Comprehensive Leaky Gut Diet Guide + How to Heal Your Gut

Image of intestinal wall with wording comprehensive leaky gut diet guide + how to heal your gut by The Healthy RD

A leaky gut diet, also known as a gut-healing diet, can be helpful to your health as well as empowering. 

If you have minor digestive symptoms, odd are, you can heal leaky gut in two weeks.  For people with more complex gut issues, gut healing can take much longer. 

You can take many steps to heal with your diet to improve your digestive system.  Luckily for you, these steps will also help heal your whole body in the process. In other words, when it comes to diet, a leaky gut should be on your radar. 

This blog will give you easy ways to keep you, your digestive tract, and your healthy bacteria -happy.

If you want to cut to the chase, check out my Leaky Gut Diet Plan PDF here

Why worry about healing your gut?

Graphic drawing of the digestive tract in the color blue with close up image of digestive brush border in light red by The Healthy RD

Simply put, the gut is pretty much everything when it comes to overall health.  

If you want to make the biggest change in how you feel both physically and mentally, it’s smart to get comfortable tuning into your gut feelings. 

Research has also exploded in the area of healing your gut, and all signs point to the idea that your gut is the window to your health.  This means that if your digestive tract is healthy, you have less risk of all diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, mental health disorders, and more.

There’s lots of talk about healing your gut, and so many concepts that it can seem daunting.  

But, you can start one by one by increasing foods in the gut healing diet food list or do many of the diet tips at once for maximum impact on your digestive health. 

Keep in mind, that we are all a bit different, so sometimes when one leaky gut diet doesn’t help, you can try others in the tips included here. 

But first, you need to consider the following factors for gut healing:

  • The health of your gut lining
  • Factors that can cause a leaky gut
  • Exposures to toxins
  • Nutrients that heal gut tissue
  • Stress levels
  • Your environment

As you can see, your diet plays a big role in gut healing, but so does everything your body is exposed to. 

Related post: Best Soil Based Probiotics for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and SIBO (

Leaky gut diet types

Most leaky gut diet plans involve some level of an elimination diet that can help the health of your gut lining. Elimination of food triggers can go a long way to helping heal the gut lining.  Common elimination diets for leaky gut include: 

These elimination diet plans vary in complexity and effectiveness in healing leaky gut. It can’t be emphasized enough that you not only want to eliminate foods but also incorporate plenty of healing gut foods. Let’s take a closer look at each of these diets.

Traditional elimination diet

You should know that the gold standard for following an elimination diet is a traditional elimination diet, which is meant to help fully remove food sensitivities for 3-6 weeks and add in healing foods in the meantime.  Foods that are eliminated include all common food allergies and sensitivities, including gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and processed foods. 

Then, foods are systematically added back one at a time, with each food added back over a 3-5 day period, to determine if you are sensitive to that food.  Most functional medicine professionals recommend this type of leaky gut diet plan as a good starting place. It also helps to get an Elimination Diet Journal to help monitor your symptoms. 

Low FODMAPS diet

FODMAPS are fermentable starches and sugars.  The FODMAPS acronym stands for  Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. 

The FODMAPS in foods sometimes trigger irritable bowel symptoms, but did you know that they can also increase intestinal permeability?

Foods that are high in FODMAPS include artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, green peppers, apricots, mango, apples, pears, peaches, watermelon, lentils and legumes, most nuts, dairy products, wheat, rye, prebiotics, and sugar alcohol sweeteners like xylitol and erythritol. 

A helpful low FODMAP book that I like is called The Low FODMAP Diet for Beginners. 

You shouldn’t follow a low FODMAPS diet long-term.  In fact, many foods rich in FODMAPS can be quite healthy for the gut, so I tend to shy away from using a low FODMAPS diet unless absolutely necessary. 

Simplified gluten-free diet

Many experts in digestive health agree that gluten is the most common culprit that may trigger a leaky gut. If you are in doubt that a leaky gut exists, researchers studied leaky gut at the Mayo Clinic and found that gluten may be a common culprit. 

For example, people who struggle with IBS-diarrhea predominant symptoms benefit from a gluten-free diet because they have a reduced number of bowel movements and reduced markers of intestinal permeability after simply following a gluten-free diet. 

