3 Steps to Heal a Leaky Gut

leaky gut CFS

Gastrointestinal symptoms? Probiotics worsen symptoms? In today’s post I’ll walk you through a 3-step process to heal and restore the gut for long-lasting results. Leaky gut has been observed in CFS and fibromyalgia patients. According to a 2008 study by influential CFS researcher Michael Maes, up to 24 patients (out of 41) showed a significant clinical improvement or remission 10-14 months after intake of supportive nutrients and dietary changes (1). 

Step 1: Remove

Integrity of the intestinal mucosa must be maintained for proper absorption of nutrients. The intestine creates a semi-permeable barrier that permits passage of needed nutrients while barring absorption of undesirable substances from the gut, such as partially digested food products and microbes.

Leaky gut is defined by a chronic disruption of this intestinal barrier. Contact with certain foods and food antigens can disrupt the tight-junctions between cells that line the intestinal tract (2). These materials can enter the circulation and cause immune system activation and inflammation (3). With the immune system involved, chemical mediators (cytokines) are released which can create the intestinal discomfort, fatigue, and abdominal tenderness many with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia experience.

To curtail much of the inflammation and immune system over-activation in the gut, remove foods that can potentially disrupt the intestinal lining.

Foods that disrupt tight junctions:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

Step 2: Repair

With the potentially gut irritating foods out of the normal diet, it’s time to repair the intestinal lining. Several botanicals and nutraceuticals have been shown to help restore a healthy mucosal lining. Research indicates that nutritional factors may promote normal intestinal permeability (4). These include some antioxidants (zinc and N-acteyl-L-cysteine) and mucosal nutrients.

Supplements that heal the intestinal lining:

  • Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice (DGL) supports the gastric mucosal lining and stimulates increased mucin production. Removal of the glycyrrhizin component preserves mucosal benefits while avoiding potential concerns of blood pressure side effects.
  • Zinc-Carnosine, combines L-carnosine with elemental zinc. It supports mucosal integrity and gastrointestinal immune defenses. It also helps relieve occasional indigestion. Its supportive benefits have been demonstrated in over 20 published studies (4).
  • L-Glutamine is an amino acid used as fuel by intestinal cells. Many studies have demonstrated that L-glutamine restores healthy gut barrier function and permeability (5).

Step 3: Repopulate

Healthy intestinal microflora must be present in adequate numbers to assure healthy intestinal pH, immune response, and microbial defenses (6). Before reaching for a probiotic supplement however, consider repopulating the gut’s flora with food first. Microflora growth-promoters, or pre-biotics such as fructo-oligosaccharides from starchy vegetables can help re-establish the natural balance of healthy bowel flora and support gastrointestinal function and comfort. Bacteria that reside in the large intestine digest dietary fiber to produce short-chain fatty acids and other essential vitamins and nutrients necessary for intestinal cell health (6).


In addition, begin adding fermented foods into the diet to slowly change the micro-environment of the gut. After several weeks consider adding a broad-spectrum probiotic, taken on an empty stomach, to further populate the gut with healthy species of bacteria.

Supplements that promote healthy gut flora:

  • Berberine Sulfate is a natural plant alkaloid found in goldenseal, barberry, and Oregon grape. Berberine sulfate can enhance intestinal health by promoting the balance of a broad spectrum of bacterial and fungal organisms (7).
  • Oregano Oil and its constituents have been shown to promote healthy yeast balance especially in those prone to candida overgrowth (8).
  • Enterogenic Intensive 100 from Integrative Therapeutics contains ten hardy probiotic strains for broad spectrum upper and lower GI support and utilizes a unique enteric coating to ensure probiotics survive stomach acid and are released directly into the intestine.

1  Maes, M. & Leunis, Jean-Calude. (2008). Normalization of leaky gut in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is accompanied by a clinical improvement: effects of age, duration of illness and the translocation of LPS from gram-negative bacteria Neuroendocrinol Lett 29(6):101–000. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19112401

2  Fasano A. (2012) Intestinal permeability and its regulation by zonulin: diagnostic and therapeutic implications. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 10(10):1096-100. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22109896

3  Faber F, Bäumler AJ (2014) The impact of intestinal inflammation on the nutritional environment of the gut microbiota. Immunol Lett. pii: S0165-2478(14)00083-2. [Epub ahead of print] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24803011

4  Mahmood A, et al. (2007) Zinc carnosine, a health food supplement that stabilises small bowel integrity and stimulates gut repair processes. Gut. 56(2):168-75. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16777920

5  Ruth MR & Field CJ. (2013) The immune modifying effects of amino acids on gut-associated lymphoid tissue. J Anim Sci Biotechnol. 4(1):27. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23899038

6  Scott, KP, et al. (2013) The influence of diet on the gut microbiota. Pharmacological Research. Pharmacol Res. 69(1):52-60. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23147033

7  Li, J, et al (2014) Ginsenoside metabolite compound K promotes recovery of dextran sulfate sodium-induced colitis and inhibits inflammatory responses by suppressing NF-κB activation. PLoS One. 9(2):e87810. eCollection 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24504372

8  Cleff MB, et al. (2010) In vitro activity of origanum vulgare essential oil against candida species. Braz J Microbiol. 41(1):116-23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24031471