Eat / Healing Leaky Gut:

Why do I have a leaky gut?

We consume between 3-7 tons of food in our lifetime! Some of the food you put in your mouth is not very good for you, as you probably already know. But is it just the food that can cause a leaky gut?

This is part 3 of 4 about leaky gut. In this series of articles I will answer the questions:

"What is a leaky gut?" (part 1),

"Do I have a leaky gut?" (part 2),

"Why do I have a leaky gut?" (part 3),

"How do I heal my leaky gut?" (part 4).

It usually takes long time before you develop a leaky gut and there are several factors that affect your gut health. You can also develop a leaky gut after a trauma such as a surgery, accident, injury or a psychologically stressful situation, for example after a miscarriage or abortion.

I will go through the key factors that I think is the most important. I will describe some of the factors in more depth, others I leave left more open to your own philosophizing and research.

As it is most common for the gastrointestinal tract to break down over a long period of time, I will focus on what might be causing your intestines to start leaking. What triggers the opening of doors between the gut and the rest of the body? What breaks down these originally tight connections, which can be seen as doors between our cells. Why do these doors break down or open at different times?

In most cases, it's a variety of causes that mean your health isn't what you'd like it to be. Imagine that your gut health is like a bathtub. There are stressors that fill up with water, while other stressors drain water out of your bathtub. Imagine that the water level is the permeability of your gut. When you have a high water level, your gut leaks more. At some point, it floods and you start to get one or more of the symptoms I described in "Do I have a leaky gut?" (part 2).

Another way of looking at it is that you might have several risk factors for leaky gut, but you have no symptoms, for some reason another risk factor is added and then your tub overflows and you get symptoms. Usually this doesn't happen overnight but can last for a long time.

I was going to divide the risk factors that can cause a leaky gut into three main groups to help you further understand why you have developed a leaky gut - Medical History, Diet and Lifestyle.

Medical History

  • What is your medical history? Do you take any medication or have you taken any medicine for any length of time? Anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen etc), antibiotics, antacids and steroids are examples of medications that can contribute to a leaky gut.
  • Have you undergone any major surgeries?
  • Do you have any amalgam fillings?
  • Have you suffered from any accident that affected your body, brain or skin?
  • Have you been treated with chemotherapy or radiation?
  • Were you born with caesarean section?
  • Do you have a bacterial infection or a parasite in the colon? Do you have bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine? Do you suffer from Candida? If your balance of viruses, bacteria and parasites in your gut is not 100%, you may suffer from leaky gut. Zonulin is one of the keys to opening of the doors, to there no longer being any tight connections, to you having a leaky gut. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) triggers zonulin, just as much as gluten. Warning, warning!! I'll come back to gluten under point 2 which is about diet. Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are by-products produced by bacteria. These can also cause leaky gut.
  • Do you have any hormone imbalance, suffer from PMS, is in menopause, has low testosterone, lack of alternative low thyroid hormone then you are also at risk of leaky gut.


  • Inflammation and leaky gut go hand in hand. If you have inflammation in the gut you have a leaky gut, and if you have a leaky gut, you have inflammation in the gut. Inflammation can be caused, for example, by the food you eat.
  • Wheat, barley and rye contains a toxic prolamin (a type of protein) called gliadin, which is really hard for the body to break down. Gliadin can cause a lot of damage to the walls of the small intestine. When you have particles of gliadin in the small intestine, zonulin are released which triggers inflammation. When zonulin increases, the risk of leaky gut increases. Doors open and they are left wide open. Gliadin is also preprogrammed to increase zonulin levels especially in people with a genetic predisposition to celiac disease.
  • Genetically modified foods (GM foods) causes a lot of damage and increases the risk of leaky gut.
  • Sugar is a risk factor. Sugar promotes bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, which in turn can lead to leaky gut.
  • The relationship between omega 6 and omega 3 is important. If this ratio is completely out of balance, inflammation is triggered and thus the risk of leaky gut increases.
  • To eat non-organic food can also throw your body out of balance and eventually give you a leaky gut, as your immune system constantly has to deal with the toxins that come along with your food and inflammation is triggered in your body.
  • Vitamin or nutrient deficiency, especially vitamin A, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D and calcium are common if you have a leaky gut.

You are not just what you eat but what you absorb from your diet.


  • Sleep deprivation, both poor quality and low quantity can give you a leaky gut.
  • Alcohol consumption. If you drink too much or too often, you are at risk of leaky gut.
  • Chronic stress affects you more than you think and is also a risk factor for leaky gut.
  • How well is your liver working? How good is your body at getting rid of junk food every day, detoxifying your body and working with your circulatory system, lymphatic system and skin? The well-being of the liver depends on factors such as alcohol consumption, medication intake, diet, chronic infections, etc.

I have been asked: “Doesn't everyone have a leaky gut?” several times since I started writing about this and my answer is that it's more common than we think, but not everyone has a leaky gut. Many manage to keep the water level in the bathtub at a good level, i.e. you eat a good diet, you move around, you sleep properly and you live the life you really want to live and you have escaped traumatic experiences. But if something happens in your life that gives you more stress that put you off balance or if you experience a trauma, you may also get a leaky gut. It's usually the last straw that breaks the camel's back.

What can you do to not break the camel's back? So that you don't get flooding in your bathtub?

In the next part I will go through how I as functional medicine coach attack the problem. You who have followed me since day 1 at "Project of the month: Healing Leaky Gut" have hopefully already realized that there is a lot to be gained by eating a well-balanced diet. But that's only part of the story. In part 4 "How do I heal my leaky gut?" I will delve deeper into the techniques that really work!

See you soon!

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