A gluten-free diet can be simple to try but should be strictly followed for at least 3-4 weeks to see if symptoms resolve. 

I wrote a book following the simplified gluten-free diet that includes healing foods for leaky gut called The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health that may be helpful to you in following this type of plan. This includes leaky gut diet recipes and lots of gut-healing foods that are also tasty.  

Gluten-free dairy-free diet

Both gluten and dairy are common immune triggers in the gut, so it makes sense that some people may benefit from eliminating both.  A gluten-free dairy-free elimination diet is an approach that may help improve gut health by improving the gut microbiome in some people. 

Interestingly, a gluten-free and dairy-free meal plan may even help children with kidney disease by improving immune health and reducing inflammation in the body. 

A helpful guide for this type of meal plan is The Everything Gluten Free Dairy Free Cookbook

Dr Gundry’s leaky gut diet plan

Dr. Gundry is a cardiologist and respected expert on preventive health.  His Plant Paradox book opened up many people’s eyes to the fact that lectins can cause a lot of gut irritation for people. Many people use his plan as a tool for healing leaky gut. 

His lectin-free approach helps many people feel better, but research is still early about how effective this plan is. By the way, lectins are primarily found in legumes, grains, and some nuts and seeds.  

Ketogenic diet

A ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that has become popular for many reasons.  Many people feel better while minimizing carbohydrates, have less brain fog, lose weight, and more.  

This type of meal plan isn’t new at all and helps some people who have epilepsy, autism, gut disorders, and more.  Luckily there are many variations on the ketogenic diet for people including a modified keto diet, which allows for more fiber and non-starchy vegetables than traditional keto diets.  

Many people use a ketogenic diet as a diet for a leaky gut.  Keep in mind, that there is no direct research that supports using a keto diet to heal a leaky gut at this time. 

A similar but slightly less restrictive approach is called the mitochondria diet.

Autoimmune protocol diet

An autoimmune protocol diet is a type of meal plan that aims to reduce symptoms of autoimmune disease by changing the diet.  There are many types of autoimmune protocols, including the Wahls protocol, the GAPS diet, and the Mitochondria diet plan. By eliminating common immune triggers including grains, dairy, corn, and soy while increasing anti-inflammatory foods and healing foods, many people feel much better. 

In fact, research shows that following an autoimmune protocol reduces inflammation and symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The people in this study also received targeted nutritional repletion as well. 

For leaky gut diet breakfast ideas and more, check out my post on the Autoimmune Protocol Diet.

Leaky gut diet food list

Foods healthy for a leaky gut diet including fresh wild salmon, extra virgin olive oil, sprouts, spinach, and a variety of mushrooms by The Healthy RD

It is so important that I emphasize here that to heal your leaky gut syndrome, you need to include nutrient-rich foods for healing rather than just eliminate trigger foods.  Here is a starter list of foods for you to think about adding to your diet for healing your digestive tract.  Foods to heal the gut include:

  • Bone Broth
    • Homemade from grass-fed beef or organic chicken, grass-fed bone marrow by Ancestral supplements
  • Mushrooms
    • Specifically, Chaga and Reishi are known to help support gut health, mood, and immunity
  • Polyphenols
    • Spices, fruits, vegetables, sprouted seeds
  • Fermented foods– fermented vegetables and cultured foods including:
    • fresh sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, *unsweetened yogurt, *buttermilk, *kefir, honey kefir, water kefir, coconut yogurt, *fermented cheeses like gouda, cheddar, swiss, blue cheese, gorgonzola, buttermilk, aged goat cheese
      • *Only include dairy if you have ruled out dairy sensitivity
  • Coconut shreds, unsweetened
  • Sprouted seeds
    • Broccoli, chia, flax, bean, mustard, onion, pea shoots, clover, alfalfa, sunflower seeds, and more. Learn how to sprout seeds here
  • Healthy Fats
    • coconut milk, nuts (if not sensitive), egg yolks, ghee, avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oilall coconut products are especially good for your gut because they are easier to digest and help deter “bad bugs.”  Also, coconut kefir contains probiotics.
  • Fish
    • Wild salmon, light tuna, sardines, scallops, clams, shrimp, oysters, anchovies, squid, and other mercury-safe fish
  • Meat
    • Grass-fed beef, bison, lamb, organic turkey, chicken, and other natural meats, eggs, if not sensitive
  • Fruits
    • Blueberries, huckleberries, barberries, blackberries, papaya, mango, kiwi, pineapple, bananas, strawberries, grapes, coconut, figs, dates, apricots, peaches, nectarines
  • Fresh, non-starchy vegetables
    • Broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, carrots, arugula, eggplant, beet greens, Swiss chard, spinach, ginger, parsnips, zucchini, alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts, kohlrabi, squash, turnips, rutabaga, parsley, cilantro
  • Root vegetables
    • Sweet potatoes, beets, yams, carrots, onions, parsnips, potatoes
  • Gluten-free grains
  • Herbs and spices
    • All herbs and spices are encouraged for gut healing.  Include ginger and turmeric frequently. Caution with hot peppers if you are sensitive to nightshade vegetables. Fennel seeds for digestion as well as coriander and caraway are some of my favorites.
  • Beverages
    • Bone broth, teas, coconut milk, nut milk, water, and kombucha
  • Nuts
    • Nuts contain healthy fats and are ideal if sprouted.  It is best to vary your intake of nut types. Can include almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, chestnuts, and nut-based products, such as nut milk.
      • Make sure you aren’t sensitive to any of the above.  If you have a thyroid disorder, it is best to cook nuts to reduce goitrogens

