Create your personalized leaky gut diet.
- Diet strongly influences leaky gut.
- The most powerful thing you can do to improve leaky gut is to listen to your body and stop listening to everyone else, especially regarding diet.
- If you don’t see results from a simple, whole foods diet, unidentified food intolerances, eating unhealthy “health” foods, and unaddressed bad bacteria may be the cause.
- If you don’t see results with a simple diet, choose a more specific diet template, and customize.
- An advanced leaky gut diet, like paleo or low FODMAP, can be customized to include healthy foods that don’t irritate your symptoms.
- Eating right for leaky gut is most simply about including healthy, whole foods that are right for you, and avoiding processed foods.
Finding a diet that minimizes your gut inflammation is one of the most important steps you can take to improve leaky gut, but it can also be confusing. There are many templates you could use for leaky gut healing, but let’s simplify this process of choosing which one is right for you.
Diet and Leaky Gut
Diet strongly influences leaky gut.
Leaky gut is when gaps open between the cells that line your small intestine loosen. This allows undigested food particles into your bloodstream and can cause an immune system reaction. Intestinal inflammation caused by a poor diet is one of the main causes of leaky gut.
Eating certain foods, such as gluten, can increase a protein called zonulin in the gut, which drives intestinal permeability.  Zonulin is also closely linked to symptoms in people with celiac disease.  Use of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can also contribute to leaky gut syndrome. [3 , 4]
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet that is right for your body is a key strategy to improve leaky gut symptoms, including bloating, gut pain, brain fog, fatigue, and joint pain. An anti-inflammatory diet also helps maintain a healthy microbiome and intestinal wall.
How to Find Your Best Leaky Gut Diet
The most powerful thing you can do to improve leaky gut is to listen to your body and stop listening to everyone else, especially regarding diet.
Diet templates you may have heard about, such as the paleo or low FODMAP diet, are a helpful place to start figuring out what to eat.
But the main goal of eating for leaky gut is to reduce gut inflammation by eating healthy, whole foods and avoiding most of the processed foods that cause gut inflammation.
Leaky gut foods to eat include:
- A wide range of veggies and fruits.
- Healthy fats, such as coconut oil, olive oil, and avocados.
- Clean, grass-fed or wild proteins, like beef, pork, poultry, fish, and eggs.
- Gluten-free whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Herbs and spices
- Cultured dairy products (if dairy tolerant)
- Bone broth
To reduce and prevent leaky gut, avoid foods such as:
- Gluten and wheat-based products
- Processed and snack foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Commercial sauces
- Alcohol or sugary beverages
- Industrial seed oils, like canola, soy, and cottonseed oil
Sample Leaky Gut Meal Plan
Here is a collection of whole food meal ideas to help you imagine what a leaky gut diet plan might look like. For more, check out these leaky gut recipe ideas and this leaky gut shopping list.
- Smoothie made with Elemental Heal OR coconut milk, protein powder, blueberries, spinach, and chia seed.
- 2 eggs with a side of garlicky greens sauteed in coconut oil and breakfast potatoes
- Breakfast sausage, and oatmeal with fruit.
- Turkey or ham lettuce wraps with a side of fruit.
- Tuna salad over a green salad with avocado and homemade vinaigrette.
- Leftover dinner
- Beef chili (with or without beans), served with avocado slices, and a side salad.
- Roasted chicken, served with a side of green beans and baked sweet potato.
- Grilled fish, served with a side of green salad, and roasted butternut squash.
- Fresh fruit and nuts
- Warmed bone broth with fresh herbs.
- Veggie sticks with hummus, baba ganoush, peanut butter, or guacamole.
- Kefir with blended fruit, if dairy tolerant.
- Chia pudding made with coconut milk, topped with fresh fruit, cacao nibs, or nuts
- Chocolate- (stevia-sweetened) dipped strawberries
- Berry sorbet
What if You Don’t Feel Better With a Diet Change?
If you don’t see results from a simple, whole foods diet, unidentified food intolerances, eating unhealthy “health” foods, and unaddressed bad bacteria may be the cause.
