Recognizing Leaky Gut Symptoms: What You Need to Know

July 2, 2024
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The purpose of the article is to educate readers on the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome, highlight the associated health implications, and provide guidance on when and how to seek treatment, fostering better overall health and well-being.


Leaky gut syndrome is not a specific diagnosis, but rather, a term applied to general conditions where your intestinal lining has small cracks or holes that allow for increased permeability where there shouldn't be. As a result, toxins and bacteria can pass through into nearby tissue, leading to diminishing gut flora, inflammation, and other health issues.

It is estimated that people who have irritable bowel syndrome have hyperpermeability in their intestinal lining or leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut syndrome is most heavily associated with IBS. Today, the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome averages around 15% of people. Of those, some reviews have found that up to 62% of people with diarrhea-based IBS and another 25% of people with constipation-based IBS struggle with leaky gut syndrome.

Given the high prevalence, it's important to recognize the symptoms in order to manage and treat the condition effectively.

Potential Causes and Contributing Factors to Leaky Gut Symptoms

So, what are the potential causes and contributing factors to leaky gut syndrome symptoms?


One of the most significant is diet. Foods that are heavy in things like fat and sugar encourage the growth of harmful bacteria, and they trigger dietary emulsifiers. combined, this can exacerbate any symptoms of a leaky gut.

Tangentially, consuming highly processed foods, not getting enough fiber, or drinking a lot of alcohol can contribute to problems with your gut.

One of the key symptoms can be the development of food allergies or food sensitivities. you might already have food allergies or sensitivities as well. In either case, consuming things to which you are sensitive or allergic can trigger immune responses that exacerbate leaky gut.

Stress and Diseases

There is a high correlation between other diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis with leaky gut. so if you have these conditions you should be on the lookout for symptoms. Stress can also exacerbate the symptoms, leading to higher levels of inflammation.


Certain medications, like NSAIDs, can contribute to dysfunction in your intestinal barrier. 

What Are the Symptoms of Leaky Gut?

Your gut embodies your large and small intestines. The small intestine is designed to accept whatever comes from your stomach, absorb the water and nutrients from what you eat and drink, and then deliver those nutrients to the rest of your body. as the content gets moved through the small intestine it reaches the large intestine where any remaining nutrients in water get absorbed.

During this complex process there are a lot of chemical interactions that move through and from the gut membrane. This mucosal membrane covers the large and small intestines and prevents unwanted things from escaping your intestines and getting into the rest of the body. When you have increased permeability, there are holes or gaps in that barrier through which bacterial flora, food particles, and toxins can escape from your gut and into the rest of your body.

The result is severe inflammation, changes to the gut microbiome, and other symptoms. But what are the other leaky gut symptoms?

Gastrointestinal Symptoms 

The most prominent include gastrointestinal symptoms. This extends to:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Chronic constipation
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain

Systemic Symptoms

With the gut lining continually under attack by bacteria and chemical irritants from the inside of your gut, it's not uncommon to experience systemic symptoms, including:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Unexplained aches and pains

Nutritional Deficiencies

With the intestinal lining exposed to permeability, it can detract from your body's natural process of deriving nutrients and water from your partially digested food. Under normal circumstances the small intestine extracts nutrients and water from what you've consumed during the first round of digestion. 

But as your food makes its way down into the large intestine, the large intestine receives chemical messages from the kidneys about any nutrient deficiencies and it extracts remaining nutrients from there to help with those deficiencies.

However, leaky gut syndrome symptoms often include deficiencies such as:

  • Anemia
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency

The reason for this is because of poor nutrient absorption brought about by your intestines’ inability to extract nutrients because of leakage through the holes and gaps of the intestinal lining.

Skin Issues

When those unprocessed foods or toxins and bacteria escape through the gut and into the rest of the body, as mentioned, it results in a lot of chronic inflammation. The more your body is subject to inflammation, the more it experiences things like:

  • Rashes
  • Eczema
  • Acne

Subsequently, it's not uncommon to experience skin issues because of systemic inflammation.

Food Sensitivities and Allergies

The gut permeability associated with a leaky gut causes regular immune responses. Why? 

Because, under normal circumstances, your body is designed to trigger an immune response with heightened white blood cells and inflammation whenever there is something wrong like an injury, virus, or bacteria.

So, as more material makes its way through that membrane and causes increased inflammation it also triggers regular immune responses. These immune responses can lead to increased sensitivity to foods that may have been previously well tolerated resulting in subsequent food allergies and food sensitivities.

Mood and Cognitive Changes

Your gut is strongly linked to your brain. Chemical messages sent from your gut play a significant role in the function of your brain. This gut-brain connection has a direct impact on your mental health. As such, it's not uncommon for leaky gut syndrome symptoms to include things like:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Brain fog 

Diagnosing Leaky Gut

Because leaky gut is a term that applies to overall conditions and not a specific diagnosis, there are no standard tests to measure the permeability of your intestines. However, there are tests that are available for secondary evidence of permeability.

Urine Tests

The first is a urine test. For these tests you consume a liquid solution that has differently sized sugar molecules some of which don't typically get absorbed in your large intestine. After you urinate, the collected urine gets analyzed to measure the amount of sugar, indicating how much of the sugar passed through your gut wall. This can point toward different levels of permeability.

Blood Tests

Blood tests are another option and these are used specifically to look for biomarkers like antibodies and endotoxins that would suggest bacteria from your gut has infiltrated the rest of your body.


An endomicroscopy can be used to look at the intestinal lining under high magnification. For this you would need a contrast fluid that gets injected and if you have any gaps in your lining, the permeability would show itself through that exam with the contrast fluid visible in the gut.

Tissue Biopsy

A tissue biopsy is another option that is a bit more invasive, and this would take a sample of the intestinal tissue to measure for permeability.

Treatment options for managing leaky gut symptoms

What are the symptoms of a leaky gut, and how can you control them? Unfortunately, there is no single cure for leaky gut but there are ways that you can control individual symptoms.

  • Taking prescription probiotics and prebiotics can give your gut healthier bacteria, which can prevent unhealthy bacteria from cultivating in your gut and eventually permeating that intestinal barrier. 

NOTE: Prescription probiotics and prebiotics are necessary for this, not over the counter products because legitimate probiotics and prebiotics are perishable with active ingredients in them which means they need to be refrigerated so anything that is a dry product that you would order online will not work.

  • You can change your diet to ensure that you are fortifying your gut health with things like L-glutamine, which will repair any permeated areas of the gut lining. You can also reduce things like heavy sugars and fats from your diet, which are known to trigger inflammatory elements in your gut.
  • Lifestyle adjustments and other supplements can help you control the symptoms, especially things such as food sensitivity tests that can help you systematically eliminate triggers that are exacerbating things like inflammation.

Summing Up

It is important that you recognize leaky gut syndrome symptoms early. The sooner you recognize the symptoms, the sooner you can incorporate things like dietary changes and lifestyle adjustments to help fortify your gut lining and decrease the level of permeability and subsequent inflammation. Always seek professional advice for your diagnosis and individualized treatment.

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