Related: SIBO diet plan pitfalls + how to eat to feel better

Leaky gut diet foods to avoid

Foods that cause a leaky gut can include food allergens, sensitivities, and chemicals that can worsen your digestion as described above.  Here is a list of foods to consider avoiding when you are following a gut-healing diet:

  • Wheat containing foods
    • Bread, pasta, cereals,  crackers, wheat flour, tortillas, couscous, Kamut, etc.
      • Labels now require products to list if they contain wheat
  • Other gluten grains and foods
    • Barley, rye, bulgur, Kamut, spelt, seitan, triticale, oats, beer, most packaged foods
  • Processed meats
    • Cold cuts, deli meats, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, charcuterie
  • Packaged baked goods
    • Cakes, muffins, cookies, pies, pastries, tortillas, buns, and pizza
  • Condiments with added sugars
    • such as barbecue sauces, teriyaki, hoisin, salad dressings, and more
  • Snack foods
    •  potato chips, most crackers, candy bars, sweetened snack bars, such as granola bars, most gum
  • Fast foods
    • usually contain food additives that are disruptive to the gut lining and are highly processed
  • Dairy
    • Milk, half and half, and ice cream
  • Processed and refined oils
    • Peanut, canola, vegetable oil, sunflower, soybean, and safflower oils
  • Artificial sweeteners
    • Aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame K, and saccharin. Also avoid erythritol and xylitol as well as other sugar alcohols because they upset the gut
  • Sauces
    • Bottled or packaged salad dressings, as well as soy, teriyaki, and hoisin sauce; these can contain numerous additives and common sensitivities unless salad dressings are homemade
  • Beverages
    • Alcohol, carbonated beverages, and other sugary drinks.

Gut Healing Foods + Lifestyle Tips

Besides breathing and sleeping, the largest impact on our health is the foods we eat and what we are exposed to every day. 

Think about it:  the food you eat is the building block of life! Your diet to heal gut issues should include lots of nutritious foods. 

Add fermented foods

Fermented (probiotic) foods have been used for at least 9000 years to help preserve and increase the nutritional qualities of foods. They are a cornerstone of functional nutrition and help treat leaky gut.

The industrialization of food has dramatically reduced the intake of fermentation, but a recent grassroots effort to re-explore these in our food supply is with good reason. Fermented foods may have countless health benefits. This includes a high content of probiotics and pH balancing effects on the digestive tract.

As with anything, fermentation takes a bit of knowledge and skill, so research this before taking it on at home.

Some foods that you can readily buy with fermentation/probiotic effects are:

Fresh sauerkraut, fermented rice, miso, tempeh, kimchi, unsweetened yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, honey kefir, water kefir, coconut yogurt, fermented cheeses like gouda, cheddar, swiss, blue cheese, gorgonzola, and kombucha.

