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Supplements for Managing Leaky Gut Syndrome

By Dr. Shavon Jackson-Michel, ND

Leaky gut syndrome is also termed intestinal permeability. Medical News Today notes that intestinal permeability is at the root of conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. Leaky gut syndrome is also implicated in other conditions such as autoimmune disease, according to a 2009 article in the journal “Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences”. The permeability is noted to allow toxins and bacteria into the intestines that should not be allowed in. Supplements that help mend damaged junctions between cells may improve leaky gut syndrome.


Glutamine provides fuel to intestinal cells, specifically within the small intestine. It helps strengthen the gaps between cells so that unwanted substances are not allowed through to interfere with the immune system or irritate the nerve endings. Medical News Today notes that a glutamine deficiency may cause the diarrhea-type of IBS and that glutamine supplementation may be a potential treatment strategy for dealing with its symptoms, namely diarrhea and pain.


Probiotics are the friendly bacteria that reside in the small and large bowels, as well as in other areas of the body such as the vagina and on the skin. These bacteria, or flora, as they are often termed, help with maintaining barriers, distinguishing foreign materials and pathogens from innate body parts and tolerant foods as well as assisting with vitamin production. A 2004 “Journal of Pediatrics” article notes that supplementing with lactobacilli, a type of probiotic native to the small intestine, may improve leaky gut and the skin condition known as atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis also goes by the name eczema.


Quercetin is an antioxidant belonging to the flavonoid family. A 2009 “Digestive Diseases” article notes that it is found in significant quantities in foods such as apples and onions and has been shown to positively affect leaky gut syndrome. Namely, the antioxidant enhances the closure of junctions between cells that would otherwise allow unwanted substances to intrude and interfere with immune and cellular function. Additionally, the article notes that quercetin provides anti-inflammatory action at the site of damaged cells, which in the case of inflammatory bowel diseases proves to be an effective treatment strategy.


The origins of leaky gut syndrome are believed to be initiated through the process of inflammation. The “Digestive Diseases” article expresses this viewpoint by noting that altered barrier function can occur in both the small and large intestines. Gamma linolenic acid, known more commonly as GLA, is a fatty acid with an anti-inflammatory profile and is known to quell inflammation systemically and topically. By providing anti-inflammatory properties to the permeable gut membrane, a 2003 “Nutrition” article notes that GLA reduces tight junction permeability in a dose dependent manner. GLA is therefore a helpful supplement for treating leaky gut syndrome.

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