handle it now and wow, does this blow my mind in the taste department. A real treat! Just make sure to avoid coffees with cow’s based milk – you can substitute in almond milk, macadamia milk etc.
15) Pay the premium and eat organic veg, grass-fed meats and wild caught fish
Yes, I know. This can get expensive. Especially if you are hitting up Wholefoods weekly and going all raging bull in there! Unfortunately, there is just such a wide gap between conventionally farmed food and the organic stuff.
For starters, organic meats and fish will come packed with more omega-3s, vital for taming the inflammation being caused by your leaky gut.
And these foods, devoid of the toxins from conventional farming (eg pesticides, antibiotics), will ensure fewer poisons make their way into your gut and through to your blood stream.
That’s a double win for leaky gut syndrome.
One other advantage is that these products don’t suffer from the omega imbalance found in conventional meats and fish – ie the overload of omega 6 that is so pervasive throughout the Western world.
Best of all, you can eat quality foods if you practice the art of purchasing, which means sticking to…
- Farmers markets. Particularly if you go towards the end of the day. Hint: everything is negotiable by this point! And slightly bruised and deformed produce is your friend.
- Box deliveries. I don’t always have time to go to farmers markets, so I make use of an online food delivery service as well to get a weekly box of organic vegetables. So easy. All I do is simply pick them up from a neighborhood collection point every Wednesday. Bonus: every week the box contains a surprise of what is in season and tastes great.
- Bulk purchases and freeze. You can find great deals on everything from bison to wild Pacific salmon throughout the year. They key is to keep an eye out for them and have the freezer space ready to go when they’re available. Whilst for vegetables bought in bulk, learning how to pickle/ferment them is a great idea.
- Quality online food stores. Since they usually don’t have the cost of a retail operation, they can pass on the savings to you. Plus, with national delivery available from many of them, they are a super convenient solution for those of us that don’t live in big cities. This is my favorite option, so we made a directory of the best online food suppliers in the USA here.
16) Do breathing exercises before and after each meal
100% natural solutions to health problems are the best. They cost nothing and they’re always available to you. And this probably rates up there with the most effective.
The benefit to your leaky gut from this idea is that deep breathing before and after a meal will reduce stress on the body so it can focus on digestion. And as a side effect it will get you ‘in the zone’ to eat mindfully, eg chew more, eat slower etc.
Here’s how I recommend you do the breathing exercises
- Download the The Breathing App (iTunes link) app and do it before and just after each meal. Although it is somewhat annoying to remember or take the time out to do this, all you need to do is try it out for the next 30 days.
- If you really struggle to do it, then at least try to nail it once a day with your biggest meal.
- As insurance, make sure you take a digestive enzyme or two just before each meal.
17) Specialize in cooking just 7 simple paleo-ish meals when starting out
Everyone out there is probably telling you to eat all kinds of crazy things to repair your gut.
From broccoli shakes to liver & brussel sprouts, it can seem quite unappetizing and perhaps a little daunting.
Worse yet, the cookbooks out there focused on clean eating usually contain some of the most complicated recipes you’ll ever find. (And they encourage you to try them all!)
From all my own trial and error, I’ve found that picking and then sticking to a meal roster of just 7 meals is perfect, especially if you make sure they are easy and quick to cook, and only require a couple of ingredients.
You can find my 7 cornerstone meals in the free guide, but here is a brief overview of how they breakdown.
How I cook so simple, but healthy every single day
- Breakfast is simply a shake or juice. This is how I start every morning. It’s easy for the digestive system to take, helps the body rapidly absorb much needed nutrition and is so easy to make, which means you’ll actually do it every day. Plus I always make sure my shakes/juices contain some good fats, eg MCT oil or coconut oil, and protein, eg high quality protein powder, which brings about some remarkable improvements in morning energy (bonus: you don’t miss that coffee so much anymore!).
- Soup and bone broth make up 20-30% of meals. Alternating between these 2 liquid meals throughout the week works a treat. You can batch make and easily freeze both, making them so convenient to take out whenever needed.
- Meat/fish + vegetable + vegetable starch (optional). Simple combinations of the 2 (or 3) paired with some nice flavors from garlic, onions and herbs, is just perfect. These dishes sit so easily in your stomach that they are seriously addictive!
18) Chew each bite of food 20 times, like Gandhi
“Chew your drink and drink your food”, Gandhi.