  • Want to ferment your own food?  It can be easy, inexpensive, and rewarding.
    • Here are some culture starter kits that come with easy instructions and supplies:
  • Complete Mason fermentation kit for vegetables by Masontops
  • Water kefir SCOBY by Florida Sun Kefir
  • Kefir starter by Cultures for Health
  • Kombucha starter kit that includes a warmer
  • Vegetable starter culture by Cutting Edge Cultures

Add polyphenol-rich foods

Polyphenols are plant compounds that give vibrant color and nutrition to our diets. Polyphenols in whole plant foods also positively influence the health of gut bacteria.

Over 8000 types of polyphenols have been identified in foods.  Needless to say, we are only beginning to understand the complex effects and benefits of polyphenols in the body.  According to Nutrition Advance, some of the richest food sources of polyphenols include:

Many polyphenols aren’t digestible. Instead, these healthy compounds interact with gut microbes and change their amounts and types. In turn, the microbes break down polyphenols and then release more active and better-absorbed compounds.  The health effects of polyphenols depend on the existing gut bacteria amount and type in your gut. 

Reduce your exposure to toxins

Toxins are anything that has a poor effect on our health.  This can be everyday foods in excessive amounts or it can be chemicals in foods that our body doesn’t handle correctly.  It is estimated that our digestive tract is exposed to more toxins than any other organ of our body.

Here are some tips to reduce toxins for your gut health.

Experts suggest that environmental exposures may be more important than just about anything for our gut health. These exposures include:

  • Air quality-inside buildings and out
  • Use of chemical cleaners in the home
  • Food chemicals
  • Food additives

Gut-healing diets will be mostly unprocessed and will be free of added chemicals.  The air you breathe affects your gut! In addition, you can take the following steps to keep your gut environment more healthy.

 Judiciously use chemicals at home

Food additives, including carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80, are known to affect gut bacteria. Eating highly processed foods will increase your intake of these chemicals.

Additionally, skincare products, household cleaning products, and environmental chemicals are grossly understudied as little to no regulation is involved in their use or approval.

Yet what we do know is that many chemicals are not good for your gut bacteria.  When given a choice, always use natural cleaners and skin products, as well as toothpaste.

Be mindful of “Green” products.  They can be full of chemicals too. 

Gut healing infographic by The Healthy RD

Other foods that cause leaky gut

Some foods, particularly highly processed foods, can contribute to leaky gut symptoms.  The following foods and additives can cause leaky gut and are thought to contribute to health problems for many today:

  • Glucose
  • Salt in processed foods
  • Emulsifiers
    • Mono-and di-glycerides
    • Sodium/calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate
    • Lecithins
    • Trans fats
    • Microbial surfactants
    • Soy lecithin
    • polyglycerol
    • Sorbitan
    • Sugar esters
    • Monoglyceride
    • Acetylated Monoglyceride
    • Lactylated Monoglyceride
  • Organic solvents
  • Gluten
  • Microbial transglutaminase (from whey protein)

To heal a leaky gut, it is best to limit or avoid these additives as much as possible and consider a gluten-free, low-added-sugar diet. While some people do tolerate Kamut gluten better than modern gluten, it is best to try to eliminate all gluten to see if it is a culprit in your leaky gut symptoms.

Gluten reactions

You can have 3 different types of reactions to gluten.

  • Celiac disease
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity
  • Wheat allergy
  • Temporary leaky gut, even in healthy people

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity results in improper digestion of the protein in some grains called gluten.

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity are more likely to have anemia, skin rashes, and immune reactions to gluten than those who have celiac disease or irritable bowel disease.  In fact, estimates suggest that around 30 percent of the population has this disorder.

The only way to know if you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity is to fully follow a gluten-free diet for 3-4 weeks.

Enzymes in the gut often are not able to completely digest gluten.

Even in healthy people, gluten can cause an immediate increase in gut permeability or leaky gut.  Gluten causes an increase in zonulin, which then causes the tight junction to open up more.

Gut-healing diets almost universally try an elimination period of gluten for at least 3-4 weeks.

Immerse yourself in nature and be outside daily

The opposite of toxins is nature and fresh air.  Nature is the true antidote to unhealthy environments that are inside of buildings. Imagine, if you will, that bacteria in our digestive tracts help to detoxify the body, making us less likely to get colon cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and more.

A serene outdoor walk with fresh air, sunshine, and exposure to countless microbes is just maybe what the doctor ordered. In fact, experts suggest that our air and environment may be the biggest predictor of our bacteria content.

