womenTALK: Blog

Tuesday, Nov 26th 2013

10 Signs You Have a Leaky Gut—and How to Heal It

by Samantha Parent Walravens

My body never completely bounced back after I had my first child—15 years ago. I've told myself that my symptoms were part of being a busy mom: fatigue, digestive problems, joint pain, insomnia, low libido, even mild-grade depression. Many moms I know suffer the same ailments, or worse. They'll subside at some point, I told myself.
My health care provider tested me over the years for various medical conditions—from anemia and thyroid disorders to mononucleosis and Lyme disease. The tests always came out negative. "You just need to sleep more and manage your stress better," he told me.

I found an answer four months ago when I went to see Willie Victor, a nutritionist in Mill Valley, California, whose practice is based on the healing properties of food. She asked me to keep a food diary and take a blood test for food allergies and sensitivities.

The results were shocking. It turns out I was "highly sensitive" (not quite allergic, but almost) to a number of foods that had been a regular part of my daily diet—dairy, soy, sugar, caffeine and gluten.

She told me that I had "leaky gut syndrome," a condition that is not typically diagnosed but could be affecting the health of many people. Dr. Robynne Chutkan, assistant professor of medicine at Georgetown University Hospital, says leaky gut "is likely to emerge as one of the most significant medical concepts of our time."

What is leaky gut?

Leaky gut, or "intestinal permeability," as Victor explained, is a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged, causing undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacteria to "leak" through the intestines and flood the blood stream. The foreign substances entering the blood can cause an autoimmune response in the body including inflammatory and allergic reactions such as migraines, irritable bowel, eczema, chronic fatigue, food allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and more.

With leaky gut, damaged cells in your intestines don't produce the enzymes needed for proper digestion. As a result, your body cannot absorb essential nutrients, which can lead to hormone imbalances and a weakened immune system

What causes leaky gut?

In many cases, leaky gut is caused by your diet. For me, certain foods that I was consuming every day, including gluten, soy and dairy, were being treated by my body as foreign invaders that had to be fought off. When I ate these foods, my body went to war, producing antibodies, which triggered an immune response that included diarrhea, headaches, fatigue and joint pain.

Leaky gut can also be caused by medications including antibiotics, steroids or over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin and acetaminophen, which can irritate the intestinal lining and damage protective mucus layers. This irritation can start or continue the inflammation cycle that leads to intestinal permeability.

10 signs you have a leaky gut:

According to Dr. Leo Galland, director of the Foundation for Integrated Medicine, the following symptoms might be signs of leaky gut:

  1. Chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas or bloating
  2. Nutritional deficiencies
  3. Poor immune system
  4. Headaches, brain fog, memory loss
  5. Excessive fatigue
  6. Skin rashes and problems such as acne, eczema or rosacea
  7. Cravings for sugar or carbs
  8. Arthritis or joint pain
  9. Depression, anxiety, ADD, ADHD
  10. Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease or Crohn's

How to heal a leaky gut

The key to healing a leaky gut is changing your diet and eliminating the foods that your body treats as toxic. On the advice of my nutritionist, I eliminated gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Within six weeks, I was feeling like a new person. My energy levels were way up, the diarrhea and bloating had subsided, and I was sleeping like a baby at night.

In addition to eliminating certain foods, I added a few things to help repair my leaky gut. These included healthy fats such as fish, coconut and olive oils; avocados and flax; probiotics to restore the healthy bacteria in my gastrointestinal tract; and L-glutamine, an amino acid that rejuvenates the lining of the intestinal wall.

Within three months, I had controlled my leaky gut. I have to adhere to my new dietary changes or I suffer the consequences—diarrhea, bloating and fatigue. But it's a small price to pay for feeling so alive and healthy again!

If you have any of the symptoms I mentioned, get checked by your health care provider. I had sensitivities to certain foods, but your symptoms could be caused by other issues. It's important to design a treatment plan that fits your issues.

Samantha Parent Walravens is a journalist, mother of four, and author of the New York Times–acclaimed book, TORN: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood. You can follow Samantha Parent Walravens on Twitter: @nosuperwoman.