Taking a digestive enzyme supplement will help breakdown your food when it reaches your stomach and intestines. And I think you should definitely take them – I know I do.
But to really give your gut a helping hand (and the ultimate kind of head start), you should basically pulverize your food in your mouth by chewing each bite around 20 times.
The more you chew the more it gets pre-broken down and the more digestive enzymes (specifically the carbohydrate focused ptylin) you yourself produce via your saliva glands.
By chewing your food like this, you’ll find your gut is better able to process it. Most of all, your body will be able to absorb more of the nutrition and your leaky gut will not be bombarded by so many large undigested food particles.
19) Get your German-Korean freak on and feast on fermented vegetables
Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut (cabbage) and kimchi (mix of vegetables inc cabbage, daikon etc) are a fantastic way to feed your gut with good bacteria.
As you read above, I advise leaky gut sufferers to hit the probiotics approx 2 weeks after they’ve started healing their gut (and yeast overgrowth) via fasting, no sugar, L-glutamine, sleeping more etc.
How to get your kraut in
- You can ferment your own vegetables, but this is going to take some work. I’ve tried to make the simplest possible recipe for you, which you can see in the graphic just below.
- Alternatively you can buy it ready made. The key is to avoid the canned stuff in the supermarket, as it is pasteurized and thus devoid of live probiotics. To buy the good stuff you’ll need to hit your local health store and look for glass jars sitting in fridges. You’ll know you’ve found high quality products when you see the price tag! But trust me, it’s worth it. One large jar should easily last a week, ie 3 servings.
20) Throw out all the processed vegetable oils in your cupboard
Hit up your cupboard right now and ditch all these oils immediately: corn oil, any oil marked simply ‘vegetable oil’, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil etc. Most are probably GMO based too.
Best of all, you can easily replace them with quality fats for cooking such as coconut oil, ghee, lard etc. Whilst you can use extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil etc for cold dishes or to finish on top of heated dishes.
21) If bored, only eat super tasty gut-friendly meals
Most people fall off the leaky gut diet and into a donut/pizza/bread-filled abyss, because they find the flavors bland. And hey, I’m not suggesting for a minute that chicken and broccoli tastes as good as a pepperoni pizza, but…
…If you stick to paleo meals with big flavors, you’ll find it easy to stick to a clean diet.
For example, when I’m craving pasta, especially a nice rich lamb shank ragu, I simply cook my pasta sauce as normal, but then instead of using spaghetti with it, I will shred a 2 courgettes into thin strips and then pan fry till it has some color.
I know this does not sound good. But guess what? Courgettes take on the most meaty of flavors when done like this, and when added to a not-overly-wet ragu, come together to create a flavor explosion.
Getting big flavors from other otherwise bland dishes is easy too – just think about garlic, herbs and other smart flavorings like capers.
For example, pan roasted salmon with garlic and capers, paired with lemon dressed rocket and oven roasted sweet potato fries dusted in some chilli flakes, is hard to beat.
22) Ignore the conventional advice and devour coconut products
For years coconut milk was seen as some obesity boogy monster. If you just picked up a can you were going to turn into the next Michellin man overnight.
Thankfully the science behind coconut products, and good saturated fats in general, has emerged in clear sight since the 80s.
In fact, the science has jumped ahead as we now know that the caprylic acid / medium chain fatty acids in coconut products are rich in antimicrobial properties that work fantastically well to decrease levels of bad yeast and bacteria in the gut (help say goodbye to candida and SIBO).
I should note that you can also get isolated caprylic acid, which might be more helpful if you are tackling something like candida / yeast overgrowth head on.
Here’s how I incorporate coconut products into my daily life
- I take 1 tablespoon of non-hydrogenated organic coconut oil in my daily shake/juice. Tastes insanely good. Make sure you get quality coconut oil that is not rancid and not filled with all kinds of crazy chemicals.
- Now and then I will have half a can of coconut milk in my shake instead of the oil. Probably 2 times a week.
- Since my gut is able to handle (and in fact loves) oats these days, I will cook up some oats with coconut milk on gym days.
- Coconut oil is my go to cooking oil for many dishes, eg a mild Thai-style chicken & broccoli stir fry.
23) Cut all the borderline foods from your diet, especially if you have Autoimmune issues
Some leaky gut cases are just a lot tougher than others to solve. What usually helps tip these hard cases over the edge is an even stricter diet. This is especially true for AI Disease sufferers, eg asthmatics.