People living in urban environments spend a staggering 90% of their time indoors, and this is a contributor to a change and also likely a reduction in gut bacteria diversity.

Even the air we breathe indoors (or outdoors) and around us affects our bacterial diversity to a large extent.

Natural environments also de-stress the body, allowing for more healthy bacteria to thrive.

Dig in the dirt

Could gardening and exposure to soil make us happy?  Several research studies point to yes.   Garden soil is teeming with its own ecosystem of bacteria, yet it is likely that different regions and exposures of soils to different treatments vastly affect the quality of the soil organisms.

The bacteria in the soil may put us in a better mood, even when the bacteria is isolated away from the soil as studied by Dr.Brien and colleagues.

The bacteria in this particular study was Mycobacterium vaccae.  To learn more about soil bacteria and mood, visit Gardening Know How.

Avoid highly processed foods on your leaky gut diet

Food additives in fast foods and junk foods are related to increased food sensitivities and a reduction in beneficial bacteria. 

Here is an example.

A student at the University of Aberystwyth underwent an experiment where he subsisted on McDonald’s food for ten days.

Over this time frame of 10 days, he lost an astounding 40% of his gut bacteria. I am going to assume that heavily processed foods from anywhere devastate the gut.

Eat a diverse variety of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables

Our gut bacteria need a diverse source of fiber-rich foods to help keep them healthy and thriving. A gut-healing diet will include multiple servings of vegetables and fruits per day.

We now have the capability to measure the types and amounts of bacteria in the gut through DNA testing; it is clear that the variety of fresh produce in the diet contributes to gut health and diversity of gut bacteria.

Include sprouted foods

Whenever possible, sprout your food. This reduces anti-nutrients in plants and makes foods more nutritious. Choose organic grains and legumes whenever possible.

Sprouted Seeds — Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds that have been sprouted are great sources of fiber that can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria.

But if you have a severe leaky gut, you may need to start out getting your fiber from steamed vegetables and fruit.

Choose whole grains; however, if you are sensitive to gluten, wheat, barley, rye, and some oats may contribute to dysbiosis or bacterial imbalance and leaky gut.  This can be true of any sensitivity for that matter.

How to Soak and Ferment Grains

Both soaking and especially fermenting grains and legumes make them more nutritious and easy to digest.

Methods to ferment and soak grains are easy, and details can be found at Whole Health Source.

Eat raw produce

As it turns out, the “probiotic” from the soil hitch-hike onto the vegetables and snap.  You got probiotics.

When you eat raw produce, you get some probiotic effects as well as prebiotic fibers. To date, no one has figured out the amounts and types of probiotics that come from raw produce.

Certainly, there is an infinite possibility of the type and amount of bacteria you might get.

Have a furry friend

If they weren’t delightful enough on their own, pets make you healthier.

This may be in part because they keep the body supplied with a steady source of bacteria.

You don’t have to ask me twice.  I will always have a furry friend by my side.

Reduce your stress

As it turns out, a diet for gut healing isn’t the whole picture.  Managing stress is critical for gut healing too.  Short-term exposure to stress can impact the bacteria content of our gut by altering the relative proportions of the main types of bacteria.  Bacteria are required for normal brain development as well.

Early research shows that gut probiotic content also influences stress responsiveness and anxiety as well as histamine production.

You can help de-stress with:

Add supplements for leaky gut diet optimization

Supplements can increase the speed of healing time for a leaky gut, especially if you have had impaired digestion for a long while.  Remember, nutrients are the building blocks of your digestive tract.  Both the quality of the supplements and the quantity of them matter.  Herbs and spices listed here can also help speed up healing time.

A word of caution: some supplements can interact with medications. Some medications may make you low in some nutrients as well, so make sure to be aware of common drug-nutrient depletions.

You can get a free downloadable version of supplements and probiotics here.

Add probiotics

A healthy bacterial content, also known as your microbiome, creates most of the immunity in your body. These bacteria send signals to all tissues in the body to convey messages. This means that the microbiome plays a role in heart health, cancer risk, brain health, diabetes, mental health, and more.

Each individual’s gut bacteria is more like a fingerprint than a generic commonality between people, so it’s not as straightforward as it might seem. I get asked all the time, “What probiotic should I take?” 

