Leaky Gut Supplements

The top 3 supplements for healing leaky gut.

Key Takeaways

  • Leaky gut, also called “intestinal permeability” or “gut hyperpermeability”, is when the tight junctions between the cells that line your small intestine loosen.
  • Using a few key supplements, such as probiotics, L-glutamine, and vitamin D, helps reduce inflammation and restore the intestinal lining with leaky gut.
  • Probiotics perform many functions simultaneously: They repair leaky gut AND simultaneously the main causes of leaky gut, whether this is inflammation, dysbiosis, overgrowth, or infection.
  • L-Glutamine is an amino acid that has a significant body of research showing its restorative properties for the gut lining and gastrointestinal tract, especially during stress.
  • Vitamin D seems to help maintain immune system balance in the gut and prevent gut health problems.
  • There are a variety of other supplements that can help repair intestinal permeability including digestive enzymes, DGL, slippery elm, marshmallow root, vitamin A, zinc carnosine, fish and fish oil, immunoglobulins, gut healing foods like bone broth or collagen, and quercetin.
  • Though all of these supplements can be helpful for healing leaky gut, this doesn’t mean you have to use all of them to heal leaky gut.

A quick search on Amazon for leaky gut supplements results in a long and bewildering list of recommended products. Sure, there are lots of supplements that you could use to help heal leaky gut, but you don’t need to take all of them to get well. Rather than throw the kitchen sink at leaky gut, it’s better to choose a few high quality supplements that rebalance your good and bad bacteria, restore your gut lining, and quell the GI tract inflammation that drives leaky gut.

The top three, science-based supplements I recommend to perform these functions are:

  1. Probiotics
  2. L-Glutamine
  3. Vitamin D

Let’s explore what leaky gut is and how these supplements can help you improve it.

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut, also called “intestinal permeability” or “gut hyperpermeability”, is a loosening of the tight junctions between the cells that line your small intestine.

Your small intestine has the job of absorbing most of your nutrition from food. But poor diet, [1 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source] stress, [2 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source] NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin, [3 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 4 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 5 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source] alcohol [6 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source] or other irritants can cause inflammation of the gut lining and an increase in a protein called zonulin. Over time gaps open up in the intestinal lining and let undigested food particles and bacteria “leak” through the intestinal wall and into your bloodstream

Your body’s immune response to these unnatural particles in the bloodstream contributes to a wide variety of symptoms and some diseases, such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease. Recognized symptoms of leaky gut include brain fog, fatigue (especially after eating), joint pain, skin conditions, and more. (For more on this, see Symptoms of Leaky Gut.)

Supplements to Heal Leaky Gut

Using a few key supplements, such as probiotics, L-glutamine, and vitamin D, helps reduce inflammation and restore the intestinal lining with leaky gut.

Here is a summary of the research that supports the use of these three supplements for healing leaky gut.

Supplement How it Helps Leaky Gut References
Probiotics Reduces gut inflammation
Helps resolve dysbiosis or overgrowths, like SIBO
Helps maintain gut lining function
7, 8 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 9, 10 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 11 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 12 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
L-glutamine Reduces markers of leaky gut and gut damage
Reduces intestinal inflammation
Improves IBS symptoms, like bloating
Provides your gut cells with the specific nutrients they normally use for healing
13 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 14 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 15, 16 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 17 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source
Vitamin D/Safe Sun Exposure Improves immune system
Decreases intestinal permeability
Reduces gut symptoms, such as from IBS
18 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 19 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 20 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source

Probiotics and Prebiotics

The beauty of probiotics is that they perform many functions simultaneously: They repair leaky gut AND also address the main causes of leaky gut, including inflammation, dysbiosis, overgrowth, or infection.

Using one type of probiotic is good; using one from each category together is best to reset your gut health and repair leaky gut. Be sure to choose ones with colony-forming units (CFUs) in the billions. For more on how to use probiotics, check out our Probiotics Starter Guide.

Prebiotics feed the beneficial bacteria from probiotics. Prebiotics can be consumed either in the form of fiber from fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds, and whole grains, or from prebiotic supplements. However, many people with digestive issues have side effects from prebiotic foods or supplements until their guts have done some healing, so try them with caution.

Leaky Gut Supplements -

L-Glutamine

Glutamine is the substance your gut naturally uses to repair intestinal cells. Supplementation with L-glutamine can help speed the repair of the intestinal lining, decrease intestinal permeability, and reduce inflammation.

  • L-Glutamine is an amino acid that has a significant body of research showing its restorative properties for the gut lining and gastrointestinal tract, especially during stress. [32 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 33]
  • Though some sources claim that the benefits of L-glutamine haven’t been shown in research, a meta-analysis (the gold standard in scientific evidence) found that L-glutamine reduced markers of leaky gut and intestinal lining damage, and improved gut barrier function.[34 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]

Vitamin D

Vitamin D seems to help maintain immune system balance in the gut and prevent gut health problems.