So in addition to not eating grains and legumes, or drinking alcohol or coffee, I also recommend you cut…
- All nightshades from your diet. Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers etc.
- Eggs. These can spike a high allergy response in a lot of people, and egg white especially may not be helping your leaky gut.
- Nuts. Like eggs, these may not react well with your body.
- Seeds. Even the sprouted ones.
- All vegetable starches. Even that innocent looking sweet potato has to go.
- All fruits. That berry shake you started loving on the leaky gut diet is out!
- All dairy. If you were eating raw unpasteurized yogurt for the probiotics or sheep cheese, stop. It’s out as well.
24) Eat prebiotic foods 2 weeks after starting your leaky gut healing protocol
Prebiotics are indigestible food ingredients / soluble fiber that feed the good bacteria in your digestive system / colon.
That’s why they’re great when combined with probiotics, because they help supply the good bacteria with the fuel it needs to make its way down to your gut, where it needs to colonize.
But during the very early stages of curing your gut health, you want to first focus on rapidly repairing the gut lining, before looking at reinoculating the gut. So that’s why I recommend holding off on the prebiotic rich foods till week 3.
The smart way to get your prebiotics in
- Make sure you are keeping your intake of green and colorful, non-starchy vegetables high. All that spinach, broccoli, cauliflower etc I recommend above will give you a nice dose of soluble prebiotic fiber.
- If you can, try to also eat raw Jerusalem artichoke, raw garlic, raw onions, chicory root, leek etc. These are extremely high in prebiotic fiber on a pound-per-pound basis. This may sound like a big ask, but one easy way I do it is by creating chimichuri style sauces – eg raw chopped garlic, with extra virgin olive oil, parsley, salt etc. That on top of some nice meat is perfect! Or you can roast them and although this will change the prebiotic yield somewhat, it is still worth it.
- Also consider eating prebiotic-rich resistant starches if your gut can handle them, like green bananas, cooled potatoes and rice etc. But not too much! (See why prebiotics are often a thing to concentrate on later in your leaky gut recovery).
- Even easier, you can buy potato starch in powder form. Add some of this to your morning shake and you’re in prebiotic heaven. Just be very careful to slowly work your way up to the recommended daily amount, because this stuff can play havoc with your guts if you have too much straight up.
And of course make sure you are taking a probiotic with prebiotic like this one.
25) Consider tests for leaky gut, food intolerances and microbiome
As I explain in this article on leaky gut tests, there are 2 direct tests you can do for leaky gut being the lactulose & mannitol test and the blood zonulin tests.
With the former, you drink 2 solutions of 2 different non-metabolized sugars and then your urine is subsequently analyzed to see which sugars passed through your system and in what amounts. From this information your gut’s level of permeability can be somewhat ascertained.
With the latter, your blood is being analyzed for levels of zonulin, which regulates the size of the openings across your gut/intestinal wall. Too much zonulin and there is a good chance you’ll be experiencing intestinal permeability greater than normal, ie leaky gut.
These tests are definitely interesting, but can be quite expensive and sometimes inconclusive. So as with everything, speak to your doctor to see if they make sense for you.
A related test to consider is microbiome testing.
Although it is not specifically looking at intestinal permeability, it is taking a birds eye view at the state of your gut health and can possibly pinpoint underlying causes of leaky gut (eg bacterial or yeast imbalances) as well as hidden food intolerances that are potentially sustaining leaky gut.
Like the above tests, this can be expensive. But if you want to get an interesting look at the state of your gut health, then consider a microbiome service like Viome – they ship the testing kit to you, so the whole test can be done in the privacy of your own home.
Viome is my favorite microbiome company, since they are able to not only pinpoint imbalances, but also give you plain English advice on which foods to eat and which to avoid based on your unique gut bacterial balance.
Finally, let’s talk about old fashioned food intolerance tests.
My big problem with them is that they often come back positive for just about everything I’ve already listed under the ‘banned foods’ list above, as well as countless other ‘good’ foods, and are often temporary intolerances resulting from the fact that your gut is hyperpermeable (or leaky).
So instead of getting old fashioned food intolerance tests, I personally believe you’re better off doing an elimination diet per the above ideas, healing your gut and then gradually – and one by one – reintroducing foods to see how your now-healed gut deals with them. i.e. doing an elimination & reintroduction diet.
No doubt you will find it far more tolerant!