The Human Microbiome Project has found that thousands of different types of bacteria may inhabit the gut of human populations collectively. A huge variation exists between and among people.

Despite this complexity, many bacteria types have common functions in the metabolic effects on the body and the signaling to various systems. Because of these commonalities, some of the same techniques for enhancing your microbiome will work for most people.  

However, keep in mind that not every kind of bacteria is friendly in every circumstance. Digestive health depends on the best balance for your unique needs.  In other words, don’t get discouraged and confused if you don’t respond well to a probiotic right away.  The health benefits of probiotics will be worth just a little time and consideration. 

How to Find Good Probiotics

On the shelf, you will find hundreds upon hundreds of different types of probiotics, so it takes a little investigation to learn about each kind.

The US Probiotic Guide has information about individual bacteria strains and researched benefits.

Many supplement companies have their own variety of probiotics, and one may suit you better than others.

As a general rule, choose probiotics with at least 5-20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) with multiple strains for a more broad benefit.

Vast amounts of research are starting to be dedicated to probiotics as antibiotics begin to lose their effectiveness due to resistance and overuse.

Some research is even finding that probiotics are helpful in treating nasty gut infections. As with anything that has benefits, there also are some small risks.  Ask your doctor about probiotics if you have a compromised immune system.

Nutrients that help heal leaky gut

Many foods and nutrients that can affect the gut barrier wall can help and some can harm this lining. A balanced diet including adequate protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals is key to recovery.

Early research shows that the following nutrients and food extracts may help enhance the strength of the tight junctions. These nutrients include [R, R]:

These nutrients improve intestinal barrier function and reverse intestinal barrier damage by increasing the gene expression of gut lining proteins. Other helpful foods for gut healing include licorice root, marshmallow root, ginger, and turmeric.

Try bovine colostrum

Bovine colostrum is an ultra-immune substance that comes from the first milking of cows and has been used for a long time for its healing properties. In fact, over 2000 studies support its use for improving health, and leaky gut is no exception.

Several research studies show that taking colostrum helps to heal a leaky gut [R, R]. It is lactose-free so it is safe for most people with a dairy sensitivity, but if you have a true milk allergy, you should avoid taking colostrum.

Ginger and turmeric

Ginger helps to increase the absorption of nutrients and reduces inflammation in the digestive tract.

Turmeric is related to ginger and helps reduce gut inflammation.  It is also effective for pain relief for many people.  Turmeric can increase the healthy bacteria in your gut as well. It helps support liver detoxification as well.

Try both ginger and turmeric for enhanced digestive health and to reduce inflammation to support gut healing. Amounts found in foods and directed amounts on supplements are safe.

I like to use fresh ginger or ginger teas with honey as a great gut-health tonic.  Fresh ginger and turmeric are great in smoothies too. 


L-glutamine is an amino acid that is responsible for the growth and repair of the intestinal lining.  It is a key nutrient designed to heal leaky gut. It helps repair the cells that line the gut, reduces inflammation, and helps soothe the gut by helping create a protective coating.

The suggested dose of L-glutamine is 5-10 grams per day, of a micronized L-glutamine powder or capsules.  You can dissolve it in water, juice, or smoothies. Divided doses are preferred.

Fish Oil

Omega-3s work to reduce inflammation throughout the body, including the digestive tract.  Fish oil is the most concentrated way to increase omega-3 fats in your diet. You may recall that inflammation reduces the ability of the gut wall to function properly.

Most people also fall short in omega-3’s so it is a reasonable addition to any healthy lifestyle.

Suggested dose: will vary depending on your needs and your diet.  Aim for at least 1000 mg of DHA and EPA combined. Higher doses may be needed to correct deficiencies.

Keep in mind that cod liver oil is better absorbed than most fish oil supplements so you don’t need to take as much of it as you would fish oil.

Caution if you have an allergy or sensitivity to fish.

Natural vitamins and minerals

Nutrients involved in the repair of the gut include vitamin D3, vitamin A, quercetin, zinc, and more. 

Many people with poor digestion don’t absorb nutrients like vitamin B12 well either. For anyone with a leaky gut, a broad-spectrum natural multivitamin with minerals can help speed up the healing process.