You may have already tried one of these diets, or a variation of it, and not seen results. There are lots of possible reasons for this. Here are the top 3 reasons I see in the clinic:
- Unidentified Food Intolerances or Food Allergies: Even though the Paleo and low FODMAP diets remove a lot of inflammatory foods, you may have a sensitivity to a food you’re still eating. A more comprehensive elimination diet, such as autoimmune paleo (AIP) may help you identify food sensitivities you weren’t aware you had.
- Eating Unhealthy “Health Foods”: There are lots of pre-packaged foods that are advertised to be “Paleo” or “healthy”, but they may not be right for you. For example, many people mistakenly believe that “gluten-free” is synonymous with “healthy”. But gluten-free products may aggravate bloating and gas due to high starch content. The best strategy is to eat real, whole foods, and to avoid pre-packaged, processed food, even if it’s advertised as healthy.
- Unaddressed Bad Bacteria: If you have a bacterial overgrowth or gut infections, you may need a stronger approach than diet alone. Using probiotic supplements can both help repair the gut lining and rebalance an overgrowth. See our Probiotics Starter Guide for more.
Advanced Diet Options
Most people will experience a significant improvement in leaky gut symptoms after following an anti-inflammatory diet for 3-4 weeks.
If you are happy with the results of your diet changes, there is no need to make further changes. If your symptoms have not fully resolved, you might want to consider a more structured diet plan.
Choose either the paleo diet, low FODMAP diet, or elemental diet to start, and customize.
- If your primary symptoms are food sensitivities, joint pain, chronic fatigue, brain fog, skin issues, or health issues such as autoimmune diseases, start with a Paleo diet template, as it tends to remove the most common inflammatory foods that may be connected to your symptoms.
- If your primary symptoms are digestive issues, like gut pain, gas or bloating, diarrhea, or constipation, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), start with the low FODMAP diet, because it’s more likely to help with reducing these symptoms.
- If you are starting out with a very reactive gut, you may find it helpful to start with a short reset with an elemental diet.
Paleo Diet Basics
The Paleo diet is an anti-inflammatory diet that:
- focuses on real, nutrient-dense foods, including veggies, healthy fats, and clean proteins.
- is free of grains and dairy products.
- is gluten free.
- is relatively low in carbs.
- is high in Omega-3 and low in Omega-6 fats.
- may include bone broth, and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.
- removes all artificial and processed foods, which can be inflammatory.
Low FODMAP Diet Basics
A low FODMAP diet is low in prebiotic fermentable sugars that may feed your bad bacteria.
A low FODMAP diet:
- focuses on removing high FODMAP foods, and reintroducing them to test for reactions.
- may be gluten free, because gluten is a high FODMAP food.
- may be dairy free, because most dairy products are high in lactose, a FODMAP.
- removes artificial and processed foods, including artificial sweeteners, which can be inflammatory.
An elemental diet is a nutritionally complete meal replacement designed to provide a temporary, low-residue diet so your digestive tract can rest. It’s most often used as a short-term reset diet. An elemental diet has been shown to dramatically decrease intestinal inflammation and digestive health problems in numerous studies and clinical trials. [5, 6, 7]
Customizing Your Leaky Gut Diet
All of the advanced leaky gut diets can be customized to include healthy foods that don’t irritate your symptoms.
Not all of the removed foods on the Paleo or low FODMAP diet are bad for everyone. For example, the Paleo diet is grain free. But you may find that you tolerate some grains just fine, and need a more carbs than the diet typically provides. The low FODMAP diet removes most legumes, but you may find you tolerate certain beans just fine.
Once your symptoms have subsided, you can start a gradual process of reintroducing foods to see how your body reacts.
As your gut lining heals, you may be able to broaden your diet considerably. As long as you aren’t noticing any increase in symptoms, listen to this message from your body, and adapt the diet accordingly.
Additionally, some supplements, like probiotics and L-glutamine may supercharge your progress.
The Bottom Line
Eating right for leaky gut is most simply about including healthy, whole foods that are right for you, and avoiding processed foods.
These simple changes reduce gut irritation and symptoms, provide a simple detox, and allow your gut lining to heal. You’ll likely be feeling much better in a matter of weeks.
References (click to expand)
2019 Jul 23;17(1):142. doi: 10.1186/s12916-019-1380-z.