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Leaky gut is a condition where the intestinal walls has become compromised by inflammation or damaged by various factors including an imbalance of the intestinal flora leading to bacterial, viral and yeast overgrowths in the guts. This then allows undigested proteins to enter the blood stream. Usually proteins are broken down into their amino acid building blocks before passing into the blood stream and the immune system ignores them. However, complete proteins are considered foreign invaders by the immune system, when they appear in the blood stream, and the immune system will launch an attack on them immediately. Then, because these proteins resemble the body's protein structures, the immune system begins to attack the body's own cells too. This can take place anywhere the body and lead to widespread inflammation and disorders of various organs including the brain.


There are so many new factors in the modern world that can have an effect on the intestinal health and most people are unaware of the importance of taking care of the beneficial bacteria that resides within them and avoiding any damage to the intestinal walls. Plus many people are too embarrassed to investigate the cause of intermittent diarrhoea and constipation and suffer in silence unaware that their intestinal walls could be come compromised.


Factors that can affect the balance of the intestinal flora

  • Alcohol in antiseptic mouthwashes.

  • Artificial food additives especially preservatives.

  • Ascorbic acid that is found in bottled tea drinks, fruit juices such as apple or orange juice and vitamin supplements.

  • Excessive caffeine from carbonated drinks and coffee.

  • Excessive meat protein consumption.

  • Excessive sugar consumption.

  • Heavy metal contamination,

  • Hormones and antibiotics injected into farmed animals.

  • Intolerance to certain nutrients in foods.

  • Medications especially antibiotics.

  • Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.

  • Pollution.

  • Radiation from chemotherapy, microwaves and X-rays.

  • Toxic overload from chemical-laden cleaning products and cosmetics.

Chemical preservatives in processed foods keep bacteria from growing in the products and, obviously, when ingested will also kill the bacteria which are supposed to be growing in the digestive tract.


The chlorine added tap water helps kill toxic bacteria in the water supply, but can also kill the probiotic bacteria in the human gastrointestinal tract. The fluoride also added to tap water, which was done to stop tooth decay, also destroys intestinal bacteria.


Psyllium husks are one of the best foods to improve the health of the intestinal tract. Take one tablespoon daily.


Commensal bacteria


The bacteria that live inside the body are, on the whole, 'commensal' sharing the food that is consumed. The word 'commensal' derives from the Latin meaning 'to share a table for dinner'. These beneficial bacteria protect the body from potentially dangerous infections through a close interaction with the immune system. Without properly controlling the numbers of the commensal bacteria present in the body serious health conditions arise. Understanding the function and role of the different species of bacteria in the human body is vital if there is ever to be an end to disease and infection.

In the digestive system (from mouth to anus) there are ten times the bacteria as the numbers of all the human cells. Humans would not function at all if it was not for the beneficial bacteria in the guts, where battles are fought, essential substances are manufactured and the immune system is bolstered.

Gastrointestinal tract by N H Hawes

Probiotic foods

The body excretes beneficial bacteria daily because they are not anchored to the intestinal wall. This means that it is important to consume foods that contain probiotics every day. Probiotics provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts because they help increase the friendly bacteria numbers which in turn will help the immune function correctly and enhances digestion and absorption and the manufacture of some nutrients and foods.

Probiotic foods come from the fermentation process that the food has been allowed to undergo. During and after any treatment with antibiotics, it is advisable to include more probiotic foods in the daily diet to replenish the friendly bacteria that are wiped out by antibiotics. It is advisable to consume probiotics at least an hour before other foods to enable enough beneficial bacteria to survive and pass through the strong stomach acids.

