Leaky gut or intestinal permeability syndrome is a condition in which the gut lining is damaged. In this condition, large food particles, bacteria and environmental toxins are able to seep into the blood stream and cause problems in the body.
As a clinician, I always suspect leaky gut whenever I have patients with chronic immune related issues. This includes cancer and auto-immune conditions as well as other chronic inflammatory conditions. This article goes into detail on various superfoods that help the body heal and seal a leaky gut. Food is medicine and we can use various foods to heal leaky gut.
Bone broth has a variety of nutrients that act to soothe an overactive immune system while providing the body with raw materials to rebuild stronger and healthier cells. This is why it is an incredibly healing food to have when the body is encountering stress from bacterial or viral infections as well as digestive disorders and leaky gut syndrome.
Bone broth can be made from any animal with bones and the most popular soup bones include those of fish, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb and venison. The bones house a variety of powerful nutrients that become released when they are slowly simmered in water for a few hours. These nutrients include bone marrow which helps provide the raw materials for healthy blood cells and immune development (1, 2, 3, 4).
Goal: Drink 8oz – 2x daily of either homemade (the best) or an organic store bought variety.
This is one of the healthiest foods on the planet and is the best natural source of medium chain triglycerides that help the body burn fat, reduce inflammation and heal the gut lining. Coconut oil is especially rich in lauric acid which is found in a high quantity within mother’s milk and is known to be a powerful anti-microbial agent that kills off bad bacteria and yeast.
I recommend using coconut oil to cook with and to put in shakes and smoothies. You can also apply it to your skin where it will help to moisturize and improve the skin microbiome. On the skin, it will also cross into the blood stream and have a positive effect on your physiology. If you don’t like the coconut flavor than use a high quality MCT oil which has all the same benefits but no coconut flavor.
Goal: 3-4 tbsps of virgin coconut oil (or MCT oil) daily in shakes, smoothies, applied to the skin or used in cooking (and poured on food afterwards).
This contains all the benefits of coconut oil, but it also contains the coconut flour where all the fiber of the coconut is. The coconut fiber is a great prebiotic that helps to feed and support a healthy microbiome.
You can use coconut butter in a wide variety of recipes including fudge cups, donut holes, healthy oreo cookies and so much more!
Goal: Aim to get 2 tbsps of coconut butter in your diet daily either in addition to coconut oil or in replacement for the coconut oil.
Apple Cider Vinegar:
This fermented tonic is a natural anti-microbial that kills off bad bacteria such as H Pylori which is associated with acid reflux and stomach ulcers. It is also loaded with enzymes and organic acids that improve the digestive process, stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation throughout the body (5, 6).
I use ACV in water (1-2 tbsps in 8oz of water) and on foods, particularly meat and vegetable dishes. The acids in the ACV help to pre-digest the meat and veggies, which reduces stress on the digestive system. It also improves the production and flow of digestive juices such as stomach acid, bile and pancreatic enzymes (7).
Goal: Use 3-4 tbsps of ACV daily in water and on foods.
Grass-fed butter and ghee are loaded with powerful gut supportive nutrients including a large amount of fat soluble vitamin A, D, E and K2. They also have omega 3 fatty acids and a small chain fat called butyric acid that helps feed intestinal cells and reduces gut and whole body inflammation.
Ghee is clarified butter in which all the lactose, casein and whey are removed and it is just the fat solids that remain. Many individuals with leaky gut have sensitivities to lactose, casein and whey and so I only recommend ghee for these individuals and it is usually tolerated very well.
I recommend melting it on steamed veggies where it tastes amazing and/or adding it to soups, teas and coffee.
Goal: Use 2-4 tbsps daily of grass-fed ghee
Beef Gelatin and/or Collagen Peptides:
Gelatin and collagen are the main nutrients in bone broth and so they are rich in the key amino acids that help make up our joints, gut lining and skin. Using these products adds additional healthy protein to the diet and provides the key building blocks for these supportive structures in the body.
These are also considered beauty foods because they help to strengthen the skin tissue, reducing skin damage and wrinkle formation. In this way, they help to improve complexion and reduce the effects of aging on the skin.
By strengthening the gut lining, they reduce whole body inflammatory levels and improve digestive function, neurological health and thyroid function among other things. Always look for a grass-fed source of gelatin or collagen peptides.
Gelatin can be used to make collagen marshmallows or to thicken up soups and stews. Collagen peptides can be used in a similar manner as any other protein powder in smoothies and shakes.
Goal: 2-4 scoops daily in smoothies, collagen marshmallows, soups and stews.
Ginger is composed of key essential oils that act as strong anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-parasitic agents. In addition, it limits cancer cell formation while firing up our body’s immune system in order to destroy the cancer cells formerly present.(8)
Additionally, ginger helps protect the bodies stores of the super anti-oxidant & free radical destroyer glutathione. Ginger is also one of the world’s best anti-nausea agents and it improves the production of digestive juices (stomach acid, bile and pancreatic enzymes).
Adequate digestive juice flow is extremely key for healing a leaky gut and reducing gut related inflammation that would cause leaky gut. Here are some great ways to use ginger:
Drink a cup of organic ginger tea everyday or use 2 drops of ginger essential oil in water
Grate fresh ginger or use dried ginger on your salad, meat and steamed veggies
Drink ginger coconut water kefir (Kevita brand – Lemon Ginger is excellent)
Get ginger root and put an inch or so in per 8oz of juice. Anymore can give too much bite.
Goal: Find 2 ways to get ginger into your body each day
Peppermint is considered a carminative herb in that it stimulates the digestive system and improves the bone of the intestinal membrane. Carminatives contain essential oils that help to expel gas and ease any sort of gut related gripping pains you may experience with leaky gut syndrome.
Additionally, carminative herbs like peppermint help to tone the mucous membrane and increase the gut related muscle contractions, called peristalsis, in order to move food and wastes through the system gently.
The menthol component of peppermint is a natural muscle relaxer which acts to relax the smooth muscles in the gut when they are over contracting. This has been shown to help relieve the sypmtoms of irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion and acid reflux (9, 10)..
Goal: Get a few drops of peppermint essential oil in your water each day or make an organic peppermint based tea to drink each day.
Pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, B vitamins and magnesium which are all key for good digestive function. They are also one of the world’s strongest natural anti-parasitic agents and help to expel all different forms of parasites including the very challenging tapeworm.
You can definitely cook these up after consuming a pumpkin and add some good salt for a great snack. However, for regular consumption, it is best to get pre-shelled sprouted, raw pumpkin seeds to remove any sort of anti-nutrient lectins.
Fermented foods provide the body with beneficial microorganisms, live bioactive enzymes, organic acids and B vitamins. These nutrients help to improve the digestive functions of the body by stimulating the production of healthy stomach acid levels, bile and pancreatic enzymes necessary for optimal digestion.
Some of my favorite fermented foods that I use daily include sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, coconut water kefir, coconut milk yogurt and kefir and grass-fed dairy kefir and Amasai.