By:  Coleen Smith, MBA, BS, ABA 4/1/24

In recent years, Leaky Gut has garnered increasing attention surrounding its extensive impact on health and wellness.  Our lifestyle choices of foods consumed daily, physical activities and habitual indulgences of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are all contributing factors in developing a leaky gut.  Understanding the implications of a leaky gut is pivotal in managing and preventing chronic disease.

What Is A Leaky Gut

Harvard Medical School in their Harvard Health Publication explains that a leaky gut occurs when the gut lining becomes unhealthy with larger gaps than usual.  These wider openings allow partially digested foods, toxins, bugs/bad bacteria to travel into the blood stream.  Consequently, this can lead to inflammation, changes in the balance in gut bacteria, and chronic diseases if left untreated.  A leaky gut does not have a smell.

The Role of Leaky Gut in Chronic Disease

  1. Autoimmune Diseases

Johns Hopkins Medicine states “Autoimmune diseases occur because the body’s natural defenses – the immune system, attacks the body’s own healthy tissue”.   This is due to the body sensing dangers from foreign particles and the immune system responding.  When healthy cells, tissues and organs are affected in this response, it results in autoimmune disorders/diseases such as digestive disorders, type 1 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and much more. These attacks can impact any part of the body and even become life threating.

The influx of harmful substances into the blood stream can irritate the gastrointestinal track (GI), leading to symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation.  Proper maintenance of your gut health is crucial to preventing autoimmune diseases.

  • Inflammation

One of the main consequences of a leaky gut is the onset of systemic inflammation (inflammation throughout the body).  As the immune system reacts to an influx of toxic substances from a leaky gut, it releases pro-inflammatory cytokines to mount a defense against these foreign invaders.

When a leaky gut is left untreated, the immune system will continue to release cytokines.  Cytokines are signaling proteins that help control inflammation in your body.  Clevland Clinic notes “High levels of cytokines may lead to excess inflammation and conditions that like autoimmune diseases”.

This persistent release of inflammation can also lead to other conditions such as cardiovascular disease.  While inflammation from a leaky gut causes arterial plaque, it also plays a key role in resulting blockages as it weakens the stability of the plaque.  Once this plaque loosens, it can block an artery.   This will disrupt the flow of blood to the heart and lead to a heart attack.  According to the American Heart Association, leaky gut has been proposed as a primary contributor to heart failure.

  • Diabetes

Increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut) causes increased toxins to flow into the bloodstream, which in turn results in increased cytokines.  While cytokines help to control inflammation in the body, too many cytokines can result in excess inflammation and cause damage to pancreatic beta cells.  Thus, affecting insulin production.

The Endocrine Society explains that when the body produces little or no insulin, the resulting condition is known as Type 1 Diabetes.  Further, a study published by the Endocrine Society’s Endocrinology and Metabolism revealed that inflammation in the digestive track and gut bacteria is shown in patients with type 1 diabetes.  A pattern that is not revealed in non-diabetic individuals.

Nurturing Gut Health

While a leaky gut may predispose individuals to chronic diseases, there are steps that can be taken to improve and support your gut health.  A balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole foods, prebiotics, probiotics, and low stress levels all play a key role in helping to prevent leaky gut.

              Balanced Diet

Healthy eating is essential to both healing and maintaining gut health.  Diets high in saturated fats, processed foods, sugars, frequent alcohol consumption can decrease the good bacteria.  This will eventually lead to a leaky gut, which is linked to several chronic diseases. 

Incorporating fiber rich foods and prebiotics like fresh fruits and vegetables (banana, berries, avocados, apples, green leafy vegetables, onions, garlic, artichoke, asparagus, okra), legumes, peas and beans are all important and beneficial sources of food for feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut.

These indigestible fibers are a good source of quality nutrition for healthy gut bacteria, while promoting their growth.

Additionally, consuming foods like yogurt with live cultures, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi provide an excellent source of probiotics.  This combination of prebiotic and probiotic foods fosters a diverse and resilient gut microbe that is necessary for overall health and wellbeing.


The attribute of the gut plays a pivotal role in the intricate tapestry of our health.  A leaky gut not only compromises our digestive functions but also sets the stage for a myriad of chronic diseases.  By understanding the connection between gut health and overall wellbeing, we can adopt proactive measures to nurture our gut well-being and safeguard against the onset of chronic illnesses.  Remember, a healthy gut lays the foundation for a vibrant and thriving life.  

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