Aug 29, 2016 23:Aug 11 | said

L-glutamine prior to trying to conceive


I am currently taking GI-Revive supplement which contains L-glutamine. I have read so many mixed things on the internet and am VERY concerned about the safety of this supplement, especially since I would like to try to conceive in the next month or two. Has anyone taken L-glutamine immediately prior to conceiving?


Jul 18, 2016 16:Jul 4 | ChServ said

Leaky Gut

I nearly died in 1993 and was diagnosed with Crohns disease. Luckily, I didn't have any of my bowel removed at that time but had surgery and received a temporary ileostomy to allow my bowel to heal. I was reversed in 1995, but was told that I would probably be back in within 6 months with a flare. I went 17 years in remission, then in 2012, I had a major flare. Since then I have been in and out of the hospital over 10 times. I had another surgery to receive an ileostomy again, but this time I did have some of my bowel removed. I have been put on various medications and infusions, and recently had the ileostomy reversed again. Praying this time is the last time. I have had all the symptoms listed in this article, plus some. I believe I am finally heading towards remission. I just recently found this website for a book on methods for Healing a Leaky Gut, http://bit.ly/29vKesd

Apr 08, 2016 10:Apr 10 | Andi said

Leaky Gut and Candida link

Hi All

I have read many of the posts above and just thought I should share my experience. I had suffered for 10 years and more many of the symptoms you describe above but apart from that was considered healthy by my GP - he could find no reason I had these symptoms but put them down to IBS. I gave up gluten including barley, rye, malt and anything modified (ie starches) 3 years ago which improved my gut but didn't touch on the fatigue, feelings of sadness, unexplained weight gain and other stuff going on and by chance I happened to come across Dr Jeff Mccombes - candida link. I was so convinced of his diet treatments that I tried it for 12 weeks. This works - seriously. I had taken antibiotics numerous times, well frequently these past few years for one thing and another and never connected that this could be the cause. Try it, you will not believe the results, apart from losing pounds, you feel so much better, cured actually, but you are likely to always have the food intolerances so you just need to keep off the main culprits. I eat all fresh food, try to avoid processed or ready meal and defo avoid gluten containing foods. I feel alive after years of half living and can't believe what a difference it makes. You can do it cheaper than Dr Jeffs link though and if you want info, just respond. Will happily advise where I bought alternative supplements.

I do believe that many of us suffer from this condition but it can't be diagnosed by routine blood checks.

Read his link - what have you got to lose.

Good luck all.

xx :-)

Jul 11, 2016 13:Jul 1 | Shellie said

Leaky Gut Cure

What products did you use to cure your leaky gut if you didn't use Dr. Jeff Mccombes? Your struggles sound very similar to mine. I would like to know how you cured your condition.


Feb 09, 2016 12:Feb 12 | Sarah Chamberlain said

Jane Remington book Recaging

Jane Remington book Recaging the Beast is very informative and helpful about the foods we eat and why we are feeling the way we feel.

Jan 15, 2016 11:Jan 11 | Carolyn said

Leaky Gut...Antibiotics...Frustration


I have been trying to figure this out. I had a bad rash on my upper arms that has been on and off for about 6 years. After Dr.'s, Cleanses, over the counter remedies, acupuncture etc. etc. etc. One Dr. finally said it was gluten.

I cut gluten out but the rash didn't get better.

I realized the rash went crazy after I was in the hospital twice and on antibiotics (including intense strong ones through an IV Pick in my arm) for a total of about 6 or more weeks.

I have started no gluten in December, at the end of the month, that didn't work, then I went to No Dairy, soy, corn, peanuts, sugar, and gluten.

The rash got a little better, and my bloat started to go down. I was having two pea protein shakes a day (with flax and chia) and a healthy meal and a snack.

Then the bloat came back. I realized I was using xylitol, which also messes with your gut.

Still nothing.

Now I took out seeds: flax, chia and nuts, no almonds etc.

I woke up this morning still frustrated and bloated and my wedding ring doesn't fit and my face looks round and my boobs are huge.

