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Gut health impacts every system in the body, from skin to our mental wellbeing and nutritional status, so keeping it healthy and happy is key to feeling good. You may or may not have heard about leaky gut syndrome which is more formally called intestinal permeability. Leaky gut has been linked to countless illnesses and imbalance within the body.

Santa Barbara Gut Health, Gut Health Nutritionist, Leaky Gut

There are three key areas in my clinical experience that I have observed can support almost all the health challenges we face.

The first is our lifestyle choices. Our everyday choices greatly impact our health outcome for the better or worse. The second is our mineral and nutritional status. All biological activity requires nutrients to fuel their function. This is a non-negotiable when it comes to optimization of our health. Last is our gut health. The gut is known as the second brain and is a critical component in every aspect of our health.

Gut health is a key focus in our practice and we have written about it in more detail in a previous blog.

Today, I want to dive into one aspect of gut health that I see in many of my clients, called leaky gut. We will discuss what it is, it's health impact and ways you can begin to support your gut.


What is Leaky Gut?

You may have heard of leaky gut. It is also known as intestinal permeability. But what exactly is it? The intestinal lining is lined with special cells that are held tightly together (tight junctions) in order to properly digest food, absorb micronutrients, and filter out toxins and pathogens.

These tight junctions are compromised when exposed to diets high in refined sugar, processed food, genetically modified foods, stress, medications, toxins, parasites, antibiotics, nutrient deficiencies and gluten.

leaky gut, gut health, gut skin axis, gut brain axis, Santa Barbara GutHealth Specialist

Looking at gluten a bit deeper, studies have found that gluten activates zonulin, which leads to increased intestinal permeability. (1) Zonulin is a protein that regulates the tight junctions of the small intestine. When zonulin is released in the intestines, the tight junctions open slightly and allow larger particles to pass through the intestinal wall. (2)

As a result, intestinal inflammation makes the lining of the intestine too porous with increased permeability. Consequently, it allows the entry of the undigested food particles, toxins, and microorganisms into the bloodstream, which triggers an inflammatory immune response. This process can set the stage for autoimmunity.


Who Gets leaky Gut?

It is suggested we all have it to some degree. According to Harvard Heath, some of us may have a genetic predisposition, but modern life may actually be the main driver of gut inflammation.

There is emerging evidence that the standard American diet (SAD), which is low in fiber and high in sugar and saturated fats, may initiate this process. Heavy alcohol use and stress also seem to disrupt this balance.

Like gluten, another notable area of concern is Glyphosate (known as Roundup) and its impact on not only gut health in general, but leaky gut specifically. Research indicates that glyphosate exposure (a toxin) may disrupt the tight junctions between intestinal cells, allowing toxins, undigested food particles and bacteria to leak into the bloodstream. This has been associated with inflammation, autoimmune conditions and digestive disorders. (4)


Health Impact

Leaky gut syndrome is a rapidly growing condition. Although problems begin with your digestive system; if you have the leaky gut syndrome, it affects other aspects of your health as well.

There is considerable data showing that leaky gut may be associated with several health conditions. According to Harvard Health, studies show that leaky gut may be associated with autoimmune diseases: lupus, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, allergies, asthma, acne, obesity and even mental illness.

Common Signs & Symptoms

  • Food allergies & food sensitivities

  • GI symptoms: gas, bloating, nausea/vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, weight gain

  • Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression

  • Acne, eczema and other skin issues

  • Asthma and seasonal allergies

  • Hormonal imbalances

  • Autoimmune diseases

As you see leaky gut can be far reaching in its impact to our overall health. But the good news is you can bring balance to your gut lining.


Can You Heal?

It is possible to bring healing to your intestinal lining however, you do need to be available to put in some work. The cells of the intestine are the fastest-growing cells of your body. They are continually self-repairing until your body actually creates a new lining every 5-7 days. (3) But after repeated assaults, it won’t heal anymore. You need to give your body time to heal, not just a week or two.

5-R Protocol, How to heal leaky gut, Santa Barbara Functional Nutrition

Multi-Pronged Approach to Addressing Leaky Gut

The 5-R protocol is a systematic and comprehensive approach that improves symptoms and repairs the gut. Additionally, I use functional testing to guide the process for a more personalized approach.

Step 1: Remove

Stop throwing gasoline on the fire. The foods you consume, the toxins you ingest are all playing a role. Additionally, gut pathogens play a role in leaky gut.

Step 2: Replace

We layer in support that the body needs, such as enzymes to help digest foods, bitters to help with fat digestion and foods that build your nutrition profile.

Step 3: Repopulate

We support the microbiome and help rebuild the gut bacteria. This can include adding certain foods to the diet and layering supplemental pre/probiotics.

Step 4: Repair

We encourage repair of the intestinal cells and mucosa, reduce inflammation and help our microbiome find a happy home within our digestive tract.

Step 5: Rebalance

Lifestyle choices play a huge role in maintaining a healthy gut. We optimize all aspects of our everyday choices to ensure lasting the best overall and long lasting outcome.


Action Steps:

  • Know your food sensitivities by having a Food Sensitivity test conducted.

  • Know your gut microbiome through Stool Testing.

  • Use our Ditch & Switch guide to help lower the toxic load.

  • Work with a skilled practitioner who understands the mechanism behind gut healing protocols.


  1. Cheat Sheet: 5-R Protocol, here

  2. Quiz: Gut Health, here

  3. Test: Gut Health, here

  4. Test: Gluten Sensitivity, here

  5. Test: Glyphosate, here

  6. Quiz: Food Sensitivity, here

  7. Test: Food Sensitivity, here

  8. Lower Toxic Load: Ditch & Switch, here

  9. Work one-on-one email consultation, here


Our Approach

I am a clinically trained psychotherapist, who learned along with education and practicum hours that one's health challenges can be at the root of their psychological obstacles. I view the body and mind from a holistic perspective and dive deep with my clients to root out the core imbalances that keep them from progressing in the healing of their body and mind.

Have a Nourishing Day!



A Nourishing Blog

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