Digestion Part 3: The Leaky Tummy


Has Your Gut Sprung a Leak???

A couple years ago if you walked into your doctor’s office and said “I think I have a Leaky Gut”. You would probably walk out of that visit with a prescription for an antipsychotic drug. These days “Leaky Gut” is a buzzword!! You see the term everywhere! But really???  What IS Leaky Gut Syndrome???

What is Leaky Gut?

We talked in my previous post, The Not-so-Happy Tummy, about some of the things that often go haywire in the digestive process and how when things go wrong North, you can expect to have a cascading effect of dysfunction moving South. Leaky Gut is one of these consequences.

Leaky Gut is a condition where you have increased permeability of the intestinal lining. That means things are slipping though your intestinal walls and into your blood stream that don’t belong there.

I just listened to a webinar by Dr. Josh Axe (who is an expert in Leaky Gut) and he sited a statistic that over 80% of the population has some degree of Leaky Gut!

Your entire digestive tract is like one big tube. Just like the rest of our body, this tube is made up of cells which are tightly bonded together to form the “gut lining” or the protective wall of your “gut tube”. The job of this lining is to keep the bad guys out and let the vital nutrients through. Remember, most of the materials your body needs to function, regenerate and heal get into your body through the digestive tract. This tube is truly the gateway to your health!


The lining of your intestinal wall is only one cell thick so it needs to have a little protective help.   Little finger-like protrusions called villi carpet this tube and selectively grab onto nutrient particles as they come down the tract and pull them through the cells of the lining and into your bloodstream. The cells that make up this villi also make enzymes which help to further to break down food particles into the appropriate size.  When digestion is working properly these particles should be broken down into the tiniest molecular components of whatever you ate.  Your body recognizes those molecules and distributes them to be used where they are needed throughout your body.

Your Heart, Brain, Bones, Muscles, Organs…they all need nutrients from your food to do their jobs!

When digestion is not complete, food particles that are too large come down the tract and literally mow down these helpful little villi 🙁 This causes a decrease in your body’s ability to absorb nutrients AND without this added border, it leaves your gut lining extra vulnerable to damage and inflammation. It’s kind of like acidic sandpaper scouring this delicate tissue and overtime the mortar that bonds the tight connective junctions between the cells of your intestinal lining can become weak and…

…your tube can “Spring a Leak”.


Some common contributors to Leaky Gut

Incomplete digestion is a huge culprit but there are other factors that can contribute to Leaky Gut as well.

  • Over consumption of processed food and refined carbohydrates
  • Industrial seed oils
  • GLUTEN from improperly prepared commercial wheat
  • Food Allergies & Sensitivities
  • Chemical pesticides, herbicides and preservatives
  • Biliary Stasis
  • Microbial imbalances
  • Antibiotic use
  • Aspirin and NSAID use
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Stress
  • Dehydration
  • Hormonal imbalances / Birth Control Pills
  • Environmental toxins

These can all have an effect on your intestinal integrity and/or intestinal permeability…and visa versa.   Many of these things are connected and can occur simultaneously or one as a result of another.

Friendly Microbes



Anything that disrupts this microbial environment can be a contributing factor to Leaky Gut ESPECIALLY the use of antibiotics and over consumption of processed foods.

The friendly gut bacteria that live in our digestive tract also play an important role in protecting the gut lining.  They help to digest our food.  They help our immune system to kill off invaders like pathogenic bacteria and viruses in the digestive tract.  They also communicate with the cells that make up the gut tube wall and help trigger them to make mucus which is another layer of protection.  They also help to mediate inflammation.  If inflammation goes out of control in the digestive tract, damage will occur and that can lead to the break down of those important cell junctions resulting in Leaky Gut.

So What Happens Now?


Well if your digestion up North is incomplete and you have large particles of undigested food coming through, they can breach or “Leak” through the little weak junctions or gaps in your tube and escape right into your blood stream.

When your body sees these strange large molecules floating around it doesn’t recognize them as “friends”.  It thinks they are “Bad Guys” so your body does what it is programmed to do with “Bad Guys” and fires up your immune system to attack them! If these “Bad Guys” are proteins your immune system can create an entire army trained just to go after THAT “Bad Guy”!

So what do you think happens when you have this scenario repeating over and over??

A Major Battle Ground inside your body!!   What does that mean? Inflammation!! Disease!! And an open door for a whole host of autoimmune problems like:

  • Food Allergies
  • Seasonal Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Hives, Eczema, Rosacea, Psoriasis
  • Crohn’s
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Celiac Disease
  • Graves Disease
  • Hashimotos
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Autism

3d antikörper gegen virus

There are over 80 known autoimmune conditions.  These are all manifestations of an overburdened and confused immune system.  With so much chaos happening, your body loses the ability to distinguish between “self” and “non self”.

70-80% of your immune system is located in your gut!

Just because you don’t have the typical symptoms of a Leaky Gut like food sensitivities or abdominal discomfort, it doesn’t mean that it’s not happening inside you.

Baby Bellies are Leaky!

