The intestinal lining determines what substances can enter the bloodstream from the digestive tract. In a healthy gut, the intestines are resistant to harmful substances.

In someone with increased intestinal permeability, those harmful substances may begin to leak through the intestinal wall and into the bloodstream. This increased intestinal permeability is known as leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky gut syndrome has been associated with several chronic conditions, including:

  • food sensitivities
  • skin conditions
  • autoimmune conditions
  • mental health conditions

If you have leaky gut syndrome, there are many supplements as well as other options that may help you feel better.

The supplements below have all shown promising research in the treatment of leaky gut syndrome.

Zinc

Zinc is a necessary element of many metabolic processes and is well-known for its ability to boost the immune system.

A 2001 study found that zinc supplementation helped to strengthen the gut lining in patients with Crohn’s disease.

Research from 2015 suggests that zinc is able to modify the tight junctions of the intestinal lining, helping to limit gut permeability.

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L-glutamine

Glutamine is an important amino acid. In the digestive tract, it’s best known for helping to repair the intestinal lining.

Research from 2015 has shown that glutamine can improve the growth and survival of enterocytes, or intestinal cells. It may also help to regulate the function of the intestinal barrier during stress.

In a small recent study, researchers found that even a low dose of oral glutamine could improve intestinal permeability after strenuous exercise.

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Collagen peptides

Collagen is an important protein that can be found in almost every tissue of the body. It may also play a beneficial role in gut health.

Collagen peptides are a more easily digestible and bioavailable form of collagen. A recent study found that collagen peptides were able to prevent further breakdown of the intestinal lining.

A 2012 study using gelatin tannate, a supplement containing naturally occurring collagen, demonstrated collagen’s anti-inflammatory properties in the gut.

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Probiotics

Probiotics are well-known for their therapeutic use in the management and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases. These live microorganisms help to improve the microbiome of the gut, which can have positive system-wide effects.

In a 14-week trial from 2012, researchers investigated the usefulness of a multi-strain probiotic supplement after intense exercise. They found that zonulin, a marker of gut leakage, was significantly lower in the probiotic supplementation group.

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Fiber and butyrate

Dietary fiber is an important component of a healthy diet. Fiber works in a similar way as probiotics to improve the microbiome.

When fiber is fermented by the gut flora, it creates a short-chain amino acid called butyrate. Research from 2015 has suggested that butyrate supplementation may stimulate mucus production and improve tight junctions in the lining of the tract.

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Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)

Licorice root contains almost 75 bioactive compounds. This includes glycyrrhizin (GL), a compound known for producing adverse effects in humans. DGL is a substance that’s had the GL removed for consumption.

DGL may have various gastric benefits, such as reducing inflammation and increasing mucus production. However, more research is still needed on this supplement for leaky gut syndrome.

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Curcumin

Curcumin is the plant-based compound that gives many familiar spices their bright yellow color — turmeric included. Many of the health benefits of turmeric are due to the presence of its active component: curcumin.

Curcumin itself has poor bioavailability, meaning that it’s poorly absorbed by the body. However, recent research has shown that when curcumin is absorbed, it tends to concentrate in the GI tract. Given its potent anti-inflammatory effects, this may explain why curcumin benefits the lining of the digestive tract.

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Berberine

Berberine is another bioactive plant-based compound that may be beneficial as a leaky gut supplement. This alkaloid has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.

Historically, berberine has been used in the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases.

In a recent animal study, researchers investigated the use of berberine supplementation in rats with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. They found that berberine was able to alleviate the changes in intestinal mucus in these rats.

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There are a few dietary changes that can be made to help in the treatment of leaky gut syndrome.

  • Increase fiber intake. Naturally increasing fiber is one of the best ways to improve the important gut microbiome. Some ways to increase fiber include eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Decrease sugar intake. Recent research in mice suggests that a diet high in sugar may cause epithelial barrier dysfunction. Try to keep your sugar intake below 37.5 grams and 25 grams per day for men and women, respectively.
  • Decrease inflammatory foods intake. Inflammation and intestinal permeability may be linked. It’s best to stay away from too many inflammatory foods, like red meat, dairy, and other fried and processed foods.

Everyone experiences stomach upset from time to time. However, frequent and painful stomach upset may be something more. Other frequent symptoms of leaky gut syndrome include the following:

symptoms of leaky gut syndrome
  • bloating
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • digestive issues
  • fatigue
  • frequent food sensitivities

Many other conditions can cause these symptoms. Speak to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, as your doctor may want to perform further tests.

Whether leaky gut syndrome is real or not is still a hot topic in the medical world.

However, recent research suggests that intestinal hyperpermeability is real and can have system-wide effects. It’s important to get a diagnosis from a healthcare professional if you think you have leaky gut syndrome.

Three of the tests that your doctor may use to diagnose leaky gut syndrome are:

  • intestinal permeability (lactulose mannitol) assessment
  • IgG food antibodies (food sensitivities) test
  • zonulin test

The intestinal permeability assessment measures the levels of lactulose and mannitol, two undigestible sugars, in your urine. The presence of these sugars may indicate a breakdown of the intestinal barrier.

The IgG food antibodies test can measure both food allergies (IgE antibodies) and food sensitivities (IgG antibodies) in up to 87 different foods. Multiple food allergies may indicate a leaky gut.

The zonulin test measures the level of the zonulin family protein (ZFP) antigen. ZFP has been associated with the breakdown of the tight junctions in the intestinal tract.

If you’ve been diagnosed with leaky gut syndrome, supplements may help restore intestinal barrier function.

Some supplements and treatments that may be beneficial in the treatment of leaky gut syndrome may include:

  • zinc
  • L-glutamine
  • collagen peptides
  • probiotics
  • fiber
  • DGL
  • curcumin
  • berberine

Dietary changes for leaky gut syndrome also include increasing fiber intake and decreasing intake of sugar and other inflammatory foods.

As always, reach out to your healthcare professional for more information on adding dietary supplements to your treatment plan for leaky gut syndrome.

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