Probiotic foods that contain beneficial bacteria

  • Brine pickles (eggs, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetables that have been fermented by lactic acid bacteria)

  • Kefir (fermented milk drink)

  • Kimchi (a fermented, spicy Korean side dish)

  • Kombucha (fermented black or green Asian tea)

  • Miso (a Japanese fermented seasoning made with soya beans, salt and a type of fungus called koji)

  • Sauerkraut (finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria)

  • Tempeh (fermented soya beans)

  • Yoghurt (plain with live cultures)

Prebiotic foods

Prebiotic foods, containing carbohydrates such as as inulin, encourages a healthy intestinal environment to benefit probiotic intestinal flora. Prebiotic is a fairly recently coined name to refer to food components such as oligosaccharides, resistant starch and fermentable fibre that feed certain kinds of bacteria in the colon (large intestine) that have an important influence on the rest of the body. The human digestive system has a hard time breaking down many of these carbohydrates. Almost 90% escapes digestion in the small intestine and reaches the colon where it performs a different function; that of a prebiotic.

The bacteria that feed on fermentable carbohydrate produce many beneficial substances, including short-chain fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin K2 and certain B vitamins. They also promote further absorption of some minerals that have escaped the small intestine, including calcium and magnesium and vitamin K2 which is vital to direct calcium to the bones and is needed in conjunction with vitamin D. This is why it is very important to consume both prebiotic and probiotic foods throughout life and especially when suffering from any kind of infections or health disorders.

Prebiotic foods that feed the existing beneficial bacteria

  • Agave

  • Apples

  • Asparagus

  • Banana

  • Beans

  • Bran

  • Broccoli

  • Burdock root

  • Cabbage

  • Cauliflower

  • Celeriac

  • Chicory root

  • Cocoa (raw)

  • Coconut flesh

  • Dandelion root

  • Elecampane

  • Elephant foot yam

  • Garlic

  • Jerusalem artichoke

  • Jicama root

  • Kale

  • Leeks

  • Lentils

  • Mashua

  • Mugwort

  • Oats

  • Onions

  • Parsnips

  • Peas

  • Radish

  • Rampion

  • Salsify

  • Turnip

  • Swede

  • Sweet potato

  • Whole grains

  • Yacon root

  • Yams

Beneficial bacteria are often found in two types, Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium. Different species are found in each of these groups. Other types of good bacteria include Lactobacillus casei shirota and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Lactobacillus casei shirota helps support immune system function and helps with the movement of food through the gut.

Lactobacillus bulgaricus can possibly relieve symptoms resulting from lactose intolerance, which is when a person cannot properly digest the lactose found in many milk and dairy products. 

Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, haemophilus influenzae and Neisseria meningitidus are encapsulated bacteria that have a tough outer coating which protects them from the body's immune system and so are more difficult for the body to fight off. Saliva helps to eliminate some of the bad bacteria that enters the mouth as does the acidity of the gut. But proper dental hygiene and the consuming of healthy nutritious natural unprocessed foods is the ultimate way to keep the balance of the microbial flora right.

Bacteria are unicellular organisms that are so tiny their presence goes undetected by the human eye so in future humans may have to see a bacteriologist rather than a doctor to check how the commensal bacteria are doing. More and more health disorders are being found to be connected with the balance of the intestinal flora all the time. Basically it comes down to a case of numbers. The less beneficial bacteria the body hosts, the less likely it can ward off infection and disease.

The correct balance of the gut bacteria is vital to life and health. Many factors can upset this fragile intestinal flora such as drugs, especially antibiotics, stress,  toxins and excessive amounts of sugar and protein. Once the this equilibrium is upset many health issues can develop. With less of the good protective probiotic bacteria in the human system it is no wonder the pathogenic bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses and yeasts are proliferating and causing so many health problems today.

Glutamine and glutamic acid

Glutamine is the most abundant building block of protein in the body. It is also involved in more metabolic processes than any other amino acid and is converted into glucose by the body as it is needed. It also strengthens and improves the intestinal lining and eliminates excess ammonia from the body. Glutamine is also used to reduce the effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients as it protects the liver and the lining of the intestines from the toxicity of chemotherapy.