If you really do want to get tested for intolerances/allergies, then my best advice is to speak with a functional doctor.
They can work 1-1 with you to piece together your overall health history and current state of affairs, and from there decide what is the best leaky gut syndrome treatment plan.
26) If a functional doctor diagnoses it, also fight other conditions directly
Candida can take months and months to go away, even if you follow the above suggestions. So attacking it directly may be smart. Once it is fixed, it becomes a lot easier to completely cure your leaky gut.
Meanwhile, parasites can be really tricky to eliminate and trying more direct protocols, including medications, may be necessary.
27) Try a green powder drink daily
Hold your nose and drink as fast as you can. That’s the only way to stomach this fairly putrid, but amazingly healthy concoction.
If you’re wondering what exactly is a green powder drink, this green powder product is a good example. It is basically a concentrated powder made from a collection of blended plants, fruits and herbs. It often comes with added digestive enzymes, probiotics and vitamins too, making it some kind of uber Frankensupplement! (In a good way)
I personally drink one every day – or sometimes every other day – because it is such a convenient way to sneak in a few extra servings of veg. One scoop added to a protein shake (kind of masks the flavor) or fresh vegetable juice is simple enough and the body can easily absorb the nutrients, which is very important when your gut is leaky and thus not absorbing nutrients optimally.
To be honest though, this idea is far from essential when it comes to solving your leaky gut, especially if you are following the ideas above on what to eat and what to avoid.
That’s why I see it as more of an insurance policy. And since good quality green powders can be expensive, definitely only consider this idea if you still have money leftover after buying L-Glutamine, digestive enzymes and probiotics.
28) Consider eating smaller meals and matching food groups better
When trying to repair your leaky gut, attention to detail matters. That’s why even the more trivial ideas are worth trying out.
So with this idea I’m basically suggesting you…
- Eat 4-5 small meals a day, as opposed to 3 big ones. For me this often looks like breakfast shake/juice, snack (nuts), small lunch (eg smoked salmon, avocado and rocket salad), afternoon snack (eg leftovers from dinner last night) and dinner (eg 100g shredded chicken, garlic broccoli and sweet potato).
- Combine food groups smartly. This is pretty easy when you’re eating a leaky gut diet. Ie grains and legumes are out, and so is fruit pretty much. But just in case you are eating fruits, make sure they are eaten alone. This ensures foods digest properly and don’t end up stuck there to ferment, and subsequently feed yeast and fungus in your digestive tract.
Worth noting that I am not completely sold on eating smaller meals more often, as I do like the thinking behind 2-3 meals only, and thus giving the system plenty of time for breaks. So like with all ideas here, it is about personal experimentation and seeing what works best for you.
29) Avoid eating any foods that are processed or filled with preservatives or flavoring
High in refined flours and sugars, low in nutrients, filled with chemicals. It should be pretty easy to see why you need to ditch these types of foods and stick to a diet focused on real whole foods.
This should not be hard if you are sticking to the leaky gut diet above, because everything in that is whole food based. But it pays to remember this idea, because processed foods are in such abundance that it can be tough to avoid them indefinitely.
30) Look into other gut supplements like zinc, licorice root and slippery elm
- Zinc – supplementing zinc when you are deficient (which will be the case with most people suffering leaky gut) can have a significant impact on the health of your intestinal lining, because it helps stimulate mucosal secretion, which helps protect your gut lining. Apart from actual zinc supplements, you can get extra zinc into your system by eating red meat. Importantly, make sure your zinc intake doesn’t get too crazy, as this can actually hurt your immune system. I get my daily zinc intake through my high quality multivitamin (which also contains copper to balance with the zinc) and real foods like grass fed meats.
- Licorice root (DGL) – an adaptogenic herb that supports the mucosal lining of your digestive system, improves acid production in stomach (low stomach acid is a big contributor to leaky gut) and offers a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. It has been in use for thousands of years to treat digestive issues, is well researched and is a pretty simple, safe supplement to add to your protocol. I especially recommend it if chronic stress is a driving force behind your leaky gut.
- Slippery elm – stimulates mucus secretion and deliver antioxdants, which in turn protects your intestinal tract from toxins and soothes away irritation. Like DGL, it has been used for lifetimes.
31) Pop a high quality multivitamin every day, if needed
I know a lot of people are anti-multivitamins. And I agree that ‘food is medicine’.