The best natural vitamins are those that are naturally derived, so you will want to avoid synthetic vitamins.

Licorice Root

Licorice root can help balance stress cortisol levels and balance the pH of the stomach. Licorice root helps maintain the gut lining of the stomach and small intestines.

For in-depth details about licorice, visit Healthy Hildegard.

Caution with licorice

Doses of 100 milligrams of glycyrrhizic acid daily from licorice can cause mineral balances.  This can result in water retention, muscle weakness, hypertension, and cardiac arrhythmia.

For this reason, use licorice for no more than four consecutive weeks. You can get deglycyrrhizinated licorice to reduce any potential side effects.

Marshmallow root for gut healing

The antioxidant, prebiotic, and antihistamine properties of marshmallow root are great for digestion, especially leaky gut.  It is one of my personal favorites to ease digestion. Early research shows that it helps reduce gastric ulcers too.

Marshmallow root may stimulate the growth of your intestinal cells and support a healthy mucin layer according to an early study.

While more research is needed, marshmallow root is generally well-tolerated and has been used for thousands of years.

You can use marshmallow roots in teas, capsules, and powders. Marshmallow root is also very inexpensive.


One of the beneficial components of bone broth is called collagen. While it is great to make homemade bone broth, it is not always realistic. You can add collagen to the diet in powder form.

Collagen may help strengthen the gut lining because it contains an amino acid called glycine. Glycine also may help reduce joint pain and increase skin quality.

Dose:  you can use 10-20 grams per day of quality, powdered collagen supplements that can be added to smoothies, tea, soup, and even bone broth.

Related post: The Best Collagen Supplements

Supplementing digestive enzymes

Indigestion is really common in people with a leaky gut.  You can have a lack of digestive enzymes due to damaged gut lining and also due to leaky gut and toxins.  

If you take digestive enzymes with meals, you will absorb nutrients better.  This may help reduce the damage and irritation caused to the gut and lower the risk of undigested proteins entering the body.

Related post: The best digestive enzymes for bloating and IBS (

If you have long-term diarrhea, the brand I like is called Now Super Enzymes. It contains bile acids that are often lost with ongoing diarrhea symptoms. Bile acids help the body absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins.

N-Acetyl Glucosamine

N-acetyl glucosamine, also called NAG, is an amino acid supplement that is similar to glucosamine. Proponents of this supplement state that it is the most effective form of glucosamine.

A small clinical study found that n-acetyl glucosamine helped reduce symptoms and improved gastrointestinal structure in children with inflammatory bowel disease. 

Some nutrition experts think that the reason glucosamine supplements are beneficial for the gut is that they provide sulfur, which is a necessary nutrient that can fall short.

I have had clients that respond very well to glucosamine for digestive pain and gut issues.

N-acetyl glucosamine is generally safe, but do not take it if you are allergic to shellfish.


Quercetin is a polyphenol found in fruits and vegetables, including onions, apples, berries, buckwheat, and more. Quercetin for leaky gut may be useful. It may also help reduce inflammation by stabilizing mast cells and histamine in the gut.

It is one of my favorite natural antihistamine supplements too. 

How does the digestive tract work? 

The lining of the digestive tract is made up of cell types called epithelial cells. 

Our gut lining is only one cell thick of these cells!

It is important to understand this because gut leaking occurs due to the fragility of this system. 

The lining of the gut is called the brush border.  The brush border protects us from the outside world, from unwanted bacteria, toxins, viruses, and more. It also determines what goes into your body as well. 

The digestive wall is like our skin, only much thinner and much more vulnerable. This digestive lining completely turns over every week.

This is faster than any type of cell turnover in the body.  While very vulnerable, it is also very receptive to repair for this very reason!

The following factors help provide support for this digestive structure:

  • Tight junctions
  • Mucin
  • Goblet cells
  • Food polyphenols
  • Dietary nutrients
  • Short-chain fatty acids from foods
  • Healthy bacteria and microbes

The digestive wall also makes enzymes called brush border enzymes.  These brush border enzymes help break down your food into usable forms for the body.

What are tight junctions?

The tight junctions of our intestinal tract are a protein complex that dictates what gets inside your body. 

This junction is partially and selectively open between intestinal cells. Mostly, gut cells remain tight to protect us from unwanted compounds from getting into the body.

