Everything You Need to Know about Leaky Gut Syndrome

Leaky Gut (increased intestinal permeability) is a condition that allows food and gut microbiome components to uncontrollably leak into our bloodstream.


What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability, is a pathological condition that allows food and gut microbiome components to uncontrollably leak from the intestines into our bloodstream. In severe cases, entire microorganisms can cross directly into the bloodstream, causing a variety of chronic and infectious diseases. A healthy intestinal lining, on the other hand, only allows beneficial nutrients to enter our bloodstream.

What causes Leaky Gut?

The main cause of the leaky gut syndrome is functional gut microbiome dysbiosis. Stress and acute intestinal infections (with Shigella, for example) can contribute to leaky gut in some people as well. Functional microbiome dysbiosis is very different from the microbiome dysbiosis often reported in the literature. Functional dysbiosis is a combination of a person’s diet and their microbiome. Given a person’s microbiome, consuming specific foods or supplements can protect a person from a leaky gut, while consuming other foods and supplements can lead to it. A functional gut microbiome test is essential for identifying leaky gut. Viome’s Gut Intelligence test is the only comprehensive functional microbiome test on the market today.

What are the Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Leaky gut has been strongly associated with several physical and mental illnesses and conditions: irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that includes abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation and/or bloating, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), joint pain, headaches, skin rashes, depression, anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, etc. Leaky gut can also lead to many food sensitivities that can increase systemic inflammation and cause severe dietary restrictions that can lead to malnutrition.

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Can Leaky Gut lead to Autoimmune Conditions?

Yes, leaky gut is one of the essential components in development of autoimmunity. Most autoimmune conditions are caused by molecular mimicry. This happens when microbial proteins resemble human ones. In health, these microbial proteins never directly interact with our immune system. In leaky gut, however, they can enter the bloodstream and cause an immune response. During this process, the microbial proteins that mimic human ones “teach” our immune system to react to them. Even after our immune system clears the microbes, it will continue attacking our own proteins, which is why it’s called autoimmune - “auto” means self.

Can you Test for Leaky Gut?

There are several tests available on the market. A test based on mannitol and lactulose can measure the leaky gut in the small intestine, and that is its biggest weakness. The large intestine contains ~10,000 times more microbes than the small intestine, and leaky gut in the large intestine will have a far greater negative impact on health. This test is also very complicated, and suffers from variability due to different transit times. Zonulin-based tests could offer more accurate measurements of the leaky gut, but none of them are specific for zonulin and suffer from false positive results. The Viome Gut Intelligence test provides an Intestinal Barrier Health score that takes into account hundreds of microbial functions, many published in the literature and others discovered by Viome artificial intelligence.

How do you Heal Leaky Gut?

While there are many claims of supplements that heal leaky gut, none of them work for more than a few people. That is because everyone has a different gut microbiome that needs to be matched with a specific diet that prevents and heals a leaky gut. As discussed above, it’s not the presence of certain microbes or consumption of certain foods. It’s a combination of both, and it’s different in everyone. The only way to pinpoint the root cause of the leaky gut is to perform a comprehensive functional gut microbiome test, then follow a highly personalized diet that prevents harmful microbial functions and supports the functions that prevent and heal the leaky gut.

How can Viome Help with Leaky Gut?

Based on the domain knowledge and artificial intelligence algorithms developed from large clinical studies, Viome has integrated an Intestinal Barrier Health score into the results of the Viome Gut Intelligence test. Not only do the data from the Viome’s functional stool test provide an insight into the leaky gut in the large intestine, but they also inform highly personalized diet and supplement recommendations that modulate the gut microbiome functions.

Are there Foods, Probiotics and Supplements that can help heal Leaky Gut Syndrome?

There are no probiotics or supplements that will heal leaky gut in everyone. Most of them will not work for anyone, and only some of them will work for some people. What is really needed is a complete shift in diet and supplements based on actual results of a comprehensive functional gut microbiome test, such as the Viome’s Gut Intelligence test. The Viome-recommended diet and supplements introduce hundreds of food ingredients that feed a person’s microbiome, which then produces beneficial byproducts that heal a leaky gut. On the other hand, Viome’s “avoid foods” deprive a person’s microbiome from ingredients it would convert to harmful byproducts that could cause leaky gut. The right combination of recommended diets and supplements is different for every individual.

Leaky Gut Diet: Foods to Avoid

Alcohol can directly damage the gut lining and contribute to leaky gut, especially when not consumed with meals. Another big problem are food additives. These are highly prevalent and well-hidden from the consumer. Various detergents, such as Polysorbate 80, strip the protective mucous layer and accelerate the process that leads to a leaky gut. Many foods can also indirectly cause a leaky gut by destroying the microbiome richness. These include preservatives, such as sorbates and benzoates, antibiotics, and thousands of food additives. You can avoid most of these by reading the ingredients list and not buying foods that contain any non-food names. TBHQ does not sound like food, so don’t consume any products that have it. We also recommend not using mouth washes and antibacterial toothpastes, as these destroy the oral microbiome that can over time also contribute to leaky gut, by increasing systemic inflammation.

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