The amount of time it takes to heal from a “leaky gut” varies based on a person’s symptoms, overall health, and the underlying cause.

“Leaky gut” is not a recognized medical diagnosis, and it is unclear whether it is a medical condition or a process that contributes to certain digestive disorders. There is still a lot unknown about the leaky gut theory.

In theory, a leaky gut involves possible digestive symptoms due to increased intestinal permeability. This means the intestinal lining allows bacteria into the bloodstream, which can adversely affect the digestive system.

It is sometimes difficult to recognize leaky gut because it has several symptoms that overlap with common gastrointestinal conditions.

This article further defines leaky gut. It also discusses its causes, treatments, symptoms, and prevention.

A note on leaky gut

While experts know intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, is a real issue, it is not yet clear if it is an actual condition or simply a contributor to other conditions. Currently, “leaky gut” is not a recognized or well-accepted diagnosis.

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Intestines are semipermeable. This allows them to absorb needed nutrients and water from foods.

The intestinal barrier includes surface mucus and epithelial cells. This plays a role in limiting the transport of harmful microorganisms.

Some people may develop gaps in their intestinal walls that allow bacteria, undigested food, and toxins to enter their bloodstream.

This can lead to inflammation and changes in their typical gut bacteria, which may cause digestive tract problems.

Although “leaky gut” is not a recognized or well-accepted medical diagnosis, it refers to the problems that may follow from this intestinal permeability.

Learn more about leaky gut.

A leaky gut and intestinal barrier dysfunction can occur with intestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The theory is these conditions can affect the lining of the intestines leading to small holes or cracks.

A 2023 review also indicates other factors may compromise the intestinal barrier’s composition. For instance, medical conditions, such as type 1 diabetes and heart disease, may also play a role in developing a leaky gut.

Other possible causes of a leaky gut include:

  • stress
  • an unbalanced and unhealthy diet
  • excess alcohol consumption
  • frequent antibiotic use

Currently, there are no specific medical guidelines for treating a leaky gut. This is due to it not currently being a recognized medical condition. Also, there are still a lot of unknowns regarding the theory of leaky gut and how it affects people.

However, according to a 2022 review, dietary strategies may improve intestinal barrier function.

Overall, the most effective way to heal a leaky gut is to treat the underlying conditions that cause it. For instance, following a treatment plan for a specific digestive condition may help heal leaky gut symptoms.

Available treatment for people with bowel diseases that have leaky gut symptoms includes:

  • anti-inflammatory medications
  • immune system suppressors
  • pain relievers
  • steroids
  • anticholinergic drugs

Individuals should discuss their symptoms and treatment options with a healthcare professional because some treatments may worsen other digestive conditions.

The symptoms of a leaky gut may vary depending on the underlying medical and digestive causes. However, many bowel and digestive conditions have similar symptoms.

In general, symptoms of a leaky gut include:

  • sudden or ongoing diarrhea or constipation
  • bloating
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • gas
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea

There is no one specific diet for a leaky gut. However, according to a 2019 article, balancing healthy gut microbes may help with symptoms associated with a leaky gut. Also, making certain dietary choices may help strengthen the intestinal barrier.

Tips to promote intestinal healing and a healthy gut microbe include the following:

  • avoiding foods that commonly cause symptoms, such as sugar, gluten, and dairy
  • adding probiotics to repopulate healthy gut bacteria
  • eating fermented foods, such as pickles, yogurt, and sauerkraut, which can help heal the gut
  • considering supplements, such as L-glutamine, which may heal the intestinal lining
  • adding fiber-filled foods, such as whole grains and vegetables, to the diet to enhance intestinal wall integrity
  • using olive oil, which protects healthy gut microbes
  • adding foods containing flavonoids, such as fruits, most vegetables, and coffee, that have beneficial effects on the epithelial barrier

Read more about leaky gut diet.

Several factors can impact a person’s gut health. Taking certain steps may help improve overall digestive health and reduce the risk of a leaky gut.

Also, people with certain medical conditions may be at an increased risk of developing leaky gut. However, there are ways to decrease the risk and possibly prevent leaky gut, including the following:

  • managing long-term digestive conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease
  • avoiding the unnecessary use of antibiotics that may alter typical gut bacteria
  • getting regular exercise, which promotes a healthy digestive tract
  • avoiding foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners, which may alter gut microbes
  • learning healthy ways, such as exercise, meditation, and deep breathing, to reduce and manage stress, which has a link to the breakdown of the intestinal barrier
  • keeping a journal to determine if certain foods trigger worsening symptoms and eliminating those foods

The following are some questions people frequently ask about leaky gut.

What are the five warning signs of leaky gut?

The five warning signs of a leaky gut may vary. For example, some people develop diarrhea while others experience constipation. However, typically, warning signs of a leaky gut include:

  • new onset changes in bowel movements
  • bloating
  • gas
  • excessive fatigue
  • new food sensitivities or intolerance

Does leaky gut get worse before it gets better?

It is difficult to predict whether leaky gut symptoms become worse before they get better. This largely depends on managing the underlying condition causing a leaky gut. Inadequate management of an underlying condition may worsen leaky gut symptoms before they get better.

Leaky gut is not currently a recognized condition, and it is unclear whether it is a condition on its own or a phenomenon that contributes to other conditions.

However, a leaky gut may involve digestive symptoms associated with increased intestinal permeability. Gaps may form in the intestinal lining, allowing bacteria into the bloodstream. This causes leaky gut symptoms, such as diarrhea, gas, and bloating.

There is no definitive treatment for a leaky gut. However, treating underlying conditions may help heal a leaky gut.

The length of time it takes to heal from a leaky gut may vary based on a person’s symptoms, overall health, and the underlying cause of their symptoms.