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Leaky Gut: Everything You Need to Know

Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is a condition in which bacteria, metabolic breakdown products and toxins are able to "leak" through the intestinal wall and into your bloodstream.  The substances entering the circulation may then cause an immune response. Symptoms associated with the condition may include bloating, gas, cramps, chronic fatigue, joint pain, headaches, skin rashes and abdominal pain.

The intestinal lining is the first line of defense for our immune system. With leaky gut, cells lining your intestines don't maintain the tight barrier needed to ensure your body is only absorbing properly- digested nutrients; unprocessed molecules are allowed to enter the blood stream. When these “foreigners” enter your blood stream, the immune system jumps into action and increases inflammation around the gut wall where the “problem” is, and may also cause problems throughout the whole body.

The Relation Between Leaky Gut and Food Sensitivities

Over time, as the food particles (antigens) continue to pass through the permeable intestinal wall and build up in the bloodstream, the immune system responds by creating IgG antibodies which can form complexes with the antigens. The IgG-antigen complexes are usually cleared by macrophages, but in the presence of excess antigen, the capacity of the macrophages to remove immune complexes is exceeded.  This results in deposition of excess complexes in tissue.[1,2] Deposition of IgG-Ag complexes exacerbates inflammation and tissue damage, creating a cycle which may contribute to specific health issues.

Potential Causes of Increased Intestinal Permeability

There are a number of lifestyle and diet factors that are believed to contribute to leaky gut. Some things that may play a role include:

  • Long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)[3] like ibuprofen
  • Excessive alcohol[4] and/or sugar intake[5]
  • Nutrient deficiencies in vitamin A, vitamin D and zinc[6,7]
  • Chronic stress[8]
  • Dysbiosis and yeast overgrowth
  • Smoking
  • Diet high in lectins

Healing Your Leaky Gut

There are steps you can take to improve your gut health.

  1. Remove your inflammation triggers (eg. Reduce your sugar intake, identify food sensitivities, etc.)
  2. Rebuild a healthy gut: talk to your Healthcare provider about the best steps for you to rebuild your digestive health.
  3. Fix the root cause

Talk to your healthcare provider about testing and treatment options available to you. The RMA FST™ Food Sensitivity test can help you and your healthcare provider to identify foods that may be triggering the formation of immune complexes. 



1. Gocki J, Bartuzi Z. “Role of immunoglobulin G antibodies in diagnosis of food allergy.” Adv Dermatol Allergol Vol.33 No..4 (2016): 253-56.

2. Janeaway, CA Jr, Traver P, Walport M et al. Immunobiology: The Immune System in Health and Disease. 5th ed. New York: Garland Science, 2001. Print.

3. Utzeri E, Usai P. Role of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on intestinal permeability and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2017;23(22):3954-3963.

4. Purohit V, Bode JC, Bode C, et al. Alcohol, intestinal bacterial growth, intestinal permeability to endotoxin, and medical consequences: summary of a symposium. Alcohol. 2008;42(5):349-61.

5. Do MH, Lee E, Oh MJ, Kim Y, Park HY. High-Glucose or -Fructose Diet Cause Changes of the Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Disorders in Mice without Body Weight Change. Nutrients. 2018;10(6):761. Published 2018 Jun 13. doi:10.3390/nu10060761

6. Assa, A, et al. Vitamin D Deficiency Promotes Epithelial Barrier Dysfunction and Intestinal Inflammation. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2014;210(8):1296-1305. Published 2014 Apr 21. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiu235

7. Chen, P, et al. Association of Vitamin A and Zinc Status with Altered Intestinal Permeability: Analyses of Cohort Data from Northeastern Brazil. Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition. 2003;21(4):309-15.

8. Santos J, Yang P, Söderholm JD, et al. Role of mast cells in chronic stress induced colonic epithelial barrier dysfunction in the rat. Gut. 2001;48:630-636.