But there’s a couple reasons why taking a multivitamin when you are recovering from leaky gut is a good idea:
- Your ability to breakdown food into nutrients and your nutrient absorption capacity itself will still be suboptimal, so even if you’re eating a lot of great food you aren’t necessarily fully benefiting from it. So a multi is a great backup.
- No matter how hard you try your diet will never be perfect. I know in any given week there will be times when I miss out on a serving of organic vegetables with dinner. There may also be times where the food I’m eating is not necessarily from a great source, eg most restaurants. So I’m missing out on my full quote of vitamins and minerals. This is reality. Multis are a great way to face it.
- High quality multis will contain gut-healing nutrients, eg vitamin A, and in general support faster healing. For example, the role of zinc I talked about above is important and in my own high quality multi I’ve got my daily serving of supplemental zinc sorted. That’s convenient.
So definitely consider adding a high quality – and that usually means higher priced – multivitamin to your leaky gut protocol. Like green powder, which I talked about above, it is an insurance policy I find worth paying for.
32) Add high quality fish and vitamin D to your daily supplement regimen
- Omega-3 from fish and krill oil – we all know this is an anti-inflammation powerhouse, but the essential fatty acids are also good at improving tight junction function (moderate the openings in your gut lining). So adding it to a leaky gut supplement protocol makes total sense. Plus the additional benefits of omega-3 to your immune system, brain and heart health make this one of the few essential supplements to take daily. Although I eat roasted salmon, smoked salmon and other fish high in omega-3 (sardines and tuna, I can’t stomach herring!), plus nuts and avocado daily, I still supplement with a high quality, tested, krill and fish oil. Both in capsule form, because I cannot handle a spoonful of pungent oil first thing in the morning. If you can take the oil form, please indulge! If you’re looking for a high quality fish oil, try Smart Omega fish oil – it is a triple strength fish oil and I use it every day (no fishy burps, even for those of us with sensitive stomachs!).
- Vitamin D – specifically D3, helps protect your gut lining against damage from undigested food particles and other toxins – especially from food allergies brought on by leaky gut – whilst ensuring adequate vitamin D levels wards off inflammation. Of course you don’t need to take this supplement if you are getting daily safe sun exposure. So you might want to consider skipping the vitamin D supplements during summer. That said, to truly benefit from vitamin D during this repairing stage you’ll want to be getting higher than normal amounts of it. So popping a 2000 IU supplement like this one daily might be, at least temporarily, worth it.
33) Avoid excessive cardio or heavy weight lifting
If you’re slogging through 3 or more intense exercise sessions a week, you could easily prevent your gut from healing fast or even fully. It’s kind of counterintuitive, but less exercise can actually be better for your health!
You see, the strain hardcore cardio or lifting puts on the body (especially the central nervous system) delivers the same shock as any other kind of stress, eg working 14 hours a day for a maniacal boss. And as we talked about in idea #12, stress is one of the top 3 causes of leaky gut.
So for gut friendly exercise I recommend
- Work out lightly, but more often. For example, try a daily 7 minute workout, instead of 3 x 60 minute spin classes a week.
- Opt for gut-friendly exercise like yoga or pilates. Breathing. Stretching. Meditating. Relaxing. This is the kind of exercise your leaky gut wants.
34) Use a BRITA jug or other filtering device for your water
You know when we start to get to the end of the list the ideas are going to get a little watered down. (Yeah, I went there).
And although this idea is fairly 20-80, meaning it only offers a minor overall benefit, it is still worth considering given that the chlorine & fluoride in your tap water is a toxin and when it enters your body and travels through your overly permeable gut barrier and into your bloodstream it can contribute to chronic systemic inflammation.
Most of all though, I encourage you to try this idea because the solution is so simple and cheap. All you need to do is buy a $10 jug, which usually comes with 2 cartridges. Then keep an eye out for filter cartridge sales. When they pop up snap up a dozen!
35) Consider these other ways to eliminate toxins from your life
Toxins cause leaky gut and do even more damage once they get through your leaky gut barrier and into your bloodstream. In fact, I’d say toxins are one of the top 5 reasons for leaky gut.
Obviously the first step to eliminating toxins is not consuming them in the food, drinks and drugs you take. We talked about eliminating them above. But after you’ve done that it can be worth investing in products that decrease the amount of other toxins that get into your system.
In fact, you should think about this as the final missing piece in your leaky gut recovery protocol. And thankfully unlike the earlier steps you took – eg throwing out all grains – this will be easy. You simply need to buy a few things and you’re done.