I have ordered a NON Vegan, non allergen (no eggs whey etc.) no isolates, protein powder...

I am hoping that helps.

Any thoughts on how long before I stop being so bloated. Even the loss of just a couple of pounds would help me..


Feb 09, 2016 12:Feb 12 | Sarah Chamberlain said

I have found that getting the

I have found that getting the overgrowth of fungus under control and replenishing the good flora we need in our gut with ProBio5 and BioCleanse. These 2 have helped me so much! You can look them over at www.plexusslim.com/rustynail If you have any questions find me at www.facebook.com/PlexusatRustyNail

Oct 20, 2015 06:Oct 6 | Cherry said

Acne, fatigue, bloating, digestive issues

This is my for sept ever post on anything like this. I'm 32 and have been experiencing extreme fatigue, Brian fog, constipation, acne and low moods for years. My skin problems became worse at 24 and I have had constipation and gut issues for as long as I can remember. I struggle to concentrate as well.

I have tried everything........I take zinc, b12, super greens nutribullet always with organic produce, colonics, probiotics, fish oils etc........ Been for blood test and stool test with negative results.......yet still I struggle......

Does anyone have any idea if this is leaky gut? Or any advice?

Much appreciated......

Cherry xx

Oct 22, 2015 15:Oct 3 | Deb said

Hi Cherry My son has similar

Hi Cherry

My son has similar problems with extreme fatigue and digestion problems also. He is only 15 and it has been going on for 3 years. His tests were negative too. We are awaiting an appointment with an M.E specialist now. Have you thought of that maybe? Am not an expert but it is apparently very common and is a very difficult and confusing illness with different symptoms for different people. It can cause migraines, leaky gut, delayed stomach emptying and problems with thyroid and adrenal glands which make us tired. Muscle weakness is another symptom. His main symptoms are extreme fatigue and morning nausea and he is us able to get out bed. Even though my son has not yet been diagnosed we have been following some of the advice for M.E and his life has improved dramatically. He has gone from being virtually housebound just to "flares" occurring every couple of weeks. He had a full year off school and now he goes part time which is better than nothing. Anxiety plays a big part in this illness too but that may be caused by just not knowing what was wrong and all the tests coming out negative. We have also had to cope with people thinking that he is making the whole thing up which again is stressful and causes anxiety. Just a thought anyway and hope it helps.


Oct 20, 2015 20:Oct 8 | Cathy said

Leaky gut

Hi. Try finding a nutrition therapy practitioner. Our gut must be healthy and needs healing if damaged. This professional therapist can help you. If you need one, I can refer you . Some clients I knew were even GI doctors.

Oct 20, 2015 20:Oct 8 | Cathy said

Leaky gut (for Cherry)

Find a nutritional therapy practitioner. Our gut must be healthy and this professional therapist can help your problems. I can provide you one if you really are interested. I knew some of the clients were even GI doctors.

Oct 13, 2015 07:Oct 7 | said

sick for 5 months straight

I have been sick for 5 straight months. They have run tests and so far nothing has shown. I have lost 34 lbs. within this time period. I am currently waiting on colonscopy, scope results and having a Cat Scan this Thursday. All ultrasound results are good. All blood tests are good. I am not celiac.

I constantly belch for 8 hrs at a time. Every time I put water, or any liquid in my stomach, or put in any food in my stomach I belch. I have gone to a naturopathic doctor three weeks ago and they have taken me off all dairy, all gluten, all soy,all beef, all pork, all processed meats. Most of which I already went off the beginning of aug. For two months I ate no raw vegetables or fruits, no beef. I ate only chicken and pork chops and rice or half potato and cooked vegetables. I have had constipation all my life and now in the past three months have had periods of diarrehea.
I get only three to four hours of sleep for months now. I am back into depression. I have no energy. I am light headed and dizzy. My blood pressure is very low. Extreme weight loss since I can hardly eat.
I am taking a digestive enzyme, probiotics, L-Glutamine, Liquid acid reflux drops, Vit. B12, Omega 3,Vit D3-5000 IU.
Do you think I have a leaky gut.
Who does the blood test? I need help! I am desperate. I am 65 yrs. old. I have lost all my muscle as well.
Is this leaky gut syndrome?

