Probiotics for Leaky Gut

Probiotics decrease leaky gut and repair the gut lining.

Key Takeaways

  • Probiotics are a key approach to healing leaky gut.
  • Probiotics should be used alongside an anti-inflammatory diet for best results.

Probiotics are great for your gut health. They help improve the balance of organisms in your gut, reduce an overzealous immune response, and reduce inflammation.

Research shows that probiotics decrease intestinal impermeability. If you have symptoms of leaky gut, probiotics can play a key role in recovering your health.

Let’s take a look at what the research says about probiotics and gut permeability.

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut syndrome, also known as intestinal permeability, is when undigested food particles or bacterial toxins get into your bloodstream through small leaks in your intestinal wall. These unwelcome intruders can trigger an immune system response, which can cause a wide range of symptoms, including digestive complaints, joint pain, fatigue, food sensitivities and food allergies.

Who Has Leaky Gut and What Causes It?

Many health conditions are associated with increased intestinal permeability. These include:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) [1, 2]
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) [3, 4]
  • Celiac disease [5]
  • Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis [6]
  • Some autoimmune diseases, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Type 1 Diabetes [7]
  • General digestive symptoms, like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or gut pain.

Leaky gut isn’t a generally recognized diagnosis, but intestinal permeability is widely recognized in the scientific literature. If you have any of these conditions, chances are you have a leaky gut as well.

There are several causes of increased gut permeability:

  • Poor diet high in processed or inflammatory foods
  • Regular use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) and Alcohol [8, 9, 10]
  • Stress [11, 12]
  • Intestinal dysbiosis, pathogenic infections, or low good bacteria [13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18]
  • Antibiotic or other prescription medication use [19]

Probiotics for Leaky Gut

Probiotics should be considered one key part of a holistic approach to healing leaky gut. This is because they simultaneously work to restore the gut environment while also helping rebalance the gut microbiota. Let’s take a look at how probiotic bacteria help restore the gut lining.

Probiotics Decrease Intestinal Permeability (Leaky Gut)

Several clinical studies have shown improvements in intestinal permeability from the use of probiotics.

  • In one study, a marker of intestinal permeability (zonulin) was significantly lower in the group who received a 14-week course of a multi-species probiotic. [20]
  • In a clinical trial, oral spore-based probiotic species reduced markers of intestinal permeability compared with placebo. [21]
  • In a randomized controlled trial, a seven-day trial of Lactobacillus rhamnosus showed biopsy-confirmed beneficial effects on the genes that regulate intestinal permeability. [22]
  • One small study found that probiotics helped to promote intestinal repair in the human gut. [23]
  • Another trial found positive effects of probiotics when used to treat intestinal impairment after a GI infection. [24]

Probiotics Help Rebalance the Gut Microbiome

Gut dysbiosis is an overgrowth of bad bacteria and organisms in your gut. The results of several studies suggest a connection between dysbiosis and leaky gut.

Since it’s likely that an imbalance of gut flora can cause leaky gut, we can make an inference that probiotics are helpful for healing gut permeability. We have very good science to show that probiotics are an effective treatment for gut dysbiosis:

  • A meta-analysis (the highest quality of science) summarizing 18 clinical trials concluded that probiotics are an effective treatment for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). [25] Specifically probiotics reduce bacterial overgrowths and hydrogen concentrations.
  • In a study of 181 infants, probiotics were as effective as Nystatin (a standard antifungal medication) in reducing fungal infection and improving food intolerances. [26]
  • Two studies show that probiotics can be more effective than standard antiparasitic drug treatment in Blastocystis hominis and Giardia infections. [27, 28]

In summary, we have good science to show that probiotics help to repair leaky gut. Probiotics can also improve imbalances of gut flora, one of the likely causes of leaky gut. Even better, probiotics do all this without side effects.

Using Probiotics for Leaky Gut

Choosing the right probiotics for leaky gut is as simple as picking one from each of the three types:

Using one type is good, but using all three together is often best for maximum benefit.

Each category of probiotics works as one leg of a three-legged stool. Without the other two legs, the stool can’t remain standing.

Be sure to select a high-quality probiotic from a manufacturer who stands behind its label claims. For more on how to use probiotics, see our Probiotics Starter Guide.

Other Leaky Gut Support

Probiotics are just one part of a leaky gut healing strategy. It’s especially important to pay attention to lifestyle changes like improving your diet and getting enough sleep. Certain supplements can help, too.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet that is right for your body is a key strategy to improve leaky gut symptoms. An anti-inflammatory diet also helps maintain a healthy gut microbiome and intestinal wall. Your main leaky gut diet goal is to reduce gut inflammation by eating healthy, whole foods and to avoid the processed foods that cause gut inflammation.

Include clean protein, healthy fatty acids, and fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds as a source of carbs. Foods like bone broth and curcumin are especially healing for the gut.

Pay attention to the foods your body tolerates and doesn’t tolerate. Everyone is unique in this respect and there’s no one right diet for everyone.

Inflammatory Foods

Probiotic Foods for Leaky Gut

While probiotic foods, such as kimchi and kefir, provide general gut health benefits, probiotic foods generally do not have enough colony-forming units (CFUs) to provide a clinical effect on leaky gut or other digestive system disorders. Include fermented foods, but also include quality probiotic supplements with CFUs in the billions. See a comparison of probiotic amounts in fermented foods versus probiotic supplements here.

Prebiotics for Leaky Gut

Prebiotics are starchy fibers that feed the bacteria in your gut, so they can produce important gut healing compounds, like butyrate. Prebiotics can be included as a supplement, but the best source of prebiotics is a diet rich in fiber. Including fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes (if tolerated), and nuts and seeds should provide plenty of food for your good bacteria. However, prebiotics should be used with caution, as they can flare digestive symptoms for some. If you want to try a prebiotic supplement, your best bet is to start with a very small dose and increase slowly to tolerance.

Other Key Leaky Gut Supplements

Digestive supports like digestive enzymes and stomach acid support can help encourage gut healing. Several other supplements can also be helpful for resolving leaky gut.

  • L-glutamine: Supplementation with L-glutamine, and amino acid, can help speed the repair of the intestinal lining, decrease intestinal permeability, and reduce inflammation. [29]
  • Vitamin D: Some studies indicate that low vitamin D is associated with greater gut lining permeability and worse outcomes for people with IBD, while increasing vitamin D reduced irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. [30, 31, 32]
  • Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL): Soothing herbs like deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) can help coat and soothe an irritated gut lining. [33] DGL combined with L-glutamine can super-charge your gut-healing protocol.

The Bottom Line

Probiotics are a key approach to healing leaky gut. They should be used alongside an anti-inflammatory diet for best results. Probiotics help rebalance your gut flora, restore your intestinal wall, and decrease intestinal inflammation.

References (click to expand)
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