Let’s look at the easiest ways to fight off toxins every day
- Install a shower head filter. This keeps out the chlorine, which can be particularly important when you consider chlorine vapor (from hot showers) hits the body quite directly.
- Switch to organic personal care products. Toothpaste, shampoo, body wash etc. Conventional products on your supermarket shelves are filled with all kinds of chemicals that should not be entering your body, let alone passing your leaky gut barrier and into your bloodstream. Make the switch, decrease the toxic load and your gut barrier and immune system will thank you.
- Get your house tested for mold. This has become a hot topic over the last couple of years, because of the amount of damage hidden mold can do to the body. Leaky gut is just one of many casualties of this urban menace.
- Air filter. I really only think this is necessary if you live in a fairly polluted city. Think Shanghai, not San Francisco.
- Infrared or normal sauna. You can’t keep all toxins out. So sweating it out in a not-too-hot sauna for 30-45 minutes at mid level can work a treat to aid the bodies natural detox.
And of course follow all of the other detox ideas above – avoid unnecessary drugs, eat organic, filter your tap water etc – as much as possible, so you can avoid other toxins like pesticides, antibiotics etc hitting your system.
36) After 12 weeks, reintroduce foods and see what your gut likes and doesn’t
This is the fun part!
You’ve done the elimination diet, you’ve healed your gut and now it is time to see what you can put back into your diet without causing any troubles.
My advice is to…
- Start with the least dangerous foods, eg maybe start by adding some soaked legumes back into your diet.
- Have a 2-3 day break between each new food, as some foods can take a day or two for any ill effects to be felt.
- Use a food diary to keep track of what you’ve added in and how you’ve felt the hour after eating it, the next day and the day after.
37) Develop an easy-to-follow long term eating plan and lifestyle to keep leaky gut away
Curing your leaky gut is not going to be easy. As you can see above there are dozens of ideas you may need to follow in order to get there.
But here’s the thing about leaky gut…
…It can come back at any time in the future. The more you deviate away from the ideas above, the more chance this will happen.
So the #1 key to living a long life without leaky gut is to…
- Eat clean 98% of the time. Sure, most of you will be able to eat some grains and legumes from time to time, maybe even some gluten. Heck, you may even be able to have some ice cream during the summer. But for the most part you really need to stick to the safe food groups and avoid the dangerous ones. It really is a slippery slope this one.
- Drink clean 90% of the time. Some glasses of wine or an occasional coffee will probably be fine for you over the long term. But slipping into old habits of 3 cups a day and nights spent at the bar, just won’t work.
- Avoid toxins from unnecessary drugs, conventional meats, tap water, chemical-ridden personal care products etc.
- Practice healthy habits at least 6 days of the week. Sleeping 8 hours. Meditating away stress. Exercising lightly. You need to hit these habits most days of your week for the rest of your life. If you start ignoring them you’ll find your body slipping closer and closer back to leaky gut. And I can’t stress this point enough…your lifestyle is just as responsible for leaky gut as the things you consume.
- Use effective supplements daily. Even if you eat and drink clean, avoid all toxins and practice a healthy lifestyle, you’ll probably also need to take some supplements to ensure leaky gut stays away. Although there are dozens of different options, there are only 3 ones that are really worth your attention. 1) L-Glutamine to fuel your gut lining cells so they stay strong. 2) Digestive enzymes to break down food so no large undigested food particles are bombarding your gut wall. 3) Probiotics to keep the good bacteria on top of the bad bacteria, so your gut flora and gut lining remain strong.
Don’t forget to use a habit tracker to make sure you’re doing your 10 favorite ideas from above every day. I use Habits List for iOS, but there are dozens of options for both iPhone and Android.
Best of all, just remember not all of the ideas above need be permanent
For example, giving up coffee sucks, I know. But the good news is when your gut is back to rude health then you can try coffee again and see how your body reacts to it. Because as we know for most people, when their gut is back to strong health it can easily handle things like coffee in moderation.
I hope you enjoyed this all-in-one list of the most effective and practical ways you can go about healing your leaky gut fast.
P.S. If you are a bit overwhelmed by all the ideas above, then I recommend downloading my step-by-step leaky gut recovery guide below (it’s free and it’s super simple!).
You’ll be able to see my entire approach to tackling leaky gut in this guide and I’ve only included my very favorite ideas.