Feb 22, 2016 21:Feb 9 | FONEIL said

possible leaky gut?

I agree with another reply you got. Ditch the bottled water!

I was diagnosed with IBS while in college, but suffered with pain, gas, bloating, and frequent respiratory infections from a small child until I turned 40. I learned at that time that I was intolerant to gluten. Eliminating that allowed some small improvement, but it was only 6 months ago that I learned how damaging reverse osmosis water can be when used for a prolonged period of time. I can no longer remember the name of the test, but there is a test your Gastroenterologist can order that detects leaky gut. It won't tell you the cause (and there are many possibilities) but it can confirm if you are afflicted with the condition.

I found out that drinking reverse osmosis water for a prolonged period of time is often associated with leaky gut syndrome. It isn't necessarily a cause, but it might be negatively affecting your gut lining. I switched to drinking "electrolyzed reduced water" (yes I chose to purchase an expensive Kangen machine) and I am SO MUCH better. I also have had to eliminate all dairy, but the healing of my gut didn't take off until I switched my water.

I no longer have loose stools, I sleep better, and my recent bloodwork was amazing!.

I can't explain why it makes such a difference, but my close friend who introduced me to Kangen water has a very informative youtube video about how the water changed his life called "Dr. Michael explains the water" (there are two, the first is rough, then he polished it up when it got looked at so much - I like the revised presentation better.)

Good luck - I hope you find comfort!

Jan 28, 2016 10:Jan 10 | Janet said


If you drink bottled water.....STOP! I had constant belching for no reason..one day I thought..I think it's the bottled water. Low and behold it WAS! Not ever drinking bottled water again.

Oct 20, 2015 21:Oct 9 | Cathy said

Leaky gut syndrome?

I can't diagnose that but it seems you need a nutritional therapy practitioner who can manage your symptoms and can order blood test for leaky gut.

I knew fatty acids are required, meats that are organic is part of the diet but fist size only, detoxing is done after leaky gut is fixed by juicing, as our body has the ability to heal itself. I have known a lot of successful stories of this nutritional boot camp even medicine doctors were participants

Sep 17, 2015 03:Sep 3 | ryan said

leaky gut

Does Gerd is a factor for having a leaky gut?

Aug 14, 2015 15:Aug 3 | margy said


i think i have ay leaking gut but would like to know if anyone has had the same as me where when you burb it smells and hurts the stomace

Jun 03, 2015 11:Jun 11 | Marilyn wells said

Can nausea be one of the symtoms of leaky gut?

I have many of the symtoms listed above and have been to many doctors with no success. This has been going on for over 4 years. I am at my wits end. I suffer a lot from nausea. Can this be a symtoms of leaky gut?

Jun 03, 2015 18:Jun 6 | Marsha said


although this does not list nausea as a symptom, I often have nausea associated with diarrhea from eating gluten. I am trying the Paleo diet this summer to see if it helps with my digestive and joint issues. Good luck to you, also.

Jun 03, 2015 18:Jun 6 | Marsha said


although this does not list nausea as a symptom, I often have nausea associated with diarrhea from eating gluten. I am trying the Paleo diet this summer to see if it helps with my digestive and joint issues. Good luck to you, also.

May 13, 2015 06:May 6 | anilkumar said

is there any medical products to cure this completely?

I have same problem from few years and tried some of the products not completely cured. Your article is very helpful, and i would like to ask you, is there any particular products to cure this issue permanently? if so please let me know. Thanks

