Increased Intestinal Permeability / Leaky Gut

Leaky gut – or leaky gut syndrome (LGS) – is a poorly recognized but very common problem, which is rarely tested for. This condition results from an overly-permeable intestinal lining with spaces between the cells of the gut wall. These spaces allow “foreign” material (bacteria, toxins and food) to leak into your body where they should not be, placing an additional burden on the immune and detoxification systems.

If the gut is not healthy, the rest of the body cannot be either. LGS makes it increasingly difficult to maintain a sense of wellness. Chemical sensitivity, fibromyalgia and escalating food allergies are among the many manifestations of a leaky gut.

The barrier maintained by a healthy intestinal mucosa is an incomplete one to begin with. Small numbers of molecules of different sizes and characteristics do cross the intact epithelium by both active and passive mechanisms. Generally, the larger the molecule, the less likely it is to be allowed across. Once the gut lining becomes inflamed or damaged, it becomes more difficult to keep foreign, larger particles out. As the spaces between cells open up, larger particles are allowed to be absorbed into the body.

Normally the body sees only tiny food antigens and limited amounts of bacteria. When it sees these new, larger ones, it considers them foreign invaders. Antibodies are then produced against once harmless foods and your immune system becomes increasingly occupied with chores it should not have to be performing. Your health becomes more difficult to maintain as increasing numbers of foods must be avoided for you to feel well.

Even though the gut is becoming leakier, vitamin and mineral absorption becomes reduced – not increased, as you might expect – because some carrier mechanisms of absorption become damaged as part of the process. Many nutrients have to be carried across the barrier and will not otherwise be absorbed.

The junctions between cells not only need to be ‘tight’ but the surface area of the small intestine must be large for normal nutrient processing to occur. Continued irritation and inflammation of the gut lining causes an even greater malabsorption by reducing the overall surface area of the lining. Even when consuming the healthiest of diets, inadequate nutrient absorption may compound the problem of having to deal with all these new foreign invaders.


Signs, symptoms & indicators of Increased Intestinal Permeability / Leaky Gut

Symptoms - Allergy  

Bloating caused by specific foods

Symptoms - Bowel Movements  

Bowel movement changes


(Very/tendency to) infrequent stools

Symptoms - Gas-Int - General  

Unexplained nausea


Meal-related bloating

Conditions that suggest Increased Intestinal Permeability / Leaky Gut




Organ Health  


Risk factors for Increased Intestinal Permeability / Leaky Gut







Drug Side Effects  

The Immune System  



Parasite, Roundworm Infection

Types of roundworm called Strongyoides and Ascaris lumbricoides can cause increased intestinal permeability.


Supplements and Medications  

Pain medication use


Tetracycline use


Antibiotic use

Symptoms - Allergy  

History of adult allergies

Symptoms - Gas-Int - General  

History of unexplained nausea

Symptoms - Head - Nose  

History of sinusitis

Symptoms - Respiratory  

History of asthma

Increased Intestinal Permeability / Leaky Gut suggests the following may be present





Drug Side Effects  

The Immune System  



Recommendations for Increased Intestinal Permeability / Leaky Gut

Amino Acid / Protein  


People who use glutamine enhance the health of their intestinal lining. They will be less concerned about leaky gut syndrome and the consequences of allergies, the “leaking out” of pathogens and possible arthritis. Glutamine used to be called the “intestinal permeability factor.” Glutamine is the chief source of energy for the cells which line the intestines. Most glutamine in the diet is metabolized by the intestines, helping to maintain the structural integrity of the its lining and supporting its quick cellular turnover.


Gluten-free Diet

Removal of wheat and dairy products from the diet will produce temporary relief of some of the symptoms of increased intestinal permeability. Patients suffering from this condition as well as reduced amounts of normal gut flora have high levels of antibodies to gliadin and casein.


Dairy Products Avoidance

See the link between Intestinal Permeability and a Gluten-free diet.


Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Likely to help
Highly recommended



Microscopic germs. Some bacteria are "harmful" and can cause disease, while other "friendly" bacteria protect the body from harmful invading organisms.


(FMS): Originally named fibrositis, it is a mysteriously debilitating syndrome that attacks women more often than men. It is not physically damaging to the body in any way, but is characterized by the constant presence of widespread pain that often moves about the body. Fibromyalgia can be so severe that it is often incapacitating.


Hypersensitivity caused by exposure to a particular antigen (allergen), resulting in an increased reactivity to that antigen on subsequent exposure, sometimes with harmful immunologic consequences.


Mucous tissue layer lining tubular structures (nasal passages, ear canal, etc.).


A substance, usually protein or protein-sugar complex in nature, which, being foreign to the bloodstream or tissues of an animal, stimulates the formation of specific blood serum antibodies and white blood cell activity. Re-exposure to similar antigen will reactivate the white blood cells and antibody programmed against this specific antigen.


A type of serum protein (globulin) synthesized by white blood cells of the lymphoid type in response to an antigenic (foreign substance) stimulus. Antibodies are complex substances formed to neutralize or destroy these antigens in the blood. Antibody activity normally fights infection but can be damaging in allergies and a group of diseases that are called autoimmune diseases.

Immune System

A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.


Plays a vital role in regulating many body functions. They act as catalysts in nerve response, muscle contraction and the metabolism of nutrients in foods. They regulate electrolyte balance and hormonal production, and they strengthen skeletal structures.

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