What is Leaky Gut?

If you read my last article, Why Adrenal Fatigue Isn’t Real, you’ll understand that it was my tongue-in-cheek way of saying that, it’s ok to use non-medical terms when communicating with your doctor, friends or otherwise.

Like the term adrenal fatigue, you may have heard the expression leaky gut floating around the Internet, among your friends, or even from your doctor. In the same way that adrenal fatigue is not technically a medical term, neither is leaky gut. Instead, medical professionals may refer to this condition as intestinal permeability or intestinal hyperpermeability.

What is leaky gut or intestinal permeability?

Intestinal permeability (or leaky gut syndrome) is a condition that occurs when the tight junction between the cells of your intestinal lining is compromised. This tight junction regulates what comes in and goes out of the intestinal wall. Exposure to foods you are intolerant or allergic to, chronic stress, gut infections, NSAID or antibiotic use – all of these things may cause those spaces in between cells to break down, allowing large protein molecules (food, bacteria, yeast, etc) to escape into the bloodstream.

Why should you care?

When larger food particles (as opposed to food broken down into manageable molecules the body can use) make their way past the gut barrier, the body recognizes this as “non-self” and mounts an immune response to attack them. An inflammatory attack by your immune system can lead to:

What to do next

If you think you may have intestinal permeability, contact your doctor and discuss these tests:

  • IgG and IgA Food Intolerance Testing: Leaky gut can cause an array of food intolerances. Learn more about food intolerance testing here.
  • Intestinal Antigenic Permeability Screen: A simple blood test to evaluate intestinal permeability to large molecule which inflame the immune system.
  • Elimination Diet: Anti-inflammatory, Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), FODMAP and eliminating the top 8 allergens are all examples of elimination diets that can help you understand which foods you are sensitive to. Working with a physician or nutritionist can be helpful in understanding what constitutes a positive result.
  • Urine Test: After drinking a carbohydrate solution you will need to collect your urine for 6 hours. Urine that contains high amounts of the sugar is considered a positive for leaky gut.
  • Stool Culture and/or SIBO Testing (Lactulose Breath Test): Gut infections or bacterial or yeast overgrowth can make intestinal permeability worse. It’s important to dig deep to find the root cause of your condition.


Schedule with Dr. Brighten to have these tests ordered and interpreted.


Learn how to begin a journey to healing your leaky gut here.

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten is a licensed Functional Medicine Naturopathic Doctor, best selling author, speaker, and mother. Dr. Brighten specializes in women’s health, from fertility to postpartum care, adrenal and thyroid support, autoimmune conditions, and digestive disorders. In her patient centered practice, Dr. Brighten thrives on navigating the space between conventional and alternative medicine, all while working with patients to help them achieve optimum balance, health, and happiness.