Apr 28, 2015 19:Apr 7 | Rita said

I am so glad to have found a

I am so glad to have found a clue to help solve my seemingly endless "health problem dominos" I have always had skin problems. Up all night itching, hands covered in rashes, spots of dry skin that never go away. Years of waking up with stabbing stomach aches. I also had a long line of ear-nose-throat diagnoses. Surgery after surgery for chronic ear infections. Practically 15 years of non-stop antibiotics Not a single doctor told my parents to cut back on dairy or wheat, in fact, they encouraged them to increase dairy and fortified cereal to help with my iron deficiency. I grew a tolerance for these symptoms thinking that it would always be that way and, since no doctors were ever able to help, I just learned to deal with it. Well, becoming a parent made me determined to make sure that my children never had to suffer like I did and still do. My first child had chronic skin problems and excessive mucus. After talking to a few wise moms, I decided to remove dairy from her diet. I didn't eat or drink much dairy so it was super easy to make the transition. Within one week- I repeat 1 week- her skin was completely clear. We have made significant dietary changes since then. We have removed ALL dairy, gluten, and caffeine from our diets. I would like to continue on to remove most processed food but mainly sugar. I think that the healing portion of leaky gut is going to be the most challenging because I feel like I am on my own as far as professional help. I've had such a bad experience with mainstream medical a doctors that I am extremely hesitant to venture in their direction for advice. I plan to impliment the GAPS diet because I believe it will bring me somewhere close to "square one" as far as building proper gut health and functional immune system. Please, everyone, continue to talk to others about leaky gut! I am convinced that it plays a huge roll in preventing so-called life-long chronic suffering. Please, please talk to parents about this so they can realize that what they are feeding their children can cripple them in the future, literally!!! What we put in our body has a direct effect on how we feel systemically not just digestively.

Oct 20, 2015 21:Oct 9 | Cathy said

Health problems dominos

You need a nutritional therapy practitioner and seem like your problems can be corrected by making the gut healed and detoxing then start as a new person. Its embracing holistic approach compared to specific disease of the body.

Feb 10, 2015 22:Feb 10 | Dess said

In my case I have non

In my case I have non stoppable gas in my belly and as a result feel discomfort. Especailly when in class I had the most embarassing moments of my life due to the noise in my belly. FOund this video helpful though:http://fwrd.pw/lkygut

Jan 20, 2015 15:Jan 3 | Karen9 said

I have almost all the

I have almost all the symptoms you describe, feeling tired and not motivated, bloated, also headaches. It found that sugary foods make it worse, so I have tried to eliminate sugar from my diet. I didn't know about Leaky Gut Syndrome until about a month ago....Thanks for the suggestions, these will definitely help me control my leaky gut. I also found Elizabeth Lipski's book "Leaky Gut Syndrome" helpful. It is available on Amazon if anyone is interested.
at http://www.amazon.com/Leaky-Gut-Syndrome-Elizabeth-Lipski/dp/0879838248

Dec 24, 2014 02:Dec 2 | Carlos Glutamine said

Many people believe that

Many people believe that glutamine is consumed exclusively to gain muscle mass and it is not true. As discussed in this article, glutamine is also important for improving health.

Thanks for the post, very good

Dec 16, 2014 00:Dec 12 | Katie said

Leaky Gut Syndrome

HI Samantha,

Thanks for posting your article, I have had years of digestive problems mainly constipation and IBS, I have just been diagnosed with Leaky Gut Syndrome this week after doing the lab test. With your diet did you 100% eliminate everything for 6 weeks over this time did you have any alcohol or sugars? I have been told to avoid alcohol and sugar as much as possible. Have you been able to introduce any of these foods back into your diet?



Nov 25, 2014 19:Nov 7 | Cynthia51 said

Leaky Gut

I came across your article, and I thank you for talking about Leaky Gut Syndrome. I have often wondered if I have the same thing.

I believe I have a problem with casein that is in dairy so I've been avoiding it. Well, this past Sunday, I had something that had cheese on it, and the next day, I could barely walk. I was so miserable. The whole side of my body was inflamed and putting one foot in front of the other was extremely painful. I'm only 51, but I felt like I was 99 years old.

I have never been tested to see if I have a problem with dairy, but I'm seeing a functional medicine doctor in San Mateo in December, and I'm going to ask her about this. I don't have any digestive issues, but what I've noticed mostly is the extreme joint pain and overall achiness I get. Also, the depression that accompanies it.

I'm curious how you are doing now since you wrote this a year ago? After doing all the right steps to heal your gut, have you ever been able to add these problem foods back into your diet?

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