Leaky Gut Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Leaky gut syndrome is a recently discovered pathology that is closely related to eating habits, so its treatment is aimed at alleviating symptoms and lifestyle changes.
Leaky Gut Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Written by Luis Rodolfo Rojas Gonzalez, 29 April, 2021

Last update: 29 April, 2021

Gastrointestinal conditions are quite annoying, most of them being the product of inflammatory processes in the intestine. Leaky gut syndrome is a little-known entity that can cause serious complications. Are you interested in knowing what the symptoms, causes and treatment are? Keep reading.

The intestinal mucosa is the largest protective barrier in the human body after the skin, it has an extended area of more than 400 square meters. This is characterized by its selective permeability, facilitating the passage of nutrients and blocking the entry of toxic or harmful agents for health.

Leaky gut syndrome is a recently discovered pathology in which there is a disorder in the permeability of the intestinal wall. This fact allows harmful substances and microorganisms to pass through the protective barrier, passing into the blood and reaching the various organs of the body.

Leaky gut syndrome symptoms

Leaky gut syndrome is complex.
Bloating and abdominal discomfort are common symptoms.

The clinical manifestations of this condition are usually very nonspecific, which makes its early identification difficult. In general, it usually presents as a typical gastric condition, characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal distension.
  • Gastric fullness sensation.
  • Nausea and diarrhea.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Unexplained tired feeling.
  • Headaches.
  • Difficulty losing weight.
  • Joint pain

Given the loss of the selective capacity of the mucosa, there is the imminent entry of harmful substances, toxins and pathogens. In this sense, patients may experience nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, hormonal and osteoarticular symptoms, depending on the target organ affected.

Why is it produced?

The selective permeability of the intestinal mucosa can be greatly increased or decreased. Leaky gut syndrome is characterized by an increase in permeability, which generates an increase in the entry of harmful agents into the body.

In most cases, the syndrome is associated with functional and/or structural damage to the enterocytes, these being the cells in charge of regulating the entry and exit of substances into the intestinal lumen.

This entity is generally associated with a long list of gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases. These include celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel, gastritis, gastroduodenal ulcers, and food allergies.

The intestinal mucosa is covered by a protective microbiota that hinders the alteration of enterocytes by external agents and maintains the permeability of the membrane. However, exposure to certain substances can alter this microbiota and consequently cause an increase in the absorption of unwanted elements.

Risk factors

One of the main factors related to increased permeability in the intestinal wall is stress. In fact, a strong relationship between high levels of stress and irritative processes of the gastric mucosa has been demonstrated. In addition, it predisposes to multiple pathological entities by depressing the activity of the immune system.

On the other hand, diet plays a fundamental role in the genesis of leaky gut syndrome. In this sense, the excessive consumption of carbohydrates, fats and spicy foods can injure the enterocytes. Similarly, alcohol and coffee can also irritate the intestinal lining.

Antibiotics are related to an imbalance in the composition of the body’s own protective intestinal flora. Therefore, the administration of these drugs in excessive doses and without any type of medical supervision can lead to dysfunction of the gastrointestinal tissue.

Diagnosis

Leaky gut syndrome requires diagnosis.
It is necessary to go to the doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

The identification of leaky gut syndrome is based on the interpretation of the symptoms and the comprehensive assessment by a specialist in gastroenterology. Given the clinical suspicion of this entity, he can use various exploratory techniques and tests to confirm the pathology.

In most cases, this syndrome is related to other underlying intestinal diseases such as celiac disease or gastroduodenal ulcers. Therefore, the doctor can use serological studies and an endoscopy with a biopsy to determine the cause.

Currently, there are non-invasive tests to assess the permeability of the intestinal walls. They use sugars administered orally and subsequently measured in urine. This with the aim of guiding the diagnosis of alteration, by excess or by defect, of the absorptive selectivity of the enterocytes.

Leaky gut syndrome treatment

Treatment for this condition usually focuses on controlling and alleviating the symptoms of the underlying cause. Xyloglucan can be indicated under strict medical supervision in the management of leaky gut syndrome. This polysaccharide acts by forming a protective layer that covers and protects the intestinal mucosa.

Regarding drug treatment, this is usually supported by changes in the diet and lifestyle of the patient. In this way, it seeks to reduce the risk factors that increase or complicate the symptoms.

The psychological approach and recreational activities allow you to reduce the stress levels of daily life. On the other hand, it has been shown that regular exercise, of at least 30 minutes a day, and proper sleep hygiene reduce stress and favor the strengthening of the immune system.

Regarding diet, excessive consumption of irritating foods, alcohol, coffee and carbonated drinks should be avoided. It is recommended to increase your intake of water and products rich in natural proteins and zinc. In addition, the use of probiotics strengthens the native intestinal flora.

A growing pathology

Leaky gut syndrome is a recently discovered entity, so much information about it is still unknown. This condition is the result of the lifestyle of human beings and their diet, added to the presence of basic intestinal alterations that worsen its course and prognosis.

Every day there are more reported cases of this disease that greatly affects the quality of life. It presents nonspecific symptoms and is usually identified late. However, early identification is associated with a better therapeutic evolution, so in the event of any unusual symptoms, do not hesitate to seek medical help.



  • Diaz Vidal L, Sánchez Pérez M, Aranda García Y. Síndrome del intestino permeable: una diana terapéutica en el control de la inflamación sistémica de origen autoinmune a tener en cuenta. Acta Reumática. 2014; 1 (2.6): 73-78.
  • Guarner F. Papel de la flora intestinal en la salud y en la enfermedad. Nutr. Hosp. 2007; 22( Suppl 2 ): 14-19.
  • Camilleri M, Madsen K, Spiller R, Greenwood-Van Meerveld B, Verne GN. Intestinal barrier function in health and gastrointestinal disease. Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2012;24(6):503-12
  • Romero M. Jenny. Síndrome intestino irritable: Prevalencia y estrés. Gen. 2009; 63( 3 ): 156-156.
  • Mena Miranda Vivian Rosario. El intestino en el proceso salud/enfermedad. Rev Cubana Pediatr. 2017; 89( 2 ): 203-230.
  • Farhadi, A, Banan, A., Fields, J., Keshavarzian, A. Intestinal barrier: An interface between health and disease. Journ Gastro & hepat. 2003;18:479-497.