Naturally babies are born with with a Leaky Gut which does not completely seal up until about two years of age.  Mother Nature did that good reason and we’ll talk about another day.  But that’s why it is soooooo important to breast feed your child if at all possible.   Along with the initial inoculation of their microbiome in the birth canal, the microbes and other components contained in Mother’s milk help to seal their guts and lay the foundation of their immune systems.

What really irks me is that we are being SOLD these little toxic crackers, puffs and cereals meant as “Beginner Foods” which babies cannot properly digest.  The proteins in these foods, which typically include gluten and casein are too large for their little immature digestive systems to break down so these big proteins slip directly through their tummies and right into their blood stream.  This creates an immune response.  This is one of the reasons why we’re seeing such a high incidence in childhood allergies and disease.  We are basically feeding autoimmunity to our babies.


When I was a baby people were being sold on the idea that formula was far superior to breast milk and people believed that.  I think that is where a lot of my issues started.  I was constipated the second day of life…on formula… and stayed that way until age 35.

Leaky Gut and Your Brain


Some of this leaked matter can even cross the blood brain barrier and can cause neurological, psychological and emotional problems as well.

Not Good!!!  Proteins found in gluten and in milk can fit into opiate receptor sites in your brain like morphine and can cause behavioral changes.  This phenomenon has been linked to ADHD and Autism.

Your entire body is wired with nerves so if you have inflammation of your nervous system you could feel the effects of that inflammation anywhere!  Not just in your gut.

Your brain and your gut are intimately connected. The nerves coming from your brain travel South and enervate your entire digestive tract.  Communication is a two way street. One affects the other.  There is a reason why they say to listen to our Gut!  You have a very strong sense of feeling and connection from that part of you.

Many mood stabilizing chemicals are made in your gut.

Believe it or not 90% of your serotonin is manufactured in the gut!

When this area is damaged the production of these important neurotransmitters is disrupted.

So next time you have some person “freaking out” in road rage, tailgating you in traffic…maybe you should try to have a little compassion.  He might just have a bad case of Leaky Gut!

Studies have indicated that emotional stress can also lead to increased permeability in the gut.  So stress can cause increased permeability and increased permeability can cause stress!  This is not a fun cycle to get stuck in!


Signs you’ve Sprung a Leak:

  • Allergies both Food and Seasonal
  • Abdominal Pain / Cramping
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Weight Gain
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Hormonal Imbalances / Thyroid Issues
  • Brain Fog / Headaches
  • Mood Swings / Depression / Autism
  • Fatigue
  • Racing pulse after meals
  • Joint Aches and Pains

Can you fix a Leaky Gut? Yes You Can!!


Repairing a Leaky Gut is a process! You’ve got to educate yourself on digestion and a good start is by reading my 101 series of posts on digestive function. You can do that in 15 minutes.

You’ll learn to slow down while eating, chew your food thoroughly and make sure you’ve got plenty of strong stomach acid to break down those proteins. Cleaning up your diet with Real Food is imperative! 

Then you will need to identify what else in your life is contributing to this problem.

  • Are there some food intolerances that are causing inflammation resulting in damage to your gut lining?
  • Could it be that your gallbladder is backed up with old sluggish bile and needs some support so it can break down your fats so they can be absorbed instead of rancidifying and irritating your gut lining?
  • Do you have an infection or overgrowth of microbes that’s causing inflammation?
  • Is there an unnecessary source of emotional stress that you can remove from your life?

Once the stressors have been identified and removed healing can take place.  There are a lot of things that you can do nutrition wise to help this along.

Some things to consider are:

  • Fermented foods
  • Vegetables and fruits high in antioxidants (especially Quercitin!)
  • Gut healing herbs
  • Healthy Fats
  • Amino Acids
  • Bone Broth
  • Relaxation Exercises / Meditation
  • Physical Exercise

These are all generally healing to the gut but everyone is different so it can sometimes take a little bit of trial and error to find out what is healing to You!

Fixing your gut is one of those things where you cannot put the cart before the horse.

You really need to make sure you are doing things in the proper order or you can do yourself more of a disservice than help.  It can be tricky to figure out what is causing your issues so it’s really helpful to work with someone who knows where to look and has the tools to help patch your pipes!

The best thing to do is to contact a Nutritional Therapist or a qualified practitioner that has experience with gut healing.

This can save you a lot of time and frustration.  Believe me,  I tried to do this on my own before my training and it was NOT FUN!! AND I made myself pretty sick (a couple of times) in the process.

Love your Gut!


If we can support our natural healing processes and reduce the assault as much as possible we will give ourselves an opportunity to heal!  It might take some effort to change old habits but you are worth it!  You’ve only got this one body and if you take good care of it, it will take good care of you so Love Your Gut!!

If you think you have a Leaky Gut, please contact me.  We can work together to patch up those pipes!



Post By: Hollie Donelson, NTP

Happy Tummies of The Lowcountry, LLC

Bluffton/Hilton Head, SC




Please note. I am not a Doctor.  The content on this site is not intended as medical advice. Always check with your doctor before starting any type of health or nutritional protocol especially if you are being treated for or have been diagnosed with a medical condition.





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