Gastrointestinal damage, leaky gut and stomach ulcers caused by the Helicobacter pylori can be addressed with the amino acid glutamine, found in many foods. The body requires both amino acids glutamine and glutamic acid to function correctly and therefore, consuming unprocessed foods rich in both these amino acids on a daily basis is necessary. This amino acid is stored primarily in the muscles and secondarily in the lungs and the human body produces enough glutamine, on its own, for every day maintenance. However, extensive work outs, prolonged stress, injuries and infections can deplete the supply.

The consumption of a tablespoon of powdered algae or seaweed flakes and an apple a day will provide a good amount of these two nutrients for the vegetarian.

Highest sources of glutamine in alphabetical order


Highest sources of glutamic acid in alphabetical order

Food intolerances

Lectin is a type of glycoprotein found in many plant foods. Seeds of the grasses such as rice, rye, spelt and wheat have exceptionally high levels of this defensive glycoprotein. It is used as protection by the plants against the bacteria, fungi and insects which use N-Acetylglucosamine to build their cells walls. All animals, including birds, fish, humans and even worms, use N-Acetyglucosamine as a foundational substance for building the various tissues in their bodies, including cartilage, joints, bones and tendons.

The mucous known as the glycocalyx, or literally "sugar coat" is secreted in humans by the epithelial cells which line all the mucous membranes, from the layer of skin over the eyes and in the nasal cavities to the top to the bottom of the alimentary tube, as well as the protective and slippery lining of blood vessels. The glycocalyx is composed largely of N-Acetylglucosamine and N-Acetylneuraminic acid (also known as sialic acid) and lectin’s unique binding to these exact two glycoproteins is not accidental. Nature has designed lectin perfectly to attach to, disrupt and gain entry through these mucosal surfaces as a defence for the plants.

Viruses and lectins have many similarities. Both viral particles and lectin are very much smaller than the cells they enter and are taken into the cell through a process of endocytosis and both viruses and lectin gain entry through the sialic acid coatings of the mucous membranes (glycocalyx).

Because lectins are extremely small and resistant to decomposition by living systems they tend to accumulate and incorporate into tissues where they interfere with normal biological processes.  It takes only 500 micrograms (about half a grain of sand) of ricin (a lectin extracted from castor bean casings) to kill a human. A single, one ounce slice of wheat bread contains approximately 500 micrograms of lectin but will usually only attack the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract after constant accumulation in the diet. Unfortunately most bread also contains gluten which can cause similar issues and processed flour often has additives to help it flow freely, last longer and can be bleached white using chlorine.

The disruptive and damaging effects of wheat consumption are formidable in someone whose protective mucosal barrier has been compromised by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use. Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, increase intestinal permeability (as does gluten in grains and the glycoalkaloids found in plants from the nightshade family) and may cause absorption of even larger-than-normal quantities of pro-inflammatory lectins as well as undigested proteins.

Certain bacteria and viruses, including the influenza and herpes viruses, can also damage cells making them more susceptible to lectin and antibody/antigen reactions.

The type of lectin in wheat known as wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), like gluten, irritates and causes premature cell death in the gut and leads to a leaky gut condition with all the detrimental effects that will follow. It also disrupts the mucus membrane in the gut which can cause bacterial overgrowth and leads to a host of digestive issues like gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers and nutrient deficiencies.

The wheat germ agglutinin and another unknown factor in wheat also cause vitamin D stores to deplete abnormally fast and can therefore lead to vitamin D deficiency, with all its accompanying issues like weakening of the bones, a weakened immune system and a vulnerability to infectious diseases and bacterial attacks.

Most foods contain lectins in varying amounts and most do not cause any health issues however, common foods with known toxic lectins include all soya bean and wheat products including oils from these substances.

The most common causes of lectin intolerance

  • Beans: caster, cocoa, coffee, lentils, navy beans, peanuts and soya beans.

  • Dairy products (when cows are fed grains instead of grass).

  • Grains: brown rice, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rye, spelt and wheat.

  • Nightshades: ashwaganda, aubergines, blueberries, goji berries, huckleberries, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes.

See more on Lectin intolerances

Health issues that can be caused by leaky gut syndrome

Associated subjects

"Nature cures not the physician..." Hippocrates 460 BC

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