The tight junctions are the boundaries between you and the world.   If the tight junction is impaired, it becomes more porous, or permeable.  This is also referred to as increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome.

This results in your body’s immune system response and often results in inflammation in the entire body as well as in the intestine.

When a leaky gut happens, you can feel bad and your risk of most diseases, if not all, goes up.

Your food and the substances you put in your body are critical to your health, and a gut-healing diet can go a long way to making us healthy.

This is the functional nutrition approach to healing.

What is a Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut pictorial by The Healthy RD

A leaky gut happens when the tight junctions of the intestinal tract lose their function.  

The barrier function of the tight junctions is required to block the entry of unhealthy compounds while allowing the body to absorb healthy compounds like nutrients. 

When the gut barrier function breaks down or becomes leaky, too many unhealthy compounds, including allergens and toxins, can enter the body.  This can set off a cascade of inflammation and harmful reactions throughout your whole system. 

The cause of a leaky gut can be due to numerous factors. Currently, there are no tests available to diagnose this.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be proactive and try to heal from it.

In fact, if you suffer from symptoms of a leaky gut as described below, you probably have a leaky gut. 

Evidence that you are healing can include feeling more energy, less pain, less brain fog, improved skin, and simply put: more vitality. 

Healing a leaky gut can include diet, lifestyle, stress, exposures, medications, and more.  The good news is that you can turn to many diet tips and supplements to help you heal.

Symptoms of a leaky gut

A leaky gut may contribute to one or more of the following symptoms or health issues:

  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn or bloating
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Food sensitivities and allergies
  • Mood and memory issues
  • Skin issues like acne, rashes, or eczema
  • Seasonal allergies and asthma
  • Hormonal issues
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic pain and inflammation
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Celiac disease
  • Other autoimmune diseases

Related: Can you use essential oils for immune system benefits? (

How your gut lining protects you

On the wall of the digestive tract is a protective substance called mucin.  Mucin is a gel-like substance, similar to nasal mucus.  Your stomach and colon have two layers of mucus.  The inner layer is attached to the intestinal wall and the outer layer is not attached. In the colon, the outer mucus layer is home to your resident bacteria.

The inner layer of mucin is re-made every hour by the immune cells in your body.  That is an important task of our immune system.  This mucin lining protects you from dangerous bacteria.

However, certain types of bacteria and “bugs” can break down this lining.  Obviously, certain diet patterns such as highly processed diets cause this lining to break down Certain diseases can also result in a compromised mucin lining, such as colitis and cystic fibrosis.

The breakdown of this barrier also reduces your ability to absorb nutrients. The breakdown reduces the production of the digestive enzymes that are made by the body.

Leaky gut diet and immune function

Your digestive tract makes up the majority of your immunity and it should be no surprise that your diet dictates a lot of how this process works.

One type of cell responsible for immune function in the gut is called the goblet cell. 

Goblet cells are key to immunity because they produce the mucin lining as described above, which protects us from the rest of the world.  Our innate immune system and even some of our adaptive immune systems live in our digestive tract as well. 

Here, unhealthy bacteria are destroyed and healthy bacteria are fostered.

Other types of immune tissue and cells in the gut include:

  • Peyer’s patches
  • mesenteric lymph nodes
  • activated T cells
  • plasma cells
  • mast cells
  • dendritic cells
  • IgA plasma cells
  • macrophages
  • gut bacteria

Neuron-signaling chemicals are made in the gut too,  including serotonin, dopamine, and peptide hormones.  These chemicals act on neurons and the gut lining.  They also regulate the growth and digestive activities of cells of the gut and other tissues.

Many gut molecules function as signal molecules in the nervous system, including serotonin and dopamine. A leaky gut diet helps optimize the production of these healthy chemicals too.

Leaky Gut Diet Summary

Your digestive tract is complicated, but a gut-healing diet and supplements can be used as simple strategies for improving your digestive health. Always check with your healthcare provider, preferably a functional medicine doctor or practitioner with training in leaky gut, before making changes to your diet or adding supplements. 

This post is not meant as medical advice is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat diseases. As with anything, make sure to check with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement. All rights reserved.

Free Guide to Healthy Supplements

By signing up you will also receive 1 free weekly health newsletter as well

Our Categories


Scroll to Top