Humans naturally produce vitamin D in their skin when it’s exposed to sunlight. But as people tend to get less sun exposure in modern life and vitamin D deficiency is common. There seem to be some synergistic health benefits of vitamin D that can only be obtained by getting actual sun exposure.

Leaky Gut Supplements -
  • Sun exposure has been shown to protect against digestive tract disease and inflammation, specifically diverticulitis and inflammatory bowel disease. [38 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]  We can infer that safe sun exposure can be important for healing your leaky gut.

A general recommendation for safe sun exposure (that does not increase the risk of cancer) is 20-30 minutes of exposure while wearing a bathing suit, 1-3 days per week.

For more about how to safely increase your vitamin D levels, see Healthy Gut, Healthy You.

Other Leaky Gut Supplements

In addition to the top three supplements, there are a variety of other supplements that can help repair intestinal permeability, reduce gut inflammation, or support the healing of the gut lining. Here is a summary of others that may be useful.

Digestive Enzymes and Stomach Acid Support

Digestive enzymes help make sure that the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates you eat are fully broken down during digestion. This not only reduces wear and tear on your digestive system, but can help reduce leaky gut food sensitivity symptoms.

Along with bacterial toxins, undigested food particles may travel through the permeable gut wall and be mistaken by your body for a foreign invader and cause more systemic inflammation. [39 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]

Leaky Gut Supplements -

There are many types of enzyme formulas, so be sure to find one that you tolerate well. A basic one will contain amylase, protease, and lipase to help your body digest carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Supporting stomach acid may also support leaky gut healing by generally supporting digestive health and helping ensure complete protein digestion. A formula that also contains betaine hydrochloride(HCL) may improve results, but isn’t necessary for everyone.

DGL, Aloe, Slippery Elm, and Marshmallow

Soothing herbs like deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL), aloe vera, slippery elm, and marshmallow root can help coat and soothe an irritated gut lining, and may provide therapeutic plant compounds that offer a protective benefit to the intestinal lining while healing leaky gut. [40] DGL and these other agents can also soothe heartburn. Be sure to choose DGL as opposed to regular licorice root, because it can lead to elevated blood pressure with continuous use. These three herbals can be combined with L-glutamine to super-charge your gut-healing protocol. 

Fish and Fish Oil

Leaky Gut Supplements -

Fish oil and its omega-3 fatty acids DHA & EPA have been extensively researched for their ability to help support the cardiovascular system, to promote joint, skin, gut, eye, and brain health and to help support a healthy inflammatory response. Eating wild-caught fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, or using a DHA & EPA fish oil supplement may be beneficial for healing leaky gut.

Zinc Carnosine

Zinc carnosine has been shown to stabilize the gut mucosa and reduce diarrhea. [41 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 42 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is known to affect intestinal permeability and gut lining function. [43 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source] A study exploring the ways Vitamin A affects gut barrier function found that Vitamin A deficiency increases intestinal permeability, while restoring Vitamin A levels decreased intestinal permeability. [44 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source] Though this study was a model-based study, it shows a likely benefit to supplementing with Vitamin A to encourage healing of leaky gut.

Immunoglobulins

Immunoglobulin G (IgG) cells are a type of immune cell. They are normally present in the gut lining and bind to allergens and antigens, including bacterial toxins in the gut.

Bacterial inflammation is thought to be one of the main causes of leaky gut symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, and joint pain. Immunoglobulin G binds these potential irritants so they can be excreted in the stool and can’t cause symptoms.

Leaky Gut Supplements -

Supplemental Immunoglobulins  have been shown to help IBS patients who did not respond to other treatments like diet, probiotics, antimicrobials, and soothing agents [45].

Gut Healing Foods

Gut healing foods like bone broth and collagen protein can support the gut lining in healing from leaky gut. Collagen is beneficial for all skin tissues. [46] While data are still preliminary (from animal & cell studies), we can infer that collagen is beneficial to your gut lining. [47 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 48 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source, 49 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]

Quercetin

Quercetin is a plant compound that helps restore the gut lining, and is anti-inflammatory for the gut. [50 Trusted SourcePubMedGo to source]

Conclusion

Though all of these supplements can be helpful for healing leaky gut, this doesn’t mean you have to use all of them to heal leaky gut.

Rather, I recommend focusing on the top three to start: probiotics, L-glutamine, and vitamin D from safe sun exposure. If you need additional support beyond those three, you can experiment with the other options.

And don’t forget: Eating an anti-inflammatory diet with healthy fats like coconut oil, and good daily habits, like stress reduction and getting enough sleep can be just as important as supplements. For more on other ways to help heal leaky gut, see How to Heal Leaky Gut.

More About Leaky Gut:

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